THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
11:56 A.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the White House and welcome to our daily briefing here today, this morning, as opposed to this afternoon. So good morning to you all. One piece of color before we start your questions.
Q It's 12:00 noon.
MR. MCCURRY: No, it is not. It is 11:57 a.m. and 40 seconds. Beep. (Laughter.)
One piece of color before we start today. Should the President this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. exercise his option to veto HR-2491, the Reconciliation Act, he will do so with the very same pen that President Lyndon Baines Johnson used to sign the Social Security Act Amendments of 1965, which created Medicare and Medicaid.
Q It still has ink in it?
MR. MCCURRY: Still ticking.
Q Where was that? Seriously, where was that pen?
MR. MCCURRY: The pen was at the LBJ Library down in Austin.
Q So you had it shipped up here just for this?
MR. MCCURRY: Had if Fed-Exed here for the occasion.
Q -- Fed-Exed or was it flown on a government plane?
Q And who paid for that?
MR. MCCURRY: It was Fed-Exed.
Q You didn't use Express Mail?
Q Did he sign that at the Truman Library -- didn't Johnson sign that at the Truman Library?
MR. MCCURRY: Carl, that's a good question. I don't know the answer to that -- find that out.
Q Carl, were you there?
Q Who cares. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Very good, Carl.
I recall seeing a -- I think I've seen a picture of that and I believe it was here. I may be -- my memory may be faulty.
Q Do you have to return it?
Q Helen may know.
MR. MCCURRY: We will return it dutifully to the collection and we thank them for allowing us to borrow said pen.
Q So this is an historic afternoon, then?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, very historic afternoon.
Q Mike, what does the Reconciliation Act have in it? I've forgotten.
MR. MCCURRY: What it has in it? Well, it has a whole lot of things the President of the United States doesn't like. (Laughter.) And this afternoon we'll provide you a document that provides I think close to 80 reasons specifically why the President feels this is a measure that does not deserve his support because it does not reflect the interests of the American people.
The American people expect the President to veto this measure. The President has pledged over and over again to protect the American people from unnecessary and unneeded cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, from measures that would limit our ability to protect this nation's environment, from measures that don't make the kinds of investments in education and technology that will grow our economy in the 21st century, and to protect them from unneeded tax cuts, especially on working Americans. And for all those reasons and many more I expect the President to address later today, he will most likely, as you know, exercise his option to veto the bill.
Q Is the seven-year plan ready to go, or will it be tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: The President at the same time will make the point we've got to get on with good-faith negotiations to balance the budget. The President fully supports balancing the federal budget and has been working with his advisors to develop a plan that will do so consistent with the agreement he reached with the Congress in the continuing resolution to measure the priorities that the President has talked about and to apply them to a plan that gets it done in a concrete period of time that the Congress is insisting upon.
Q So when is he going to send it?
Q So what does he want them to do?
MR. MCCURRY: I suspect then that he will be in a better position to present that publicly after we've given it to congressional negotiators, and congressional negotiators are not expected to meet with their White House counterparts until some time tomorrow.
Q In the President's discussions with Dole and Gingrich yesterday, did he ask them for another continuing resolution to get us past the 15th, and was there any back-and-forth on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I know the President has told us that he does not want these budget deliberations to occur in the pressured environment that would come if we were facing a shutdown of the government.
And we're going to face a very serious problem now because the Congressional Budget Office is not in a position to update its economic assumptions until next week, leaving only 48 hours -- or less, perhaps -- before the current continuing resolution expires. So that will pose a very real problem and there will have to be a good effort on the part of the Congress to address that. It's not clear that we can write a seven-year balanced budget plan by the 15th if there's no willingness to engage on the question of numbers and details in the plan until the Congressional Budget Office's assumptions are released.
Q CBO has indicated that while it won't have its baseline ready by next Tuesday, that it could have its economic assumptions available before then. If it's presented to the budget negotiators this week, could that possibly be incorporated in your plan rather than the OMB assumptions?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is really something that would go right to the heart of how they will negotiate and what they will negotiate. So that's impossible to say, but it would be important to reach agreement pursuant to the need to consult on economic assumptions if we're going to get on with the business of writing the budget.
