THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
1:23 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: We have no announcements, so if anybody has questions --
Q-- get a phone call through to --
MS. MYERS: No, the President has not spoken to President Yeltsin yet today.
Q: Is he avoiding the President?
MS. MYERS: No, we don't think so. There has been technical difficulties as well as scheduling difficulties. And I don't think the call will happen today, but we're hopeful that the Presidents will speak tomorrow.
Q: What technical difficulties?
Q: There he is now. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly what the nature of them are, but there have been technical difficulties in just the phone lines in reaching one another. And some scheduling difficulties. We've had trouble working out a mutually-agreeable time and then there, again, have been these technical difficulties. So we're hopeful that the two will speak tomorrow.
Q: Did the President see the Japanese Foreign Minister, and has there been some kind of progress made on the framework agreement?
MS. MYERS: The President met briefly on Tuesday night with Mr. Kiuchi, who came over from Tokyo; reaffirmed the U.S. position, which is that we want Japanese markets open to U.S. products and other foreign products.
Q: There's a report that the Japanese Foreign Minister was coming to the White House today. Did President Clinton meet with him and has there been progress made on --
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. Foreign Minister Hata is in Washington. He met this morning with Ambassador Kantor. Based on the outcome of those conversations, negotiations resumed among the deputies on the various sectors that are part of the framework agreement. He's not expected to meet with President Clinton. He met also with Secretary Christopher and I believe he's meeting later with Vice President Gore.
Q: Does anybody believe that the impasse will be broken?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's difficult. We're insisting that Japan open its markets to U.S. products and to other foreign based on the framework agreement we reached last summer in Tokyo. And at this point we have not made a lot of progress.
Q: Dee Dee, what's the feeling about giving them more time? There have been pleas for more time on this.
MS. MYERS: I think we'll continue to insist that we make progress on the framework agreement so the Japanese live up to the agreement that they reached last summer in Tokyo. We're continuing to discuss that. Ambassador Kantor, based on his meeting with Foreign Minister Hata today, said that they would meet again this afternoon and again and again throughout the day until there could be a conclusion to this, whether it's a good conclusion or not. So we'll see what happens in the course of the day.
Q: -- papering over tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: I think we've said at a number of levels that it's either a good agreement or no agreement.
Q: Did he come with a new proposal?
Q: Has Ambassador Kantor, in fact, requested the Customs Service to draw up a list of possible products in the telecommunications sector that could be retaliated against?
MS. MYERS: As you know, the telecommunications sector is one of the issues that is being discussed. And you'd have to go to USTR. I don't know if he's requested that.
MS. MYERS: As you know, the telecommunications sector is one of the issues that is being discussed. And you'd have to go to USTR, I don't know if he's requested that.
Q: How serious is the strain in U.S.-Russian relations in the aftermath of the NATO ultimatum to the Serbs?
MS. MYERS: I think there have been a number of good conversations and meetings. This morning, Tony Lake spoke with his counterpart, the Russian National Security Advisor. Ambassador Albright has met with her counterpart at the U.N. There have been a number of discussions ongoing. Jim Collins went over to Russia, to Moscow earlier this week to consult with the Russians as the NATO policy was being developed and debated. So conversations are ongoing and we expect to continue that.
Q: The Russians are suggesting in Moscow that they feel betrayed that the U.S. and the NATO allies went ahead with this ultimatum without formal consultations with President Yeltsin.
MS. MYERS: Well, there have been a number of consultations at a number of levels throughout this process and we certainly expect that to continue. As you know, President Clinton tried to reach President Yeltsin yesterday before the announcement. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. We tried again today. We're still unable to reach one another, but I do expect that that call will -- we'll try again tomorrow. And I think consultations will continue on a number of levels from the presidential level on down.
Q: How did Lake reach his counterpart?
MS. MYERS: He was able to reach him by telephone.
Q: In Moscow?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: But he can't reach Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: Again, it's been a combination of scheduling difficulties and technical difficulties.
Q: What's the chance of success of this new diplomatic initiative without Russia's active participation?
MS. MYERS: Well, as you know, the Security Council approved Resolution 836, which gives the U.N. the ability to protect the safe havens of which Sarajevo is one. We believe that there is authority under 836 to carry forward with the NATO resolution from yesterday.
