THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:35 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. You're looking very sharp today.
Q Have you got a deal?
MR. MCCURRY: Do you want some news?
MR. MCCURRY: We need to get the news out because some of the news out is wrong.
Q We're supposed to ask you questions.
Q Which door -- behind which door?
MR. MCCURRY: Congressman Solomon is, unfortunately, not correct. He is either not in agreement between the White House and congressional leaders on a continuing resolution -- let me review --
Q To be fair, I understand he may have been misquoted by some wire stories.
MR. MCCURRY: He may have been misquoted by some of the wires.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh. I hate that when it happens. (Laughter.) All right, let me tell you where we are today, because I need to -- the order of business today has changed a little bit from when I met with some of you earlier today. White House staff has had good and productive discussions by phone today with congressional leadership staff and others. Based on that, they decided to set aside for today the issue of the debt ceiling and how they might structure it and extension of the debt ceiling measure. I'll come back to that in a minute. But given the expiration of the current continuing resolution tomorrow, everyone seemed to believe it was advisable for them to work hard on the continuing resolution today.
The White House received it about 11:30 a.m. from House staff, 52-page draft, a continuing resolution measure. The Office of Management and Budget is now analyzing that measure. I cannot say with any confidence at this point that that is a measure acceptable to the White House.
The President continues to believe that a clean extension of the continuing resolution is the very best way to temporarily fund the activities of the government that do not have an appropriations measure passed. We'll continue to work hard to reach an accommodation with congressional staff, but I don't rule out the prospects of attachments to that current continuing resolution that the President finds unacceptable. As we've made repeatedly clear to the congressional leadership, we want them to pass a measure that keeps the orderly functions of the federal government moving forward, and we don't want to see a lot of measures put on there that they know the President will have to veto. That's not a good way to do business. By now you'd think they'd have learned that lesson.
Q Is there something specific on there that you --
Q -- what you object to?
MR. MCCURRY: There are a number of measures; the OMB is looking at it now. And we are going to look at each of them carefully, but we have made it very clear that we don't want a tree built to which ornaments are attached willy-nilly by the Congress.
Q Why does it take 52 pages?
MR. MCCURRY: Now, let me back for a second to a couple of other things today. Mr. Panetta has gone to the Hill today and had a very productive meeting with about nine or 10 senators, both Republican and Democrat, to talk about the overall budget situation. And his message to them was very clear. He encouraged the Republican leadership not to wave the white flag and not to give up on the search for a historic balanced budget agreement that in seven years time can give this nation a balanced budget.
And again, the White House suggest to Republican leaders that there are elements in common in both plans that are currently before the Congress and the President that could result in the savings necessary to balance the budget. And the President is certainly willing, as he said yesterday, to consider the idea of taking whatever package of savings we can get in the interim. But the best of all worlds would be to enact those savings that are common in both plans so that we can make sure that we are moving on a defined track towards a balanced budget.
So the President still holds out the possibility that the Republican leadership will want to achieve that kind of measure. And as to a debt ceiling, the President believes that the best thing to do is what we suggested in the State of the Union address; that they ought to pass a simple, straightforward, clean extension of the debt ceiling for a year's time so that we don't run any risk of having the world doubt the full faith and credit of the United States government. We don't need to hear from Moody's again, and the President doesn't want to. He want's to see a very straightforward measure; he believes that can be enacted. And we hope that those discussions will lead to a measure that is acceptable.
Now, what is acceptable, what would the President be willing to consider attached to either one of these measures, the continuing resolution or the debt ceiling extension? That's something that we hope will be worked out in discussions between staffs here at the White House and on the Hill. But they, by now, know fully well what the President finds unacceptable and knows that it's best not to attach unacceptable measures to very necessary provisions that must be passed if the nation is to conduct its business in an orderly way.
Q You've said several times from that podium that during the budget negotiations nothing was agreed to until everything is agreed to. Are you saying now there are elements you would take and let the rest wait?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we are saying we are very sensitive to the Republicans, we're sensitive to their sensitivity. They are sensitive about us saying that there is an agreement there.
