THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS
The Cabinet Room
9:50 A.M. EST
Q Mr. President, are you close to a deal today?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you where we are today. We had a very long discussion yesterday. We discussed almost all the issues where we had differences on our plans financially, in terms of the dollars. And this morning we're going to have an extensive discussion of the Medicare policy. And then we're going to give our staffs some instruction. We're going to meet again on Tuesday and we're going to do our best to work through this and come to an accord.
My New Year's wish is that we'll get this balanced budget plan and we'll do it in a way that protects the things that we care about -- the Medicare, the Medicaid, the education and environment, the other issues, and we've been working at it. I've been very well pleased and I think we've been somewhat successful because we haven't said very much about it. We've just got to keep working until we reach an accord.
Q Mr. President, will you touch on -- negotiations --
Q Will you leave town today without reopening the government, of the three --
SPEAKER GINGRICH: I'm sure we'll be talking about that, that's one of the things we want to get done and get agreed to. So we're trying to work out how to get the federal employees back to work -- we'd also like to get them paid, I think that's an integral part of getting them back to work. But as the President said, I think, frankly, most of our success so far has been that we've been in this room talking with each other and not getting involved in negotiating in public, and I think we've made a lot of progress.
Q To follow on that, sir, is it healthy to have the House speakers talking on CNN yesterday on the --
SPEAKER GINGRICH: Oh, that is nonsense. I told the President on Friday that I was so favorable about him in answering their big question on Evans & Novak that I thought he'd want to see it. The fact is we're working very well together. I was asked a question about the campaign next year, and I suspect if you ask Mr. Gephardt or Vice President Gore about how they'll campaign next year, they'll give you similar answers. We're negotiating very well from a government standpoint in here and I think we have a lot to be proud of. Our New Year's wish ought to be that we get this done and give the American people a balanced budget and the government paid for and back to work.
SENATOR DOLE: The Senate is going to meet at noon, we'll try to pass something to help the federal employees.
Q Are you closer?
SENATOR DOLE: Oh, we're about six feet apart. (Laughter.)
SENATOR DASCHLE: We'll be a lot closer in a couple of hours. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: We're working at it steady. Happy New Year everybody.
THE PRESS: Happy New Year.
END 9:54 A.M. EST