THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
1:45 P.M. EDT
Q Do you have news?
MS. MYERS: No, only that the President is, of course, pleased with the progress that we're making on GATT. The Senate Finance Committee voted it out today unanimously, 19 to 0.
Q means nothing.
MS. MYERS: It absolutely does -- it means -- there is --tremendous important to both the House and Senate for GATT. As you know, the President has asked Congress to stay in session -- asked the Senate to stay in session until they vote on GATT. There is a 45-day provision, which will expire sometime in mid-November. And the President expects that GATT will be voted on and passed this year. And he'll have more to say about that himself at 2:30 p.m.
Q Well, the important thing is, what are you doing now vis a vis Hollings?
MS. MYERS: The President hasn't spoken to him. There will be, of course, ongoing contacts between the Hill and the White House at a staff level. And we'll continue to work with Congress to get this done. And the President is confident that it can be done this year.
Q Does he want something? Did he mention anything in the meetings he had with the President before his announcement?
MS. MYERS: No, no. We've been working with Senator Hollings, other members of the Commerce Committee throughout this process.
Q Well, not very well, apparently.
MS. MYERS: Well, there's -- the Commerce Committee has other members. As you know, there were important provisions of the financing package that had to be considered that fell under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Committee. We'd been working with members of the Commerce Committee on the funding provisions and felt it was important to keep those in. And I think, again, we'll see what happens in the next few days and weeks, but the President expects ultimately that GATT will be passed and become law on January 1st.
Q Well, are you offering modifications to the legislation --
MS. MYERS: We can't. We sent it up. Under fast-track authority, it cannot be modified.
Q Now you can't do anything. How then might you convince it?
MS. MYERS: Well, he can hold it up for 45 days. At that time, if it's either voted on, yea or nay, and if it's not voted on -- no matter how it's voted on, it's passed out to the full Senate.
Q It's nobody's desire to go through that whole process, but --
MS. MYERS: But it's the President's intention to go through that if it's necessary.
Q Correct. But is there some strategy in between now and then, some act of diplomacy you can perform upon Mr. Hollings?
MS. MYERS: I think Senator Hollings has made his position clear. We'll continue to work with the Congress on this, but I think the bottom line is that, one way or another, GATT will pass and become law this year. And the President thinks that's very important; he thinks it's in the interest of the United States, as do the majority of the House and Senate, and he'll keep working on it.
Q Dee Dee, on Woolsey, Senator Metzenbaum today was calling for his scalp. I wonder if the President has reacted to any of those calls, and whether he has or not, whether he fully now still supports Mr. Woolsey?
MS. MYERS: Director Woolsey has been close to this process throughout. He has focused his efforts on some of the administrative problems that led to some of the failures at the CIA. He's taken actions to prevent that from happening again. I think the White House believes Director Woolsey's taken appropriate action, and the President stands by.
Q There's a gathering feeling, apparently, that his disciplinary actions were too mild, and that nobody got fired and all, and that that was not enough. Is the President satisfied with those as well?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, the President believes he's taken appropriate action. And I would also point out that the President has been supportive of a broad review of U.S. intelligence policy. He directed Les Aspin, who is the Chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board to begin, in essence, a bottom-up review of intelligence processes in the United States.
The Congress has now created a commission which is charged with the same thing. The President has asked Les Aspin to chair that commission and to build on the work he's already done to look at some of the changes that might be necessary in U.S. intelligence in the post-Cold War world.
With respect to the specific incident, though, again, the President believes Director Woolsey has taken appropriate action.
Q Dee Dee, the U.S. talks with North Korea broke off today in Geneva. Is that situation at an impasse? How does the White House read that?
MS. MYERS: Both heads of delegations are returning home for further consultations with their governments. I don't think it's clear yet whether the entire delegations are coming back or just the heads. Obviously,there are still outstanding issues in those talks, but we're hopeful we can continue to discuss those issues. And, again, we'll know more once both chairs of the delegations have had a chance to come back and consult.
Q Does the President think that Hillary Rodham Clinton should continue to be a lighting rod on health care reform? Or should she work --
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure that's the position that he appointed her to.