Q Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya. (Laughter.)
Q A '90s kind of --
MR. MCCURRY: We're all going to get together and hold hands in a circle and agree on a balanced budget plan. What the President suggested, and he stated this very directly both Tuesday night in the State of the Union and yesterday in Louisville -- he said there are elements in both plans that both plans have in common where you can see easily the pathway towards a balanced budget in seven years as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.
There are savings estimated at close to $700 billion, in excess of $700 billion, over a seven-year period in which you could make sure that we are on a track towards a balanced budget with the deficit reductions that the President and the Congress believes are necessary. The President wants to see that work done and has not given up hope that we will be able to achieve that type of an agreement.
Now, at the same time, everybody knows we need to move forward with business, we need to make sure that we get this work done. And the best way to do it, as the President suggested, is just go ahead, let's adopt these savings that are on the table, and get a balanced budget for the American people, and, simultaneously, let's extend the debt limit so we don't run any risk of questions about the creditworthiness of the United States government.
Q Mike, are these actual negotiations between staffs, or are Republicans just crafting packages, sending them to see if you'll accept them?
MR. MCCURRY: These are not negotiations in the formal sense of people sitting across the table and swapping numbers back and forth. But there have been good, productive conversations, mostly involving our Congressional Affairs staff. I believe Pat Griffin, our chief lobbyist, is up on the Hill now. And we will continue to work with their staffs in trying to make clear what the President finds acceptable and also hope that they made clear to us in what they are attempting to do in these various measures.
Part of the problem is, this is a moving target. A good question earlier, why does it take 52 pages to write a simple measure that extends in a temporary way funding for the federal government? It doesn't, unless it's loaded up with a lot of things that we suspect might not be acceptable to the President, which is why we are right now looking very carefully at that proposal. And we hope, certainly, that either later today or tomorrow we'll be able to come to an agreement with the Congress on a measure that would extend funding so we don't face any prospect of a government shutdown Saturday.
Q Is the length subject to negotiation? Are you willing to accept one that would only go for another month?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we would prefer to have some measure that extends as long as possible, necessary funding for government programs that are important to the American people. But the key thing is that the President does not want to see this government shut down again. He made it clear Tuesday night, never, ever again should we put the American people in that position. And we don't believe, given what the congressional majority must by now understand is the risk of doing that and the anger that is aroused by the American people when they employ that tactic, we don't believe that they are really going to do that again. So we hope that sometime today or tomorrow we come to an agreement on a continuing resolution that gets the job done.
Q Do you have a sense of what issues the President objects to, what riders?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to do that now because I don't want to necessarily rule out things that we haven't found in the text yet that it might be concerning. And I don't want people on the Hill to mistakenly believe that we've agreed to some things and not other things. So we are going to be doing a very thoughtful analysis. We will certainly let the Republican leadership on the Hill know our views on the bill and see if we can attempt to arrange a satisfactory measure that can quickly achieve passage.
Now, another point I'll make -- this is originating on the House. The Senate is in a situation right now, my understanding, where they have to operate under unanimous consent, so it's quite clear that they need to make sure that there is widespread agreement on any kind of measure crafted if we're going to get this measure passed by the necessary time.
Q Are two of the issues embryo research and population control?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, those are the kinds of things that you might imagine would cause concern here that we would want to look at very carefully. And I'm not even clear myself at this point whether there have been discussions throughout the day of whether or not that type of language would be in this bill. It may very well be, and that's what they're looking for now.
Q And, finally, the President in the State of the Union, as you said, the federal government should never be shut down again. But if he vetoes the bill, doesn't he, in effect, shut down the federal government?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the American people understand what's going on here. This has happened twice now. They understand what is going on here instead of just doing the business of funding the federal government and getting on with work, that somehow or other, through the back door, Republicans are trying to do things that the President finds unacceptable.
