THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
AFTERNOON WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:09 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start with an announcement. At the invitation of President Aristide, the President will travel to Haiti on March 31st. He will meet with and thank American and coalition forces who will be turning over on that day the peacekeeping operation in Haiti to the U.N. Mission -- the United Nations Mission in Haiti, or UNMIH -- which will take effect on that day. The President will also meet with President Aristide and his government to review the economic, security and political progress that has been achieved under Operation Uphold Democracy.
Obviously the President looks forward to an opportunity to thank American forces who have done a splendid job in not only returning President Aristide to his rightful position as the democratically-elected President of Haiti, but also who have restored democratic process and, increasingly, the prospect of economic livelihood to the people of Haiti.
Q Is this a day trip?
MR. MCCURRY: This will be a trip that will most likely come at the end of probably a three-and-a-half day visit to the South. The President also expects, I believe as some of you know, to participate in the first of what will be a series of regional economic conferences. The first will be held in Atlanta on March 29th. We'll be providing additional details of that as the participation list and the subjects become clear, although I think I've said several times that the regional economic conference concept will be a good opportunity for the President to talk about so many of the positive things happening in the economy and ways in which we can make the economic recovery work even better for working Americans.
The President in between those two days will be in Atlanta on the 29th; on the 30th we expect him to go to Tallahassee, Florida, opportunity to meet with community leaders and others to continue to press his case for the Middle Class Bill of Rights, for so many of the things that he is working on as he advances his concept of the New Covenant.
Q Is the trip to Haiti overnight?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we'll be returning that evening, evening of the 31st to Washington.
Q Is that because of security?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's because it will be the end of a three-day trip -- three-and-a-half day trip.
Q Arkansas? Is Arkansas on the agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: Arkansas -- it is the President's plan, the last I heard, was then to go on to Arkansas on a private trip after returning first here to Washington.
Q Will he be taking Sam Nunn or Colin Powell or Jimmy Carter along to Haiti?
MR. MCCURRY: There will be a delegation that will accompany the President on that trip to Haiti, and that's still in formation.
Q When did you say that he might go to Arkansas on a private trip?
MR. MCCURRY: I think afterwards, maybe even the next day. The 31st is Friday, and so I think -- we expect the President, perhaps as early as the next day, to leave for a personal trip to Arkansas. We'll give you schedule details later on.
Q Mike, will there be any effort to tour Port-au-Prince or any parts of Haiti, or will it just be an airport stop?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he'll be, to the degree that he can, given that he would -- he's very interested in meeting with President Aristide to review some of the developments there, he will, of course, want to visit with American troops, as well. But in addition to his bilateral meetings, the meetings with the troops, probably one or two public ceremonies marking the transfer of the multinational force to the U.N. mission, what other opportunities there are to sort of see some of the changes taking place in Haiti we are still developing. I wanted to give you as early as possible heads up because I know logistically, covering that type of trip might pose some difficulties.
Q How many troops do we have left and how many are moving in?
MR. MCCURRY: I hesitate to venture off the top of my head. I believe the authorized force size for UNMIH for 6,000, of which half were going to be U.S. And I believe we're pretty close to that figure now, if I'm not mistaken, Jonathan. So I think in the neighborhood of 3,000, but the Pentagon can help you out on that.
Q Are being pulled out -- 3,000 are being --
MR. MCCURRY: No, there's been a gradual -- as a secure and stable environment called for in the U.N. Security Council resolution have been created by the multinational force in Haiti, there's been a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces that were participating in the multinational force now in Haiti. And I believe we're pretty close to the 3,000 person level now, which is the half of the authorized U.N. level. So when the switchover occurs, U.S. force participation will be pretty much as envisioned under the U.N. Security Council resolution.
Q How many?
MR. MCCURRY: Around 3,000; half of the 6,000.
Q We're about there now?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we're about there now, Brit. But as I say, I think the Pentagon will be in a good position to brief you up more fully on what the force posture is in Haiti.
Q Different subject? What does the decline of the dollar mean as far as the Clinton administration's economic policies are concerned?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that they are related. Our economic policy is premised on the need to reduce deficits, create a strong economy that provides jobs to the American people, and to continue with some of the progress that President Clinton has been able to mark in the first two years of his administration. As to the dollar, it remains the view, as the administration has stated through the Treasury Secretary who is the authorized spokesman for the administration on the dollar, it remains in U.S. national interest to have a strong dollar.
