THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
2:07 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Now, the news you've all been waiting for. We welcome the announcement by the government of Kuwait that it has lifted the economic boycott of companies that do business with Israel. Elimination of this boycott has been a high priority for the President since he assumed office. The administration has repeatedly pressed Arab governments and our allies to end this economic discrimination.
In this regard, during his visit to the Middle East in February, within a month of assuming office, Secretary of State Warren Christopher emphasized the priority that this administration places on elimination of the boycott during his visit to Kuwait and other Arab capitals. We've continued to press the issue, and since then, through a variety of bilateral and multilateral contacts, Kuwait's action also represents an important step forward in opening additional business opportunities for American companies in the Middle East.
We will continue to urge others in the Middle East to follow Kuwait's lead and eliminate their adherence to the boycott. We will also continue to work with our allies in Europe and Japan to take further steps to eliminate the boycott.
Q Is there any quid pro quo in term of Palestinians, refugees and so forth --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q on the West Bank or Gaza? Do they still live under military occupation?
MS. MYERS: Well, that's part of the Middle East peace process that is ongoing. As you know, the parties have agreed to resume talks on June 15th --
Q The mult's not on.
MS. MYERS: The mult's not on? You missed that entire statement? We'll do it again.
Q Restart the clock.
Q A new ten minutes.
MS. MYERS: Five hundred billion in deficit reduction -- (laughter) -- broad-based energy tax. (Laughter.) You asked for it. I was only to bring them up if you all asked for a repetition of the principles.
Q Dee Dee, what can you -- can you confirm reports that the U.S. is sending AC-130 gunships to Somalia? And what's that all about?
MS. MYERS: There has been a request for additional equipment. We're reviewing -- including attack helicopters. We're reviewing that request now.
Q But these are AC-130 gunships, which are fixedwing, they were used in Vietnam. And there are reports that these gunships, these fixed-wing aircraft, are being sent to Somalia. And that was not part of the U.N.'s request. Is there --
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back --
Q something over and above the U.N. that the U.S. is involved in?
MS. MYERS: No, the only information I have is that there has been a request for additional equipment, that we're reviewing it. Obviously we're going to comply with the U.N. resolution, which is that we're going to find out who is responsible for the attacks over the weekend and take appropriate action. But I don't have any more specifics on this at this time.
Q Could you take that question, though, to see if these --
MS. MYERS: Sure. Sure.
Q Dee Dee, on Haiti, is the Clinton administration going to abide with the ruling by the judge, or are you going to appeal?
MS. MYERS: No. We will not seek a stay in the Haiti ruling. And the Justice Department is reviewing the broader ruling to decide if we'll seek an appeal at some point. But we will not seek a stay of the decision. So, in other words, the people in Guantanamo will be paroled -- brought into the United States.
Q still under review? Where does that stand? That was something that the President was willing to change.
MS. MYERS: Well, the Senate, as you know, voted on that and it is part of the NIH bill, which the President will sign.
Q So has he dropped this --
MS. MYERS: Yes. The Senate has spoken on it, and it is part of the NIH authorization bill which, again the President plans to sign.
Q Are the detainess going to be brought into the Miami area? Is that where they're going to be released? And will any federal funds go along with their release to help care for them?
MS. MYERS: There is a resettlement task force made up of the Justice Department's community relations service, the INS, HHS, and some nongovernment organizations that deal with refugees -- the same groups that have been paroling the HIV positive Haitians. And we've already paroled in over 100 since January, I believe. So that process is ongoing.
Q How many in this new group?
MS. MYERS: There's 148 remaining, I believe, is the number. It's down from at one point a high of -- actually it was 158, down from a high of 300 at one point. We've been paroling them in for several months and the remainder will be brought in.
Q Dee Dee, when will the remainder be arriving in the United States?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a specific date. For the specific details, I will refer you to the Justice Department since they're coordinating --
Q Let me just ask another question. Will you appeal the judge's decision?
MS. MYERS: That's still under review at the Justice Department.
Q So the only thing you're going to do now is you're not going to ask for a stay in the decision.
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q But you're leaving open the opportunity of appealing it.
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q Now on this NIH bill that bars the U.S. from permitting HIV positive immigrants into the United States, how does that effect your decision today?
