THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:26 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me start with an announcement concerning the President's very important trip to Japan for the meeting of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit and a very important state visit, bilateral visit, with the Japanese government.
First, as is obvious, the President has to tighten his schedule in order to take the very important work that he needs to do on this trip and fit it in to what will amount to a weekend trip to Japan. The President will depart 11:00 p.m. Friday evening from Andrews Air Force Base and will return Tuesday morning at approximately 2:00 a.m. to Andrews Air Force Base. So, in other words, very late Monday night.
That will allow him to participate fully in the APEC leaders meeting that will occur on Sunday. It will also allow him to accept the gracious invitation of the Emperor and Empress for a state visit to Japan and conduct important bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Murayama.
The United States appreciates the courtesy of the Emperor and Empress in allowing this schedule adjustment to occur. Obviously, we also appreciate the cooperation of the Japanese government and the Japanese people as we make these necessary adjustments to the President's schedule. The President is confident that this schedule will allow him to do the very important work of advancing U.S. economic interests as we participate in these important discussion with the other Asian economies, and as we deal at a very important point with the very important bilateral relationship we have with the government of Japan.
Q Do you revert to the --
Q Is that locked in now, or can you expand it back up -- can you expand it again if you get a deal, or is this locked in?
MR. MCCURRY: This is -- we are making all the adjustments necessary to follow this schedule, so this will be the schedule.
Q You mean even if you get a deal it will be the schedule?
MR. MCCURRY: There's nothing to indicate that that's going to happen in a time that would allow us to open the trip back up accordion style.
Q Let's just suppose that you don't get a deal --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to do a suppose. The schedule --
Q No, don't you expect that there is going to be a shutdown?
MR. MCCURRY: We're announcing a schedule, announcing the schedule as it's now announced.
Q Mike, how long will the state visit be then?
MR. MCCURRY: One day. It will be -- the President will fly from Osaka down to Tokyo on Sunday night. He will have sessions beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the morning Monday. He will conclude with a state dinner at the Imperial Palace at the end of the day on Monday and will depart for home at the conclusion of the state dinner.
Q How's his health?
Q In his remarks to the DLC, the President said something like he hopes to be able to make this trip to Ireland. Did he use that language because that trip could also be in some danger because of the government shutdown?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President still is keeping to his planned schedule. It's impossible for us now to predict what will happen between now and the end of this month. It's a rather fluid situation, as you have gathered.
Q Is Mrs. Clinton going?
MR. MCCURRY: Mrs. Clinton does plan to attend, yes.
Q Since we're talking about scheduling, if the CR comes down here, and now it looks like they're going to vote about 5:30 p.m., what time do you think the President will take action on the --
MR. MCCURRY: He will exercise his veto as soon as he receives the measure from the Hill. As you know, final passage in Congress has very little to do with what time Congress actually sends the measure to the White House. We had final passage on the debt ceiling measure Friday that did not arrive here until Sunday. So it's impossible for us to predict to you now what time that measure will arrive from the Congress.
Q Will he do it in a public way this time again?
MR. MCCURRY: I expect that he's -- since you all know that he fully intends to veto this measure, we will issue a written statement setting forth the President's reasons for a veto if it occurs late in the evening as we all suspect it will.
Q Now that the Senate Republicans at least have agreed to freeze or drop the Medicare provision, will you -- was the President willing to meet with at least that half of Congress? That was your --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that -- you've got more information that I do. I'm not aware that the Senate has now dropped the Medicare premium increase. I've heard one or two members suggest that, but we don't have anything authoritative from the Republican leadership indicating that they are now dropping the Medicare premium increase from the continuing resolution.
Q What do you have from Domenici?
MR. MCCURRY: We have what we've seen him say on CNN.
Q -- conversations with Panetta.
Q Are you saying he hasn't talked to Panetta?
MR. MCCURRY: His conversations with Mr. Panetta -- the idea that he discussed is very much the same one that he's discussed publicly now on television.
Q So what's your reaction to it?
MR. MCCURRY: It's an interesting idea, but it's got nothing to do with resolving the current crisis. The President, as he's made clear, needs for them to drop the Medicare premium increase from the continuing resolution so that we can then get down to a serious discussion about what will be in a continuing resolution that's appropriate and acceptable to the President.