Q Along those lines, Greenspan, in talking about the dollar and other things today, suggested that perhaps interest rate increases are not over, that the Fed is not yet convinced that inflation is no longer a danger. I would assume the administration sees things differently.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to try to evaluate the testimony given to Congress today by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. If there's any comment on that as it relates to interest rates where the dollar should properly come from the Cabinet official who's the spokesman --
Q Do you think that inflation is a danger --
MR. MCCURRY: I just don't -- I'm not going to venture a comment on that at a time when you all know what the currency markets are doing.
Q Mike, what's the hangup on the Glickman nomination going up formally? And what, if any, are the concerns about having the Agriculture Department going this long without having a Secretary in the office?
MR. MCCURRY: We're anxious to proceed with the nomination as quickly as we can, and we will do so. I'm not aware of any particular hangup.
Q Well, there has to be. Come on, there has to be.
MR. MCCURRY: They are working through issues that they need to resolve, and then they can duly --
Q Are they personal?
MR. MCCURRY: -- they can duly send things forward.
Q Who's "they"?
Q He has a problem, doesn't he?
MR. MCCURRY: -- and works with -- the White House legal counsel is working through the issues with the nominee.
Q Mike, again, the second part of the question is about any concerns about not having a Secretary for this long at a department the size of Agriculture.
MR. MCCURRY: We are anxious to have someone in other than an acting capacity. The Department of Agriculture is being ably and effectively administered now by those who are there. But we, naturally, prefer to have our nominee, once confirmed by the Senate, in place. And we hope that will occur shortly.
Q Mike, the most common things being touted in the press and by analysts now that the dollar's decline is --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to --
Q linked to the Mexico policy and to the long-term budget deficit.
MR. MCCURRY: I've done the dollar. Anything, anyone else -- other subject.
Q So you're not concerned?
Q You could at least let her ask the question.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I will hear the question, but I will make it clear to you, and you can ask 10 different ways if you need to, the authorized spokesman for the administration on the dollar is the Treasury Secretary. That's true -- it's been true in most administrations. The Treasury Secretary has said that a strong dollar is in the national interest of the United States. And it won't be profitable for you to pursue questioning beyond that.
Q Can you take questions on the broader issue of currency stability just generally?
MR. MCCURRY: I would prefer not to because the question -- the direction of this question was, what's the relationship of x to y, and once you get into that, you might as well start speculating on a whole range of things that might affect the markets. And I'm just not going to do that.
Q On the worker replacement --
Q It might help.
MR. MCCURRY: It might -- it usually doesn't. That's the problem.
Q Compared to what?
Q Yes, it's time to try something new.
Q The striker replacement issue -- what does it mean to you that the same authority that Reagan used to break the air controllers strike is being used by the President now to authorize that the government no longer will deal with companies that hire strike replacements?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it reflects what you've heard us say, that the President is acting within his statutory authority as President and consistent with historical precedent. He's using his executive authority in a way here that protects the interests of American workers, protects the structure of collective bargaining in America, and also protects the American taxpayer, because we have an interest in stable labor management relations when the government is out there in the marketplace as a customer procuring goods and services. And we do have to buy things to keep this government running. And we have an interest in the stability of good, sound labor management relations and practices of which leads to better prices and better productivity and a better deal for the American taxpayer.
Q Would you support legislation in Congress that would codify what the President did by executive order?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has supported legislation that would ban the use of permanent replacement workers, yes. But as I think you know, that's not likely to go anywhere in this Congress.
Q Does the White House see the attack on Americans in Karachi as an act of revenge for the arrest of an accused terrorist?
MR. MCCURRY: Mark, as you'll hear the State Department say shortly if they're not already briefing on this subject, we are working very closely with the government of Pakistan to learn more about the incident, determine the identity of those who perpetrated the attack so they can bring them to justice. It's at this point, frankly, not useful to speculate on motive. We don't know the motive, and to the last I've checked, there hasn't been any groups that I'm aware that has claimed credit yet.
Q Anything new on the affirmative action review in terms of timing, when it's due, and whether or not the group is meeting with, say, Reverend Jackson and other --
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing new. I expect that as the President continues this review, those who are working on it on his behalf on staff will reach out and touch base with a wide variety of people who have thoughts on the subject. I expect people will be on the Hill and talking to other people who have an interest in the outcome of the review. But that would indicate to you that we're moving ahead on this, not that it is anywhere near completion.
