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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 15, 1995
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

5:55 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: What's going to happen now is most of us are going to go out to dinner because it's going to be a long, miserable period now where it looks like we're not going to have the services of government. And, hopefully, there will be some discussions over the weekend.

Q Do you have anything planned? Leon talked about the President being --

MR. MCCURRY: There's no -- our understanding of the situation on the Hill is that they have now recessed. They do not plan to send to the President any measure for consideration this evening. The President, as you know, has just called on Congress to pass a straightforward continuing resolution that keeps the government open. And he thinks its absolutely silly to be shutting down the government.

Q So there's definitely no way of avoiding it then? I mean, the government is shutting down at midnight.

MR. MCCURRY: There's no -- the continuing resolution expires at midnight if Congress has not passed any additional --

Q So then what happens? Then the government's out of business?

MR. MCCURRY: Dr. Rivlin, who was here a moment ago, has just met with the President and reviewed the plans to manage the orderly shutdown of that portion of the government that will shut down and doesn't have regular appropriations.

Q Has he set out the letter that he sent out the last time, the --

MR. MCCURRY: The OMB has taken all the steps. I think you can go to Larry Haas for an update on their shutdown planning, but it's very similar to last time around. -- is doing the same sort of review that they've done in the past and they will be sending out the necessary orders to government agencies tomorrow. Obviously, the biggest effect will be felt on Monday.

Q He's told them to go ahead and do that?

MR. MCCURRY: They will have to as of midnight tonight. They will be prepared to do that beginning tomorrow morning, actually.

Q Mike, what about the President meeting with the Democrats? Panetta said on the Hill that he will be meeting with the leadership.

MR. MCCURRY: We are organizing now a meeting that's going to occur -- do we have a time yet -- probably around noon tomorrow. The President wanted to draw together a broad cross-section of House and Senate Democrats, some of whom have backed different types of approaches on budget, but all of whom we think can now support the President in an effort to find a common, unified Democratic approach as we attempt to make some progress in these discussions.

The President would like to review what we were offering today. I think obviously the leadership and others on the Democratic side knew about today's discussions, and some participated in those discussions. But they want -- he wants now to have everyone in the House and Senate Democratic caucuses understand his thinking, why he believes and continues to believe that we can resolve these issues and balance the budget if common sense will prevail.

Q But does plan to call Newt or Dole sometime this weekend?

MR. MCCURRY: That remains to be seen. That will depend on whether the -- how the discussions go, whether there's any additional outreach by the Republican side. They made it pretty clear today, as you know, that they were breaking off discussions. So our door is open. We'll have to see if they reconsider.

Q Panetta mentioned that the President would be meeting with Democrats. When is that meeting going to be?

MR. MCCURRY: That's what we were just talking about.

Q Mike, if this is the President's best offer today, how do you think that you have a chance to move forward? What is it the President thinks he can do with Democrats tomorrow to get -- to move forward from here?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are some -- there have been some other measures that have been out there. They are, frankly, not hard to reconcile when you begin to look at that way some of the economic assumptions have changed and look at the overall global picture of the budget. And we believe we can make sure everyone on the Democratic side is roughly in the same arena as we look to what might break the impasse here. But it's going to require, as the President said, some willingness to be flexible on the part of the Republican majority. And they have shown no signs of flexibility.

Q Well, like, give some examples. What are you --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you -- come on, I'm not playing that game. You guys know what the coalition budget is. You know what our budget -- you know what our seven-year track looks like. You know that as well as I do.

Q From the meeting tomorrow, do you expect some further refinements to come out?

MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily. I think they want to talk about where we are, what type of dynamic might develop in the coming days and obviously review what we could do together to encourage Republicans to be a little more flexible as they approach these discussions.

The other thing that we sense is that within the Republican caucus on the Hill there's a growing frustration with the leadership and a growing sense that some of these -- that shutting down the government, particularly at this time of year, is not a very sensible idea. And our hope is that some moderates in the Republican caucus will be attracted to the balanced budget plans that we believe will come from the Democratic side.

Q Is it Gingrich who has really made the ultimate move here?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to point fingers, but there clearly are some hard-line attitudes on the Hill.