Q In other words --
Q Are you saying a freeze is not good enough?
MR. MCCURRY: A freeze has to -- a willingness on the part of Congress to drop the Medicare premium increase can open the way to further discussions. That's the most you can say at this point because the President has substantive objections to other aspects of the continuing, especially the level of funding cuts.
Q Can you explain what's wrong with a freeze? Explain what's wrong with the freeze.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because the President prefers current law. Current law is very clear on what premium increases should be.
Q Mike, following up, when you say the objections to other aspects of the CR are the funding levels, plus assuming the Senate even takes up Mr. Domenici's proposal, which it isn't at all clear that it's been embraced by Senator Dole or the leadership, and they send him down a bill with 46-10 frozen in there or whatever, are you saying he could still veto because of the 60 percent funding level?
MR. MCCURRY: The President -- look, nothing has changed from the viewpoint of the White House. The President is willing to sit down with the bipartisan leadership of Congress to discuss how we are going to avert this crisis, a shutdown in our government, and the only condition he attaches to that is some measure of good faith on the part of the leadership by dropping the proposed Medicare premium increase that is in the current version of the continuing resolution. If they drop that, there is a basis upon which to have discussions about how we move forward from here, even though the President still has substantive objections to the continuing resolution now pending in the Senate.
Q He would leave the government closed and talk? Is that, in effect, what would happen?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if there's no action by the Congress or if there's no action on a measure that the President signs, then the shutdown proceeds.
Q But, Mike, suppose they send him the thing with the Medicare premium dropped, would he sign that -- a CR with the Medicare premium dropped? Would he sign that?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has made it clear he would sign a clean extension, clean continuing resolution, one that follows the formula that was developed in September. I can tell you what the President has said he will sign. I can't speculate for you what the President will do on something hypothetical that we don't have any indication at all is the viewpoint of Congress. Is Congress going to pass any of these things that you are suggesting and send it to the President tonight? That's a different question. There's no indication that that's going to happen at this point.
Q Michael, there's nothing on this CR that they are looking at except Medicare and the funding level. The funding level is the CR. There are no other things on it. So the only issue if they drop Medicare is the 60 percent.
MR. MCCURRY: If they drop the Medicare premium increase, there's a basis then to have discussions about how we resolve the President's objections. The funding level is clearly our concern, and we want --
Q Is that also a basis for keeping the government open?
Q There's only one objection, it spends too little.
MR. MCCURRY: We would like the September formula which was again, remember, a neutral position that didn't favor either the congressional viewpoint -- it didn't favor the President's viewpoint. It was a neutral way for us to extend the amount of time available to Congress and the President to resolve their overall differences on the budget. That's what should happen. That's what needs to happen. They ought to do it sooner rather than later.
Q Are you saying then that if it comes down here with the 60-percent funding level, regardless of the Medicare provision, that's veto bait by itself?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is very concerned about the 60-percent funding level. He has made that clear repeatedly in the statements he's made in the last two days, and that just is an unacceptable continuing.
Q So that means a veto, correct?
MR. MCCURRY: It's unacceptable.
MR. MCCURRY: On the Medicare provision, obviously, the amount that the CR would raise it would be more or less detrimental to a family, depending on their needs. Would he accept some kind of means testing on what he describes as an increase?
MR. MCCURRY: Our view on that is well-known. Let's remember -- see, you're asking me now about issues that the President believes ought properly to be discussed in the context of a budget reconciliation measure. The whole point here is that none of these discussions ought to occur in the context of a continuing resolution that simply extends funding for government while Congress and the President resolve their differences on overall issues. That's the whole point of a stop-gap funding measure, like a continuing resolution, is to just sort of extend the length of time that the government is functioning, usually under neutral terms, while other larger issues are debated.
Q So he just wants Medicare out of it, period?
MR. MCCURRY: He wants no Medicare premium increase on this nation's elderly. He doesn't want them to do that back-door in some continuing resolution. Medicare should not even -- changes in Medicare ought not to be addressed in this type of continuing resolution, the President believes.
Q Can you describe what contacts there have been between the Hill leadership and the White House today?
