THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:36 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I expect a guest visitor momentarily who will tell you more about the state visit of French President Jacques Chirac.
Q The President? Is the President going to be here?
MR. MCCURRY: Will President Clinton be here for that? Yes, he will be. He's looking forward to it.
Q Well, we're going to get the same briefing he's going to get, right?
MR. MCCURRY: He's actually well into that subject already. Mr. Panetta reports that he's having a good time puttering around today, catching up on reading. And, no, I don't know whether Primary Colors is on his list -- did I anticipate that question? And just doing some other work. Leon had a brief conversation with him a short while ago.
Q Would you share Haley Barbour's assessment that Ron Wyden's win in Oregon is a wake-up call for President Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's another indication Mr. Barbour's been asleep himself for far too long. Senator-elect Wyden very forcefully and articulately advanced a common theme that Democrats have been using all around this country, to make the case for a very positive vision for this country.
He talked about Medicare and Medicaid solvency, he talked especially about protecting the environment, he talked about the needs to make sure we have adequate investments in education and technology so we can have strong economic performance in the future, he talked about helping working people in this country get a better shake, he talked about keeping the level of our political discourse civil.
And in all of those things there should be echoes of someone you are all familiar with here, and that's the President of the United States. And I think the arguments that the President, that others are advancing now are painting a very positive portrait of what this country can be in the 21st century and that's what wins elections. And the President, obviously having helped in his own way, and having seen other members of the administration campaign vigorously for Senator-elect Wyden is very deliciously gratified at the victory.
Q Why is the President going to shy away from asking Americans to elect a Democratic Congress?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's not at all what he had intended -- he intended to convey. What he conveyed, I think, if you look at the substance of what he said, is that you can elect candidates in this country when you put forth positive ideas about what they will do when they get to office. The best way to elect people is not to go slap a party label on them and say that's the reason you should vote.
The best thing is for candidates to get out there and actively make their case for office, as Ron Wyden did, and the President believes that's what he will do. And as he does that he will elect a whole bunch of Democrats along with him, because there's an excitement within the Democratic party about the ideas the President has been conveying.
That was very clear after the State of the Union address the other night. And the President believes that by putting forth that kind of positive vision of where this country can go and not basing everything on partisan politics, but basing it on where we're going to go in this country and how candidates for office would propose to lead to that future, they will be successful and they will win. And we believe that will go hand in hand with all of the work the President will do with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. We've already heard from the DSCC today, thanking the White House for the work that they did in the Oregon race; we'll do a lot more of that. The President will be vigorously, aggressively campaigning with Democratic candidates all around the country.
But the point is, the point the President made is it's not enough just to say, "We're Democrats, vote for us." What's important is to say, "Here's what we will do, here is why our vision counts and here's where we would propose to lead," because that's what will win elections for the Democratic Party.
Q But that interview clearly leaves the impression that he does not care whether he wins back the House or the Senate.
MR. MCCURRY: Then you need to read it more carefully.
Q That his party does not.
MR. MCCURRY: Have we put out the whole transcript? Have we put out the entire transcript of the interview? We will contact The Washington Post and ask them whether --
Q Aren't there a lot of Democrats --
MR. MCCURRY: We may not be able to do that, because The Washington Post is going to use additional parts of this interview for future reporting. But I would suggest to you in the whole length of what he said, maybe we can work to address that.
Q Well, how many Democrats have been calling --
MR. MCCURRY: On this point the President was very clear. He said, you simply using party levels is self-defeating. What counts is to put forward a vision that can elect everybody together.
Q The whole answer on this question is in The Washington Post. I think so.
MR. MCCURRY: I think it is. DId you guys run any -- I can't remember if you wrote transcripts.
Q Not having any negative feedback on that?
Q Mike, what about the quote, the specific quote, "The American people don't think it's the President's business to tell them what ought to happen in congressional elections"? That makes no mention of party politics. He just says it.