Q Has anyone here met with Jackson specifically about this issue?
MR. MCCURRY: There have been some discussions with him. I don't know whether he's met with anyone, but I wouldn't be surprised if in the course of this review someone does meet with Reverend Jackson because his views on this are strong and most often very persuasive.
Q There's a report that the results will be delayed now, the report is going to be delayed until April on affirmative action.
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard any -- I've heard things to me that would indicate the contrary. But I can check into that for you.
Q When do you think it might be coming out?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President indicated to you during the press conference the other day that he'd like to move on it as quickly as possible and gave the indication that we would try to move forward as quickly as we can, given that there are appearances that we will need to make before Congress and, of course, the public discussion of these issues continues to pick up pace. And so we'd like to be able to enter into that public dialogue with the type of presentation that the President has indicated he'd like to make, if we're going to have a good national conversation that brings Americans together on this issue.
Q On welfare reform -- the President told this group of columnists that he met with that he might veto the Republicans' welfare reform legislation. And that's the first time he's said that. The last time he was asked about this specifically, he said he didn't want to discuss what he might veto because he thought that they could come to some agreement. Obviously, he's done some more thinking. So what is it about the Republican welfare reform plan that he finds unacceptable and might cause a veto?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he set that forward, I think, in some great detail yesterday in his speech. He finds, as a general proposition, the move towards flexibility and giving states more empowerment to experiment with welfare is a good idea that ought to be positively -- incentive, but it should be done so consistent with some objective that we would want to have as the federal government enters into welfare reform discussions with the states. Some of those have been set forth. But we've raised some specific concerns with respect to the provisions requiring work. We don't think they're tough enough. We think there needs to be more strenuous efforts to lock in that transition from welfare dependency into work.
We're also very concerned about the effect on kids. Now there's been -- the President's outspoken views on this, frankly, has helped guide the shaping of the legislation somewhat, but we need to see a little more practice and we need to see what the final bill's looking like. The President was indicating yesterday that there are some features of it that would, to him, be unacceptable and that would lead him to veto.
Q The absence of a mandate for a work requirement as one of those things?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I wasn't suggesting specific things, I was saying that, as a general proposition, we want to see tougher requirements that move people from welfare dependency into work situations. We're not convinced that the House bill has done an effective enough job in addressing that very critical linkage on a work requirement.
Q Tougher or more generous?
MR. MCCURRY: Tougher. Tougher on the requirements to move people into work, with a greater guarantee that they're going to make that transition from welfare to work.
Q That greater guarantee means training and other services, right?
Q Does the President think it's acceptable to have a work requirement with the balance of the funds to provide training, job, child care, all the things --
MR. MCCURRY: Right. He's concerned, and that's one of the reasons why we've gone into the question of consolidating some of the federal training and education programs so that we can try to free up resources that would be available to help people make that transition. But the question of resources is an important one.
Q Going back on Pakistan, please, so we can get a nice sound bite -- could you please repeat what you said about outrage earlier today? And will this have any effect at all on Mrs. Clinton's trip?
MR. MCCURRY: The President, on behalf of the American people, has expressed his outrage at this killing and his determination that all federal agencies that can be in a position to contribute to the work the government of Pakistan will do to bring the perpetrators to justice, will be done.
And as far as Mrs. Clinton's trip to Pakistan, the planning for that is proceeding. I'm not aware of any plans to change her itinerary.
Q Is he speaking tonight at the DLC?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. We'll have to check in later on that.
Q Mike, is Gerry Adams going to get a visa to engage in fundraising activities --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he has a visa already. I think he has a multiple entry visa. The question is, under what type of restrictions might lie on that visa. And the State Department would be able to tell you more about that when it's worked through the decision-making process in our government.
Q You don't expect a decision right away?
MR. MCCURRY: Not today.
Q Mike, to pull off on that if you'll allow me -- has he requested a visit with the President or the Vice President, Gerry Adams, as far as you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know whether he has requested one.
Q In August, in the last Cuban boat crisis, the administration added two new sanctions, right, on travel south to Cuba and on sending money. Specifically those sanctions, not the broader sanctions that have been --
MR. MCCURRY: This is a test to my memory. I think that's right.