MS. MYERS: Well, it doesn't. I think, even under the law the Attorney General has some flexibility in paroling people in, making determinations on a case by case basis. And then there are other provisions of the law that deal with people who are in U.S. custody or on U.S. soil. So I don't think that this -- I don't think the two are necessarily related.
Q Dee Dee, the judge had some harsh words for the Clinton administration's policy, which he described generally as cruel and inhuman. What's your reaction to that?
MS. MYERS: Well, we're going to comply with the judge's ruling. Obviously, we thought we -- the policy predated the Clinton administration. We thought under the circumstances it was prudent to continue doing what we were doing, which was reviewing the cases one at a time and paroling people in on a needs basis, but we will comply with judge's order.
Q Did he determine that all of these detainees are otherwise eligible for asylum in the U.S.?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I believe that's the case.
Q Can you comment on Senator Breaux's proposal today --
MS. MYERS: We haven't had a chance to review it in any detail. I've just seen the broad outlines of it. Again, the President's position has not changed. He remains committed to some form of a broad-based energy tax, and we'll take a look at what the specific details of this proposal are.
Q does it appear on the face to satisfy the President's --
MS. MYERS: We just haven't had a chance to review it in any detail and to review what the impacts of it will be.
Q What now do you say to members of the House who said we asked the President not to pull the rug out from under us on the Btu tax; he promised he wouldn't and now he did?
MS. MYERS: Well, first of all, the President hasn't endorsed any particular proposal. I think it was clear that when the package came out of the House there will be changes in the Senate. We didn't expect the Senate to vote for the House version of the bill and we certainly don't expect the House to accept the Senate version of the bill. That's what the conference process is about. I think the President made clear through the House process that he was committed to some principles, including a broad-based energy tax. He proposed a Btu tax. He thought that that was the best way to achieve something that was fair and balanced and affected different parts of the country equally. But he wants the process to go forward. He believes that they're making progress in the Senate Finance Committee, that the process is going forward. He wants to make sure that the -- that his principles are maintained, that the package is fair, that it achieves a certain amount of deficit reduction.
Q Can you confirm from this podium that the Btu has been dropped?
MS. MYERS: It's up the Senate Finance Committee. I think what the President has indicated is that he's willing to look at alternatives. He wants a broad-based energy tax. Whatever comes out of the Senate will include a broad-based energy tax. Then it will go back to the conference committee where I'm sure there will be further changes. And this is something that the Congress is going to have to work out among itself. But the President has not changed the principles of this package.
Q No, I'm not asking you that. I'm asking is Secretary Bentsen right in saying it's been dropped?
MS. MYERS: I think it's clear that there's not support on the Senate Finance committee for a Btu tax. I think that that's clear. What the President would like to see is a broad-based energy tax. We have a lot lower energy taxes than most other -- than perhaps all other industrialized countries. I think whatever the final version of this package is will include some kind of broadbased energy tax. It's up to the Senate Finance Committee to move the process forward at this point.
Q So are the House members unjustified in being so angry, as they have been this morning? How do you -- I mean, they're furious at you.
MS. MYERS: I mean, I think that we need to make clear to them what the President is doing. And we will continue to work with them throughout this process. The President has not changed his commitment to a broad-based energy tax. It's something that he made clear to the House, that he would stick by. The program still includes massive deficit reduction. It still includes some tax increases, particularly on the wealthiest people in this country. It's still going to create jobs and get the economy moving again. The broad principles were maintained in the House process. We're confident they'll be maintained in the Senate process.
Q Dee Dee, were all these House members then -- were they just misinterpreting what the White House said when they thought they were voting for a Btu tax which would remain through the process. Were they wrong in assuming that?
MS. MYERS: I think that they knew that there would be changes in the Senate process. That's always the case. The President hasn't endorsed any particular version of -- the Senate hasn't produced a package yet. But what the President would like to see is that this process go forward. He wants to make sure that it does include a broad-based energy tax, that it's fair, that it achieves massive deficit reduction -- yada, yada, yada, yada. (Laughter.) And I think we're going to continue to work with the House to make sure that that is clear.
Q Given that your goal is to get this on the Senate floor, wouldn't it make political sense to support a plan by a member of the Finance Committee who has a swing vote?
MS. MYERS: We'll take a look at it. At this point, Senator Bentsen met with Moynihan and Mitchell this morning and Senator Breaux. The conversations are ongoing, but we haven't had a chance to fully review it. It's up to the Senate Finance Committee to work out some kind of a next step.