MR. MCCURRY: Between leadership we have been in close contact with the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate. I believe you all know that Chief of Staff Panetta had a conversation with Chairman Domenici earlier in the day.
Q Who made the call?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't really know. I know that they've touched base just to see where things are, and Mr. Panetta has had additional contacts with a variety of other members of Congress -- I don't believe of the Republican leadership, but it is all in an effort to just keep closely apprised as to what is developing on the Hill.
Q Do you have any reason to believe that there is any kind of offer coming from Republicans or the Senate Republicans --
MR. MCCURRY: We have heard nothing and seen nothing publicly reported that indicates that this discussion of a Medicare premium freeze is the position being advanced by the Republican congressional leadership.
Q And would the President still want Democrats to be at this meeting, or would he be willing to meet with the Republican leadership without them?
MR. MCCURRY: It's more and more clear now that there can only be a bipartisan solution to this current crisis; therefore, they will need bipartisan authorship of the eventual solution.
Q Mike, what lesson is the President trying to teach House Republicans?
MR. MCCURRY: What lesson? There's no lesson -- I mean, the lesson to be learned here is that there's a right way and a wrong way to run our government. And the right way is to come forward as the President did in June with a detailed proposal that would balance this budget and do so in a way that the President believes reflects the principles that he thinks are important to the American people. They would do business in a timely way and not do it in this type of crisis atmosphere.
Q Are you going to give us a list of people who would be staying on at work?
MR. MCCURRY: I can tell you a -- you mean here at the White House? I can tell you here at the White House, of the 430 full-time equivalents that we've got -- that includes about 30 detailees from other agencies -- roughly, 21 percent will be on board if we shut down tomorrow. That's approximately 90 individuals who would be excepted. They range from telephone operators who will be able to answer calls from the public, although a reduced number of telephone operators; to folks who will handle inquiries from the media, although in every case I think the size of staffing is being reduced; to those who are necessary to conduct any discussions that pertain to items under consideration on Capitol Hill; to a small number of people in the Oval Office retinue that will help the President take and place phone calls. That's the kind of staffing pattern that we're looking --
Q That number does not include security, correct?
MR. MCCURRY: That does not include Secret Service personnel which are responsible to the Department of Treasury. Roughly, 90 people, around 21 percent of the 430 full-timers.
Q Do you have anything on like chefs and gardeners and valets? Personal staff?
MR. MCCURRY: I know most of those -- a lot of those people are handled under other budgets. But a lot of them will be -- as you move through, for example, the management and administration side of the White House staff will be reduced to 16 from 51. Just about all areas are taking cuts of anywhere from 75 percent to two-thirds.
Q Do you send these people home, or can they work if they want to without pay? I mean, what is --
MR. MCCURRY: No, folks who are on salary cannot, by law, volunteer for the positions that they currently hold. So they have to go home.
Q What is the sanction if they do? What's the sanction if you work?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You'd have to ask the Justice Department.
Q This 430 is the Executive Office of the President, that doesn't include OMB --
MR. MCCURRY: That doesn't include OMB or NSC, for example. NSC has got a lot of folks who are detailed here from the military; they're covered separately under the statute. So the NSC will be up and running. Those individuals that are critical to emergency, to security, to national preparedness obviously will be on duty, as is consistent with the briefing you got from Dr. Rivlin on Saturday.
Q I understand that you are one of the essential people and will work, but how does it --
MR. MCCURRY: I have never felt essential before in my life, but --
Q How does it feel to be essential and work and not get paid?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that keeping the public informed on what the President is doing in the midst of this crisis is rather important. And I think the public has a right to know, and so I'll be here.
Q Can you just clarify about the Panetta and Domenici conversation? You said you have no indication that this freeze proposal is what the Senate leadership is proposing. But did Domenici talk about it with Panetta, and what was Panetta's --
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Domenici had some ideas. I would prefer that you learn from him what those ideas are. But as I say, we have not heard anything that would indicate to us that the authoritative position of the Republican leadership in Congress is that they plan to drop the planned Medicare premium increase in favor of a freeze or in favor of current law.
