THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS The Briefing Room
2:50 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: We have no announcements today other than that the health care briefing will be a little bit later, probably closer to 3:30 p.m. They're wrapping up some stuff and will be here as soon as they can. So we'll do this very briefly and take a break and then do health care.
Q On the scheduling thing, could you give us an idea of the campaign, if we're going to be seeing -- we know the hospital tomorrow, and then the radio address? Can you give us a little idea? And also, the day after he delivers the speech, what he's going to be up to?
MS. MYERS: We'll give you what we have. Tomorrow he's going to Children's Hospital to talk about paperwork simplification, to talk about the introduction of a single claim form. And that will be in the morning -- let me give you the exact time here.
And then in the afternoon -- midday, and then -- it's a 9:00 a.m. event at Children's National Medical Center on Michigan Avenue -- 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., roughly.
Then he'll come back to the White House and receive Prime Minister Ciampi at about 11:15 a.m. We'll do a photo op at the top of that, followed by the East Room availability at 1:30 p.m.
Then he's going to actually pretape the radio address tomorrow sometime in the afternoon. Saturday and Sunday at this point are down days. He'll stay here at the White House, but he has no public events.
So a little weekend gift.
MS. MYERS: Oh, I'm sorry, there is a Black Caucus event Saturday night -- take that back.
Q Not too much of a gift, but we've got to cover that.
MS. MYERS: Yes, well, it's -- you've got to cover it.
Q How about next week?
MS. MYERS: Then on Monday is a little unclear. Tuesday, the President will sign the National Service bill here around 10:00 a.m. in the morning -- 10:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. That will probably be the last public event and there may be something added, but until 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday when he gives the speech.
On Thursday, we'll probably do an event in Washington, and then leave -- do an event Thursday night somewhere -- probably in the southeast, like perhaps Florida.
Q I'm sorry, Thursday an event in the morning and then leave?
MS. MYERS: Something in the Washington area and then go out on the road. We'll do an event Thursday night and probably Friday somewhere out of town -- come back for the weekend.
Q On bus?
MS. MYERS: No, no -- no bus trip. There's no bus trip scheduled at this point.
Q Is he going to the southern governors?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q What's the -- weekend? Aren't you going to New York on Sunday?
MS. MYERS: Yes, well, back for part of the weekend. Then we'll go to New York on Sunday for a Dinkins fundraiser, perhaps a health care event. That's unclear.
Q Same day?
MS. MYERS: Same day; that's Sunday.
Q So he'll be back Sunday night?
MS. MYERS: No, overnight in New York Sunday. Monday is the U.N. speech.
Q Is he going to stay late Monday night, too?
MS. MYERS: In New York?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the rest of the schedule is.
Q There was talk he might go to the opening of the Met that's that night.
MS. MYERS: There have been a number of things discussed and we just haven't worked out all the details yet for Monday.
Q You said Thursday was southeast, probably Florida. What about Friday?
MS. MYERS: Probably same area. We're still working it out subject to change. So -- but I think somewhere down there probably.
Q Is the governors conference -- that's not going to happen?
MS. MYERS: Not going to happen.
Q Is it going to play, Dee Dee, that over the weeks ahead you'll go a number of one or two-day jaunts like the Florida jaunt?
MS. MYERS: Yes, absolutely. I think we'll continue to travel probably every week for the next several weeks on health care, probably fold in some events on NAFTA, an occasional event on reinventing government, and other things as they evolve.
Q How deep into the fall will this tour play?
MS. MYERS: I think it will depend on how events unfold. I think we're looking at a fairly aggressive several weeks anyway. And we'll see how things go after that. Obviously the progress of work in Congress on a number of initiatives will have some impact on the schedule. But I think you can look for quite a bit of traveling as the fall progresses.
Q On a different topic. During the budget debate, the administration's proposed budget and the budget passed by the Congress, there were many things in it that the administration referred to as cuts, which critics said just represented restraint in the growth of spending. On Friday Mrs. Clinton had talked about the health care proposal and said that the administration proposals on Medicare and Medicaid weren't cuts but rather just restraints on the growth of spending. When the administration uses the word "cut," does it mean an absolute cut or does it mean restraint in growth in spending?
MS. MYERS: Well, in reference to the budget, we use traditional scoring. We use the same scoring methods that have been used in previous budgets. I think that in the context of the health care debate there's been a lot of uncertain over what's been meant by cuts in Medicare and Medicaid budget. And I think what Mrs. Clinton has tried to do is be clear about what that means. That is -- I think that's language directed more toward the public than to people who were scoring a budget in the Congressional Budget Office or someplace else.