Q But also Senator Boren has indicated that he's willing -- he hasn't exactly endorsed the Breaux proposal, but it does have $30 billion in entitlement changes in it as well. And if you could get Boren as well as obviously Breaux supporting the --
MS. MYERS: I mean, no, we're for getting people to support this. I mean, that is the goal here. But, again, the specific details of it -- exactly what reductions, what cuts will be made, exactly how a new energy tax might be structured have yet to be worked out. That process is ongoing. We're very interested in it. We'd like to see it resolved.
Q Dee Dee, can you clarify what you mean by broadbased ? Specifically, does the President mean that the energy tax would have to apply to all forms of fuel, or would he be willing to accept an energy tax that applied to transportation fuels only?
MS. MYERS: I think what he's interested in seeing is making sure that the tax doesn't hit one industry or one region of the country disproportionately.
Q But would a transportation -- a tax on all fuels used in transportation meet that criteria?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to look at it. We'll be reviewing it for exactly that.
Q You're not ruling out that kind of a --
MS. MYERS: We just haven't had a chance to look at it and to assess what the impacts of it might be.
Q Just back on the House members for a minute. The message to House members a few weeks ago, according to the administration, was we know you're worried that we're going to sell you out in the Senate; I'm calling you up to tell you that we're not going to do that. Now they feel that that's happened, what's the response to that?
MS. MYERS: The President has not changed his commitment to this package. Again, I think everybody knew that there will be changes in the package coming out of the House. The President said he would continue to support an energy tax. That's clear.
Q Did the President tell any House members, for example, that he might abandon a Btu tax, but would continue to have an energy tax --
MS. MYERS: I think that it was clear that there would be changes in the energy tax. And the fact that Senator Boren was talking with House members even as the process was unfolding made it clear that there was serious opposition and that there would be -- that there would inevitably be changes, as there always are in this process. Every budget -- first of all, this is the first budget that's gone up to the Hill that hasn't been dead on arrival in more than a decade. Secondly, there's always a lot of back and forthing and toing and froing in this process. I think everybody was prepared for that. The President maintains his commitment to an energy tax. We'll see what form the Senate works out. And then it has to go back to the conference process where a final version gets worked out before it gets adopted by either body.
Q Dee Dee, Charlie Rangel, who is no babe in the woods up there, is furious about what happened on this. Where is the disconnect? Is it on his part or on your part or -- what's going on here? Why are you getting shelled, taking heavy shelling from key Democrats, key members of your own party on this?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we're going to continue to work with them. I think we'll continue to reach out to people and make sure that they understand what it is the President is doing, that he hasn't endorsed any particular alternative at this point, but that he wants to see the process go forward. I think everybody's interested in seeing the process go forward.
Q Is the President going to fight for a Btu tax in conference?
MS. MYERS: We'll see what comes out of the Senate. I think that he's interested in making sure that there's some kind of broad-based energy tax, but he wants the package to pass. He proposed a Btu tax. He's made it clear he thinks -- thought that that was the best way to achieve his objectives, but that may not be possible.
Q Dee Dee, will we get an announcement on Walter Mondale today?
MS. MYERS: The appointment to Tokyo is not complete. There's still diplomatic channels that have to be locked up.
Q How about the appointment to Italy?
Q Do you expect it today --
Q Ambassador Bartholomew?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. I don't expect any ambassadorial appointments today.
Q How about Supreme Court?
MS. MYERS: Possible this week. Supreme Court, I think, we're still hopeful that it will happen later this week. I don't expect it today -- it won't happen today. I think it's less likely tomorrow, although not completely out of the question. It could go as late as Saturday.
Q Dee Dee, what's delaying it? Two weeks ago you said we were going to get it that week and it keeps getting pushed back. Are there problems with the nomination --
MS. MYERS: No -- few complications in the process that have nothing to do with substance.
Q Are you worried about some of these reports coming out about Babbitt? They're all over the place.
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not, those are old, rehashed. I think they've been discredited previously.
Q In fact, there was one report today that wasn't old.
MS. MYERS: There is nothing new that has the President worried about the substance of any of the people that he's considering.
Q Do you know when Judge Breyer's being released from the hospital?
MS. MYERS: I don't. Soon I think, in the next day or two.
Q Dee Dee, can you be a little bit more specific about what it is that's holding up the Mondale appointment?