Q Specifically those August sanctions, not the broader sanctions which have been in place for years -- is the administration considering lifting those? What is the status of those?
MR. MCCURRY: I read a report, if I'm not mistaken, in your newspaper that didn't strike me as being too terribly inaccurate. (Laughter.) The discussion was consistent with the Cuban Democracy Act, what steps positively could be taken to encourage political and economic change in Cuba. And the President's foreign policy advisors had some discussions on that matter, encouraging people-to-people contact between Cuban Americans and relatives in Cuba, and giving Cubans a better sense of what the benefits of market economics and democracy might be might be one way to encourage that process of change. That type of discussion is held from time to time within the foreign policy portions of our government, but as I indicated to some of you yesterday, there has been no matter presented to the President for a decision at this point. That remains true today.
Q Did you say that Adams is still banned from fundraising for Sinn Fein under the terms of his visa?
MR. MCCURRY: His last B-2 visa had a fundraising restriction on it.
Q And that continues? That hasn't been lifted?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's --
MR. SPALTER: His visa application is now pending. And when the decision is made we will discuss it with him.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he has a multiple entry B-2 visa?
MR. SPALTER: Which has expired.
MR. MCCURRY: Which has now expired and has to be granted -- that's it. Because there was a question -- that's right -- that's why he would have had to reapply.
Q Is that for around St. Patrick's Day, around that period that he's applying for ?
MR. MCCURRY: That's what's under review now. He has expressed an interest publicly, I think, in coming here to the United States around the time of March 17th -- and who wouldn't? (Laughter.)
Q Will you lift the ban on fundraising for Sinn Fein?
MR. MCCURRY: There are a series of questions related to this issue that are under review right now, and at what point they're decided, because they're not yet decided, we'll let you know.
Q When is the President going to go up to the Senate and have his meeting with the Senate Democrats? Remember after the House Democrats he was supposed to --
MR. MCCURRY: We've been talking about when they might do that. I've heard a lot of ideas -- maybe the Senate Democrats are going to get together under a couple of different circumstances in the future, and they're talking with them about some different ideas on how the President might get together with them. But I don't think they've locked in anything on the schedule yet.
Q Are you ready to say which among the Republican rescissions the President likes?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I went and looked at that. This came up -- your question came up the last two days in a row, and I'm -- they don't give me an answer that's useful. The reason, they say, look -- I understand their logic and I will agree with it for these purposes --
Q Who are "they"?
MR. MCCURRY: They are my colleagues here. My colleagues. This is a big White House. I can't just come out here and fly solo all the time.
Q Are they the ones who kept us from covering the Oval Office --
MR. MCCURRY: No, that was a different "they." (Laughter.) The budget folks say -- and I understand their logic -- they say, look, the President's got an FY'96 budget proposal; if the Congress won't pay attention to it, we hope maybe you will. And if you want to see exactly where we would you suggest you go in and achieve further spending cuts in the federal budget, it's all right there in black and white in our FY '96 budget proposal -- $140 billion worth of new cuts, spelled out, that achieve, I think, over $80 billion in deficit reduction. So, rather than poking around and finding a million here, a million there in a rescission package, let's look at $140 billion of spending cuts.
Did that work? Did that satisfy everyone? Of course, not. (Laughter.)
Q I mean, the rescission package, unlike the President's budget, might actually go somewhere.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's going to go -- we have expressed some real concern about the rescission package and the impact it has on children. I expect next week you'll hear a lot more about that.
Q What you're saying is, we're going to tell you what we don't like about these things, and we're going to tell you that there's some things we do like, but we won't tell you what they are.
MR. MCCURRY: And we'll give you a whole federal budget, which we sent up there. If they don't like it, fine. You know, they can propose something back to us. But we gave them a federal budget.
Q I know, but it isn't an answer to point to an agreement which for the purposes of this discussion is not relevant. The rescission package deals actually with matters that were budgeted last year, in many instances. And what's more, the President has now said there are some things that he likes. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube by saying we had a budget.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I have very unpersuasively tried to make that case to my colleagues here. But I'll try it again.