Q Two quick things. The meeting tomorrow is where, here or on the Hill?

MR. MCCURRY: It would be here. We're not sure where yet. Probably over in the Old EOB.

Q So you're talking a large group of people? I mean, you're not talking just a handful of leaders.

MR. MCCURRY: No, this is not -- we've had good conversations with leadership over the last couple days, and we want to draw a broader cross-section together.

Q I may have missed this earlier, but you had talked about a veto was going to be happening this afternoon on Commerce --

MR. MCCURRY: The State, Commerce and Justice -- with all the other discussion around the budget, the President didn't get a chance to review that. I expect that will happen tomorrow most likely. We'll put that out as a written statement tomorrow.

Q Mike, will Stenholm be here tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: We hope so. I don't know that we've confirmed him yet, but we hope he'll be here.

Q Have you got a rough time for that gathering?

MR. MCCURRY: Around noontime we believe.

Q Mike, do you look for the President to have any statement for coverage in connection with that meeting?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he'll have -- the radio address tomorrow will be substantially devoted to this subject, as you might imagine. So that will be available.

Q Will there be any video coverage of that radio --

MR. MCCURRY: Maybe we should. We decided not to do that, but maybe we will review that tomorrow morning.

Q No, but of the meeting itself, will he have a statement at the top that will be open for coverage?

Q -- with the Democrats?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll consider that and think about it.

Q What happened to the simple CR until Monday or Tuesday? Did that just go down --

MR. MCCURRY: It, like many things, withered on the vine this afternoon.

One other point. A couple have asked earlier what the status of the Christmas tree is because it's on National Park Service grounds which is now without appropriation as of midnight tonight. There was apparently a serious discussion about turning the lights off. They will have to discontinue some of the Pageant of Peace activities. But the President gave Dr. Rivlin an order that they are to keep the lights on on the tree and he is to receive the bill for the electricity.

Q He is?

Q He, himself?

Q Personally?

Q Out of his pocket?

MR. MCCURRY: The President.

Q How much does that run, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: We don't have an estimate. We'll get an estimate on how much that is.

Q Out of the White House appropriation, not out of the President's personal funds?

Q Would that be personal money or from the government money?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he intends to pay it himself.

Q Personal money?

Q Is he going to ask for reimbursement?


Q Is he going to ask for reimbursement once --

MR. MCCURRY: No. He'll pay. We're hoping it's not going to be too much. (Laughter.) We hope the government shutdown doesn't go too long. (Laughter.)

Q The NAFTA question earlier, did you check on NAFTA?

MR. MCCURRY: Did we not post an answer to that?

MS. GLYNN: We haven't yet.

MR. MCCURRY: I thought there was a --

Q Maybe PEPCO won't charge him.

MR. MCCURRY: We don't anticipate any further statements here. We're waiting for some indication. Congress having not passed anything, there was nothing for the President to consider. The President has offered them the immediate willingness to have conversations and also the immediate willingness to consider any straightforward continuing resolution that would avert a government shutdown. And if Congress reconsiders, decides to convene a session tonight, pass that type of measure, we will be ready and prepared to deal with it if it comes down.

Q So you're staying here then? You said you were going to dinner.

MR. MCCURRY: No. We are putting a full lid on as of now which we will break only if there is action on the Hill that warrants anything at all with an all call.

Q With an all-call.

MR. MCCURRY: With an all-call.

Q But you said the House went into recess?

MR. MCCURRY: Our understanding is that they've gone into recess and they don't plan any further action on a continuing resolution --

Q Until when?

MR. MCCURRY: Subject to call.

Q Mike, some of the leaders have -- the Republicans they will come back on Sunday if they get what they call a credible new budget plan that comes out of this meeting with the Democrats.

MR. MCCURRY: That's exactly what we gave them today and gave them ideas on how to bridge some of the differences that exist and they have to pass something now, or at least show willingness to engage with us in discussions that could lead to a balanced budget plan. But they are the ones that have broken off negotiations. So we'll be waiting to hear from them.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 6:00 P.M. EST