MS. MYERS: Just closing the diplomatic loop. I'm not sure that Tokyo has signed off yet on --
QQ Would there be any concern on Tokyo's part about m Mondale's rhetoric pre-1984 at the --
MS. MYERS: I don't believe there is any problems. I just think that the process isn't complete.
Q Are you aware of the some of the things that he said about trade with Japan or on the --
MS. MYERS: I am not personally familiar other than in broad terms. I think that's something that's considered but I -- again, I don't think it's a substantive problem, it's just appropriate protocols have to be observed and it just takes a little time.
Q clarify this House debate issue. You said that everyone knows going into these things that there are changes that happen in conference and what not. It was precisely that knowledge that prompted the House members to say to Clinton, we want to be sure if we go out on this limb -- and I believe the phrase Charles Wilson of Texas used was: If we go out on this limb, you'll be there with us. And at the House Democratic Caucus two weeks ago, the President said if you go out on that limb, I'll be there with you; they gave him a standing ovation and all. What you're saying is that limb was labeled broad-based energy tax, not Btu tax?
MS. MYERS: I think that when it's said and done that the --
Q What was the label then?
MS. MYERS: I don't remember the exact words of the debate. And I can't certainly know how people interpreted it. But I think the President is clearly committed to a broad-based energy tax. We're going to move this process forward. I think it's going to contain all the elements that the President -- that it contained coming out of the House. And we will work very hard on the final details. And we'll consult with the House throughout this process. And, again, I would emphasize the President has not signed onto any particular version of the Senate plan. The Senate hasn't even -- the Senate Finance Committee hasn't even worked out a final deal yet. So the process is going to move forward. The President wants to see it moved forward. But he wants to see his principles preserved.
Q Do you deny that in the hours and days leading up to the vote in the House, the President and senior members of the administration promised some House members that the energy part of the bill would be changed and promised other members that it wouldn't be changed?
MS. MYERS: I think that it was clear that there would be changes in the Senate. I don't think that that was in doubt.
Q fully informed the members who this morning are complaining that there would be changes? There was no failure of communication on the administration's part to the members who are unhappy today?
MS. MYERS: Well, I can't -- I mean, I haven't had conversations with members, and I probably haven't seen everything that they're saying. But I think from our perspective it was clear that there would be changes. I don't know what individual members might -- conversations they might have had with other people in the administration. But I think was clear -- it was certainly our intention to make it clear coming out that there would be changes in a variety of elements of the package, including the energy tax.
Q Is it true, though, that early on you were trying to convince members that you would not make changes that would bother them; and later while the vote was going on, you were assuring some more conservative members that you definitely would make changes?
MS. MYERS: I think throughout the process the President tried to emphasize that he was going to fight for the broad principles of this package, which he's continued to do. Again, I don't think -- you all have been here longer than I have, but I don't think anybody expected this package would go -- go through the House and then into the Senate without changes. And I think it was very clear from what members of the Senate were saying prior to the vote in the House that there would be a fight on the energy tax.
Q Did he say anything about it in his broadcast -- or interviews to the affiliates?
MS. MYERS: He didn't -- he did, actually. And I don't have a transcript in front of me, but he said essentially what I've said, is that he's going to continue to fight for an energy tax, that he hasn't endorsed any particular proposal at this point.
Q You're putting out a transcript of that, of the interview?
MS. MYERS: I don't know, I'll have to check and get back to you.
Q Dee Dee, given the White House opposition to a gasoline tax, is there any way that it could support the Breaux transportation tax, which relies heavily on taxes on fuels such as gasoline --
MS. MYERS: One of the reports that I saw on the Breaux -- or I think it was a quote from Breaux -- this actually would result in a lower gasoline tax than the Btu tax. So we'll take a look at that and see what the specific elements of it are.
Q open to a gas tax if it -- if the figures work out nice?
MS. MYERS: Well, no, this is -- I don't think anybody is proposing a straight gas tax. The Btu tax included a tax on gasoline. A transportation tax would include a tax on gasoline. But neither of those proposals is specifically a gas tax, which exempts all other forms of energy. And I think that's -- again, we're looking at something that doesn't tax one particular industry or hit one particular region of the country harder than others.