MR. MCCURRY: The President is saying, and the point he is making in the interview is, historically, there is not much evidence that presidential presidents have coattails; that's been true of some of our recent presidents, in fact, it's been more true of our most recent presidents, that their coattails don't extend very far.
The President -- what he wants to do when he makes his appearances on behalf of Democratic candidates is point to what, together, he would do with these candidates to change this country. That's the way to persuade people. He's not going to go out and say, "Vote for Clinton and, by the way, give me a Democratic Congress because that's going to make life easier for me." He's going to -- "Look what we can do together if you elect these candidates who share this vision, who can move this country forward." That's the nature of the appeal he will make.
Q But did the President say that Democratic candidates elected is not going to be one of his priorities in the campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe he said that, and another person who shared the opportunity with me doesn't recall him saying that. What we'd like to do is, we will contact The Washington Post and see if we can't put out that portion of the transcript so I don't have to reconstruct what the President said, because he was very, very clear, and I think there is no way you could interpret that saying he doesn't care about having a Democratic Congress; of course he does, he'd love to have more Democrats elected, he wants to have a Democratic Congress to work with. But the point is, why? What are we going to do with that Democratic Congress? What will a Democratic Congress and a president do together to change the country?
Q Well, what's he been able to do with a Republican Congress?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, not much.
Q What's he going to do with a Democratic Congress?
MR. MCCURRY: We prevented them from doing bad things. Now we need to move forward and do good things for this country.
Q Why didn't the President make an appearance in Oregon to campaign for Wyden?
MR. MCCURRY: He worked a lot back here on his behalf. He helped get Cabinet members out there. The Wyden campaign contacted us about a possible trip, but it couldn't fit with the President's calendar, so the President did ask the Vice President to represent him and the Wyden campaign was very gratified that the Vice President could appear.
Q Did the President call Wyden after he got back from Bosina to tell him where it is?
MR. MCCURRY: He called him at 1:15 this morning to wish him congratulations.
Q Not very many of the voters in an exit poll said they were basing their vote on either the Republican Congress or the President? But a majority of the voters who said they were basing it on the President, 60 percent of them voted for a Republican candidate. Isn't that bad news for Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I believe this is a reflection of exactly what the President was saying yesterday. It's not partisan label, it's not a president saying, "Vote for me because I stand with Clinton, or this guy stands with me." They want -- the voters want to know what these people will do when they get elected; they want to know where they're going to lead the country. And you've got to go out and make the case on those grounds, and that's what Ron Wyden did, and that's why he's the Senator-elect.
Q Mike, will the President be campaigning for or with any Democrats in either New Hampshire or Iowa?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll see a broad cross-section of Democrats in both places, and I assume some of them are going to be candidates for office, but we'll work that up as we get more details.
Q You don't know that if he's going to be campaigning directly for a --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't -- if I'm not mistaken, in New Hampshire, we've got a situation where there is a primary going, a Democratic primary going on. We, by tradition, try not to inject ourselves in contests within the party. But certainly in the future and future trips he'll be meeting with Democratic candidates.
Q Is the suggestion, though, that the President's going to be playing down the party label?
MR. MCCURRY: No, the suggestion is -- look, it's real simple. He said appeals based simply on the party label are self-defeating -- I'm paraphrasing here, but this was his point -- because people, you know, if you scrape away what voters -- most voters in this country they, you know, say -- there are a lot more independents, first of all; and a lot of voters, Democrats or Republicans say, look, I vote the person. I want to know what these people are going to do.
So, in other words, you've got to go to them and you've got to say this is what I would propose to do if elected, this is what our country is about, this is what I think our future is about as a nation and as a people. And that's the most powerful argument that you can make, and it's the one that people want to hear.
You know, it's not sufficient to go to people and say just vote Democratic.