Q As I understand your position from you, you're saying it's unacceptable to have the 60-percent level. The Clinton administration is willing to shut down the government because they want it to -- simply over spending, they just want to spend more?
MR. MCCURRY: The only -- the issues we are facing right now are proposed premium increase in Medicare, which is in the version of the continuing resolution that the Senate will vote on this afternoon, and a proposed level of funding that would represent a significant cutback in the ability of this administration to protect the environment, to protect the health and safety of the American people.
Q For 12 days? As I understand it, it's $13 million, maybe, between theirs and yours, and it would cost several million to pay for this shutdown.
MR. MCCURRY: In the atmosphere we're in now, it's hard to know, once accepted, whether or not those levels become a benchmark for future continuing. For example, we're already talking about -- we're talking about continuing the current formula in the continuing resolution, which is only 90 percent funding. So where do you stop this? We believe the best way to do that is to continue --
Q Do you want 100 percent funding?
MR. MCCURRY: We would have preferred that in the original continuing, but we weren't able to negotiate that with the Congress. We ended up with 90 percent --
Q I thought you wanted to spend less anyway.
MR. MCCURRY: -- and as a concern here -- accept these lower levels, and then you de facto accomplish what the Republicans seem to want to accomplish, which is to effectively end the federal involvement in a lot of things that the President believes are necessary when it comes to protecting the American people.
Q Are you saying that 60 percent is unacceptable, but between 60 and 90 percent is negotiable?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I don't want to get into what's unacceptable. I'll tell you what is acceptable, and the President's made it very clear. He want the continuing resolution adopted in September by the Congress extended so that we can then get down to resolving these larger budget issues, which are really at the heart of this debate. That's what's acceptable. I'm not going to speculate about what's unacceptable because what's unacceptable is the measure that is currently pending in the Senate, and the one that we expect to get tonight and the one that, clearly, the President will veto.
Q Senator Dole said yesterday that nobody wins if the government shuts down. Does the President share that sentiment of the Senator?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Mike, you guys have been saying recently quite a lot that no deal is better than a bad deal. Aren't you setting up a situation where in a game of budget chicken you've decided not to blink at all and that no deal is actually better for the President?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Has the White House taken any view on the legal viability of some of the debt management strategies that are on the way?
MR. MCCURRY: That's the province of the Secretary of the Treasury. He has to make a legal judgment at the time that he employs any extraordinary measures to avoid a default. But those are very tough decisions.
Q And have you analyzed --
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge has the Office of Legal Counsel examined that because we -- the Secretary of the Treasury has made very clear to the White House that he takes that legal responsibility very, very seriously and has to examine the legal facts at the time he would take any such action.
Now, the Treasury has now announced today that they are on the verge of having to do that. But I am confident, and the White House is confident, that the Secretary of the Treasury will have very carefully looked at the legal issues involved prior to making any actions like that. In any event, the Secretary of the Treasury said it's no way to run this country. He should not be a position where he has to shuffle accounts in order to keep the full faith and credit of the United States government valid. And there's a much better way to do this business and it's to pass a clean debt ceiling extension such as the one the President recommended today when he, of necessity, had to veto the measure passed by Congress.
Q What happens after the veto? Will the President make any new steps to start negotiations once he --
MR. MCCURRY: As he did today in vetoing the debt ceiling measure, he sent right back to Congress exactly the measure that would be acceptable so we could avert this crisis. He will do that this evening as well. Upon vetoing this continuing resolution he'll send right back to them the type of continuing resolution that would allow this government to stay open to continue to provide services to the American people.
Q Have you picked a date on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's going to be December 15th.
Q Mike, one of the things that the government can do in addition to the movement of money from other accounts to avert a shut down or, more to the point, a default, is to adjust the spend-out rate in a huge array of government accounts simply to slow the spending down and conserve funds. Has the administration started that process and if not, is it planning to?
MR. MCCURRY: Brit, because we are now in a new fiscal year with no legally-authorized appropriations except in two cases, I don't know what flexibility OMB has. I'd ask that you put that question into Larry Hoss at OMB and see.