Q The Secretary of the Treasury said this morning that the decision to pull the Btu tax is a victory by special interests in Washington. Given that the President has for months implored Americans to stand up against special interests and fight with him, do you take this as an indication that people out in America aren't overly excited by the President's package?
MS. MYERS: I don't think anybody's overly excited about taxes. But the bottom line is if you're going to reduce the deficit and get the economy back into some kind of sound shape, prudent spending cuts and some revenue increases are going to be necessary. Nobody -- I mean, if you could do this without raising taxes, I think everybody would prefer that option. The President doesn't believe, under the circumstances, that's possible. We have a $4 trillion debt, an exploding deficit. He's committed to doing something about that. Already his proposal for $500 billion of deficit reduction has meant the lowest interest rates in 20 years, 755,000 new jobs, best housing sales in seven years. I mean, this is having a real positive impact on the economy, because it's disciplined.
Q People don't seem to be getting that message.
MS. MYERS: I think we're going to keep fighting to make sure they do get it. I think that when you talk about the package in broad terms and people understand that it's fair, that it will bring the deficit down and result in long-term economic growth, they do support it. And I think we've conceded that we haven't done as good a job as we possibly could have in talking about this, and I hope we do a better job.
Q talk on this subject when he talks to the business roundtable?
MS. MYERS: I think he'll talk about the plan. I don't know that he'll talk specifically about the energy tax. It's not currently part of his comments, but --
Q Given that it's -- the Breaux proposal --
MS. MYERS: He is a textual deviant. (Laughter.)
Q can't you do that during the first five minutes? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Oh, there's a good reason.
Q Well, might it be that given the Breaux proposal is a tax on the -- on all --
Q define textual deviant? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. Who --
Q Is there a point at which the White House draws the line on entitlement cuts -- on further entitlement cuts?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that it's a -- that there's a specific line where it will take X billion but not Y billion. But the President has reiterated today that he wants to make sure that the progressive nature of his package is protected. So, yes.
Q For example, Charlie Rangel this morning says $30 billion more in cuts, and I'm going to walk away from this. Is that --
MS. MYERS: I don't know that we've drawn a line in the sand like that. But the President is not going support a package that he does not believe is progressive. You know, the one he proposed -- 75 percent of the new taxes come from people making over $100,000 a year -- that was deliberate, and he's going to make sure that that's protected. Again, we're not going to draw a line in the sand because -- depending on how the package is structured -- but we will look very closely to make sure progressivity is maintained.
Q Dee Dee, if the Breaux proposal gets off the ground, I think that generates $40 billion as opposed to $70 billion. So that's a $30 billion shortfall. Where will you recommend making up that $30 billion?
MS. MYERS: It's not up to us to recommend. The Senate's going to work that out. And we will take a look at what they propose.
Q They will ask you for recommendations.
Q Why isn't up to the President to make -- show some preference here in --
MS. MYERS: I think Secretary Bentsen is representing the administration in this process. The President has made clear that he wants to protect the progressive nature of his package. Now, if it's -- I mean, we're not going to sit down at this point and say you can only take so much from here and so much from there. What he's going to say is give me a package that cuts the deficit, it's progressive, contains that broad-based energy tax, and give me something I can support based on the principles.
Q Where exactly are the limits -- this new openness on your part?
MS. MYERS: The limits are within those principles. The majority of new taxes, new revenue, has to come from the wealthiest Americans. He would like to see that protected. It has to have $500 billion in deficit reduction. You can't hit -- the most vulnerable in society too hard. And those are subjective judgments. But I think the President's package makes clear what his values are in that respect.
Q Dee Dee, does he believe that he has tied himself in the past too closely to specific aspects of the package so that when one of those goes down, it appears to be a personal loss for him?
MS. MYERS: I think that that's a debatable notion. I think that sometimes you get too caught in the specifics and the fact -- if you look at the way the House debate went, I think we maintained probably 90 percent of what we started with. And yet, I'm not sure that that was effectively communicated. So perhaps that's our fault. But I think it's important that people know what it is the President's fighting for. Who benefits from this economic plan? And the only way to do that is just to keep reemphasizing what it is that this package is designed to achieve, who it's designed to benefit, and how we expect to get there.
Q Dee Dee, despite President Clinton's endorsement in an appearance with him in L.A., Michael Woo lost the mayoral race by a fairly large margin. How do you account for that? And has President Clinton become an electoral liability to his own party?