Q Isn't it true, though, that during budget debate the President and officials of the administration used the phrase public many times, "cut," --
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q to describe exactly the same phenomenon?
MS. MYERS: But, again, I would just remind you that that is -- we use the same scoring system that has been used for years in Washington when describing those kinds of accounting procedures.
Q So cut can mean both things --
MS. MYERS: We didn't choose the language. I think, again, the First Lady wanted to make clear that we're not talking about cutting the current amount of aid that recipients are entitled to, but in fact restrain the growth in spending. And I think that under the circumstances, that that's necessary.
Q The hearings are actually going to begin before the legislative language gets up to the Hill, but I think it was said last week that that would happen within two weeks after the joint session speech. Is that still a valid schedule?
MS. MYERS: I think we're looking to do it fairly quickly, and I don't have an exact time line on it. I'll check and see if the health care -- in fact, that's something that they may be able to address a little bit later in terms of the exact timetable for legislation. I'm just not sure.
Q On another subject, has the President made any calls to anybody regarding the situation in the Middle East today?
MS. MYERS: No, no foreign leaders today.
Q With the President and with the White House basically acknowledging that that they don't expect action on health care until next year, will we see this intensity keep up just constantly until health care actually gets to the floor of the House?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it will certainly be a focus. I think, again, as events around the world and around the country ebb and flow, that will certainly have an impact on how the schedule is put together. But I think that we're going to continue to press, continue to educate the public on what's in the plan, continue to work with Congress very aggressively until we get this plan passed.
As you know, it's one of the most important items on the President's agenda, something that he talked about throughout the campaign and throughout his administration. And I think you can expect fairly tireless effort here.
Q Is it done? Is it totally -- I mean, is it locked up?
MS. MYERS: Well, we're still in the final phases of consultation. For example, the President today and Vice President are meeting with a group of state and local officials, a group of mayors and state legislators as part of the ongoing process and they'll be briefed on the outlines of the package, and I think the President wants to hear their thoughts on it. So we're in the process of making the final decisions; we're very close to the end game here, but not quite there.
Q Well, what's the feedback so far from the Hill?
MS. MYERS: The feedback from the Hill has been very good, I think, from both sides of the aisle. I think we're very encouraged by the tenor of the group of Republicans, over 100 Republicans yesterday who introduced a package that has certainly some major differences with the President's package, but some similarities -- and I think a spirit of cooperation. And I think it's going to be a bipartisan effort. I think the President was and certainly the First Lady were quite encouraged by that.
Q Dee Dee, on another subject, you came out with a very strong statement on Haiti a couple of days ago. And the situation there is not very stable. What is the latest thing on Haiti and the events unfolding there?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, we're monitoring that very closely. We're going to continue to move forward there. We obviously condemn the violence and hold the security forces there responsible for the well-being of all Haitians. But we don't think that -- and we would just implore all parties to refrain from violence. But we don't think we've seen anything that would disrupt the timetable for implementation of the Governors Island Accord.
Q Italian Prime Minister tomorrow. What will be the topics that the President will discuss? And what about Somalia? Will this agreement -- Italians, vis a vis, the U.S. --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think there will be a number of bilateral and security issues on the agenda, including Somalia. I expect that that will come up.
Q Dee Dee, the Prime Minister of Japan made a speech, I guess it was last night, outlining a $60 billion domestic stimulus package. But I haven't heard anything from the administration on how they're receiving that. Do you have anything on that?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's a good first step in line with some of the agreements that were reached at the G-7 meeting. But it is a first step. And I think some of the second quarter performance figures we've seen coming out of Japan indicate that there is a need for stimulus to increase consumer spending in Japan, and we hope to see more.
Q Do you think there will be an immediate effect? For example, the July trade figures came out today and they were $3 billion -- I'm sorry, $300,000 higher than the June figures in the deficit column. Do you think there's going to be an immediate effect on the balance of trade figures?
MS. MYERS: I don't know about that. We'll have to -- I mean, I can get you an answer on it. I'm certainly not going to talk about the financial markets.
Q Do you stand behind Bo Cutter's statements on calling for an income tax cut in Japan?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, I think Bo made some comments this morning about it. Our position is just that this is a good first step and we'll look to see to what comes next.
Again, I think the economic figures there do indicate that there is a need for action to stimulate consumer spending in Japan. That's been our position all along.
Q The President said this morning that young people may, in fact, have to pay more in this health insurance program than the older people. How is that considered fair when, in fact, in the younger years people just aren't earning as much money?
MS. MYERS: Well, one of the things that this plan aims for is overall fairness. And in order to achieve that most people are going to find that -- I mean, in the long-term overall health care costs are going to go down. But this program is going to end things like red-lining, like only insuring healthy people, like offering lower premium rates for people they know are never going to get sick.