Now, in the past, as we approached the end of the last fiscal year, the Director of OMB indicated to Cabinet agencies that they could not adjust their payout rates as a way of circumventing congressional intent or spending all the money in advance. So she gave very clear directive to agencies that they had to continue to do business according to their legal appropriation and authorization at the time.
Now that we're in a continuing environment I don't know how that is affected. I think that's all governed by the formula that exists in the continuing.
Q How late or you staying on tonight?
Q Just to follow that up, if I could. To your knowledge, over the previous months since the possibility of such a confrontation has been talked about and warned about, were any steps taken at the direction of OMB or the White House to try to conserve funds by adjusting the spend out rate?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe it's accurate to say the instructions were given to Cabinet agencies to follow the letter of the law when it came to matching their actions with congressional authorizations and appropriations. In other words, that they were required to follow the letter of the law as it was written by Congress.
Q That's a no, isn't it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't -- I'm telling you what the directive was that was sent by the OMB Director to the agencies. If there's been any practical impact of that, I'm sure the staff over there will be able to help you out.
Q Are you going to be on all night?
Q The debt ceiling alternative that you sent up to the Hill today, as I understand it, has enough sufficient spending whatever it's called --
MR. MCCURRY: Borrowing authority.
Q -- borrowing authority to take you until 1997, right, through the whole next political year?
MR. MCCURRY: Through 1996 and well into 1997, into the fall of 1997.
Q Should we take from that, that your preferred solution to all of this might be a continuing resolution and a borrowing authority that would take you through the election and to make the case that let's fight this as '96, not as in '95?
MR. MCCURRY: No, Ann, that would be an incorrect interpretation. We simply took the debt level that is currently in the House-passed and Senate-passed budget resolutions -- the congressional budget resolution calls for the $5.5-trillion figure that we recommended today, so we actually got that figure from the Congress. It turns out to work out to, I guess, third quarter '97 in terms of how much borrowing authority would exist for the federal government.
Q Mike, if the shutdown is still in effect when the President leaves for Japan, how will he answer the inevitable criticism that with a government in crisis, he ought to stay in the United States and try and work it out?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will say, I'm not going to allow the crisis that we are in at that point to hold me hostage when it comes to fulfilling my constitutional duties as the Commander-In-Chief and as the person responsible for this nation's foreign policy. There are literally millions of jobs in our economy that depend on our exports to Asia. There are hundreds of thousands of American families that will wonder what we're going to do to make sure that we continue to remain active in leading the Asian economy.
In the case of our relationship with Japan, there are enormous security interests at stake and we are at a point in our relationship where it's very important for this President to reaffirm our security alliance with Japan and to make clear at a time in which there is a growing chorus of isolationist voices in this Congress to rebut, that we will continue to exert leadership in the Asian region.
All of those things, I think, make it important for the President to make this journey. It's a trip that he would have liked to have kept the original schedule. He believes he can do the very important national security and economic business that he needs to do in the course of a schedule that's now been tightened. But this trip is in the interest of the American people, and the President has to make good his promise, as he swore in his oath of office, to protect and defend the American people.
Q Would you expect the Chief of Staff to stay behind to handle the budget matters, or would he designate the Vice President to do that?
Q And how would the whole trip affect the traveling?
MR. MCCURRY: We will, of necessity, adjust the delegation to include only those accepted individuals who are critical either to the trip or to the work that's being done at APEC, and there will be some significant adjustments to the delegation.
Q Well, who will the President leave behind or designate here to handle the negotiations with Congress in his absence?
MR. MCCURRY: He will be a phone call away, so that's not really an issue. If there is a need to have him in contact with the congressional leadership, he can do so at any point.
Q Mike, in his speech this morning, the President, in almost so many words, accused the Congress of perverting the Constitution and the correct balance of power. Why, given that all revenue measures are basically -- to the Congress and the Constitution does he feel that? What does he feel is perverted about their approach --
MR. MCCURRY: Because the President still, ultimately, through the veto in the Constitution, has the responsibility to protect the American people. And there is a clear attempt, by forcing the President to accept measures that are clearly unacceptable, to circumvent the effect of the veto. The basis of that argument is one that goes to the constitutional role that the veto plays in the balance of powers and the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.
Q Do you mean by that, Mike, that Congress should never include elements in a bill to make it more difficult for a president to veto them?