Q They won't tell you, so you can't tell us --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I've got -- I mean, look, we've got -- we have to go through and analyze those. And we've got a debate coming up next week. But the agreement is -- let's not miss the point here, and I'll go back and say it again -- we have put a budget on there. It does go back -- we've actually been in consultations with Congress about rescissions. And there are some additional cuts identified in the FY '96 budget proposal we sent up there. And people -- I think it's fair for us to say, take a look at our budget. It's there, it's in black and white. The Congress now has to produce their version of a budget. And we keep hearing a lot of smoke and mirrors, but no concrete evidence that they want to wrestle with the hard choices involved in making a budget.
Q Mike, the President very clearly on Friday had something in his mind. And you indicated that you were going to ask the President directly what it was.
MR. MCCURRY: All right. I'll go see. That's -- you're right. That's one way I can overrule the bean counters here. I'll go see if I can pry it out and I'll try again.
Q The Republicans have ask General Reno for a ruling on the executive order on striker replacements. Does the President support that request? What's the time frame for it?
MR. MCCURRY: On the -- does he support --
Q On the legality of the ruling they've asked --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, the President is confident that he's acting both with the sound advice of legal counsel that he's well within his rights and authority as chief executive. But he's -- he knows that he has been delegated by the Congress the task of effectively administering matters related to federal procurement. That is 40 U.S.C. Section 486A. And that is the legal basis upon which other presidents have so acted in issuing their own executive orders. And it is very clearly, when it comes to federal contracts, he is delegated the responsibility to prescribe such policies and directives as he shall deem necessary to effectuate the provisions of that provision in the statute.
Again, the issue is, the President is the nation's chief executive officer. When the federal government is a buyer of goods and services in the market, it's the President's ultimate responsibility to make sure that the taxpayers are getting a good deal. And what the President is saying here is it is in the economic interest of the taxpayers to make sure we have stability and collective bargaining that produces good goods and services at good prices for the taxpayer.
The problem with using replacement workers is it leads to -- there's ample evidence that strikes in which replacement workers are involved lengthens the duration of the strike, causes more disruption in the labor markets, and more importantly it results in lower productivity because who replaces the workers that have the skills and the experience to do the job, while people who have less experience and less skills in most cases. So there's a productivity loss there. And that's in the interest of the taxpayers.
But I should leave these matters to the Secretary of Labor, who has been delegated authority by the President now to investigate this. And the Secretary of Labor will be briefing the press at 2:00 p.m. in room S2508 over at the Department of Labor.
Q But as regards to the request to General Reno, does the President want her to go ahead and issue a ruling -- has he told her to take her time on it? Has he told her to ignore it?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I think the President's view is that there is not an issue of law that pertains here because he has acted within his authority.
Q The General will not issue a ruling --
MR. MCCURRY: You'll have to check at the Justice Department. She may have some legal requirement to look into that. What I'm telling you is the President's confident based on his advice from counsel that he's acting within his authority as President. Now, whether she has to review that matter upon a request from Congress, I'd leave that over to the Justice Department to answer.
Q The British yesterday shifted their position on talks with Adams, saying that they would accept a sincere demonstration from Sinn Fein, that they were going to -- the IRA was going to decommission some arms rather than actually having a turnover of arms. And does that same sort of shift occur in U.S. policy as you guys are now considering this question of fundraising?
MR. MCCURRY: No, our policy has remained the same -- been very supportive of the work being done by the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom and encouraging the dialogue that's occurring, that we hope will lead to peaceful reconciliation of the parties in Northern Ireland.
Q How we understood it was that you guys wanted progress on decommissioning before the fundraising ban would be lifted from the visas. Is that still the U.S. policy?
MR. MCCURRY: That is still the U.S. policy, and that is, I believe, the stated position of the Attorney General as well.
Q Do you actually want to see arms turned over, or would you take a sincere demonstration the way the British would?
MR. MCCURRY: I need to go back and see -- the Attorney General has very expressly addressed that question, and I would want to go back and check the wording on it as a general proposition. Decommissioning, dearming of the factions there is a part of the peace process, and we are encouraging the peace process to move forward.
Q One last question. Speaker Gingrich has gotten in a little trouble about whether or not he's going to invite Adams to the Speaker's luncheon. The President is having a reception here for the Prime Minister of Ireland, and I was wondering if he's going to invite Adams to that reception.
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule that out, but as I indicated earlier, I think there are a series of decisions related to this matter that when all of those decision are taken and we can be in a better position to brief more fully on the subject, broadly.
Q Can you talk about tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I'll leave that until the end.