And I think that there will be a small impact on perhaps younger, healthier people who have been traditionally scored as lower risks. But the net effect of the overall system and to the American public generally will be positive. It will bring costs down and guarantee people that if they get sick they won't lose their benefits. We think that under the program health care will be affordable for all Americans. If people are earning less money, if they qualify for subsidies, they'll be in a position to receive them.
Q But people who are younger and lower risks will now be paying more. How is that fair?
MS. MYERS: It's possible that they could be paying slightly more, depending on a number of circumstances. It is fair that because over the course of their lifetime they will never have to worry about losing their insurance. And over the course of their lifetime health care costs will not continue to escalate the way they have been in previous years. And so, over the course of their lifetime there will be net plus.
Q Dee Dee, we're fast approaching the start of the new fiscal year. I'm wondering whether, one, we can expect from you a detailed accounting of how the White House is going to reduce its payroll by 25 percent? And whether, two, if we can get a list of all the President's top aides and what they make?
MS. MYERS: We are approaching the beginning of the next fiscal year and making arrangements. We haven't made any final decisions about how we'll announce the results of the 25-percent reduction. I can certainly get back to you on that one once we make a decision.
Q Okay. How about the second part?
MS. MYERS: I think that's part of the same question.
Q Dee Dee, is the health care briefing going to be background or on the record?
MS. MYERS: I think it will be -- I mean, it's on the record. It will be Erskine Bowles and perhaps somebody else.
Q Are other briefings planned for the weekend?
MS. MYERS: No briefings scheduled for the weekend. I think we'll resume health care briefings again Monday, Tuesday and probably Wednesday. They've been so fun.
Q What about financing, Dee Dee, because they were going to have that yesterday and they scrapped it. And they were going to have it today, and then they moved it.
MS. MYERS: Yes, they moved it because I think they wanted today's event to be in conjunction with -- today's briefing to coordinate with today's event and tomorrow's briefing to coordinate with tomorrow's event. Probably do financing next week.
Q What's today's on?
Q What's the topic tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: The topic tomorrow is simplifications, single claim forms and some other procedures.
Q What is today's on -- the briefing?
MS. MYERS: Small business.
Q Do you have any idea -- the logistics next Wednesday? I mean, to give us as much substance as we can in the daytime on the President's speech?
MS. MYERS: No. Obviously, we'll try to give you a reliable text as early as possible. We've been very successful at that in the past. So I would just point to past events as a model. (Laughter.)
Q more than that, can we ask that he stick to it.
MS. MYERS: It's a joke. (Laughter.)
Q It doesn't really matter if we get a text.
MS. MYERS: I think, though, the last time when we did the economic plan, we tried to do briefings during the day which --in order to give people some heads-up on exactly what was going to be included. And we will try to get a text of the speech as quickly as possible.
Q So much is out, including what purports to be and is accepted as a copy of the plan, or at least the draft plan. Is he going to lean more towards the reasons why rather than the contents of? Can you tell us more about what the speech will be?
MS. MYERS: Yes. The drafting process is actually coming along quite well at this point. I think he's going to talk, obviously, some about the need for health care reform, why this is important, and how the American people will benefit from this plan. I think it's the beginning of what we expect to be an ongoing debate, although it's not really the beginning, it's more like the middle.
Q It is clear that maternal services, or whatever it's called, means abortion is included, is it?
MS. MYERS: No change in the current situation, I think. But I'd better take that question. I'll talk to you about it afterwards.
Q benefits, he's not going to get into that?
MS. MYERS: He's not going to get into the two -- to the specific whether or not you're going to be covered for prescription drugs or something like that, other than to say that Medicare beneficiaries will be covered for prescription drugs. It will be broad.
Q Dee Dee, can you tell us something about a White House review or administration redirection of the war on drugs?
MS. MYERS: There's currently an interagency review. It has not been reviewed by the sort of senior officials in the White House or the other agencies participating in this. And it's ongoing, and as soon as we have results, we'll let you know.
Q Is it a staff level report? Is that all that exists?
MS. MYERS: Yes, exactly. And it's fairly widely distributed, so I guess that's how it leaked.
Q Leaked? Is it a leak as described in published reports basically correct?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's a draft and --
Q As far as it goes, I mean?
MS. MYERS: And I don't know what level of draft. It's certainly not a final draft. It's something that's been kicked around.
Q Is there some dissatisfaction with the Pentagon's involvement?
MS. MYERS: At this point we're in the midst of a review. So I think we'll wait until we have a final report on that.
