THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
2:06 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: I have no announcements, so if you have any questions.
Q Was the decision to withdraw the Rangers in any way connected to what Bob Oakley has been doing? Is there any signal that you were trying to send to the clans?
MS. MYERS: There was certainly -- the question was there any connection between Oakley's actions and the decision to withdraw the Rangers from Somalia. Certainly there was no deal, but the decision to withdraw the Rangers was due in part to circumstances on the ground, which has certainly been fostered and moved along by Ambassador Oakley's actions and activities in Somalia. It's also, I think, a confidence-building measure that we hope will help to keep things moving in the right direction.
Q Is Oakley back?
Q Who's confidence are you building?
MS. MYERS: Oakley is -- the confidence between the Somalis, between the Somalis and the U.N.
Q Is that an act of good faith --
MS. MYERS: We hope that it will have that effect, actually.
Oakley is back in the U.S. I believe he's in Washington, is that correct Don?
Q What is he doing? Is he meeting with the President? I understand he was up on the Hill this afternoon.
MS. MYERS: He came back over the weekend. He debriefed members of the administration. He has not met with the President, and there are no plans for him to do that.
Q Why not?
MS. MYERS: There's just no -- he may at some point. There is no plans for him to do it right now. He's certainly spoken to other members of the administration. He debriefed some folks over the weekend.
Q The President's making policy. Wouldn't he want to talk to his top man there?
MS. MYERS: He has spoken to Oakley in the past, but he has no plans to meet with him right now.
Q Dee Dee, would you like to see Boutros-Ghali get rid of Jonathan Howe as the U.N. envoy in Somalia?
MS. MYERS: That's a decision for the U.N. to make.
Q What about vice-versa? (Laughter.)
Q How would you characterize, from the U.S. standpoint, Oakley --
Q take that as a yes? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Yes, Mark is funny.
Q Oakley seems to have supplanted Jonathan Howe as the key intermediary in trying to get a political situation going. Is that something that you deliberately wanted to do -- to get rid of the import, for example, of Jonathan Howe?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that they've been working -- both of them have been working toward the same objectives. As you know, Admiral Howe is there as representative of the U.N. Ambassador Oakley went there as a representative of the President. The President is very pleased with the progress that he's made there. He's back here now. Admiral Howe remains in Somalia and we hope they keep making progress.
Q Is Oakley going back?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that he has any plans to.
Q Dee Dee, the President is still having trouble with Congress on Haiti. Senator Dole is still sort of pressing forward with his case. He has had a lot of people in today trying to get them to agree to vote for NAFTA; that isn't ensured. It's a democratic Congress. Why is he having so much trouble with it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I disagree with the premise. If you look at the overall record of this President, he has an extraordinarily high level of party support. I think the last time anybody did a quantified study of it, it was 89 percent party loyalty over the course of his administration. That was something that was done by Congressional Quarterly, oh, a month or so ago, and I can certainly provide that for you. I think this President has enjoyed a great deal of support in Congress. However, he has tried to do some things that are difficult, that take a lot of work, -- like NAFTA -- that everyone knew at the beginning going into this it wouldn't be easy. Yet the President remains very optimistic that we will get this done. He's going to keep working at it,
Q Is he committed to $2.5 billion in taxes to offset the lower tariffs on NAFTA?
MS. MYERS: Well, according to the 86 or the 90 budget act, $2.5 billion in tariffs, which is actually taxes, which will be reduced by tariff reductions in NAFTA have to be replaced either by new revenues or by mandatory spending cuts. There's no way around that. You have to come up with a plan to address it. We have a plan. The President's certainly open to suggestions from Republican or Democratic members of Congress if they have a better way. But you have to replace the revenues, that is required by the 90 budget act.
Q But is committed to increasing revenues as opposed to spending cuts?
MS. MYERS: Not necessarily. I think we -- the President and the folks who are working on it here have looked at a variety of options and decided that increasing the customs fee was the best approach. It would not be $5 as reported, but about $2.50. That money would go entirely to fund customs operations. If members, Democrats or Republicans, have a better solution, the President's certainly open to hearing that.