The President's made very clear what his priorities are, what we need to do, and the Congress knows they should not play games with the funding of the federal government. They can tell in the reaction they've seen to some of their tactics and to some of their, shall we say, lack of response during the State of the Union address the other evening that the American people don't like it when they spurn an outreached hand that says we can work on these things together and resolve these matters in a bipartisan way. So we hope they're not going to employ these tactics and we hope they won't try to do something they know the President won't find acceptable.
Q If that is really the lesson they've drawn, then why do they at this late date continue to put things like this on these simple measures?
MR. MCCURRY: That elephant can be thick-headed sometimes. It takes a little while to get the message through.
Q The President appears to be demanding a clean CR; why would he accept one that zeros out a dozen programs or so that he doesn't --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the whole circumstance of operating in the environment of a continuing resolution is not a happy one to begin with. When the President had a Democratic Congress we used to get our business done on time and had full appropriations bills and did things the way it's supposed to be done. But it doesn't work that way under a Republican Congress. And so, we hope they will think about this and make sure that they get things done in a timely manner and do that later today.
Q I guess the point I'm trying to make is there are two sides of priorities to take into account. Is that not the case?
MR. MCCURRY: Not when it -- we believe that is true in the larger sense of their fundamental issues in the budget debate. We all understand those. The President addressed those on Tuesday night. But the continuing resolution to fund the government is not the place to resolve those two different points of view. The continuing resolution is simply so we don't go through the horror of another government shutdown.
And that's what the President is urging congressional leaders to develop for him an acceptable continuing resolution, get that piece of business done and get it done before tomorrow. And then move on to the issue of the debt ceiling and hopefully do that just as quickly if we can -- one that extends for at least a year the debt ceiling so that we will not have anyone anywhere in the world doubting the full faith and credit of the United States government.
Q Some Republicans say they would like to see a version of the capital gains tax cut included in this package. What would be the President's view of that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he would take a dim view of that. Trying to resolve issues that have been very divisive in the context of his budget negotiations with the Congress is just automatically going to make it far harder to do the necessary work of getting a debt ceiling extension. It makes it much harder for the President to accept it, it makes it far harder for Democrats and others in the Senate and in the House to accept it, but especially in the Senate where there needs to be an agreement across the board for the important business to proceed.
So we just -- the message is simple from our part: Don't wave the white flag on budget savings. The President is going to work with the Congress to get a balanced budget in seven years scored by the CBO. Don't give up on $700 billion plus of savings for the American taxpayer, and at the same time, don't use these tactics that threaten the President with the unacceptable. They don't work. The American people don't like those tactics. And it's time to get off that route and get on to the business of doing the nation's business in a very orderly way.
Q Mike, was this presented to the White House as sort of a take-it-or-leave-it thing from the House Republican point of view?
MR. MCCURRY: No --
Q -- or do you get a sense that they are more trying to see what they can get away with at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. But it's a little curious when someone rushes out breathlessly to announce there's an agreement when everyone knows there isn't.
Q Mike, should the Republicans take from your urging that they not wave the white flag that there's a willingness on the part of the administration to compromise further and accommodate some more of what the Republicans want in a balanced budget plan?
MR. MCCURRY: They don't need to take anything. They have the direct word of the President in the negotiations they've had that we remain committed to a good-faith dialogue on how to reach such an agreement. They know what the parameters of these discussions are. They know where the President and the Vice President and the Democratic leaders have shown some flexibility, and they know that there still is a deal there that could be made in the interests of the American people.
Q Isn't it true that that apparently hasn't gotten through to the Speaker when he would say that he doesn't think that an agreement is possible with this President?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is much more optimistic than the Speaker, and we don't want the Speaker to be so pessimistic.
Q Do you have any idea what percentage of the 52 pages is items that they may have both agreed on?
MR. MCCURRY: It was hard for me to tell -- I only thumbed through it very quickly and, in any event, I'm not the expert authority on that. And that's why we have our budget experts looking at the package now.