MR. MCCURRY: No, but --
Q Well, then why not these elements in this bill?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not the issue here. They are tampering with the full faith and credit of the United States government, which is a very risky thing to do under any circumstances, in a way to force the President to accept something that otherwise he would use his veto to stop. And the President is making the point that that is a clear attempt to tamper with the constitutional balance of powers.
Q Wait a minute. Tampering with the full faith and credit of the United States is one thing, isn't it, but what is constitutionally wrong with -- I mean, I can see why -- the complaint about the full faith and credit of the --
MR. MCCURRY: Because the founders put the veto in the Constitution for a reason, so that the President could exercise his judgment in protecting the American people from measures coming from the Legislative Branch that he feels are unwarranted. This is -- by attaching unacceptable veto-oriented measures on to something that is necessary, that has to be done, which is essentially the debt ceiling, the Congress is making a very bold attempt to extend or to rejigger that balance of powers enshrined in the Constitution. That's the argument the President made.
Q Excuse me, let me follow up. Does it trouble the President that this has been done and enshrined and practiced for decades by Congresses under the Democrats?
MR. MCCURRY: Not once in our 200 years has the United States defaulted. And that's what we'll be on the verge of as a result of Congress's attempt to attach these types of measures to a debt ceiling measure.
Q We're about six hours away now from the end of the continuing resolution. Given that they're not even going to vote until 5:30 p.m., that the Domenici thing is seen by you guys as just a starting point, and that you're not even sure the leadership will accept it, is a shutdown now inevitable?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I personally feel that it's very hard to imagine any way, given the Senate's schedule for votes today, and given the fact there's been no authoritative communication from the Republican leadership that they wish to meet with the President on the terms the President has suggested, no conceivable way to me that they will meet the deadline by midnight tonight. We'll see where we are as we go into tomorrow.
As Dr. Rivlin briefed you, they clearly have the ability tomorrow to adjust their shutdown plans if there's something pending in Congress that looks like it might proceed to final passage. But there certainly is not much reason for anyone to have much hope of that at this point.
Q What has he done all day -- I mean, after the two speeches, this afternoon? Is he in contact at all, or is he talking to agency heads?
MR. MCCURRY: He's been discussing these measures with his senior staff here. He's been working through, obviously, some of the aspects of his foreign travels, as I've just mentioned. He has been getting briefed on the talks in Dayton, which had a very significant development over the weekend, as you know. And he has remained available to anyone who has got current intelligence on the thinking of Congress as we prepare for this moment of crisis.
Q Dole made a big show of saying the cell phone is on, why doesn't the President call me? Why doesn't he call? What's the harm in calling?
MR. MCCURRY: Jay, look, we have been abundantly clear what the basis of that conversation would be. They need to drop the Medicare premium increase and then the President is happy to talk to them and the other members of the bipartisan leadership about how we move on from there.
Q Couldn't he show he's bigger than them by calling?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is waiting to see whether this Congress is big enough to back off the very adamant posture they've taken about the measures they are now trying to force on this President and the American people. They've talked over and over again about how this is the most stunning, unprecedented, sweeping revolutionary change in the last 60 years. And the President thinks it's not a good idea to go back to the years of the Great Depression and try to mimic the federal government that existed at that time.
Q Mike, a couple of questions. One, can you give us two or three examples of fairly or relatively high-level people here in the White House who will be furloughed so we know where approximately the dividing line is?
MR. MCCURRY: One good example, Assistant to the President for Political Affairs Doug Sosnik will be a non-excepted individual tomorrow. (Laughter.) His view is there's not much that he's able to do at this point. The Press Secretary, we'd point out, that he has to function without any of his deputies tomorrow which, those of you who know them and know me will realize is a true handicap.
Q Will Mr. McLarty be working?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know specifically whether he is excepted or not. The people who have been spared as the White House prepares for this are those that have to deal with necessary communications with Congress, our legislative affairs staff -- actually, that's probably not even accurate to say because about two-thirds of our legislative affairs staff will be furloughed tomorrow. A lot of our National Economic Council folks will be here because what this will do to the national economy and how we prepare for a possible default of the federal government is something the President needs urgent information about. So at that level, most of those folks will be on board.