Q When Jonathan Howe put a price lift on the head of Aideed, was the United States notified about that? We knew that we had supported the resolution --
MS. MYERS: I don't think the United States was notified in advance. I will double-check that. But that was a U.N. action, something that Admiral Howe was, I think, authorized to do as a result of his position. But I will double-check that and post an answer.
Q Where are we on Dole and Nickles?
MS. MYERS: Nickles -- I'll answer that -- the Nickles amendment, we expect, will be voted on the afternoon. The President is opposing it and we're working hard to beat it.
Q Have you got it beat?
MS. MYERS: We're working hard at it. We hope to have it beat. The Dole amendments are still being worked on. There is no final language. Nothing's been introduced. But we're hopeful that we can continue work with Senator Dole and others to protect the President's prerogative.
Q Why do you think Congress doesn't seem to have more confidence in the President's ability to carry out the foreign policy?
MS. MYERS: I think this is a battle between Congress and the President that goes back 200 years. This is something that, as you know, comes up in every administration. And I think most every President in the last 200 years has fought infringements on executive authority to run foreign policy and to commit troops. And this President's going to fight it tooth and nail.
Q Can we assume that the Oakley mission is over and that he feels he has completed his job and it's all smooth sailing for a peace settlement -- a political settlement -- by March 31?
MS. MYERS: Well, I wouldn't go that far. I think the Oakley mission is over for the moment. Ambassador Oakley's back here and has, at this point, no plans to return. I think he made progress.
Q So, there's no negotiations going on.
MS. MYERS: Well there's ongoing discussions between the African leaders and the U.N. about formation of a commission that would look at the killing of the Pakistani peacekeepers to determine who's responsible, which is something --
Q So, the negotiations are now back in the hands of the U.N. with the African leaders to try to find --
MS. MYERS: I believe that's correct, since there's no U.S. representative there anymore. The discussions are ongoing. We expect that the U.N. would be a part of that process.
Q And there's no civilian diplomat representing us there?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Do you have confidence in Admiral Howe's continued tenure in Somalia, or would you like to see him replaced?
MS. MYERS: He is a U.N. appointee, but the President continues to support his job there.
Q On that point, can you broaden that? Do you have confidence in the U.N. operation in general to carry on what Oakley has begun?
MS. MYERS: We're very hopeful.
Q I didn't ask hopeful, I said confident?
MS. MYERS: Well, I'm getting to that. We're very hopeful that things will continue to go well there. The U.N. is moving forward with the situation on the ground, as are U.S. forces there. And we're confident that we can continue to make progress.
Q And what if there is no progress or there is some sticking point?
MS. MYERS: Well, we'll deal with that when the time comes. At this point, I think the results -- over the course of the last two weeks, there's been good results on the ground. We'll continue to judge circumstances there by actions on the ground. Aideed has continued to observe the unilateral cease-fire. There's been relative calm on the streets in Mogadishu. Durant was returned. There have been a number of good signs, and we hope that that will continue.
Q Dee Dee, on that point, the U.S. has clearly backed off in the effort to capture Aideed and try him for the deaths of the Pakistani peacekeepers. Is the U.S. confident that the U.N. has gone along with this shift in policy? Is the U.N. on board with this new direction?
MS. MYERS: Yeah, I think Boutros-Ghali has said as much that he also agrees that there needs to be a shift in policy from a security track to a political track. And that shift -- both by the U.S. and the U.N. -- seems to be bearing good fruit.
Q Along the same lines, what is Mr. Aideed's status in the eyes of the President? Is he a hostage -- or, I'm sorry -- is he a hostage-taker? Is he a fugitive terrorist? Is he a future founding father of the new Somalia? What exactly is he?
MS. MYERS: Well, he's a clan leader with a substantial constituency in Somalia. And the -- how he interacts as the Somalians work out their future is something for the Africans to work out among themselves. It's an African problem.
Q Is he to be held accountable for the deaths of --
MS. MYERS: The U.N. resolution that says those accountable for the death of the Pakistani peacekeepers and others should be brought to justice is still in force. We are working toward establishing a commission. I'm sorry --
Q -- include U.S. Rangers?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll take a look at all the circumstances there. But, again, we're looking toward at this point establishing a commission to establish who's at fault.