Q The idea of putting extra items on to a continuing resolution or a debt ceiling bill is hardly one that originated in this particular Congress. Why is this, what the Republicans are doing here, any more terrible than anything the Democrats might have done with Republican Presidents?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're not suggesting -- I mean, obviously, it has happened before and Christmas trees have been adorned appropriately for many years running, but never under circumstances like this. These are extraordinary circumstances. The approach of a debt ceiling that is already beginning to cause concern in the markets, to the extraordinary circumstances that we're in with the federal government in which we've had two shutdowns -- this is just not the time to start putting ornaments on a tree, because that becomes intoxicating and it becomes hard to stop once that happens. And then that's bound to wind up -- we're bound to wind up in a situation where someone who needs to agree, either the President or those in the Senate who need to consider the measure will find it unacceptable. It's just harder to do the work; we need to get the work done now.
Q Are we going to hear the President say anything about this?
MR. MCCURRY: He will make this point probably about two-thirds -- well, he's still working on his Conference of Mayors speech, but he most likely will have something to say about the budget picture in the Conference of Mayors.
Q How about an advance text to the mayors speech, okay?
Q About which point? About the Republicans?
MR. MCCURRY: You guys -- you know, one advanced text, and you think it's going to become -- (laughter.) That is not setting a precedent. That is not unprecedented, but not setting a precedent.
Q Why these senators particularly that Mr. Panetta went to see?
MR. MCCURRY: It's the Breaux-Chafee group, the one that worked on the bipartisan proposal, became an element in the budget discussions that occurred, and the President and the Chief of Staff thought it was important to keep good lines of communication open with them so they understand where the administration has gone the extra mile in providing ideas to the Republican leadership that could help break the impasse and result in an agreement. We wanted to give them a full briefing on our last proposal, discuss the current environment, and then see what ideas they had about breaking the impasse.
Q On the Christmas tree, does the President have a decision on the Elizabeth Morgan bill, if that's part of the Christmas tree -- the one that the three congressmen are introducing?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with that provision and I'll have to await some further guidance from OMB on that.
Q One more thing, on Mrs. Clinton's testimony tomorrow. What are the White House's expectations of her appearance tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, that she will go there and satisfy 23 real Americans that she's telling the truth.
Q Are you going to --
Q Excuse me, what does that mean -- "real Americans"?
MR. MCCURRY: Members of the grand jury.
Q As opposed to what?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, they're there. I mean, they're real people.
Q Do you have any plans for either her or someone else to explain afterwards what she was asked about and what she answered?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't speak for her, but I don't believe it's customary, nor do I believe it is legal to provide a briefing on grand jury --
Q Witnesses can do it, just not prosecutors.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, she -- I'll leave it to the First Lady to decide if she has anything to say. As you know, she's most likely saying things today. She's out on the road campaigning for her husband.
Q Do you know if the President has any kind of participation in the discussions between and among the First Lady and her counsel as they prepare for tomorrow, if he sat in on any of them with her, discussed them with her?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge. I can check that, but not to my knowledge. You might want to ask Mark Fabiani that question.
Q Any reaction to reports that Susan MacDougal's lawyer might want to subpoena the President to appear in a criminal proceeding?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have a reaction to that, but again, I think our legal counsel who's helping on that matter might be able to let you know if there's any reaction?
Q Has anyone asked President Clinton for information, whether he knew how the documents got to the book room?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge.
Q Has there been any assessment that you've heard from either the President or the First Lady regarding hear appearance tomorrow, personal assessment?
MR. MCCURRY: Only that I know that the First Lady is looking forward to again having an opportunity to cooperate with the legitimate inquiry under way, and she again will answer questions completely and truthfully. She feels that that's a necessary part of bringing this process to an end, even though it's about as welcome as a trip to dentist's office, as she said recently.
Q Mike, now that the President has got the State of the Union out of the way, and maybe he's had some more time to think about it, what's his mind-set as she heads to the grand jury tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, very supportive of his wife, and very confident in her and in the testimony she will give.