MS. MYERS: As the President said at the time, Mike Woo is a good Democrat, somebody who had good ideas. Mike Woo very much wanted the President's endorsement and had been a solid supporter of the President's during the campaign. And the President endorsed him. That was very much a race about local issues. It was about the state of the Los Angeles economy, about crime.
Q Did he have anything to say about it this morning, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: No. And I don't know that he's called either candidate yet, but I think he said during the campaign that he would work with whoever the new mayor was to move forward in rebuilding that city. And I think he fully expects to do that.
Q Will he be much more selective in his endorsements in local races such as the one in Texas and in L.A.?
MS. MYERS: You know, it depends on if candidates want him to endorse them. I mean, I don't think we have any particular criteria, but, you know, you have to stand by your friends and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. But I would also point out -- I'm shocked that I haven't been asked -- about the Monterey congressional race. We now are three for three in those --
Q The President didn't endorse him --
MS. MYERS: Oh, absolutely. We're totally for Sam Farr.
MS. MYERS: So, if you want to keep score here, of the federal races we've won all three of the seats that were in special elections because of appointments.
MS. MYERS: Squeakers. That wasn't a squeaker up there.
Q What can you tell us about Chelsea's graduation?
MS. MYERS: She graduated. I don't know any other details. I just don't have any.
Q First in her class?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that they tally those things. And since she's been here such a short time, I think -- she's a very good student, though. I'm sure she did well.
Q Is the administration now ready to take action and make a decision on Judge Sessions?
MS. MYERS: We're still awaiting a recommendation from the Attorney General.
Q Dee Dee, can you outline what's on the schedule for the rest of the week and if there's anything next week as far as travel?
MS. MYERS: I wish I had more details on the rest of this week. I don't at this point.
Q Is the Black Caucus coming over tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: They're meeting today. We said we'd meet with them, but we'll see what comes out of this meeting.
Q I'm sorry, they're meeting --
MS. MYERS: No, no, they're meeting with each other -- they're having a meeting.
Q With themselves today.
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q But tomorrow are they not meeting --
MS. MYERS: There's nothing hard on the schedule. We're trying to work it out, but it's up to them, I think.
Q On another topic, does the administration --
Q Let's see if she can answer --
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. Let me go back. There are no specific -- there are no travel plans for next week at this point. I think it's unlikely that any will be added before Saturday when the President goes to Boston to address the commencement at Northeastern, and then he'll attend a fundraiser in Boston and one in Maine.
Q That's a week from Saturday?
MS. MYERS: That's a week from Saturday.
Q Is that an overnight?
MS. MYERS: No, it's a day trip. Fundraiser for Kennedy and fundraiser for Mitchell.
Q on the space station redesign options?
MS. MYERS: He will be briefed on that tomorrow.
Q Is there any timetable --
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll have to check and get back to you.
Q Dee Dee, if you were to nominate Judge Breyer, would he feel he has to talk to him personally before doing so? And could he do it on the telephone or in person?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to comment on the specific process.
Q You mentioned yesterday about how he feels in his heart and so forth. If he's never talked to Judge Breyer, how could he decide so certainly over who he wants?
MS. MYERS: The President will make a decision. I just don't have anything to -- I don't want to say anything about what process may or may not take place.
Q Is there a timetable yet on staff reorganization? Do you know when there's going to be an announcement on that?
MS. MYERS: There's nothing scheduled, and I have not talked to Mack about it in the last couple days.
Q What about Skip Rutherford? Is he going to be hired by the White House?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll have to refer you to Mack on that.
Q Dee Dee, you say Tokyo hasn't signed off yet on the ambassador. How about countries like Germany, Italy, Spain?
MS. MYERS: I just don't have any ambassadorial announcements today. Those are all in process and we're waiting to just go through the diplomatic channels.
Q Do you expect to make them this week?
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule it out.
Q Is one of the President's principles on the deficit reduction package that it must contain $500 billion in deficit reduction over the period?
MS. MYERS: That's been something we've been committed to, yes.
Q And the President continues to oppose a gas tax?
MS. MYERS: A straight-up, solo gas tax is something that he has not supported. In particular -- well, yes.
Q Does the President believe that it's appropriate for members of his administration to belong to clubs that exclude women?
Q Could you repeat the question?