Q Does the White House have a specific proposal like a CR that gives you to January 15th or something in order to get passed this --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President, in presenting his ideas tomorrow may want to suggest that if it's going to be necessary to extend time for further deliberations. You might expect him to describe that tomorrow, but why don't I leave that for him tomorrow.
Q The Wall Street Journal had a piece today which sort of talked about freshman class being somewhat divided. Has the President ever talked to members of the freshman class either individually or in a group of ten down here, or whatever, or does he have plans to?
MR. MCCURRY: He has talked to some of them from time to time, and he told me earlier today that he had spoken with several members of Congress in the course of last night's reception here for the holidays. I don't know if any of them were Republican members of the freshman class in the House, or not. I can go back and check with him, but he has, in connection with some foreign policy issues, had some discussions with several of the freshman members.
Q Mike, in a nutshell, how does this budget differ from the 10-year budget?
MR. MCCURRY: In a nutshell, what the President wants to do is to make good on the commitment that was reached earlier this year when we extended funding for the federal government. We agreed that we would try to balance the budget in a seven-year time frame, but do it in a way that protects Medicare and Medicaid, protects our ability to make the environment safer for the American people, and makes the kinds of investments in the future of our country that will keep our strong economy growing; at the same time doing that, providing the kind of tax relief to working Americans that's important, and above all else, not raising taxes on the poorest working families. In a nutshell, the President believes we've got some very good ideas on how to do that and his negotiators will present that to their congressional counterparts tomorrow.
Q Can you give us a sense of which Cabinet departments perhaps you've looked at and said, okay, this is where we can make some cuts to take some stuff out?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to go through any more detail on the ideas that we've got until they've been presented to the negotiators.
Q Is there going to be a Cabinet meeting today to discuss all of this?
MR. MCCURRY: It was not going to be with the President. They were looking for an opportunity to bring the Cabinet together to give them a briefing on some of the ideas that we'll advance, and that may occur later today. There was some discussion of trying to do that. That would not involve the President, but it would involve Mr. Panetta, Dr. Rivlin, Dr. Tyson, presumably some others who have been working on this.
Q Is Panetta going to the Hill this afternoon at 5:00 p.m., and if so, what's that all about?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, and he's been back and forth to the Hill -- I'm not aware of any session that he has scheduled with the congressional negotiating team until tomorrow. But he routinely has gone to the Hill to meet and discuss budget issues with the Democratic leadership.
Why don't we -- it's easy to run down. Maybe we can run that down and come back to that.
Q The President said there wouldn't be any mission creep, but some people seem to think that the Bosnian involvement is a mission creep of beyond one year. Brzezinski for one, in particular, said he is quite convinced the President would lengthen the stay of the troops if they are needed.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President in the session he just had with this very impressive group that has now come together to support the U.S. role in Bosnia reiterated several times that the very specific mission and the force that's been designed for that mission can complete those mission objectives in about a year.
Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili, just within the last five-ten minutes, have both testified to that on Capitol Hill. General Shalikashvili has indicated he has complete confidence in the ability of NATO commanders and U.S. commanders to fulfill those mission objectives within a year. And the President has reiterated to me, as he reiterated to the participants in that briefing, his complete confidence in the assessment of his military commanders that this mission can be achieved in about a year.
Q Brzezinsky did say that the President apparently specifically said that if the mission cannot be accomplished in one year that he would consider extending it.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as a hypothetical question in a confidential briefing, they did have some discussions of how you assess the mission as the mission is underway. But I again reiterate, as Secretary Perry has now done, as General Shalikashvili has now done, that we have complete confidence in the ability of our military commanders and NATO military commanders to achieve the mission objectives that have been structured very carefully in Dayton with the understanding that they can be completed in about a year.
In fact, as Secretary Perry indicated at his briefing on Monday, that he believes that -- and our military commanders believe that the basic military tasks that are associated with the Dayton agreement -- separating the forces, supervising the withdrawal, making sure that the initial steps envisioned by the Dayton accords are underway -- that can be completed under the timetable they have for the mission in a period of about six months. And then you strengthen and deepen the commitment of the parties to those steps necessary to create the safe and secure environment that allows the civilian transformation to take place.
We're talking about a military mission here, precisely defined, very carefully structured, and scheduled to last about a year. But as indicated earlier at the Pentagon, there is some prospect you can adjust that timetable as you see how the mission is progressing, perhaps even beginning some of the ramp-down or some of the withdrawal of forces sometime sooner.