Q Mike, Senator Dole has indicated that the Senate's not going to do any debt bill probably till the 26th of February, and the House looks like they want to go out and put the debt part aside. What makes you think that it can be dealt with --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President suggested to the Speaker that that is not a good idea, because social security checks need to be cut on the 26th in order to be made in time for the March 1 benefit checks that many elderly people are expecting to receive. So that's cutting it awfully close. And the President suggested to the Speaker they might want to try to resolve that issue sooner. And the best way to do that is just to pass a straightforward extension for at least a year and get on with it. And we hope that that's the course that the Congress will choose.
Q But hasn't the Speaker indicated to the President that he doesn't believe he can get through the House a clean --
MR. MCCURRY: Well you should more properly ask the Speaker that question, but I don't believe that's an accurate read of his sentiment.
Q Some of the wires are reporting the President is going to sign the Defense authorization bill if it passes through the Senate.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has received a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense. They were pleased -- there were three issues that we have concern in the original bill that led to the President's earlier veto, and they have now been corrected by the conferees. But were disappointed that a number of other issues that we raised, particularly designated areas for ship-building, denying use of DOD to perform abortions. There are some "buy American" restrictions that we find of concern. There's a lot of micromanaging of the Defense Department itself that we think is unwarranted, given the very impressive record of management that this administration has of the Defense Department -- and most importantly, the restrictions on our ability to achieve ratification of the START II Treaty which is, as the President said Tuesday night, a very high administration priority. Those are all a source of great concern to us, and I think of particular concern is a provision that requires the discharge of military personnel diagnosed as HIV positive.
Those are all concerns. But on the other hand, and on balance, this bill does a lot of very important things, including the full increases in military pay that the President called for that he was able to some of with his executive order. We get the full increase that's been recommended and approved by the President in this bill. Secretary Perry's family and troop housing improvement initiative is included now in this bill. They've got some reforms and acquisition that are very important to the administration because they'll help hold down the costs of defense expenditures for the U.S. taxpayer. That's certainly welcome. For all those reasons, as Secretary Perry looked at the bill, he recommended that the President sign it, and I believe the President will accept that recommendation.
Q And aren't Democratic leaders telling him not to?
MR. MCCURRY: Democratic leaders are very concerned about a provision I just restated, and that's ratification of the START II Treaty. They are quite properly, in the view of the White House, looking for a way to achieve early ratification of the START II Treaty, and they see this as perhaps one vehicle that might accomplish that purpose, and we understand that that's an internal matter for the Senate. It has to do with how they're trying to move their business forward, but as the President suggested Tuesday night, ratification of START II is a key foreign policy objective for the administration. We could easily understand why Senate Democrats are pressing the case for that.
Q Mike, forgive me, but it seems that the President's central objection last time was about the missile defense requirement. Is that still in the bill?
MR. MCCURRY: No. My understanding is, they have resolved the language on theater ballistic missile defenses and a 50-state protection, and that's been resolved to everyone's satisfaction.
Q Mike, there's a story in The Washington Post filed from Colombia saying that the U.S. government will refuse visas to six high military officers because of connections with narco-trafficking.
MR. MCCURRY: Those were cancellations were made, in my understanding, in accordance with the U.S. law. U.S. immigration law has very strict requirements with respect to individuals that we suspect of certain types of activity, including narcotics trafficking, the specific cases I'd have to refer you to the State Department because, of course, they're the ones that issue visas, but I think you can check with them and find out the specific concerns we had about some of the named individuals. But we were just following the law as we properly should.
Q Any comments on reports of Mrs. Dole's financial dealings?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Did the President finally speak to Senator Dole when he was trying --
MR. MCCURRY: I forgot to check with the President whether he had. Not to my knowledge. In all my conversations with Mr. Panetta and others, I haven't heard anyone suggest that he did, and I think I would have been told about such a call, but I have not checked with the President to see if he did. He may have been able to reach him late at night. In any event, I would stress that the White House has had very good, cooperative discussions back and forth with the Majority Leader's office.