Q Will the President's photographers, his camera crew, all those people who follow him around?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the good folks from WHCA, of course, are military, so that they are excepted by statute. The First Lady's staff has been cut by 75 percent. So, essentially, the pattern in most places is that office heads or department heads will be in place usually with one or two people to assist them for the functioning of their offices.
Q What about OMB, Mike -- OMB?
Q The other question I had --
MR. MCCURRY: OMB -- I haven't had a detailed account on the numbers there. Dr. Rivlin will be here, but you might want to check with Larry Hoss.
Q Is the Vice President told to stay in town?
Q What about Dave Leavy? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: David Leavy, I am happy to report, is an excepted individual, according to the State Department. (Laughter.)
Q Does the President know that?
MR. MCCURRY: The reasons therefore you might inquire at the State Department because I'm at a loss to give them. (Laughter.)
Q Poor David.
Q -- getting back to your earlier --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't hear a word you're saying.
Q Getting back to your earlier point that you want to continue a neutral CR like the one you negotiated in September, but we're now well into the new fiscal year. And with the passage of time, the 90 percent obviously becomes tilted more in your favor and against the Republicans. Are you saying that while you reject the 60 percent, you absolutely want the 90 and don't recognize that the passage of time --
MR. MCCURRY: I think I've answered that already as best I can.
Q Just by way of a bit of tick-tock, who is among the senior advisers the President is meeting with today on this subject? And is the second veto speech or message already written?
MR. MCCURRY: The draft of the second veto message is complete, but it will be adjusted according to any final action or any changes, amendments, considered by the Senate late today. The President has been meeting with the Chief of Staff, the two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, with other senior advisors on the White House staff as they wrestle with the consequences here.
Q Is Dick Morris here?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no. I haven't seen him.
Q What's the President and your plan for waiting this out?
MR. MCCURRY: Who plays Monday Night Football tonight?
Q Will you be here all night?
Q Mike, can I ask a question? On the APEC part of the trip, I could understand that he can't reschedule that because all of these Asian leaders are going to be there already. But on the state visit to Japan part, wouldn't the Japanese understand an economic crisis, and wouldn't they rather have a full-scale state visit than some sort of slipshod, 12-hour state visit? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, and that is not an accurate reflection of their views. I believe if you contact the embassy, they will indicate that the government of Japan is fully sympathetic with the position the President finds them in. They understand the domestic environment in which the President is wrestling with these issues. And as I said earlier, the United States government extends a great deal of gratitude to the government of Japan for being so cooperative in working out these arrangements.
We are able to get the business we need to get done completed, and it is at a moment in which there are very, very important issue within the bilateral relationship that need to be discussed -- the status of our economic and trade issues, following on the work that they will do at the APEC leaders meeting; the status of our security alliance, which, again, enormous work and preparation has gone into this bilateral summit.
As you know, Dr. Perry was just in Japan recently to prepare some of these discussions. There has been extensive prep work done at a variety of diplomatic levels in exchange for the meetings between Prime Minister Murayama and the President. And then, in addition to that, we increasingly, with the Japanese government, have a whole host of other global issues that we discuss, from the Middle East peace process to environmental protection, to a full range of things that I fully expect will be on the bilateral agenda.
Q Thank you, Mike. Good job.
Q That's how you're going to work on this budget deal --
Q He'll talk to the Republicans.
Q Are you staying here until midnight?
Q That's the question -- logistically, what are you going to do?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I see no reason to do that. I mean, the President is going to veto the continuing resolution. The veto and statement will be available to you. If there is any major change in what we believe is going to happen --
Q How is it going to be available?
Q Are you going to do a call-out or --
MR. MCCURRY: The mystery of that science is left to those who, as of tomorrow, will no longer be here to serve you. (Laughter.)
Q That's why we want to know tonight.
Q Has the President received a letter from Dole and Gingrich regarding Bosnia -- troop deployments in Bosnia? And does he agree with their conclusion that the support in Congress is virtually nil?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any letter. I'll have to check.