Q Mike, history is replete with examples of generals making unrealistic predictions about how long it will take to accomplish a mission. To cite two, General McArthur in Korea talking about the troops being home for Christmas just before the Chinese came into the war; and General Westmoreland in '67 seeing light at the end of the tunnel in Vietnam. Is the exit strategy in Bosnia driven by the calendar or driven by the mission?
MR. MCCURRY: Because of that history, our military commanders are very precise about defining timetables for missions and exit strategies. And that's the reason why they have put in place a very precise mission plan that has within it -- in fact, to back up to that, that's why in the course of negotiating the peace agreement in Dayton, U.S. military officers participated in the specific wording of the military annex to that document so that they would know exactly the task and the mission to be undertaken by the international force. Because of that precision that went into the negotiation, military commanders now have a much higher degree of confidence in assessing the timetable for performing the mission objectives.
Q What was the deadline the President had to veto the reconciliation bill? And has he asked his negotiators tomorrow to make any sort of gesture on capital gains?
MR. MCCURRY: I, frankly, don't know the answer to either question. On capital gains, he -- there have been general discussions and the President has addressed that question publicly in the past. And I'm getting from the peanut gallery some help -- it was the 12th, he has until December 12th to veto the reconciliation measure.
Q Mike, once the plan is formally outlined to the Republicans tomorrow, what's your game plan here? How exactly are you going to lay it out?
MR. MCCURRY: We haven't finalized that yet. We will advise you as we can. To my knowledge, as of checking about an hour or so ago, they hadn't set up the timetable for Mr. Panetta's meetings tomorrow. When we do so, we can then give you a better idea of what we had planned to do here publicly.
Q Can we look for the President to do something on this or -- most of it's out there already.,
MR. MCCURRY: I suspect he'll want to say some things, yes.
Q Why did it take you so long to come to saying that you would do this? It's kind of hard to follow if you look at over the course of the week. First you were going to have a seven-year, then you were going to wait for the Republicans to do something, then you weren't.
MR. MCCURRY: Rita, you have to give us a little bit of leeway. We're in the middle of a negotiation -- we hope to be in the middle of a negotiation. And that involves sometimes not being -- not saying entirely in public what you want to try to achieve at the negotiation table. So we were being a little oblique about how and when he would present various ideas because, frankly, we need to make sure that those that we're dealing with on Capitol Hill understand that we are negotiating in good faith. And there have been complaints from the other side that we sometimes are doing too much in public prior to them having a chance to think through some of the ideas we're presenting, which is one reason why the President wants the congressional negotiators to have the opportunity to hear the presentation about his ideas prior to us telling all of you.
Q Can you give us any kind of play at this meeting with all of the international experts? Did they ask questions? Did they show a lot wariness?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they had good, detailed, substantive questions and many of them dealt with hypothetical, as you indicated in your earlier question. These are all people who have followed the conflict in Bosnia very carefully. They needed to hear and wanted to hear from the President exactly how we structured the nature of the force. They, most of them are very well-briefed on the elements of the plan, but they wanted to hear the President describe how he reached the point that he felt this was absolutely critical to U.S. interests. And he described that in great detail, citing among other things, the moral obligation the United States has to live up to its leadership responsibilities in the world, especially when they involve our closest allies in Europe.
Q Does the administration have a position on France rejoining the military arm of NATO?
MR. MCCURRY: The Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense yesterday warmly welcomed the decision by the government of France to rejoin the defense and military planning committees at NATO. There was a historic meeting yesterday at 16, the first time that defense and foreign ministers gathered together at 16. We believe that that is a very useful development within the alliance at a moment when this alliance, which has been for so long prepared to keep the peace by waging war, is now ironically undertaking its largest mission ever solely in the name of peace. So in that light the Secretary of State, I think, spoke for the President and all Americans when he welcomed this decision by the French government.
Q Why is the Clinton administration reneging on the President's pledge to cooperate with the Whitewater investigations?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I haven't followed this in great detail, but I believe the question that currently is pending before the committee is whether or not the President of the United States, like any American, has the right in private to go see a doctor or go see a lawyer or go see a minister and have private consultations. It goes to the heart of the attorney-client privilege.