Q: I was referring to the diplomatic initiative. I mean, what kind of a -- what chance do we have if they refuse to put pressure on the Serbs?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that we know what's going to happen. I think we're going to continue to consult with the Russians and are hopeful that they'll continue to participate in the peace process as they have all along. I think they agree with us and the other members of the Security Council in the U.N. that the only way to end the conflict is through a negotiated settlement. I think the tragedy that happened on Saturday has recommitted everybody to the process, and I think the Russians included. I think they are as eager as everybody else to see this conflict resolved peacefully.
Q: What exactly would you expect from them?
MS. MYERS: I would expect that we'll continue to consult with them about specific next steps, but that they would be an active partner in urging the parties to reach a settlement.
Q: Last night, ABC did a report that challenged the Clintons' assertion that they lost over -- almost $70,000 on Whitewater. What is the White House position on that previous assertion that the President and First Lady have made?
MS. MYERS: Same as always, that's it's being looked into by the special counsel and we have no further comment.
Q: Back on Japan for a moment. The administration, or the President has the power to revive Super 301 by executive order and I've seen some reports that he plans to do so within the next couple of days. Does he, in fact, plan to do that?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think at this point negotiations are ongoing. We'll see what happens in the course of the day before Prime Minister Hosokawa gets here tomorrow. I think our position at this point is that we're going to continue to insist that Japan open its markets and that there be tangible measures of that progress. And beyond that, I'm not prepared to say.
Q: You mentioned technical difficulties in terms of Clinton getting together with Yeltsin on this. Do we still have a hot line?
MS. MYERS: We do. It's a non-voice data base that's staffed 24 hours a day. It's fully functional, fully operational.
Q: Has the President used it?
MS. MYERS: No, that's an emergency communications system. It's not a voice system.
Q: In the absence of direct voice communication between him and Yeltsin, has he sent a cable to the embassy to relay to Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: There have certainly been a number of messages passed back and forth. We don't need to use the emergency communications system to pass messages back and forth. As I said, Tony Lake talked to his counterpart and there have been a number of conversations -- Ambassador Albright talked to her counterpart. But the emergency communications system is still in place and fully functional.
Q: But my question was also, has the President sent a message of his own via the embassy to Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: No. He has not yet.
Q: Does Yeltsin have a beeper?
Q: Dee Dee, is the technical problem on the U.S. side or the Russian side?
MS. MYERS: It's not on the U.S. side -- we don't believe. We're not sure what the basis of it is.
Q: -- technical and scheduling, does that mean that maybe -- is President Yeltsin out of pocket?
Q: Is he under house arrest? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: No, but he has meetings and President Clinton has meetings and with the eight-hour time difference, there isn't as many hours in the day where one can hook up with another.
Q: I sort of thought you'd try to do this for 24 hours.
MS. MYERS: We started yesterday, and then at some point, obviously he was asleep. And then this morning -- what did you say, Adam?
Q: He ought to have an AT&T phone card. (Laughter.) I mean, it just seems sort of weird that the leaders of two great nations need 24 hours -- I mean, I can get Gergen on the phone quicker. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Do you want to put a dollar on it? (Laughter.)
Q: Senator Cohen of Maine, who's on the Armed Services Committee, says that it's very important for the President to consult with Congress under the rules of the Constitution to get permission to go to war, even if he is allied with the United Nations. Does Mr. Clinton plan to consult with Congress on this? I don't mean just consult, I mean ask permission from Congress.
MS. MYERS: He consulted with members of Congress who were here yesterday before he made the announcement.
Q: No, but he has to under the Constitution, I'm talking about. They are the ones who are supposed to decide whether or not we can go to war, and Cohen backs this up. He said he had a hard time persuading Bush to do this, but Bush finally went to Congress and asked permission. Now, is Mr. Clinton going to do that?
MS. MYERS: We will continue to work in consultation with Congress on this and other things that involve the use of our armed services.
Q: I'm not just talking about consultation; that's one thing. Under the Constitution, is he going to go --
MS. MYERS: We're going to continue to consult and work closely with Congress on this issue.
Q: He has to go up there and ask their permission for a vote.
Q: Could I ask you to go back and sort of -- you were starting to detail the attempts to reach Yeltsin. Could you go through that, like, for the past 24 hours?