Q On the question of who's at fault, does the U.S. believe that General Aideed is responsible for the deaths of the Pakistani peacekeepers, or is it not certain?
MS. MYERS: I think what we've decided is to work with the Africans to create a commission that would establish and ascertain -- answer that question, in effect.
Q What is the administration's present understanding of the answer to that question?
MS. MYERS: Our present understanding to the answer to that is that we're going to create a commission to take a look at that.
Q Because the thing that confuses me is that in Somali material that you sent to Congress, you say very straightforwardly that it was forces loyal to General Aideed that were responsible for the deaths. And go on to talk specifically about General Aideed's motivations in ordering this attack and what he was looking to get. Is that not, in fact, the administration's current view, because there's a disconnect?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think there is. I think that under the circumstances that it's not for us to decide at this point. I don't think there's been any change in our evaluation of the facts. But at this point, we've decided to work with the Africans and the U.N. to create this commission that would -- and General Aideed has agreed to this as well -- that would take a look at the circumstances and make that determination. We're willing to let that process go forward.
Q Well, but do you believe what was said in that report, or are you backing off of it?
MS. MYERS: I'm not backing off of it. I just -- that is not the relevant point at this point. It's not for us, the U.S., to decide at this point.
Q Are you deemphasizing that, then? That's fair to say, isn't it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we're -- yeah -- we're emphasizing a different approach, which is to work with this commission.
Q Soft pedaling, so to speak.
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't know if we're soft pedaling it. We expect this commission to determine who is responsible and bring them to justice.
Q So 86-ing that would be too strong, would it? (Laughter.)
Q conclusions in that report that were sent only a week ago. Are they inoperative, those conclusions?
MS. MYERS: Again, I think our conclusions have not changed. Our emphasis has changed. We're now looking at working with the African leaders and others to establish a process that will determine who's at fault and bring those people to justice. Our commitment here is to bring those responsible to justice. The process is now to work with the African leaders to establish a commission, as opposed to making that determination ourselves.
Q If I can just follow up. Those conclusions are basically irrelevant. It's not whether they're operative or not, they're just not relevant to where you are right now.
MS. MYERS: We've shifted the focus of the process.
Q Can I get an understanding from you of what "bring to justice" means?
MS. MYERS: Well, there will be some -- the U.N. will have a process, once the parties are identified, to assign guilt. And that will be left to the U.N., so you might check with them.
Q I know, but we've got -- wait a minute. The United States is a member of the Security Council. This checking with the U.N. you're always advocating, I mean, the U.N. --
MS. MYERS: Well, we can't unilaterally establish what that process is.
Q I understand that. Presumably the United States, leading -- the nation which the President says repeatedly must lead, would have some ideas about what sort of process this should be. What sort of process should it be?
MS. MYERS: It should be a fair process that is --
Q Sort of war crimes tribunal or --
MS. MYERS: Well, something along those lines, but I don't know that we're in a position right now to say exactly what the parameters of that are. But you might double-check with the U.N., they might be further along with this. You certainly could check with the U.S. representative to the U.N. if that helps.
Q Dee Dee, two and a half weeks ago, we were certain enough of Aideed's guilt to spend 19 American lives going after the man. What changed?
MS. MYERS: I think a number of things. We changed our focus. We made a deliberate -- or took a deliberate step of depersonalizing the mission there, of focusing on the political track, of trying to create an environment where political reconciliation was possible, and to working with the regional leaders to create a regional solution to the problems there. And, I might point out, with very good success. Hostilities have ceased; Aideed is observing the unilateral cease-fire; he's returned Durant. I think there is number of reasons to believe that this is working.
Q But presumably he's remains just as guilty. Nothing --
MS. MYERS: And nobody has suggested that those guilty should not be brought to justice. They will be. We're working to create a process that will bring those responsible for the death of the Pakistanis and others to justice. There's absolutely no change in our commitment to do that.
Q Do you think that the President believes that most Americans at this point are really much more interested in getting our forces out of Somalia than they are in tracking down Mr. Aideed, and that that might be the reason that this policy shift took place?