Q Yeah, but who ever says that and who ever suggested that the President would ever run around the country trying to elect a Democratic Congress by saying vote Democratic? Nobody's done that for decades. Isn't that -- that's not a false alternative, is it, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: I guess you're saying what the President said was maybe self-evident, but I think it is rather self-evident. You've got to go out and talk to the issues that people care about if you expect to get elected. And, indeed, that's the most important thing to do in order to get a --
Q But they did vote for a Democratic party and so forth. I thought you did stand with your party.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you can ask political scientists this question and get better answers. But the precise way in which people make judgments on candidates is more likely to be based on what they believe is going to be best for them, best for the country, best for their community and how they address issues that they care about.
Q Mike, doesn't the President, though, believe that it makes tremendous difference to his own agenda in a second term, as to whether Congress is controlled by Democrats or by Republicans?
MR. MCCURRY: The President, as he knows from his own experience, especially in 1993 when we couldn't get any Republican to support his economic program, that you sometimes have to work only with the members of your own party. But what has this President been suggesting in the wake of an election of a Republican Congress? That we've got to pull together, work together, work across the aisle, find common ground that can unite common sense people from both parties and move forward on the nation's agenda. I don't think you can rely -- any president, particularly when our politics are very evenly divided and evenly split, it would not make sense to rely solely on one party.
Now, he wants to elect a Democratic Congress and he wants to elect Democrats to Congress. By and large across this land, those are the people who are going to share his agenda, share his objective. The President's program is better off with more of them in Congress.
Q Let me just follow-up on that. In the not-too-distant past, both Democratic and Republican presidents had absolutely no qualms about going out to the country and saying, I want, I hope you voters will give me a Congress of my own party, regardless of whether there might be a few crumb bums in there because it is important as to who is going to be Chairman of Ways and Means, who is going to be Chairman of Appropriations and so on.
What Clinton seems to be saying in the interview with The Post is that that doesn't matter --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, that's not a fair reading of what he is saying. What he's suggesting is, you know, you can't go to people in this country and say, give me a Democratic Congress, because the first question they're going to ask -- which is a legitimate question -- is, why? What are you going to do with a Democratic Congress? What do you propose to do? How are you going to lead this country? And what the President is saying is, for his -- from his view, it is self-defeating to make an argument solely based on the partisan label, much more important to make an argument based on the broad vision.
Q Related to the designation of February as African American History Month, what is the latest on the President's efforts to bridge the nation's racial division?
MR. MCCURRY: He has, of course, been using his opportunities to speak to the nation on this subject because that's a very important part of the role he plays as President. He identified this for himself as a task of leadership that he wanted to meet, because the President can address those divisions in our society that keep people apart. So he has talked often about that, most recently, I believe, say, at the memorial service for the late Barbara Jordan.
But he will continue to do that. We are continuing our work here on ways in which we can structure a more formal effort to address the question of racial divisions in our society and, most importantly, we continue to work on those policies that the government pursues that provide opportunity for people of color in minority communities and that reward those efforts to bring people together to find common ground that bridges some of the gaps that do exist.
Q Mike, the President is quoted in this interview as saying, "The American people don't think it's the President's business to tell them what ought to happen in the congressional elections." A year ago last fall, the President was out campaigning extensively in state after state, for candidate after candidate, telling them exactly that. Has he changed his mind about that?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Does he believe that this coattail thing doesn't work? What does he mean by this statement?
MR. MCCURRY: I will ask him and follow-up with him. What he clearly will do, what he has done and what he plans now is to campaign on behalf of candidates who are Democrats for Congress. But I would suggest to you that the argument he's making is, you can't make that argument. You can't make that campaign appeal simply and only on the basis of party affiliation. You've got to have a broader agenda, you have to have a broader set of ideas you bring before voters if you expect those ideas to resonate and to make any headway.
Q New subject? Yesterday, the U.S. signed with Russia an agreement that would roll back tariffs on U.S. airplanes being imported into Russia. Can you give us some details on that agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: Is that the Illyushin aspect? Yes. This is -- basically, some discussions that went around the Ex-Im Bank's agreement to finance export of Pratt and Whitney engines and avionics. That'll be worth about $1 billion worth of contract activity for, I think it's 20 aircraft. Is that right? The Russians agreed to increase market access for Western planes, they also agreed that they would move toward the international conventions that govern commercial aircraft manufacture, I believe. I think that's one of the aspects of the international conventions that had been a subject of bilateral discussion between the two countries.