Q Or should she revert back to --
MS. MYERS: That's my job. (Laughter.)
Q or should she play a more traditional First Lady's type of role during the second half of the first term?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President asked the First Lady to take a very active and visible role in the campaign for health care reform. I think he's extremely proud of the work that she did. He thinks that she is an effective and articulate spokesman for health care for this administration's belief that we need major reform in the health care system and that every American is entitled to be covered.
I think she will continue to work toward that goal. As she said, I think throughout this process she's also managed to do an excellent job in her traditional responsibilities as First Lady, and that will continue as well. So I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive. They're both important to Mrs. Clinton and I would expect that she will do both in the future.
Q So there will be no lessening of her role in terms of pushing health care next year?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we're at a point now where we're reviewing the health care situation and making decisions about how to proceed. But I think you can expect to see Mrs. Clinton continue to speak out about issues she cares about, including health care.
Q Does the President have any response to Dan Quayle, who made a speech today, calling his foreign policy inept?
MS. MYERS: I think it's safe to say the President disagrees with that.
Q Dee Dee, is the President considering allowing Russia to export Russian-made handguns to this country for sale here?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take that question; I don't know.
Q Can you give us anything on the proposal Secretary Perry outlined in some bill today, apparently calling for a tougher response to Serb violations in Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's consistent with, as you know, what the President said at the U.N. on Monday, and consistent with the position of this administration, as well as the Contact Group and our other NATO allies, that U.N.-created exclusion zones should be enforced, and NATO stands ready to enforce them.
Q Can you tell us whether it specifically does involve, for example, no warnings to the Serbs, multiple targets, a stronger response --
MS. MYERS: I would have to refer you to the Pentagon for the specifics of that. It's something that is being discussed at the Defense Ministers' Conference in Spain, and something that I think that there is quite a bit of consensus on there. They will then refer their recommendation back to the NAC for further action. But it does --
Q All those -- (inaudible) -- no warnings --
MS. MYERS: I'd just refer you to the Pentagon for the specifics of it. It does call for tougher enforcement of the NATO -- the U.N.-created exclusion zones which is something that the President again outlined, or called for, on Monday -- something that he discussed with Boutros-Ghali in their one on one session in New York.
Q May I follow on that? General Rose has apparently told people that he does not expect any more air strikes and, in fact, the one last week would not have taken place if he had not been out of the country. Is Perry's proposal at all consistent with the way it's being handled in the field?
MS. MYERS: I think Perry's proposal responds to the way -- to what's happened in the field. There is --
Q Do we want General Rose replaced before his normal turn would expire?
MS. MYERS: We have not called for his replacement, but I think from the President on down, this administration and our allies, in the Contact Group and in NATO have called for tougher enforcement. There have been too many violations of the exclusion zones, we believe. And the Bosnian government, I would point out, supports that as well. So we're going to continue to work with NATO and with the U.N. to enforce those exclusion zones, and we think there's a way we can do that.
Q Do you think that can change, though, as long as General Rose is in charge?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we'll continue to work with him. He's been an effective commander on the ground. Obviously, he's concerned about the safety of the UNPROFOR troops as are we. And we'll continue to work through the U.N. to address that situation.
Q The President seems to place great emphasis on the relationship with Mexico -- trade and -- the stability of Mexico is also important. The assassination yesterday of the number two ranking man of the PRI, Ruiz Massieu -- have you been in contact with the Mexican government? What does the U.S. -- White House know about it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the Mexican officials are looking into it and trying -- and this point I don't think they've reached any conclusions about who's responsible. Obviously it's something that we're concerned about, something that is troubling. The political violence in Mexico, of course, is a source of concern as we go forward. But I think we'll have to wait and see what the Mexican authorities are able to determine, and we'll help them in any way that we're asked to.
Q On GATT. Since this morning's discussion, have you pinned down anything further about exactly the way this would work for the Senate to stay in? Does it require an action by the President --
MS. MYERS: No, it doesn't. It's something that the leadership can do. The President is -- has directed his appeal to the leaders. Of course, I think that we'll work with them to keep the Senate in session if that's necessary. But it doesn't require any specific action.