MS. MYERS: No, I think that -- I don't know what most Americans are interested in, but the President believes that the focus of this mission got a little off track. He's refocused it on the political aspects of creating an environment where the Somalis at least have a chance at establishing order and avoiding the kind of chaos that led to 350,000 deaths to begin with. He asked -- he talked about a policy that would allow six months to give that process a fair chance of starting. That has been endorsed by Congress and we're moving forward.
Q Dee Dee, you said a few minutes ago that the President -- the tug-of-war between Congress and the President over the War Powers Act is something that's gone back for hundreds of years. Can you characterize for us what the President's view was when he was Governor of Arkansas and was running for president last year about the congressional authorization prior to deployment of American forces?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take that question. I don't remember off the top of my head if he addressed it during the campaign. But I'm happy to take it.
Q I'll just guide you -- (laughter) -- off the top of my head, I think he may have been more acceptable to congressional authorization --
MS. MYERS: Well, I would point out there this is a big difference between a president asking for Congressional authorization and getting it, as was, I believe, the situation with the Gulf, and Congress restricting the President's actions. I don't think the President has ruled out the possibility that he would ask Congress for authorization before he sent troops into some situation. But there is a huge gap between the President asking for authorization and Congress restricting his ability to act. So, I don't think that those are necessarily --
Q But you will post that later?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q On the bring to justice front, would -- if somebody were deemed to be responsible for the deaths of either Pakistani or American soldiers, would their participation in the political governance of Somalia be consistent with being brought to justice?
MS. MYERS: Two separate tracks -- I mean, if the U.N. were to determine that somebody was responsible and establish a process for bringing him to justice, that would be one track. What we said as to who should participate, that's up to the Africans. At this point, I'm not willing to make a hypothetical judgement about how that might work out.
Q Well, I mean, it's not really hypothetical in the sense that the United States has already stated its conclusion. But you can imagine those two things happening at once, in other words, some hypothetical --
MS. MYERS: I think's that a hypothetical and I'm not about to answer it.
Q As far as you know, did Mohamed Farah Aideed every ask the United States to withdraw the Rangers from Somalia?
MS. MYERS: This was not, in any way, a deal. I don't know what he may have said to people. I'm not in a position to know that, but this was in no way a deal. It was --
Q Because I think in some of his public comments, he asked that the Rangers be withdrawn.
MS. MYERS: But again, I just can't emphasize strongly enough, this was not a deal, there was no quid pro quo. This was a response to a couple of things: One, improved circumstances on the ground; and two, the fact that you now have 36,000 Marines offshore in Somalia with many of the same capabilities. I think the decision was made to bring the Rangers home under those circumstances.
Q Your answers to Wendell and to Ruth raise two questions. One, was the operation that proceeded this political action wrong in that it resulted in the death of 19 Americans in one incident? And two, might this U.N. process, or whatever process that is going to evolve just a little ethereal to the families of those 19 people?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that we've refocused the mission in Somalia to make it more effective. I think the President has acknowledged that it got off track and that it's back on track and we're making good progress. I think that if the process is run in good faith, which we expect that it will be, and bears results that the families of those who lost their lives will think -- hopefully think that that's fair.
Q Dee Dee, have the actions of Senator Dole and Senator Nickels helped to encourage the military on Haiti to defy the or to flaunt the Governors Island agreement?
MS. MYERS: Well, I'm certainly not in a position to ascribe motives to General Cedras, but I think that there are probably a number of factors that contributed to that. And we're going to try to do everything we can to restore democracy to Haiti in spite of it.
Q Has this been one of the factors?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. You'd have to ask General Cedras.
Q But does the administration feel that there's a danger to the extent that the Congress might restrict the President's foreign policy making authority?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that would certainly --
Q Governor's Island agreement, therefore, would be less likely to be complied with by the junta in Haiti?
MS. MYERS: As the President made clear in his letter yesterday, he does think that any restrictions on his ability to act would send the signal, not just in Haiti but around the world. That is one of the reasons that he is determined to fight it, as we're doing right now on the Hill as per the Nickels agreement -- I mean the Nickels amendment.