MS. MYERS: Does the President believe that it's appropriate for members of his administration to belong to clubs that exclude women. I have not spoken to him specifically about Mr. Gergen's membership in the --
Q Ohhh. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: -- so I will have to take that question.
Q as a general practice, does he think it's appropriate for one of the President's --
MS. MYERS: I was trying not to answer the general one, Susan.
Q for one of the President's most senior advisors to belong to a club that excludes women? A club that involves business networking and has some professional overtones -- is that something he's comfortable with?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take the question. I just don't know.
Q Are you aware of any other members of the administration that belong to single-sex clubs?
MS. MYERS: I have no idea.
Q The CIA and FBI have apparently concluded that Iraq was behind the effort to assassinate President Bush in Kuwait. Has that report come to the White House yet?
MS. MYERS: The FBI investigation is ongoing. We don't have anything to say pending the results of that.
Q Do you have any idea of when you anticipate getting results?
MS. MYERS: I think they're making good progress but I don't have a hard time line.
Q Dee Dee, leftover question from yesterday that you were going to, I think, take. I don't know how formally, but the status of the review of the travel office situation.
MS. MYERS: Yes, I did check on that. There's no --it's ongoing; there is no particular time line on it. The people involved in Mack's office and in Panetta's office continue to interview people and are making their determinations.
Q Are the personnel involved still receiving paid administrative leave?
MS. MYERS: Oh, yes, we put them on administrative leave pending the outcome of this. That has not changed.
Q What about the FBI part of the investigation?
MS. MYERS: I refer that to the FBI.
Q Is there some point at which they would say if this happens, investigation over, no charges or whatever or would they just never say --
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I would have to refer you to them. I think it's been made clear, I'm not entirely familiar with FBI practices. (Laughter.)
Q I don't know where we got that idea.
Q difference between clubs that -- based on sex -- based on race? I'm asking because I know Clinton has not played golf at --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q And I guess I was surprised that Gergen seems not to want to --
MS. MYERS: I think it's clear that this question is being asked in the context of Mr. Gergen's membership. I would prefer to take the question. I don't want to philosophize from the podium here.
Q Dee Dee, on the deficit, a senior White House official yesterday said that your current interest rate forecast is way ahead of what you originally anticipated and because of that the deficit will be substantially lower than you first anticipated. And I wondered what -- can you give us a ballpark as to how much lower the deficit will be? And if it's substantial, does that affect the need to reduce the deficit $500 billion over five years?
MS. MYERS: I just don't think we've made all those calculations yet. Obviously we said at the time we wanted to make the most conservative estimates possible. Interest rates have come down, have exceeded our expectations, which is good news. It saved consumers already $10 billion in interest. But I don't have the tabulations, and I don't know how that would affect our commitment.
Q translates into how much lower the deficit --
MS. MYERS: No. I just don't know that we've run all those numbers yet.
Q I'm asking about General Campbell, called "the critical general." I wonder if you've heard from the Air Force, any report of whether or not he did say --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q What sort of public reaction has you had about this?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that we've had much. I don't think we've had a particular surge of calls or anything.
Q Do you see any parallel between Truman and MacArthur?
MS. MYERS: No, I think this is a little bit different. I don't even want to speculate on it, actually. The Air Force is handling it, and we'll let them move forward.
Q The President's not going to fire him?
MS. MYERS: We're going to wait for the Air Force to conclude its review, and we won't have anything to say --
Q Can the President take action as Commander-in-Chief without the Air Force review? If he wanted to, could he say, "You're outta here, buddy"?
MS. MYERS: I would imagine so, but I don't know what the specific -- how that would work.
Q And could you tell me why he does not?
MS. MYERS: I think he feels the appropriate way to handle this is let -- there's a process within the branches, the Air Force is reviewing it. We're going to let that process go forward.
Q Why, when the man is clearly insubordinate?
MS. MYERS: I don't think that is clear. That's what the review process is going to establish.
Q It doesn't take four days to get an answer to that question.
MS. MYERS: I think that -- what the Air Force has said is that the general who is conducting the review will have a report by mid-June. (Laughter.) I think it's appropriate that the Air Force handle that, and we will allow them to do it according to their own timetable.
Q Do you expect a report before the Supreme Court --
Q Who's he reporting to? Who are they reporting to?
MS. MYERS: I assume he's reporting to the service chief, to --
Q Service chief?
MS. MYERS: Yes, to General McPeak.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:42 P.M. EDT