MS. MYERS: He attempted to reach him yesterday and was unsuccessful. And he attempted to reach him today and was unsuccessful.
Q: So two times, or was it more?
MS. MYERS: There have been a number of conversations between -- at a staff level, trying to find a time that was mutually acceptable and trying to place a phone call. And I'm not sure exactly what the technical methods were for that -- how we were in touch with them -- through signal operator and things like that. But it isn't as if there have been a number of phone calls placed. We've been trying to work out a time when we could get a phone line that was operational that worked for both Presidents. And we've been unable to do that.
Q: Is the President being snubbed by Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: I'm sorry -- how do you know that? (Laughter.) If you weren't able to get through to him --
MS. MYERS: We weren't able to get through to him, but again, there have been conversations -- Tony Lake talked to his counterpart; Ambassador Albright talked to her counterpart. There have been a number of conversations, and we'll hopeful that the two will be able to hook up.
Q: If they're able to make -- if there's no problem in establishing telephonic communications between Tony and his counterpart and Madeleine and her counterpart, what's the problem -- MS. MYERS: Madeleine and her counterpart met in New York, where they both work. And I think -- I'm not sure where Tony's counterpart is. I'm not sure if he was at the Kremlin or at another office building, so there may be --
Q: What does the President want to say to Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: And I would also point out that the Presidents would use secure communications, and Tony Lake and his counterpart might not.
Q: What does the President want to say to President Yeltsin? Will he ask him to step in now?
MS. MYERS: I think he wants to discuss with him both the decision that was taken at NATO yesterday and further steps for advancing the peace process in Geneva to reach a negotiated settlement.
Q: How do you all view Zhirinovsky's statement earlier this week that anyone who -- any air strikes mounted on the Serbs would be -- he would consider an act of war against Russia?
Q: Good thing he's not in charge.
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think it's -- he's not in charge of the government. We'll continue to deal with the Russian government, President Yeltsin and others.
Q: Is Knoller on the record or is he -- (laughter).
Q: A senior administration official.
MS. MYERS: Senior briefing room official.
Q: In talking to Yeltsin about the negotiating process, is he going to ask President Yeltsin to exert some amount of pressure or influence on the Serbs if the U.S. and the allies will in turn exert some kind of influence over the Muslims to try to get this process going?
MS. MYERS: Well, without getting into the specific details of a conversation that hasn't happened, I think that what we want them to do is to play an active role in the peace process as we are prepared to do, to help the parties reach an agreeable settlement. And I think it the view of the Russians, as it is of us, that the only way this conflict will end is if the parties themselves reach a settlement that is acceptable. I think we're going to participate more actively in the process in order to move that along.
Q: Do we believe that Yeltsin, Russia has any influence over the Serbs?
MS. MYERS: I think as a member of the Security Council and as a traditional ally of the Serbs, that they certainly have a role to play in this, sure.
Q: The Russians are saying that one of the aggravating problems is that Yeltsin was kept waiting for 90 minutes yesterday while this phone call was attempted to be put through.
MS. MYERS: No, I don't believe that that's true.
Q: What exactly did happen in that? I mean, was there ever a point that Clinton was on the phone saying, "I'm ready to talk," and Yeltsin is on the phone, "I'm ready to talk," and there was a communications problem?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. The President certainly was available for fairly -- different periods of time throughout the day yesterday, and we hoped to put the call through and were just unable to do it.
Q: Well, I sure you know that, in diplomacy when there's a riff between two governments there are technical or scheduling problems that sometimes develop that -- out of the blue, because people don't want to talk to each other. So how do you know for sure that Yeltsin simply is mad at Clinton and doesn't want to talk to him?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, we've had a number of contacts at different levels and we're hopeful that this call will get placed. I think there have been a number of stories circulating in the press about -- circulating about motives. At this point, I think it's our intention that the President speak -- we tried -- there's been a number of attempts and I think a good-faith effort on both sides.
Q: Isn't it, in fact, more convenient for both sides if they don't talk?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think that that's true at all. I think President Clinton has made a very good-faith effort to reach President Yeltsin. He did yesterday in advance of the NATO announcement. But certainly there have been a number of consultations and we expect that to continue.