Q When the President this morning said he was willing to fight for a fair budget basically for as long as it takes, even meaning months, does that mean he's willing to have this budget reconciliation process drag on through next year if need be?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President's made it very clear what he's fighting for and the type of budget he is fighting for, and if it takes all the way through next year to achieve that, that will be the result. The President has made it more than clear he's willing to stake his presidency on this type of fight rather than accept something he thinks is just wrong for the American people.
Q And rather than just accept solely a four-year CR extension and no budget --
MR. MCCURRY: We are not at that point yet.
Yes, let's wrap up pretty soon.
Q In 1991, President Bush delayed a trip to Japan for political reasons. It seems to be -- what's often stated as the most important bilateral relationship in the world -- a state visit again as being affected by what seems to be political gamesmanship. What would you say to those in the Japanese public who perceive that this relationship is victimized quite often by political gamesmanship here in the Capital?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the measure of the seriousness of this relationship is the fact the President, in the midst of what the Japanese people understand is a very delicate and critical moment in our domestic discussions, the President is nonetheless willing to go for these very important meetings in Osaka and Tokyo. Every government has to contend with domestic dynamics that affect sometimes the conduct of its foreign policy, and we believe the cooperation we've received from the government, the graciousness of the Emperor and the Empress and the willingness of the people of Japan to greet the President with a great deal of an open-hearted attitude will reflect very well both on the bilateral relationship and the work that needs to be done. There seems to be a great deal of understanding about the situation the President is in.
Q Mike, did the President call Murayama himself personally to express his --
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know the answer to that, but someone from the NSC can let you know. We have had good cooperation with the government of Japan in making the adjustments to the President's schedule as I indicated.
Q Do you know if the military personnel who is going to have to work will get paid, or will they also for sure miss paychecks? I thought it was a murky area.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I would ask you that ask at the Pentagon. I don't know whether that covers -- I know excepted individuals here work, they are not paid. They do have then a claim for any restitution of funding once that happens.
Q If there's agreement in Dayton before the end of the week, will the President stop there on his way to Japan?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't want to speculate on that. In any event, those who are serving as spokespeople for the three delegations and the Contact Group and the European Union are in a better position to answer that type of question.
Q Are they excepted staff?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, they have been specifically excepted on the State Department's plan so that the conduct of the Bosnia talks can continue.
Q Just to get something straight, the President himself has called over the long-term for $128 billion of cuts in Medicare. Is he willing to look at the reductions of premiums or what have you, and just doesn't want them in the CR?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no. If you go back, one advantage of the proposal the President put forward in June, as you remember, is that we were able to achieve the savings necessary in Medicare to extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund without raising premiums. Now, importantly, the congressional majority's plan on Medicare and the President's 10-year balanced budget proposal in June extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund exactly the same amount of time. But we do so without increases in premiums. They need the revenue from the increases in premium in order to offset the tax cut, which is one of the large issues that's at work here in this budget controversy.
Q Mike, before you said 21 percent of the White House staff will be on board. The First Lady's staff has been cut 75 percent. Are you suggesting her staff has been cut less than the overall White House staff?
Q No, more.
MR. MCCURRY: No, she's got -- about a quarter of her folks will be around and -- in different parts of the White House, the numbers work out differently.
Q Mike, also, can you give us some specifics -- back to the question before -- are any of the White House chefs, are any of the gardeners, are any of the valets being furloughed?
MR. MCCURRY: Those folks -- I don't know specifically about those folks. I told you what the administrative and management cuts are, 51 to 16. We'll try to take that question and see what the effect is on the facilities crew here at the White House.
Q Two housekeeping. Do you expect to brief roughly at the usual time tomorrow? Do you have any idea?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure. Roughly the same time.
Q Also, it's my understanding, both USDA and DOE stay open completely because they've got their funding.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, USDA is now covered under our regular appropriations bill. So they have a different situation. The Pentagon, in a continuing situation has -- they, by statute, I believe, have different requirements related to the national security and military preparedness. The Pentagon has been very good and has done a full brief on how their personnel are affected.
Q Mike, the Senate chaplain today offered prayer , calling for Devine intervention in settling this dispute. Do you think it will do any good?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that at serious moments like that, a little prayer is always a pretty good idea.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:05 P.M. EST