Q Another labor issue. Since the President first outlined his proposal for raising the minimum wage we really haven't heard the White House say much on that issue. Can you bring us up to speed on where it stands at the White House and when the President might turn up the volume on it?
MR. MCCURRY: Josh, I'll need to go check into it. We continue to say over and over again that raising the minimum wage is one of many ways that we reward work. If there is a constant theme that's been working through so much of the work the President's been doing in recent days, it is that we need to reward work in this country an we have to move people away from welfare dependency and into productive employment.
One way that you do that is by giving, particularly to people making that transition from welfare dependency and into jobs, they're most likely moving into opportunities that very often are going to be minimum wage jobs. One way you can do that, and to tie these things together, is to boost the minimum wage. So we continue to press the case on the Hill. I believe we've had testimony by the Secretary of Labor and others on the Hill continue to try to make the case to the Congress that we need to move forward and with the proposal that the President has now sent to the Congress.
Q Well, clearly, yesterday with the welfare reform address when he was talking about poverty and he was talking about lifting people up, he never -- it seemed like a perfect opportunity to raise that point. And, yet, he didn't.
MR. MCCURRY: No, he has raised that point on other occasions, but yesterday he was specifically talking about the kinds of issues that the county executives -- remember, he was talking to NATO, so the county executives have a very specific interest with some of the aspects of welfare reform. And if my memory serves me correct, it's not like he gave a brief address there. So he had a lot to talk about and he wanted to get through the items he knew were on the agenda of the county executives.
Q Mike, with the WTO impasse, Bo Cutter was quoted this week as saying that the Italian candidate was viewed by the administration as being protectionist. Is that, in fact, the White House -- view, and what is the expectation of finding a candidate that the U.S. can back?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any change in -- where we are, the White House view is that the withdrawal of President Salinas is obviously going to create a situation in which we need to go back to our trading partners and assess the implications of his withdrawal. We have not prejudged any of the candidates. We're interested in a candidate who can effectively lead the WTO, which will most likely be an important bulwark of the post-Cold War international economic order. We've not prejudged candidates and we are now consulting with our trading partners on how to proceed.
Q Mike, on another labor issue, the baseball strike, is the President receiving periodic reports from Mr. Usery, does he see even a glimmer of hope that this is --
MR. MCCURRY: We haven't seen many glimmers of hope. He receives periodic reports through Bruce Lindsey on the work that the federal mediator, former Secretary Usery, attempts. The parties seem to be pretty dug in, or dug out, or something.
Q Mike, last week the President received a letter from 95 members of Congress urging the President to move the deadline up on Japan trade talks to March 31st? Could we get lights on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Go ahead and put them back on.
Q Yes, has the President formulated a response for that yet?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he's not. We've got that under discussion how we're interested in proceeding with the framework and the discussions, but Mickey Kantor, I think, has addressed several times the progress that they're making under the various baskets in the framework. And I'll leave it to USTR to comment on it, that we are interested in moving ahead, we have made progress, but we believe that underlying the economic aspects of the relationship to Japan is a need to do more work to address some of the persistent trade imbalanced that are there.
Q At the Atlanta Economic Meeting, is it possible that the President would invite the Speaker of the House to speak?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check and see. My understanding is that they were mostly going to include those who participated in the original economic summit that occurred in Little Rock during the transition, but I think we -- you know, we'll give you a little better indication of who the participants will be as we move ahead. I wouldn't rule out the possibility.
Q What about the other three cities?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't make any announcement on the other three cities.
Q How soon will we get the other --
MR. MCCURRY: As soon as we are ready to tell you. Sooner rather than later, I hope.
Q Has there been any decision on the timing of the Russia trip and --
MR. MCCURRY: No. No decision. It's at the same place as it stood before, but I keep checking in on that daily because I know that's of keen interest to everybody as soon as we can say public.
Q getting too late to advance a summit in May?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it wouldn't be safe to say that.
Q Does the President have any interest in Ralph Nader's suggestion that the freshmen Congressman from Omaha purchase a seat on the Ways and Means Committee with $85,000 worth of contributions?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with the issue. I don't know whether he is either. I'll check though.
Q with Senator Kerrey that Senator Campbell ought to return the $250,000 the DSCC gave him?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know his views on that questions. It sounds like it's something that the Senate should deal with.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:44 P.M. EST