Q: If I can go back to the ABC report last night --the White House has said --
Q: It's still running, by the way. (Laughter.)
Q: The White House said repeatedly, as has the First Lady, that the Clintons lost $69,000 on that deal. While you may not want to comment on specifics, is that still the White House position, that they lost $69,000?
MS. MYERS: I am not going to comment on specifics, other than to say that this is something that's being looked into by the special counsel. And we're just not going to have --
Q: Well, what I'm asking --
MS. MYERS: I have nothing more to say about it.
Q: You don't care to restate that assumption?
MS. MYERS: I don't care to say anything specific about Whitewater other than it's being looked into.
Q: On health care, is Clinton doing two separate trips next week on health care?
MS. MYERS: That's bring up travel for next week. No, he's doing one. And I think we had talked a little bit this morning, and I think that -- the schedule is in flux, so let me just give you some tentative information for next week.
He will go to Arkansas over the weekend, and we don't have the final details about that. As soon as we have them this afternoon, we will let you know. Saturday, he will do the radio address -- unclear where he'll do it from. Sunday, sometime on Sunday he'll return here.
On Monday he meets with the President of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev. On Tuesday, we will probably travel. It is unclear where we will go or what the topic will be at this point. (Laughter.) It's open.
Q: That's helpful.
MS. MYERS: Yes, that's very helpful. On Wednesday, we'll go to Edison, New Jersey, for a health care event. On Thursday, we'll have -- the President will have a lunch here at the White House with senior citizens. And on Friday, it's still unclear -- we expect he'll spend next weekend here.
Q: That's a three-day weekend, isn't it?
Q: How about tomorrow, Dee Dee? In terms of prolonging the afternoon, is he leaving some additional time to negotiate with Hosokawa?
MS. MYERS: No. I mean, the schedule is as it has been. It's a working schedule, so they have an Oval Office meeting that starts at 11:30 a.m. Then they'll have a working lunch in the Residence, followed by an East Room press conference. There have been no changes in that schedule now.
Q: Is there some wiggle time -- I gather the joint press conference is, what, around 2:00 p.m.?
MS. MYERS: It's at 1:55 p.m., to be exact.
Q: Want to bet?
Q: When is he due to leave for Arkansas?
MS. MYERS: Unclear. It could be Friday afternoon. It could be Saturday morning.
Q: So there is some room in case this thing might go to 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: It's not anticipated, but he does have some flexibility in his afternoon schedule, but it's not anticipated. I mean, the discussions are ongoing now at the deputy level on the specific sectors that are in question. And I think we'll have the resolution before tomorrow one way or another.
Q: Did he come with new proposals?
Q: Dee Dee, to put the question another way, does the President expect to have this thing cut and dried at lower levels, by Mickey Kantor and Hata, or is he open for actual negotiation?
MS. MYERS: I don't want to rule anything in or out at this point other than to say -- Helen just asked did Hata come with new proposals. Hata met with Mickey this morning. Based on those conversations, which I'm not prepared to discuss the details of, but based on those conversations, they were able to reinitiate dialogue at the deputy level. Mickey said he would be willing to continue to meet with Hata. They agreed they would meet throughout the day periodically as the circumstances dictate in anticipation of a conclusion one way or another. Now, I think it's a little premature to say what will happen tomorrow. But there's been no anticipated change in the President's schedule.
Q: But he did have a proposal? He apparently did have something --
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't know if it was a proposal, but I think that that will stay between Ambassador Kantor and Foreign Minister Hata.
Q: Was Hata here in the White House to meet with the principals?
MS. MYERS: No. I believe he's coming this afternoon. He met with Ambassador Kantor at USTR this morning. He was just at the State Department where he met with Secretary Christopher.
Q: Hata is coming this afternoon?
MS. MYERS: He's meeting with the Vice President, I believe, this afternoon -- 6:00 p.m., yes, this evening.
Q: Who else will be in that meeting?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. You can check with Leon Fuerth or one of those folks.
Q: Is he briefing at all?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow?
Q: Yes, this afternoon or tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Probably -- we don't anticipate one today. I think it's a fair question that we can do some kind of a readout tomorrow after the meeting, and we'll get back to you on that.