Q Is anybody going to -- is a lawyer going to accompany Mrs. Clinton on the visit to the Grand Jury tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer. Mr. Fabiani can tell you what Grand Jury proceedings are. She probably appears without counsel present, although she would have the right to consult counsel. So I imagine counsel will be in the vicinity.
Q Mike, has the White House been advised either directly or indirectly that the Chinese may launch limited strikes on Taiwan?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we -- no. We monitor, as you well know, very carefully activities involving exercises involving activities in the Strait. But we see nothing that would indicate a build-up of offensive military capacity directed against Taiwan by the People's Republic.
Q What about the build-up on the north South Korean border? Are you troubled by that at all?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure that I'm aware of any build-up. We monitor a lot of activity there from time to time that reflects the types of training exercises that the North does at this time of year. This is a winter period in which their military is normally quite active in training, but I'm not aware of any particular build-up that has caused concern to our military planners.
Q What kind of communications has the United States had with the Chinese government about these threats?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe we've had consultations through Embassy Beijing.
Q And? Good consultations?
MR. MCCURRY: We've expressed our repeated concern that anything that escalates tensions in the Straits is unnecessary and not in furtherance of productive relations in the region.
Q -- ask about the President --
MR. MCCURRY: I am reasonably confident -- Nick Burns had a long session on this yesterday and was going to do more at the State Department today.
Q Were there not talks yesterday in Hawaii -- U.S., South Korea, Japan --
MR. MCCURRY: Ambassador Lord was in Honolulu for consultations with the Japanese and Republic of Korea officials about the questions of humanitarian assistance given what we think are substantial food shortages in the DPRK in North Korea. And I don't have a readout on Ambassador Lord's conversations yet, but we are in consultations with our allies to develop any appropriate humanitarian response.
Q But no change in our plans to contribute through the U.N. agency rather than to --
MR. MCCURRY: We were looking at the possibility of participating through the World Food Bank in any humanitarian relief but we would do so only in consultation with the Republic of Korea and Japan. Both governments, we have very excellent procedures currently for consulting on a matter of this nature.
Q Is the President thinking of going to Seoul on this April trip, or is he going to Japan --
MR. MCCURRY: There have been suggestions in news reports about that from the region. I haven't seen anything here that confirms that that's on his itinerary. Was that artfully said enough --
Q Speaking of travel, is there anything coming up for the near future -- next week?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we're still on track. We're planning the political trips in February that involve Iowa and New Hampshire. And I'm not aware of any other stops. Do you guys know of any?
Q No State of the Union pushing stuff?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We'll be doing, as, obviously, with the U.S. Conference of Mayors speech today and in a variety of events next week, we'll see the President pull out specific elements of his State of the Union address and put a little more focus on some of the things we're doing. He's got -- he had a lot of ideas. I think the American people right now are saying, hey, your great speech. Now, what are you going to do? Are you going to follow up on this?
And the President wants to assure them that he will, and he's going to have some ways of talking specifically about some of the initiatives that we're pursuing. Today, for example, he'll say, look, in New York City areas, where we've got areas that have been abandoned because they pose a potential environmental threat to a neighborhood, we've got ways that we can build on that type of -- we've got ways that we can use investments and use federal regulations and relief from regulations in order to encourage investment in economic activity in those areas. So he'll kind of pull that out and look at it more carefully.
Q Is there going to be a fact sheet on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Did we get something together on that? There will be, yes.
Q Mike, that's something that Congress has to approve, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Some of these are --
Q The tax credit for --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm reading what Mary Ellen just handed me. I don't know. Why don't you -- you got the answer?
MS. GLYNN: He's talking about the Brownfield initiative, which is an offer to new purchasers of other businesses to redevelop Brownfields, which are basically abandoned industrial sites in urban areas, with a targeted tax incentive to recover the cost of cleanup. And the NEC is currently working with DOT on a final proposal with the President, and we should have that shortly.
MR. MCCURRY: -- happening in the Congress?
MS. GLYNN: Not to my knowledge.
Q Mary Ellen, as of last night, my understanding was that the mechanics of the tax incentive haven't been decided on, but how would the President introduce it? You're assuming there will be a separate tax bill later this year?