Q He is not anticipating actually having to call a special session --
MS. MYERS: No. By keeping them in, keeping the Congress in session, it keeps the clock ticking so that the 45-day period runs out.
Q And the leaders are doing that at his request. Is that something that he also has the authority to do apart from any authority he has to convene a special session?
MS. MYERS: To ask them to stay --
Q Yes. I mean, no, no -- not to ask them to stay in, but to make them stay in.
MS. MYERS: I don't -- I'm not sure about that. I have to check with the lawyers. He can call --
Q What's the deal?
MS. MYERS: What's the deal? He just -- the President has asked the leadership to keep the Senate in if they don't vote on GATT.
Q So keep them in during the election period when they're supposed campaign?
MS. MYERS: Keep them in, and they would -- correct. They would not officially adjourn.
Q pro forma sessions.
MS. MYERS: Correct. They don't officially conclude 103rd Congress. Instead they recess, and they can keep it -- everybody will go home, but they'll keep sessions going. It would not be -- technically, would not be a special session.
Q Has Mitchell said, told the President he would agree to this?
MS. MYERS: I think the indications are that he was supportive of -- we'll see. If it's necessary, I think Senator Mitchell would support that, yes.
Q Does the President expect other members of the Senate to approach Senator Hollings and make their feelings known and perhaps make the special session unnecessary?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President's concern here is getting GATT passed one way or another. And he'll leave that up to the Senate. I think he believes it's going to pass one way or another. And he's going to continue to make that clear.
Q Are you willing to say,though, whether he's maybe approached other members of the Senate and said, talk to the boy? (Laughter.) Perhaps not those words --
MS. MYERS: I think --
Q South Carolina senator, I'm sorry -- (laughter) --
Q What we're trying to find out, is there benign acceptance of Hollings' position and then you'll just go on? Or is there some work being done to try to change the picture?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's our intention to pass the GATT this year, to sign it into law so that it can take effect January 1st, as we agreed at the G-7 that we would do. It is up to the Senate now to determine exactly how things move forward. The President has expressed his intention, he's expressed his willingness to work with Congress. We've worked very closely with both the House and Senate throughout the process to draft the enabling legislation.
The President, though, will insist that the Senate stay in if they don't finish it before they were scheduled to recess. So we'll work with members on the Hill. The President has made it very clear what his intention is. It's up to the Senate now to act.
Q Dee Dee, is it possible, since you can't modify the GATT Treaty, is it possible to send up or to try to get sent up supplemental legislation, like with what you all did with NAFTA? Is that being considered by the White House -- where you send up separate bills that address individual concerns?
MS. MYERS: That's not something we're discussing.
Q There are some other legislative priorities for which the clock may run out. Is the President at all interested in using this extra time, if it becomes necessary for GATT, for any other parts of his agenda?
MS. MYERS: No, this is simply an effort to pass the GATT. I think he's hopeful that we'll still finish some of his other legislative priorities, particularly campaign finance and lobbying reform. As I said already -- I guess I didn't say it -- yesterday, there was some agreement reached on campaign finance reform. The President thinks that's good news. There is no excuse now not to take action. There's an important vote tomorrow, and the President hopes that both Republicans and Democrats will support campaign finance reform legislation that's pending and get it done before the end of this legislative session.
Q But, for instance, if they don't, and if GATT is not completed and he does seek this additional time after the elections, would he then consider possibly using that time to ask Congress to act on that?
MS. MYERS: The President has called for Congress to stay -- the Senate, particularly, to stay in session, to deal specifically with GATT. And at this point, we don't have any other decisions relevant to that.
Q Technically speaking, if he asked Congress to do this, he's asking the entire Congress -- he doesn't ask just one --
MS. MYERS: Well, it's up to the leadership to keep the body in. So I think everyone expects that the House will finish it next week, and so there will be no reason for them to stay in. There's already, because of the fast-track process, been a conference process.
Q But they would not adjourn -- they would --
MS. MYERS: They could. I don't know enough about House and Senate rules that they have to do it together. If the House finishes its business and finishes GATT, then the President won't ask the leaders to keep the House in. He will, however, ask the leaders to keep the Senate in if they haven't concluded action on GATT.