Q: Can you explain your internal meeting on Japan held this morning? How many hours --
MS. MYERS: It was not a number of hours, relatively a brief 30 or 40-minute meeting just to discuss the state of play. It was a briefing on -- in anticipation of the President's meeting tomorrow with Prime Minister Hosokawa.
Q: Was that NEC?
MS. MYERS: It was a number of people who have been involved in this from NEC, Treasury, State, different departments.
Q: How about Ambassador Mondale?
MS. MYERS: Yes, he was there.
Q: The President shortly will announce some appointments to the Commission on Entitlement Reform, and among the appointees are people who have advocated deep cuts in Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits and so on. Is it fair to say, as a result, the President is appointing a commission that will seriously consider deep cuts in Social Security and other entitlement programs?
MS. MYERS: I think that -- I guess a couple of months ago, the President signed an executive order essentially creating the commission. It's 32 members. The chairman is Senator Kerrey. The vice chairman is Senator Danforth. The President appoints 10 members and then the House and Senate majority and minority leaders each get five. So what we are announcing today are the President's 10 in addition to Senators Kerrey and Danforth.
Q: Which are the President's 10?
MS. MYERS: Well, that's what we are going to announce at whatever time -- 2:15 p.m.
Now, in answer to the first part of your question --what the President agreed to do in signing the executive order was put together a commission to look at both different kinds of tax proposals, as well as entitlement reform with an eye toward continuing to bring down the federal deficit. I don't think that he has committed himself to accepting or not accepting any of the specific recommendations of the commission, although I think this is evidence of a very serious effort on our part to continue to reduce the deficit.
Q: What do you mean tax proposals?
MS. MYERS: That was what was in the executive order. And I don't think they spelled out what that meant.
Q: In reporting the story, is it fair to say they are seriously considering tax proposals, whatever that means, and serious cuts --
MS. MYERS: The commission is going to look at everything. I don't think they've ruled anything in or out. So I think it's premature to start saying that they are going to recommend anything in particular, although I think they are going to take a very comprehensive view at all the different ways. You know, there are only really two ways to bring down the deficit -- increase revenue or cut spending. So that's what their mission is, and that's what they'll do. And they're -- the deadline for them to report back, I think, is May of this year.
Q: You said the commission hasn't ruled out anything in or out. But what about what the President ruled out during the campaign? He ruled out very specific cuts in Social Security COLAs in Florida.
MS. MYERS: Yes, I don't think that's changed. But, you know, there certainly will be -- cuts in Medicare and Medicaid are included now in the President's health care plan. Right, that hasn't changed. That hasn't changed.
But I think that -- the reporting date is May 1, 1994. The President, I think, wants them to take a comprehensive look and to come up with some solutions which we'll look at when they report back.
Q: Will he be bound by what the commission recommends or can he just ignore it and do something else?
MS. MYERS: No, he won't be bound by it. Ultimately, the authority rests with him.
Q: So what happens? The commission reports --
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: He could just say, I don't agree, or he could say, no, I'm going to take another view, or what's going to happen next?
MS. MYERS: We'll see when they report. I think we'll take a serious look at what they recommend and proceed from there.
Q: But you're saying -- are you saying he will act on one of those two alternatives anyway?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: You are not even going that far?
MS. MYERS: No, I'm not going to commit him to any kind of action on a proposal that we haven't seen yet. Certainly, we're going to continue to do everything we can to bring the deficit down.
Q: But as you said, there's only two ways to do that.
MS. MYERS: I guess there's a third way which is to increase economic growth, which we've also worked on this year with great success.
Q: He could have put these members together on the commission last year and now they only have basically three months in which to work. There's been some time lag in his appointments. What took him so long to pick 10 people?
MS. MYERS: I think we've had a number of things to do. I think we've gotten the commission appointed in good time. They'll have plenty of time to consider a number of alternatives and certainly the chairman and the vice chairman of the commission, Senators Danforth and Kerrey, have considered a number of options in the interim. So I don't think there's any shortage of ideas out there.
Q: What is he going to doing in Arkansas this weekend?
MS. MYERS: It's for personal time. I think seeing friends and family. No business scheduled.
Q: So next weekend he has no plans yet, because that's an three day weekend?
MS. MYERS: No plans yet that I know of, except we'll probably do the radio address.
Q: What was the reason the President didn't take part in that DOT grant conference call that was on his schedule today?