This obviously is a deal that is good for the Russian aircraft industry, for the Russian airlines that need American planes, but it's also good for U.S. manufacturers who are going to make the component parts and also are going to get now a much better chance at selling their own products as the Russian market opens.
Q Can I follow-up and just ask you, are they actually rolling back the 30 percent tariffs?
MR. MCCURRY: I have to defer --
MR. JOHNSON: I think some of the details are being worked out, but we expect a rollback.
MR. MCCURRY: We'll check. We can check and get some more from either USTR or the other people who worked on it.
Q On the economy, the wholesale prices went up a second straight month. Is this signs of perhaps inflation?
MR. MCCURRY: No. In fact, almost directly to the contrary. I believe some of our administration economists have now been out and reacted to this news, but there were seasonal variances and weather variances in this, and by and large, the data reflect low rates of inflation with continued, steady growth, which is encouraging news for the economy.
Q And what about the Fed? Greenspan's term ends March 2nd. Is Clinton going to reappoint him, or are you going to wait until after this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything new on those subjects.
Q Mike, are you satisfied now that the dispute between Greece and Turkey is over? What does the administration intend to do in the weeks ahead to make sure there's no other --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the immediate cause of the escalation of tension between the two countries has been successfully resolved, in our view, and that's been confirmed by both the government of Turkey and the government of Greece. There will be continue to be tensions within the Aegean and between the two governments that need to be addressed, and a large part of our diplomacy is aimed at that.
I expect that the State Department by now has already announced that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke will be going to Athens and Ankara for follow-up conversations with both governments, and we will continue our separate efforts through our diplomacy to address issues of conflict between the two countries, particularly the issue of Cyprus.
Q Do you know when the President will sign the defense authorization bill?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't. We have it, no action expected today, and we've got some deliberations within the administration related to the HIV issue which are very important to us, and those will proceed simultaneously. But we'll keep you apprised of any plans to sign it.
Q Has the bill arrived already?
MR. MCCURRY: It arrived here today and there's -- we've already indicated to you what the disposition of the bill will be. He will sign it --
Q And there's no change in that? The decision has been made that he will sign it?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. But we continue to be concerned about, particularly about the discharge provision for HIV positive individuals, and we are working simultaneously to address that issue.
Q What options are available?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's what we're trying to work through right now.
Q What can you tell us about President Chirac's visit tomorrow and --
MR. MCCURRY: I've got -- a guest visitor will be here momentarily.
Q -- and do you have a view on the call from a group of House Democrats asking the Republican leadership to withdraw the invitation to address the joint session?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't even know anything about that. The first I've heard of that. But we've got -- and I've got someone will be here shortly to do a little presentation on the state visit.
Q Two more on bills -- a follow-up, on your long answer yesterday on the farm bill. But does the administration -- is the administration committed to easing out farm subsidies at some point, and if so, how are you going to go about it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, in Secretary Glickman's letter yesterday we go through a whole recitation of how we continue to keep a financial safety net that would simultaneously provide some flexibility as to planning so that people are growing crops for their family income and not for the government. Those subsidy issues have been worked through a long time. We think we can find common ground with Republicans and Democrats in the Congress, structuring the necessary support programs that will keep farmers protected from counter-cyclical effects in the economy, but also at the same time introduce more market elements, more competition, more common sense and, most of all, more flexibility for the farmer.
Q So, in other words, the subsidies and the EAT continue indefinitely?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's not necessarily so. I mean, there's strong interest in making sure we tailor these programs so they meet the needs of the future. A lot of work has been done, particularly by Secretary Glickman, on exactly that point.
But he traced through in his letter yesterday, I think, a pretty good explanation of how we would approach some of those issues and why we think the current draft of the House bill just heads in the wrong direction.