Q Well, as I understand it, the President twice that I can find, and the White House at least six times, said the President would not claim privilege to keep people who work for this administration to testify on the Hill. It's now claimed privilege twice, and this was a group of seven lawyers. Not Kendall, this is Bruce Lindsey. So does anybody who works in the White House become his lawyer?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the issue is attorney-client privilege and whether a waiver of that for the substantive questions that were under review would then create a condition in which all subject matter pertaining to the issues being reviewed by the congressional committee would then -- the privilege would then be waived for all those subject matters. And I believe the judgment made was that that is a privilege that needed to be protected. Now, I will go back and ask those attorneys who are working on this to see if there's anything further I can add beyond that.
Q But why is the issue on waiving privilege? I mean you had a pretty solid statement that you wouldn't claim privilege.
MR. MCCURRY: He has -- the belief of the President, which he continues to be his belief is that he can resolve and address all the questions they have. And, indeed, he has done so. He has been fully cooperative and fully supported, but there's a point at which some of these proceedings begin to take on the air of a fishing expedition.
Q In that connection, does Mrs. Hillary have a right to call somebody privately after the death of a friend, Mr. Foster?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to -- that may go to this -- Q Is that the same -- MR. MCCURRY: That may go to the substance of the matter
that the Congress wants to ask about. I don't think it would be proper to answer that.
Q There are a number of people on Capitol Hill who are saying, we support the troops; we do not support the policy. What do you think of that approach, and do you think they're trying to have it both ways?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that it would not be wise for me to cast any aspersions on the motives of those who are being supportive of our troops. The President is grateful to those in the Congress who want to support our troops. I think members of Congress know why they're there, they know why the President has placed them in harm's way. But at the same time they understand that the nature of the mission is in support of a peace agreement very carefully reached in Dayton. And even as, for example, former President Bush yesterday indicated some concern about the nature of the mission, he also simultaneously said that our credibility in this world and the integrity of U.S. leadership is at stake. And, ultimately, as members of Congress vote to support our troops, they are supporting the decision the Commander in Chief has made to send them there.
Q Does the President believe there are no reasonable questions yet pending about the sequence of events involving Ms. Thomases and Maggie Williams, and he thinks there is no fair reason to want to pursue --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't talked to him about that subject. I'd have to talk to him in order to answer that question.
Q I know you're trying to avoid having American troops appear as though they're taking sides and have them arm and train the Bosnian government. Do you know who these third-party governments are that you're trying to line up to do that?
MR. MCCURRY: They have not been identified, but we would work with those that we believe could ensure that the Bosnian government has access to the weaponry and training necessary for self-defense. We have some ideas of who they are. Indeed, we now have assessment -- we have sent to the region an assessment team that will actually work with the Bosnian government and the Bosnian army -- the Bosnian government military leadership to make the best assessment of exactly how we could make good on that commitment.
Q Do you have guarantees from other governments, or is this something that you don't have line up yet?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've had discussions bilaterally with other governments on the subject.
Q Was there any real reason for the sort of secrecy and not announcing publicly on the recording that they would have a reception down here last night for all the members of Congress? It's usually played up in advance and this time it was just held, not even mentioned.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry about that. I thought it was listed on the President's public calendar.
Q No, it wasn't at all -- all day. Usually, they play that up. Were they afraid they wouldn't come, or what?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we were happy to have them here last night and they came in great numbers last night and consumed great quantities, I am told. And the President enjoyed it. It may be because of the large number of holiday receptions that are being held here that not everyone was properly listed. We will ensure that they are in the future, and especially those to which members of the press are invited.
Q When the President is in Paris next week and the document is signed, if Congress still has not passed any resolution -- it looks increasingly unlikely that Dole's resolution could be passed by then by both Houses -- will the President go ahead and sign orders to begin the deployment?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't anticipate that situation arising.
Q I wanted to ask you about the securities litigation bill that's in the House right now. Where does the administration stand on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Same place when I answered the question yesterday.