Q Dee Dee, what kind of time frame would be imposed on this Commission so that it didn't just become a long drawn out --
MS. MYERS: I don't know what parameters that they're establishing right now. I don't know.
Q Dee Dee, why do you say that you're fighting tooth and nail against this restriction of the President's prerogative, when you excepted the Somalia deadline that Congress voted, and you're negotiating with Dole on his restrictions?
MS. MYERS: Because the Somalia deadline that Congress outlined was consistent with the policy that the President outlined on October -- whatever that -- 7th or 6th -- that was the President's policy and the Congress affirmed that policy in terms of the withdraw date --
Q lock the President into a fixed date, now he's got to go back to Congress and --
MS. MYERS: The President had already outlined his policy and Congress reinforced that.
Q Yeah, but Dee Dee, if he changes his mind, Congress has imposed restrictions. So why would that be acceptable --
MS. MYERS: Why -- the President doesn't plan to change his mind. We expect to have all the troops out with the exception of a few hundred support troops left by March 31st.
Q But don't you see that the March 31 deadline that Congress has passed does set a limit on presidential discretion?
MS. MYERS: As did the President's announcement of his own policy the week before.
Q But, Dee Dee -- talking about is a principle, I mean, some of the things that Dole is -- some of the restrictions in Dole's amendment are things the President has said he would do, like get Congress's permission before he deploys troops to Bosnia. What he objects to is Congress asserting that authority over foreign policy. Why is that any different?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, I think the President can proactively decide he wants to ask for Congress's authorization before he sends troops, as President Bush did before Desert Storm. That is a far cry from restricting the President's ability to make that decision. There may be other times when that's not possible for other reasons. What the President objects to is an altering of the relationship between the Executive and Legislative branches and an impingement on his constitutional ability to make foreign policy.
Q So why doesn't he reject the Dole amendment and --
MS. MYERS: There is no Dole Amendment at this point. I mean, when Senator Dole introduces an amendment we may very well have to reject it and fight against it as well. At this point, we're looking for a way to establish a working relationship between Congress and the President in this post-Cold War world that recognizes Congress's concerns but protects the President's prerogative to act. We'll see how that goes. As you know, we've been in an ongoing conversation with Senator Dole and his staff and others about that.
Q Dee Dee, I'm a little bit fuzzy on the difference between what's acceptable and what's not acceptable on the congressional front. For example, the President has indicated that he would seek congressional authorization before sending forces to Bosnia. If he said he's -- and he said, in fact, that he can't do it without congressional agreement -- I can understand if Congress voted yes, go ahead, go to Bosnia, that would be just fine. But if he said he'll seek congressional authorization and if that congressional authorization is not forthcoming, how is that not the same thing as what some of the things that Senator Dole is proposing?
MS. MYERS: Because, again, it is an issue of presidential prerogative. If the President seeks congressional authorization, that is within his ability to do it. If the Congress mandates it, that is an altogether different circumstance.
Q What happens if the President seeks congressional authorization and Congress says no? That puts him in the same position that he would be if Congress said no to begin with.
MS. MYERS: It does not restrict his prerogative to go up there and to ask as a -- to decide to go up there and ask, as opposed to be required to do so. It is, in the President's view and in the view of the administration and of White House Counsel, unacceptable and an infringement on his constitutional power.
Q Does this administration now have a position on the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution?
MS. MYERS: We're -- it's still under review. But, as you know, the President said he'll act consistent with.
Q I know, but everybody's done that. No administration has yet believed that the War Powers Act is constitutional. All of them have tried to frame their actions as consistent with it, so that they don't pick an unnecessary fight. Is there, in fact, a process under which this is being reviewed and a position will be taken?
MS. MYERS: There is a process -- it is actively under review.
Q This has been going on how long now?
MS. MYERS: A while. (Laughter.)
Q General Cedras repeatedly says that the Governors Island agreement stipulated that the Haitian parliament would have to pass a law granting everyone amnesty. It's not enough just for Aristide to grant amnesty. Does the Governors Island agreement stipulate that the Parliament has to grant him amnesty?