Q And -- partial birth abortion; anything new on that bill? Is that --
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing new on that, as far as I know.
Q Do you have an update on the search for the robbers who attacked Mark Fabiani?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't. You should contact the Alexandria Police Department.
Q Is he still at work and still --
MR. MCCURRY: He's been at work every day this week and no worse for wear and still cool as a cucumber and not -- and gets our calm under fire award.
Q Is he using a different ATM machine?
Q Can you give us an update on the budget talks? You said that there might be follow-on talks from the moderate Democrats talks last night?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't get anything that indicates anything formally structured. But coming out of the meeting last night, there was a lot of interest in continuing to pursue some of the ideas that the President had been talking about and that, indeed, some of the members brought in on how they could design some type of bipartisan approach, building on all the different -- I'd almost describe them as consensus documents that are out there.
We've got the possibility of a consensus document built around the President's discussions with the Republican leaders. There have been efforts like the ones that Senators Breaux and Chafee have pushed forward. Senator Daschle has introduced some legislative elements that are useful. The coalition, which is the so-called "blue dog group" in the House has got additional ideas that they have structured.
All of those now become, you know, part of the elements of what could be on the table and be enacted. And we are looking for a way to try to get as much momentum as quickly as possible behind -- you know, we think the place to do it and the place to start is behind the $700 billion that clearly are in common between what the President advanced and what the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader advanced from the Republican side during their discussions here at the White House. They've got elements in common in those two plans that can balance the budget, they total more than $700 billion. They produce real deficit reduction, they produce a balanced budget, and we ought to do it now for the American people.
Simultaneously, we've got to extend the debt limit and get that worked on, and you heard from Mr. Panetta on that subject earlier.
Q On that subject, what do you see the prospects for having a vote on the debt ceiling before the 26th?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the prospects are, I'm inclined to say absolutely certain because it's absolutely necessary and they know it. But with this Congress, one wonders sometimes. But we certainly hope that by that deadline of the 26th, when we've got obligations that are due -- I think the Treasury, you know, can tell you more about what the deadline is for the actual pending debt or the default limit, they can tell you more about that, but that our view is that sometime well before that, Congress should address that issue. It's not clear that that's going to happen.
Q Along those lines what, if anything, are you hearing about the Republicans? The Chief of Staff was sort of preaching to the choir this morning at the House Democratic Caucus, but what about the GOP?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they can -- very quickly, if they can muster up some leadership to go with some of the followership we've been seeing within the Republican ranks, they can very quickly bring themselves to a point where they could meet the President on some of these issues and get an agreement; the President believes that.
Q Are you getting any indication from them that they're interested in doing that? Do you hear anything back from them at all?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they've been -- most of what we hear has been coming from the campaign trail because that's where they've been otherwise occupied. But we don't rule out the possibility that they could, in fact, work with moderates on both sides of the aisle and fashion a package that would get a majority, if not an overwhelming majority, support in both caucuses in both sides of the aisle.
Q There's no actual business discussion going on?
MR. MCCURRY: There's no negotiations underway, but there are always discussions underway.
Q Assuming, Mike, that the Republicans are going to leave town for the next three weeks --
MR. MCCURRY: Where are they going?
Q I don't know.
MR. MCCURRY: Iowa, New Hampshire.
Q The President constitutionally, I gather, cannot order them back because it's recess rather than a adjournment -- but would he use the bully pulpit, would he jawbone them back to Washington?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he was, in that sense, jawboning yesterday when he talked for all of you prior to the budget meeting, but he continues to urge Congress to take those necessary steps and do it soon; and we will, if we get deeper into the month of February with no action on this necessary measure, evaluate what else we need to do to push the case.
Q They're going to be gone three weeks. How is he going to get action? I mean, it seems very desultory, your whole approach here.
MR. MCCURRY: I share your criticism of Congress.
Q Are you indicating there might be some breakthrough imminent on the debt ceiling?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Has Mark Fabiani looked at any of the ATM photos yet?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. He deals with the press all day long, so you ought to give him a call.