Q Mike, it wasn't that many months ago when Dr. Tyson and Leon Panetta said that the President's concern about a seven-year glidepath to balance was that it would take so much money out of the economy it would have a contractionary effect and it would be harmful. What are the features of the President's seven-year plan that assure him, make him confident that that is not going to be the effect in what he's presenting?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the first and foremost among them is that we're not taking $270 billion out of Medicare. In fact, we're not taking $433 billion out of the health care sector, as envisioned on the reconciliation bill; that we have made much more measured savings in Medicare. And that is the principal ingredient, among others. But the other thing, too, is the stimulative effects that would exist through some type of tax relief that's focused on average working American families, specifically for child care and for educational opportunities. Those are, in the long run, income-generating incentives because you are allowing people to go back to work, you're giving them higher-level skills so they can earn higher wages.
Q So can you explain why it is that he couldn't do in June what's he's doing today?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, because the level of the cuts in nondefense discretionary spending to the President at that time would have been completely unacceptable. We're in a situation now where we have no other choice if we want to resolve this budget impasse but to attempt to deal as best we can with the insistence of the Republican Congress that we make deep cuts in the programs that the President otherwise would not have cut.
Q Your Medicaid proposal still keeps the same number as in June, but, again, it's over seven years, so where do you make up the difference?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the number -- it is the same plan as in June. The number that we use -- remember the $124 billion savings --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, Medicaid -- I'm sorry. I don't know that we have put out the details on our Medicaid provisions yet, but they will be identical to the June budget proposal.
Q But if it's $54 billion over seven instead of $54 billion over nine or ten --
MR. MCCURRY: No, the $54 billion was the seven-year number, just as in the case of Medicare. In fact, I want to again clear this up because there was a lot of confusion last night. We always -- in order to compare apples to apples when we were measuring our Medicare savings against Republicans, we always use the seven-year number. A lot of people, I think, last night, were remembering that the administration had called for $124 billion of savings in Medicare and thought that we were squeezing that now into a seven-year track. That was -- that's not the case. That was the seven--year number, just as $54 billion was the seven-year number for Medicaid.
Q Mike, has this administration even considered putting price controls on the hospital costs and equipment and the doctors, so that we can -- poor people, a lot of them who can't get insurance can have some form of --
MR. MCCURRY: No, but as the --
Q -- reasonable prices for when they go to the doctor?
MR. MCCURRY: No, but as you know, we have a great deal of concern about inflation and costs within the health care sector. And the President has an impressive history of having attempted to address that.
Q Well, that would sort of cut down the cost, wouldn't it?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q -- for the government if they would put a ceiling on the prices?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is a very debatable proposition.
Q At what point does the President think it would be worth his while to meet in person again with the leadership to go over these ideas? Will it depend on the reaction of the negotiating team tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Will, I understand that there are some House Republicans that think that's a good idea. And Dr. Rivlin will be seeing some of them later today.
By the way, I got an update on some other things. We have arranged on Thursday a briefing for the Cabinet that Mr. Panetta will conduct. Mr. Panetta is going to the Hill later today for a meeting at around 5:00 p.m., principally with Democrats to kind of touch base on people we've been consulting with very closely over the course of the last several days.
And, Carl, to answer you questions, the President -- President Johnson did sign the Social Security amendments on July 30, 1965 in Independence, Missouri.
Q But, so the point is, if negotiations should go propitiously tomorrow with the negotiators, the President would stand ready to meet with leadership if that would be useful?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President stands willing at the point that his negotiators come to him and say his involvement is necessary to get on with the business of writing a balanced budget to be actively involved. But we are at a point now where both the Republican leadership of the Congress and the President have designated negotiators, and they need to negotiate -- we need to make forward progress.
Q What, if anything, is the President, Panetta, or anyone else doing to try to keep Lee Brown to stay on?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Dr. Brown has a very impressive record. And the President has been highly complimentary of his work to reinvigorate the administration's fight against drugs. And we've had an impressive number of achievements from combatting the Cali Cartel to addressing drug use by high school teenagers, and looking for ways to screen against that, to attempting to encourage the entertainment industry to reflect on their obligations and responsibilities. And at each one of these efforts Dr. Brown has been at the forefront.
He now, though, is thinking about his career and has had some positive discussions, I understand, with Rice University. And given his impressive achievements in getting this administration's war on drugs highly motivated and operational, we would hate to see him go. But at the same time, as reported, there apparently are some very interesting opportunities available to him.
Q Has he officially tendered his resignation?
MR. MCCURRY: He has not. In his statement yesterday -- you can check with his office, but he has put out a statement that describes the nature of his discussions so far with the university.