MS. MYERS: No. We believe that President Aristide's acts are consistent with the Governors Island agreement, and that he has met his obligations under that.
Q But there's nothing in there that the parliament has to pass -- separate law?
MS. MYERS: No. The action that President Aristide has taken is fully consistent with what he agreed to do at Governors Island.
Q And with the War Powers Act, right? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: He has always, always maintained that he would act consistent with War Powers.
Q If I could just shift your focus for a moment to the domestic agenda -- your very favorite -- could you tell us when we might expect some health care legislation and why it's taking so long?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think you can look for health care legislation next week. I think that's very likely.
Q Will we find it, that's the question? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: You'll have to wait until next week. I think that we're making very good progress on it. I do expect that we'll have more to say about it next week.
Q Having good meetings on it?
MS. MYERS: We've had a lot of good meetings on it, frank and open discussions.
Q How are the numbers going?
Q Are they adding up yet?
MS. MYERS: They've always added up. And we have millions of actuaries to prove it.
Q If everything is so great, then why is it taking so long?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's complicated. We're talking about one-seventh of the economy. And I think the American people --
Q Yeah, but last week you said it was definite --
MS. MYERS: No, I said it could come as early -- I said it could as early as this week, but perhaps would get pushed into the following week, which I think it has. But it's coming soon. It is -- the American people have made it clear, I think, through conversations with them and polls and other things, that they would prefer that we take our time and do this right. And I think we've done that. Although we've acted, I think, quickly, we have taken a little more time.
Q Okay, and what about the rescission bill -- the rescission package?
MS. MYERS: End of October, October -- don't hold me to this date, but around the 25th, 26th.
Q And will it be --
Q How big? How big?
Q Will it be $10 billion? Will it be --
Q Rescissions, rescissions!
MS. MYERS: -- when is the rescission package coming -- Q And how big. MS. MYERS: That I can't say. They're still working on
Q Give us a range. Give us a range.
MS. MYERS: Bigger than a breadbox.
Q $10 billion to $15 billion is what Gephardt said.
MS. MYERS: I think that's roughly in the ballpark.
Q But how much of that is performance?
MS. MYERS: A lot of it will be from savings from the National Performance Review procurement reform and things like that.
Q I thought you were going to spend on that on socalled investments.
MS. MYERS: We're going to spend it several times. (Laughter.) A lot of it will be RIGO recommendations, but not all.
Q Before we go, Somalia again. The President said yesterday in that radio reporters interview --
Q so called -- that --
MS. MYERS: Do any of you guys want to weigh in on this -- other radio guys?
Q he planned on delaying the reemployment reform effort until next year, not presenting legislation on that or on welfare reform. And I was wondering about the larger context of that, has he sort of rethought the timing of his domestic agenda? What kinds of things are going on that account for that? And has he received yet a recommendation from Secretary Reich on the minimum wage?
MS. MYERS: The last part first -- he has not received a recommendation from Reich yet on minimum wage. I think that given the demands of doing NAFTA and health care this year, that the decision was made to put off some other initiatives like reemployment and welfare reform until next year.
Q Are there other initiatives that have been put off?
MS. MYERS: No, I think -- we will do -- we're working on crime now, RIGO, NAFTA, and health care. Those are the major initiatives that we're working on now. And other things will be spaced out over the course of the next year and beyond.
Q Dee Dee, to clarify something you said a lot earlier on NAFTA, to offset the lost revenue -- number of tariffs, are you still considering a suggestion made by Ambassador Kantor to increase the airline ticket tax?
MS. MYERS: Yes, that was the proposal. That's the administration's proposal. I believe Mickey made a presentation to Ways and Means this morning, basically called for a $2.5 dollar increase.
Q I'm sorry, I misunderstood you.
MS. MYERS: But it is only a proposal at this point. If the Democratic and Republicans members want to come back with a better suggestion, we're open to it.
Q Dee Dee, what can you tell us about the accuracy of the report that Mr. Payton's been recommended -- pick the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights job? And can you fill us in at all on the episode that the President alluded to yesterday about the withdrawal of a previous candidate, who I understand was a woman, who withdrew for personal reasons, what the reasons were and what was going on there?