Q Can you tell us how you intend to convince television producers and networks that a voluntary rating system is a good idea, and if you're successful, what the earliest date it can be implemented might be?
MR. MCCURRY: That's something that we will pursue when we have the informal meeting with media executives that the President talked about in his State of the Union Address, but the President is not at all certain that it will take a lot of convincing. He detects within the industry a great deal of common sense, concern about kids, and we think we can find ways to address this issue that is to the satisfaction of the networks; indeed, that's one of the very reasons why we're going to have a meeting of this nature to really work together to see if we can find common approaches.
Q When is that going to be?
MR. MCCURRY: Haven't set a date yet. They were looking at late February or early March, right? They expect to have some details on participation and timing very shortly.
Q Is he going to ask for three hours of educational programming for children?
MR. MCCURRY: There are a lot of different ideas that are in circulation about how you could expand the amount of time available for programming that's good for kids that parents can be satisfied is the right kind of programming for children. But that's -- rather than us lay down specific ideas, I think we want to work in the context of seeing what's developed within the industry and within the entertainment community itself. They've got ideas, too, a lot of them are very outspoken. We hope to have people who, themselves, have got some ideas on how to best address the question and see if we can come up with consensus.
Q In other words, the FCC Commissioner to the Chairman has said he wants a requirement for three hours, so the President isn't necessarily going to come out for a requirement?
MR. MCCURRY: I need to go check on that. I wasn't aware there was any rule-making --
Q You put out a statement on that --
MR. MCCURRY: -- yes, there's some rule-making or some kind of procedure that they've got, which is doing a specific --
Q -- for the year -- government was over. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, back to the President's remarks and quotes, whatever they may have been, does the President still consider himself to be the leader of the Democratic Party?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Mike, has the President talked to any entertainment executives since the State of the Union speech?
MR. MCCURRY: I would have to ask him. I'm not aware that he has, but there have been contacts with them, but I'm not aware that he personally has had any conversations like that; but I can't rule that out without checking with him first.
Q You've addressed this in various ways, but could I just ask you again -- do you consider the victory for Wyden in Oregon a victory for Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Consistent with what I just said earlier, I see it as a victory for the ideas he advanced. And I would suggest to you, because those ideas he put forward in that campaign are closely connected to the exact same fight that the President has been making here, the President has ample reason to be greatly satisfied with Ron Wyden's victory.
But don't miss the point of our discussion here today. You need to present to the American people positive ideas about what this country is going to be about if you're elected to high office, and that's the way the President intends to conduct this campaign and not do it solely on the basis that one party is right, the other party is wrong, and that's always true under any circumstance, because that's not the way we get forward progress in this country, particularly in the kind of times that we live in.
Q Has the President gotten a lot of requests from Democrats to come out and campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: A very heavy number of them. In fact, they're now trying to figure out exactly as we look ahead to the year and get closer to November how we come up with some way of keeping people as happy as they can be, knowing that not everybody is going to be able to see the President who would like the President at hand in their district or at their event or at a particular program that they're interested in.
We will have, not surprisingly, a way of kind of judging different campaign requests and making sure it fits with what the President's travel schedule will be.
Q He doesn't have any political advisors telling them to stay away, is he?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to say that across the board because I can't make a blanket statement like that without checking. But the vast majority of the calls that our political people get are from people who are interested in having the President appear, campaign, be with them, help make the case, and I haven't heard many people suggest that they're not interested in that type of support.
Q You said Wyden had requested that the President make a personal appearance in Oregon. So, over the past several weeks, couple months, why wasn't that a priority for the President to schedule a visit to Oregon?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the Oregon race was a priority for the entire party. The Executive Director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee I believe was out there in the state the entire time; the Vice President was there; we had four Cabinet members there. The President was on the phone related to the race. We had a lot of our political people reaching out to help Ron Wyden's campaign; so it was a very high priority in the race.
Now, the President cannot always go everywhere, but sending the Vice President, sending members of the Cabinet made it very clear that this was a very important contest for us.