Q Have you all interpreted the fast track in terms of whether it expires with this bill, if it expires at the end of this year on the GATT fast track specifically on the GATT?
MS. MYERS: That is something that is being looked into. And I would just refer you to USTR. I think it's kind of complicated.
Q About the trade negotiations with Japan, is there any meeting scheduled here to review options?
MS. MYERS: I think the President will certainly discuss the state of play and be, I think, well aware of his options. He does have a meeting scheduled on it to discuss where things are --
MS. MYERS: Later today.
Q Mr. Kantor?
MS. MYERS: I'm sure Mickey will be there. I haven't looked at the --
Q Is anyone in the White House seeing Hashimoto or is there any attempt to break this -- through this thing?
MS. MYERS: Mickey's meeting with the negotiators. As you know, these things often go or always go right up to the wire, as is the case with this set of negotiations. They've made good progress on trade issues generally. The President obviously has full confidence in Ambassador Kantor. Hashimoto will be back here tomorrow night; the talks will resume at 8:00 p.m. And we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Q Well, what's the purpose of the meeting today? Other choices --
MS. MYERS: Just to review the state of play and to look at options.
Q Is this an NEC meeting or --
Q good progress? I mean, is it --
MS. MYERS: I don't think it's a formal NEC meeting. No, it's just -- it's just a meeting to talk specifically about trade issues with Japan.
Q Would this be for the President to sign off on the sanctions that may or may not be imposed?
MS. MYERS: He'll discuss the state of play, and I don't want to get too much into detail about what may or may not happen at that meeting.
Q progress report, a breakthrough? I mean, is there that kind of progress?
MS. MYERS: Well, no. I think the fact that we're continuing to talk, that the talks are ongoing is good. And I think Ambassador Kantor is hopeful that they'll make more progress in the upcoming round or set -- discussions that's set to begin tomorrow night. But, again, these things have a way of going right up to the wire, and we won't know until they've had a chance to engage in those final discussions.
Q So he's got four hours to make good.
MS. MYERS: They'll have some time -- these things do go right down to the wire, and I expect that tomorrow is no different.
Q What time is that NEC meeting, Dee Dee?
Q Talk about tomorrow night's meeting, if you would --
MS. MYERS: It's not an NEC meeting, specifically; I don't think it's a formal NEC meeting. I believe it's 3:15 p.m. or 3:30 p.m.
Q Tomorrow night's meeting -- who is involved? Is the President involved in that as well?
MS. MYERS: No. That's Ambassador Kantor.
Q Kantor and his counterpart?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q When's the expiration of the thing, is it --
MS. MYERS: Midnight Friday.
Q Do you know anything --
Q Friday to Saturday.
MS. MYERS: Under Title VII, we sort of pointed out 60 days ago that we had some problems with Japan on government procurement and insurance issues. That set the clock ticking for 60 days. That 60-day period expires tomorrow at midnight.
Q Do you know anything about a bomb exploding in Port-au-Prince, wounding or killing a large number of people?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Can you --
MS. MYERS: Sure. Does it say where?
Q I'm reading Reuters. A grenade was tossed into a crowd at a pro-Aristide demonstration. At least 12 people either injured or dead. It was at the reinstallation of Mayor Evans Paul.
MS. MYERS: We'll take it and see if there's any additional information on it.
Q Dee Dee, back to -- should the deadline not be met, would there likely be an event here Saturday or --
MS. MYERS: Ambassador Kantor has indicated that he -- or, has scheduled a press conference for noon on Saturday.
MS. MYERS: I believe at USTR. But I don't know if they've finally decided exactly where they're going to do it. But I think just in order for people to understand when they're going to get more information about that decision --
Q presidential action required? Does the President have to sign anything?
MS. MYERS: The decision is ultimately his. I'm not sure what the mechanism is, if he signs it or not. I think he signs a finding, but let me take that and find out specifically.
Q So is he likely to be at least standing by tomorrow night while he's got his --
MS. MYERS: Well he'll be -- he'll be here. He's available.
Q does the President have any plans to meet with Gerry Adams?
MS. MYERS: No. The President does not. He will me with officials from the State Department and White House at the working level, but not here.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:05 P.M.