Q Will that job be filled if he leaves? Is that a job you would fill?
MR. MCCURRY: If there's a vacancy, we will definitely fill it because of the importance of the war on drugs and the President's commitment to it. And there would be a number of attractive candidates that we would want to talk to very quickly.
Q So we were just wondering if that means that we're also going to get a surgeon general replacement.
MR. MCCURRY: No, but we will -- actually, I saw some -- there's some paperwork going around on that, and we actually may have something to say on that very shortly.
Q Mike, in the seven-year proposal, is the middle class tax cut going to be as big as it was in the 10-year proposal?
MR. MCCURRY: My understand is it won't vary too much. But again, we're now drifting into me trying to do substantively too much on the proposal. I want to leave that for the President tomorrow.
Q The CPI adjustment that's in this plan announced about $56 billion over seven years. What would that money be used for?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the whole budget reflects the President's priorities. And the difference between the Republican budget and the President's ideas on the budget are exactly those that I stated earlier, that we do a lot more, we believe, to protect necessary investments that will help the economy grow. We protect the commitment to the elderly. We make sure that we can continue our effort to clean the environment. And we protect the poorest working Americans from tax increases. That gives you a rough idea without being more specific.
Q On the issue of job vacancies again, do you have any candidates in mind for Shapiro over at commodity futures?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know the answer. Are you looking into it? Apparently someone in the office is looking for you.
Q Senator Domenici yesterday suggested that he wouldn't look kindly on a seven-year plan that was based on OMB figures, but it sounds like --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, how else are we supposed to develop a proposal? I mean, we can't use CBO numbers. But the CBO numbers, as everyone in this room knows, are about to change. They're fungible. So were we to wait until they produced their new assumptions next week before we got serious about developing our own ideas? I don't think that makes sense.
But first and foremost, and above all else is the reason that the Office of Management and Budget economic assumptions have been better than the Congressional Budget Office numbers -- a point that the Republican Congress keeps forgetting, that over the last three years OMB projections have been very good, if not right on the money. And their track record in predicting the future of the economy has been better than CBO's. So I think our interest is in accuracy and in the best possible proposal.
Q -- reject the CBO numbers when they come out next week?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to say that. I think that -- look, if this is -- there has been this -- we've tried to be very careful in describing CBO estimates and assumptions. These are all, as you all know, within the realm of honest differences between academic economists. You're talking about fractions of a difference in how you calculate inflation, how you calculate unemployment, prices, other economic issues.
They happen to produce huge billion dollar differences over seven years in the federal budget, which is why they become fairly incendiary as the debate goes along. But if you -- as a practical matter of estimating the economy, the difference is not great. There's a little bit of floccinaucinihilipilification going on here.
MR. MCCURRY: Floccinaucinihilipilification -- boy, you're going to have a great time with that, getting that in the transcript -- the longest word in the dictionary.
Q Does the White House regard the CBO as politicized now?
MR. MCCURRY: Do we? I don't believe so. I think we have very good relations at an academic level between our economists at the OMB and Dr. O'Neill and her economists at the CBO. I think that particularly there's an outside advisory group for the CBO that has many highly respected members.
This is not a quarrel between economists. These are large fundamental philosophical differences on how we use the federal government in the name of the American people. And that's what the real issue is.
Q Michael, but you formally agreed to use CBO numbers.
MR. MCCURRY: We said that the final agreement, the wording in the continuing resolution is very clear. The agreement between the President and the Congress on a seven-year balanced budget would be scored by the CBO. The agreement, not proposals put forward by one side or the other, but the agreement would be scored by the CBO after consultation with the OMB and outside experts. And that's exactly what will happen.
Q Is it still your position that if the President signed this reconciliation bill this afternoon he would be breaking the law based on the joint resolution that they signed?
MR. MCCURRY: It's probably a McCurry rhetorical stretch, but you could say with the continuing resolution has the force of federal law. It has a very precise test in it that a balanced budget agreement will protect those priorities that call for adequate funding for Medicare and Medicaid, and environment, veterans, agriculture -- the things listed by the Congress and the President in the continuing resolution. And we maintain steadfastly that this bill does not meet that test that Congress has agreed to.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: You're very welcome.
END 12:33 P.M. EST