MS. MYERS: It was just a scheduling conflict. There were some things that he wanted to put on his schedule and just needed to squeeze it out. And so Secretary Pena agreed to do it.
Q: Could you tell us why the border provisions of the Helsinki Final Act apply to Macedonia but not to Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I will have to take that question. I don't know the answer, but I'll take it and get back to you.
Q: Did the White House yesterday asked the key congressional committees on health care reform to speed up the legislative process --
MS. MYERS: The question was, did the President ask key committee members from the House and Senate health care committees to speed up legislation on health care -- is that right?
The answer is, no. The President has met a number of times with House and Senate leaders on health care. He'll continue to consult and work with them. They certainly -- he has discussed with the House and Senate leadership over the course of the last several months specific strategy and timing, but certainly it is up to the chairmen to determine exactly what the timing of their bill is. The President has made it clear, however, that he would like to see health reform passed before Congress adjourns this year. And I think the Congress is working very actively to try to do that. But he did not ask them to speed it up.
Q: -- accelerate it if he has welfare reform on the agenda as well --
MS. MYERS: It's because it's up to -- the President's health care proposal is now in the congressional committees. It is up to the chairmen to determine what is the best schedule for moving those proposals forward and getting a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year. It's certainly something that the White House is willing to work with Congress on. But is in the committees now and the chairmen are the best judges as to how to move it through.
Q: Did they actually discuss that schedule yesterday, leaving aside whether the President asked them to change it?
MS. MYERS: They discussed some issues as to timing, yes.
Q: What was he told? What assurances was he given?
MS. MYERS: Well, I'm not going to talk about specifics, other than to say that I think the President reaffirmed that he -- I mean, I think everybody is committed to trying to get health care done this year. And so the discussion was about how best to do that. Q: Was he told that might not be possible?
MS. MYERS: I think that the members of Congress believe it is possible and are going to work very hard to get it done this year.
Q: But nobody told him it wasn't?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: It's not a minority opinion on that?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Also on health care, in the wake of this infamous CBO report there have been reports that the White House is reconsidering the bottomline cost of this package, either benefits offered or phasing in. Can you confirm that?
MS. MYERS: The White House is reconsidering the cost of health care?
Q: Of the Health Care Security Act, yes.
MS. MYERS: Well, again, that's something that's being looked at in Congress, as the proposal -- I think one of the -- one of the things that CBO confirmed was that the basic structure of the Clinton plan is very sound and that it confirmed that over the long-term that we can extend health -- guaranteed private insurance to everybody and still reduce overall health spending, which was good news. The exact cost of the proposal will determine how exactly it's structured when it comes out of Congress. So there is not an effort here to retabulate the Clinton bill as it went up to the Hill.
Q: Not to retabulate it, but to perhaps take out some of the more expensive benefits --
MS. MYERS: That's again something that's being worked out in Congress. I mean, as the bill moves through and the specific details of it are worked out by the committees, I think the cost estimates will shift somewhat.
Q: You're not doing anything proactive? You're not offering --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: -- smaller benefit among the basic --
MS. MYERS: No, again, it's in the committees. They're working on the details of it. I don't think they're there yet.
Q: Did the White House have any role in getting the statements from the American Federation of Teachers for health care reform to issue statements negative really about Cooper's bill yesterday?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. I'll take the question and doublecheck it, but I don't -- not that I know of.
Q: Did they coordinate it or were they informed in advance?
MS. MYERS: We do have sort of contact with a lot of groups, but I don't know that we specifically had a conversation about that. I mean, it hasn't been our position to take on any particular bill other than to compare the specifics of our bill versus the specifics of their bill.
Q: Does the White House feel that you've lost the public relations battle on health care?
MS. MYERS: No, I --
Q: -- because of the war chest that the others have?
MS. MYERS: I think that we believe that this is a long process, one that is going to take most of the legislative year; that there are certainly going to be ups and downs in that process, but that in the long run we will get a comprehensive health care reform package that guarantees private insurance for every American. And that's the bottom line.
Q: Senator Mitchell just said this morning that he hoped to bring this bill -- get this bill finished by mid-summer and then get it to conference before they go out?
MS. MYERS: That would certainly be acceptable to us.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:00 P.M. EST