MS. GLYNN: Well, that's what they're trying to decide right now.
Q Well, that's the only way you could do it, right?
MS. GLYNN: Presumably.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, maybe not.
MS. GLYNN: Why don't you -- we'll update you when there is a final proposal on the President's desk.
Q Do you have a cost estimate for this?
MS. GLYNN: No, not yet.
MR. MCCURRY: What we're doing is working to develop whatever combination of regulatory relief and then legislation, and we'll check in more after the event in a half an hour and tell you more.
Q In general, I mean, there's some of the things that you propose that he can do on his own, but a lot of them do need congressional approval and, I mean, given that you yourself have said he has next to no chance of getting anything passed, I mean, what is he going to do?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. There was -- our judgment -- people were fairly enthusiastic about some of the ideas the President presented on Tuesday night, and there might be a willingness to move on some of these. It goes without saying that we can't do anything that would run into significant opposition among the Republican majority in the Congress. But I suspect there are going to be some ways that we can take the things the President advanced the other night and turn those into, if not legislative proposals, in some cases administrative action. And again, remind you that some of these things the President is simply doing because it is right and because his own personal advocacy using the bully pulpit will help achieve the desired result.
A great example is his call on Tuesday night to allow public schools, as a way of minimizing violence, to require children to wear uniforms to school. It wouldn't have been popular in my day in school, but --
Q Why would it be any more popular in this day?
MR. MCCURRY: Because it's a result of --
Q Why should it be any less fascist?
MR. MCCURRY: It's probably not going to be popular with kids, but it's had the result of reducing violence. I'll cite as an example the Long Beach Unified School District in California, where they've seen a marked decrease in on-campus violence because kids aren't fighting each other for jackets or designer shoes or clothes, so it's got a very positive effect.
Q Do you see a school uniform event being scheduled for the President?
Q Does Chelsea wear a uniform at school?
Q Where will these uniforms be manufactured?
Q Arkansas maybe?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure you can find good, US made, amalgamated clothing and textile workers union made uniforms that you can go to school in.
Q Did you read Safire today?
MR. MCCURRY: I did indeed. He had some choice words, didn't he, as he usually does. Choice words chosen carefully.
Q This focus next week on all the things in the State of the Union; will it be in town?
MR. MCCURRY: Most of what I've seen on the schedule for next week is here in town, or mostly in Washington. I haven't seen anything, in fact, outside of Washington.
Q Are you going for the jocular? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Not today. Kinder and gentler.
Q Does he plan to do something tomorrow on the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: We have, as we have this entire week, held blocks of time available if we need the President's time to meet with people here or to have additional conversations related to the budget. But I don't believe he's planning that, and we've got that time available tomorrow. But I don't think we have an event related directly to the budget tomorrow.
Q Is it safe to assume the radio address will be on the closing down of the government, or lack?
MR. MCCURRY: It's safe to say that will be the subject if we're in the unhappy position Saturday of going through another government shutdown.
Q You make like he's not involved in all of this stuff going on right now.
MR. MCCURRY: Au contraire.
Q But he has to give the go-ahead, doesn't he?
MR. MCCURRY: He's been working very carefully with Mr. Panetta to fashion the right response to some of these measures. He will be fully briefed on the OMB analysis of the draft continuing resolution. My guess is he'll have to make some decisions on specific elements and whether or not they will be acceptable to him. So he's fully engaged in these conversations, because it couldn't have been clearer from his State of the Union Address he puts a very high priority in keeping the government open, continuing to provide the services that need to be provided to the American people, and he's very concerned about the approach of the debt ceiling and wants to make sure we get the necessary extension, and he's working on that as he did yesterday when he talked to the Speaker.
Q Would a fetal research ban be a deal-breaker?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have to look at that very, very carefully. That would be a very great concern to the President, and we've indicated to staff that that's not the type of measure that advances prospects that we can accept the draft continuing resolution.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:10 P.M. EST