Q Mike, if the President feels a candidate's positions and policies are more important than the party label, could you foresee an occasion where he might campaign for a Republican? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Not likely, because not many of them are that enlightened.
Q So, what's your party label? (Laughter.)
Q The Inspector General -- two Republicans have put out an Inspector General report on the Transportation Department, saying 46 Department of Transportation officials made nearly 700 trips and they consider that excessive. Your reaction to that?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe the Transportation Department's already reacted.
Q The dinner tonight -- you were going to put out a guest list of the --
MR. MCCURRY: Already out, I understand.
Q We haven't seen it.
Q Is there any coverage of that?
MR. MCCURRY: No. This is a working dinner, private occasion for the Commanders-In-Chief of the military and their spouses, and the President and the First Lady.
Q Have you gotten word, Mike, about the Federal Reserve's decision yet?
MR. MCCURRY: That's why I'm back. Thank you, Sandy. I'd like to read a joint statement on behalf of Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Joseph Stiglitz.
"Today the Federal Reserve, the independent agency that sets the nation's monetary policy, lowered the federal funds rate. This administration recognizes and respects the independence of the Federal Reserve. We share the goal of maintaining strong economic growth and low inflation.
This administration has taken forceful actions to get the economy moving and the progress has been impressive. We cut the Federal Budget deficit by more than half as a share of national output, the economy has responded. Jobs are up by 7.8 million, unemployment is down, investment is strong and inflation remains at its lowest level in a generation. Although growth rates always vary quarter to quarter, with these fundamentals in place we believe that the economy will remain healthy in 1996. Again, that's a statement on behalf of the Treasury Secretary and the Chairman of the CEA".
Q Do you approve of the lowering --
Q Do you welcome the action?
MR. MCCURRY: The statement, I think, speaks for itself.
Q No, it doesn't, quite.
MR. MCCURRY: -- we share the goal of maintaining strong economic growth and low inflation, and we obviously respect the independence of the Federal Reserve.
Q How much did they lower the rate?
MR. MCCURRY: That's already been announced by the Federal Open Market Committee; you can refer to that.
Q Mike, do you think with this strong economy there's room for the Fed to do more?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to comment further, beyond the statement that you've not got from the Treasury Secretary and the Chairman of the CEA.
Q Can we get that statement?
MR. MCCURRY: We will have this in written form shortly.
Q Any thoughts about prospects for a recession this year?
MR. MCCURRY: It's, from the statement, quite clear that the fundamentals are in place for a strong economic performance in 1996, as the Treasury Secretary and the Chairman of the Council have just indicated.
Q Mike, are you still geared up for Monday on the budget the way you described it the other day, to have the short document instead of the details?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. My understanding from OMB is that they plan to have kind of an outline document that will be available. They're not planning on doing any agency-by-agency briefings. It's bad news that we don't have a budget proposal that we can make because of the lack of action in Congress on the FY '96 budget, but we do have the fortunate news that we won't have to go through a weekend's worth of Cabinet briefings by agencies.
We will work to prepare a more detailed document for sometime later in March.
Q Are you going to have a central briefing that you normally have when you have the entire administration --
MR. MCCURRY: On Monday when we submit this outline? We'll see. I mean, it's not -- a large part of this if fairly well-known, but I'll check with Dr. Rivlin and with others in the administration and see what we intend to do. But by no means do I want to suggest at all that we will have any elaborate presentation. This is going to be structurally the same elements of the budget outline that the President has presented once already to all of you, and obviously also to the Republican leaders.
Q Just one follow up on the Fed vacancies. Has the President had a chance to sit down with his economic advisors and talk to them about names and about filling the three positions?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's had some conversations about it, but to my knowledge, he has not received any recommendation from the National Economic Council on filling any of the vacancies.
Q Could you guess the procedure you're going to follow is to do all three at the same time?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not in the habit of guessing.
Q Would you suggest that would be likely?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't suggest what I don't know.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:30 P.M. EST