MS. MYERS: The first part of your question, I won't answer. When we have a nominee for the civil rights position, we'll announce it. As for the second the second half, I don't know the circumstances. I'll take that question.
Q Who is it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the circumstances around that/
Q Has the President apologized to John Major or expressed any regret to Her Majesty's government about remarks that were viewed to be offensive?
MS. MYERS: No, the President hasn't had any contact with Prime Minister Major. The U.S. and Great Britain, England, enjoy a special relationship. And that has not changed, although there's certainly some issues on which they disagree.
Q But the President sees no need to send any explanation of the remarks he made in the interview with The Washington Post?
MS. MYERS: No, I think the remarks speak for themselves.
Q trouble, isn't it?
Q Dee Dee, if Oakley is staying here and there are no plans for him to go back to Somalia and there's nobody on the ground pursuing political reconciliation, why can't it not be said that your pursuit of that has been abandoned?
MS. MYERS: We'll we're part of the U.N., the peacekeeping effort there.
Q So you're leaving it to Jonathan Howe and the U.N. to pursue political reconciliation?
MS. MYERS: Don's shaking his head.
MR. STEINBERG: No, we haven't abandoned the political reconciliation track. It is possible that Ambassador Oakley will return.
Q What's the answer?
MS. MYERS: Don said that it is possible that Ambassador Oakley will return. I mean, we certainly haven't abandoned the political track that is the focus of our efforts.
Q Not abandon it, but turned it over to the U.N.
MS. MYERS: We will continue to work with the U.N., and we have forces there on the ground.
Q But isn't that -- brings us to the question of is that putting the fox in charge of the chicken --
Q Is that the situation --
Q Isn't it that we've turned it over to the Ethiopians and the Eritreans?
MS. MYERS: That's certainly part of it. We created a process there -- asked Meles and others to take an active role. They've done that. I think that was the first step Oakley took when he arrived.
Q Wouldn't a presidential envoy's personal presence on the scene do a great deal to keep moving it forward?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, his presence there had a great effect so far. And if it is deemed necessary, I think it's entirely possible that Ambassador Oakley could return. He has no plans to do so at this point. But as I said earlier, we haven't ruled that out.
Q Can you tell us what -- on the political track -- Oakley has accomplished besides -- not the cease-fire, but in terms of --
MS. MYERS: I think that's a pretty good beginning.
Q What I mean is in terms of trying to form a government.
MS. MYERS: He's, I think, got the Africans to agree to participate in looking at and making decisions about the future of Somalia, working with the Somalis. He helped secure the return of Durant. There is a cease-fire, which Aideed has observed unilaterally. And I think the circumstances there have moved in a very positive direction.
Q Dee Dee, Has Ambassador Pezzullo or Ambassador Swing notified the White House as to the security of the 1,000 Americans and the 9,000 of dual nationality?
MS. MYERS: I don't think -- is Pezzullo down there? I think he's here. Swing is there. Pezzullo is in Haiti? I think he's here -- he was here last we talked to him. Ambassador Swing has been in -- certainly been in touch with the administration. There is a travel advisory in effect. And there's been no enhancement of that. If, I think, circumstances merit it, we'll certainly look at it.
Q Hasn't General Cedras been implying through various media that he will take care of the security of Americans?
MS. MYERS: He has said that he doesn't believe the Americans there have anything to worry about. But I think we will make our own independent assessments of that situation.
Q With the resumption of shelling of Sarajevo, the administration has warned the Serbs that the earlier NATO warnings going back to August remained in effect. Is the United States calling for an action meeting by the NATO Council to take hold of this problem and to move towards some action, or are we still in the -- phase?
MS. MYERS: Well, as you know of the NATO Council meets regularly. They met yesterday as they do, I think, every week. Secretary Christopher did send a warning yesterday reminding the Bosnian Serbs that there's been no change in U.N. policy, that the strangulation of Sarajevo or disruption of humanitarian assistance will trigger airstrikes. So there's been no change in that policy.