Q Dee Dee, I don't understand that subject that well, but it seems to me that there's some contradictions in terms of what the Senate Finance Committee was -- there were some cuts that they were instituting in that same area; and it seemed that there would a contradiction in the thrust of this new approach.
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry, which area?
Q The drugs, the new drug strategy.
MS. MYERS: Obviously we're concerned about protecting what we think are vital services in the war on drugs. It's something that we're talking about Congress with. But we are in the process of reevaluating our strategy. And until we have a final product there, I don't have much more to add. But there have been ongoing conversations with the Congress about particular programs.
Q Is there something in the health program that says that anyone who has a domestic or a nanny hired over 10 hours a week has to pay the health care?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the specific answer to that question, other than that for part-time employees it's prorated -- your responsibility as an employer. But you can ask some of the -- maybe the health care briefers will be more able to answer that specific question.
Q In terms of promoting the health care plan once it's out there, what strategy is the White House going to be in terms of how you actually do that? Obviously there will be events in which the President will speak. Is the DNC going to do advertising on TV? Will they have brochures that you can write in, call an 800 and get a brochure that will explain it? How are you going to get it out?
MS. MYERS: The DNC is running a very aggressive sort of campaign to educate people about what's in the health care package. I don't know specifics on it. You'd have to give -- or somebody like that a call. I would expect that they'll do some advertising. Obviously, the President will travel on it; he'll talk about it; he'll speak to the American people about it, I think in a fairly aggressive way, both from Washington and around the country.
Q Is there somebody coordinating this whole effort from within the White House -- person or persons?
MS. MYERS: There's a number of different people -- Ira Magaziner is obviously coordinating the policy piece; Jeff Eller is coordinating the communications piece; and then there are people like Bob Boorstin and Kevin Anderson who you've all spoken to who are intimately involved in that. But it's also something that's being worked on by Mrs. Clinton, and the President's very involved in that, as are other senior administration officials. This is something that pervades every office of the White House.
Q The President said several times today that it's very complex, it's very complicated. Is the average American citizen going to be able to understand it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that's certainly our goal. But the current health care system is extremely complex and something that people who aren't -- don't have a lot of background in health care have sometimes had trouble understanding. So we are going to do what we can to make it understandable and to particularly let people know how it will affect them. This is obviously a very personal issue, something that people are very interested in and they're going to be curious about how it affects them, which is why it was sort of the focus of both of today's events is how does health care affect both citizens in their every day life and small businesses.
Q We mainly heard today, you know, the complaints but we didn't really hear the solutions.
MS. MYERS: And that's what we start with on Wednesday.
Q Dee Dee, can you explain how Families USA came to pay for the travel of these folks this morning?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take that question. I don't know the specifics of that.
Q Perhaps somebody asked them to.
Q That's a good question.
MS. MYERS: Good question --
Q Families USA is --
Q What's Families USA?
MS. MYERS: It's a nonprofit organization that deals with health and other issues. (Laughter.)
Q Good thing, huh? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Yeah. So I'll take that.
Q they did pay for the travel costs for all the people who appeared this morning?
MS. MYERS: Pardon me.
Q Are you confirming that Families USA --
MS. MYERS: No, I have no idea how the travel was paid for. But I will find the answer to that, and we will post it a little later.
Q Dee Dee, what kind of media are we going to see the President do with health care next week?
MS. MYERS: We're still working on that. Obviously the speech on Wednesday is the first big one, and he will do some additional media around it. We're still working out the specifics of that strategy.
Q I'm sorry, I got a little confused on the schedule earlier. You're going to stay out until New York or are you coming back that --
MS. MYERS: We're coming back on Friday -- sometime on Friday. We'll leave again sometime midday Sunday. Thank you. Greg
Q He was burning up the phone yesterday on the Middle East on Air Force One; has he called anybody else, number one? And number two, is he thinking about a trip, maybe to sort of keep this momentum going, maybe going abroad to meet with some other leaders or something like that, or maybe even a trip to the Middle East?
MS. MYERS: The first part is, no, he didn't make any additional calls today. The second part is, there's no trips scheduled in relation to progress in the Middle East, but he's certainly going to do what he can to reenforce progress and keep the momentum going, to urge other parties to support the initiative, to remind them that it's in their interest if they want to keep progress moving on the other tracks.
MS. MYERS: How? I think through -- among other things, through personal contact and certainly through personal contact at the diplomatic level both with the Secretary of State and others who are going to work very hard on this, as they have. Nothing scheduled at this time.
Q Is it under consideration?
MS. MYERS: Nothing scheduled at this time is all I can say. I mean, don't look for an announcement soon of a trip to Damascus. Thanks.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:10 P.M. EDT #114/09/16