Q But as you know, under the NATO warning, there's a kind of a process where if the Serbs resume the shelling and pursue the strangulation of Sarajevo, then the North Atlantic Council, the decision-making body for NATO, is supposed to meet, take -- of this problem and then order some action. My question is, are you calling, is the United States calling, for an action meeting by the North Atlantic Council pursuant to the threats and pursuant to the resumption of shelling of Sarajevo?
MS. MYERS: The North Atlantic Council meets regularly and they continually monitor in view of the situation, which they're doing, and will make a decision when it's appropriate.
Q But you're a member of the North Atlantic Council. You're the most important member of that Council. Can you tell us if you're taking any initiative within the Council to move toward --
MS. MYERS: No, the Council -- the Council is continuing to review circumstances. There's been no change in that. There's been no action outside of that.
Q So you don't want any action at this point?
MS. MYERS: The North Atlantic Council will continue to review it. There's nothing beyond that.
Q Just back to Mickey Kantor's statement about putting your proposal on the table, but you're happy to look at something else -- replacing the $2.5 billion. I mean, a certain number of Republicans have made it clear that you can't get NAFTA passed if that proposal remains. And Representative Armey suggested today that it was a pretty simple problem to solve; there was certainly other ways to find that money. Well, what are some of the ways?
MS. MYERS: Well, that's certainly one of the things we've asked them to come back with. We've made a proposal. Again, under the '90 budget act, you only have two options: mandatory spending cuts or new revenue. So if the Republicans or anybody else wants to come back -- again, I think everyone -- certainly the President agrees with Congressman Armey that this is a relatively small piece of NAFTA and a problem that we think we can solve working with them.
Q But do you agree that it can't pass if it has the --
MS. MYERS: Not necessarily. No, not necessarily.
Q On that, could I could clarify -- there's another option, and that is to get CBO to rescore. And I understand that was discussed this morning and that the President actually said he would take the initiative to try to get them to consider the overall gain, the net gain of --
MS. MYERS: I think his -- I think the members pretty much advised them that that -- I don't know if -- I'll have to take the part if we're going to ask CBO -- but what he was advised by the members and certainly his understanding is that there is a lot of savings that NAFTA will result in that can't be scored in additional revenue to the federal treasury about $10 billion over the same time period. But the CBO won't score it as a result of the 1990 budget act. Now, if there's a way to go back in and change that, I didn't hear a lot of encouraging comments from the members. Well, I wasn't in the meeting, but something may have happened after I walked out.
Q Was there any discussion of substituting spending cuts instead of tax increases for the --
MS. MYERS: Nothing specific. It was certainly discussed that that was an option, but there were no specific recommendations.
Q From the President's side or from the congressional --
MS. MYERS: Both. I mean, there were some members there who I think would be more comfortable with that. But there are no proposals on the table.
Q Dee Dee, on international law, if the Bosnian government has kind of -- is calling for aid, to be helped by anyone. The United States would be covered if they are doing that. They don't need to go over NATO. So is that option on that table?
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry --
Q You could under international law, the United States would be covered if the Bosnian government is asking -- you don't need any further NATO or --
MS. MYERS: Oh, they asked us, we could. We'd always said that this is -- our position throughout this has been that we expect to act in concert with our allies in Bosnia. But we don't expect to take any unilateral action --
Q But you could. You would be covered by international law.
MS. MYERS: But that's something that we've ruled out quite a while ago.
Q Is there anything on the schedule tomorrow besides this big-top thing you've got out here? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think there's a NAFTA meeting and then -- with members again, I think. No?
MS. VOLES: Not tomorrow --
MR. JONES: It's Thursday. But tomorrow --
MR. LEAVY: All I have is the products event.
MS. MYERS: NAFTA products fair.
MS. MYERS: Sure. There are several dozen products that have -- or companies that have done very well selling products to Mexico and have increased sales as tariffs have come down -- Mexico over the last six or seven years has really significant reduced tariffs to the U.S. This will be a display of the kinds of products that have seen sales go way up and we expect would go up more if NAFTA was passed.
Q A few examples of the ones that will be here specifically.
MS. MYERS: We can get those to you, Frank.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:44 P.M. EDT