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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 28, 1996
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1;25 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House. Welcome to our daily briefing. Let me start with a couple of items.

You recall the President said the other day that as Congress now has returned to Washington and take up several urgent matters, the President will be concentrating on seeing what we can do to resolve budget issues, see if we can't achieve an historic balanced budget agreement -- something the American people are strongly in favor of -- that we will also work very hard to see if we can achieve reform of welfare as we know it, and that we'll take additional steps to reform our health care system.

But there are a range of other matters that are certainly urgent that need to be done. The debt ceiling extension is among them. And I would just remind you that at the very beginning of this month, Majority Leader Dole, Speaker Gingrich, and Majority Leader Armey sent the President a letter saying that congressional Republicans are committed to acting by February 29th in a manner acceptable to the President and the Congress in order to guarantee the government does not default on its obligations.

I checked my calendar before coming here; I believe February 29th is tomorrow, and it doesn't look very likely that they're going to achieve that passage or extension of a debt ceiling measure by tomorrow. And as Mr. Panetta said in his letter to the Hill earlier this week, that is a necessary piece of business that Congress must do. The sooner they do it -- we would prefer, of course, a long-term extension, but the sooner they do it, the sooner the American people can be confident that no one in the world will question the full faith and credit of the United States government.

But there are other measures as well that are a priority to us. The line-item veto is something that the Republicans promised the American people in the Contract for America. That's not come to the President. The antiterrorism legislation that everyone said they were going to pass as an urgent priority after the Oklahoma City bombing case last year has not been passed and sent to the President. And you can get after the briefing, a letter that Mr. Panetta has sent to the Speaker today urging that they take expeditious action on that bill -- a tough, effective comprehensive antiterrorism bill, and especially in light of several law enforcement matters that Mr. Panetta describes in his letter that would suggest that having these very useful tools to combat terrorism here in the United States would be most appreciated by the administration.

Let me give you a very brief readout on the President's very good and warm meeting with the Amir of Kuwait. They met for 30 minutes. Obviously, the principal purpose was to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the victory in the Persian Gulf. The Amir expressed his very warm gratitude to the people of the United States for their assistance in liberating Kuwait. The President made it clear in response that the American people certainly were proud of the work done by U.S. military forces an allied forces in winning that war, but, indeed, all Americans shared in that victory because of the commitment that we had to the deployment of forces and to the effort to liberate Kuwait.

They also had an opportunity to discuss Gulf security issues, the Middle East peace process, economic issues related to the reconstruction of Kuwait and the fact that they are now in a position to engage in commerce with the United States. And I believe we will have a further statement later on covering the meeting, but that was the gist of it.

Q Who else has he seen besides the President?

MR. MCCURRY: My recollection is that he also has meetings scheduled with the Vice President at Blair House. He will also see Secretaries Perry, Secretary Brown. He'll see Acting Secretary Talbott because Secretary Christopher is in Latin America, as you know. He'll also be seeing some others in our government.

Last item on my list: The President had a good 15-minute conversation today with Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany. The Chancellor called the President in order to brief the President on his trip to Moscow. Chancellor Kohl just returned from a long bilateral session with President Yeltsin. They compared notes about -- the President, as you'll recall I told you last week, had a phone conversation with President Yeltsin last week, so they compared notes on their respective conversations, agreed that President Yeltsin was certainly well, invigorated by the presidential campaign season in Russia. They also compared notes on the issues of mutual bilateral concern that were raised both by President Clinton and by Chancellor Kohl in their independent discussions with President Yeltsin, including issues related to NATO, Bosnia, Chechnya and other topics that you would imagine would be on our list of concerns.

They did confirm -- and this I am told -- that Chancellor Kohl does plan to visit the United States in late spring, but they did not specify a date. And we'll keep you posted on that.

Q Filomena's. There's a new chef --

MR. MCCURRY: Filomena's, clear some tables. (Laughter.) Well, I can -- without checking, I can speak authoritatively, that would be something the President would enjoy. Whether or not it can be scheduled or not we have no way of knowing.

Q Since we're on European affairs, I wondered if there's any comment from the White House that the Princess of Wales has apparently agreed to a divorce?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I did not know that, had not heard that; so no reaction. If we have anything we'll let you know.

Q -- the latest trade deficit numbers play into the hands of Pat Buchanan?

MR. MCCURRY: Do they -- say again.

Q Would you agree that the latest trade deficit numbers for 1995, the record deficits with China and Mexico, play right into the hands of Pat Buchanan?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I think they are an affirmation of the work this administration has done to stimulate exports all around the world. Job exports, as reflected in this report, grew by a half a million --

Q Exports jobs?

MR. MCCURRY: Export-related jobs. Since President Clinton came to office, over a million new export-related jobs have been created in this economy. In 1995, we experienced the largest dollar increase in exports in American history -- a $72 billion increase.

What someone has to remind folks who speak to these issues is there are 11 million people in this country who work in sectors of the economy that make goods and services that are exported overseas, and if we're going to pull up the drawbridges and say that's all bad, those families are going to be at risk.

Now, the other thing I'd say, in general, in commenting on the deficit numbers as some of our other administration spokespeople have done, remember there is a good news-bad news thing here. We've had an era of relative prosperity in the last three years, moderate growth, low inflation. The rest of the world has not enjoyed that type of recovery. So, correspondingly, we have disposable income, are buying more imports and other countries are buying less from us as their economies have not done as well, which is a large factor behind some of these trade numbers. But, in general, as Dr. Tyson has said today, as Ambassador Kantor has said, as Secretary Brown has said, there are some very encouraging things in here, especially as it relates to exports, and we are perfectly happy to engage in a good debate about how well this administration has done when it comes to promoting exports abroad and how well our trade policy is working. And we'll take all comers in that debate.

Q Mike, on China, this decision by the administration to have the Export-Import Bank delay -- for 30 days, what message are you sending to China by doing this, and does that mean that the President won't make a final decision until after the 30-day period is over?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the 30-day delay in processing new applications at the Ex-Im Bank is directly related to something far more urgent which we had spoken to the Chinese government directly about which is our concerns related to the alleged transfer of some materials that could be perhaps proliferation-related, specifically the rig man* magnets associated with Pakistan's uranium enrichment program.

We have gone to the Chinese government, suggested that the best way to clarify our concerns is for them to be forthcoming in addressing some of our specific questions and that dialogue now with China will continue while that is an ongoing process. We continue to evaluate that information we have available about that transfer, and we will fully implement the law as we are required to do. If we make a determination that something has occurred contrary to our nonproliferation concerns.

Q Have you given the Chinese 30 days to respond to these allegations?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are in a -- we haven't set any kind of formal deadline of that nature. We did take the step related to the Ex-Im Bank which is for 30 days, but we hope we will have an active, ongoing and expeditious dialogue with the government of China to resolve these concerns.

Q The 30 days ends on March 23, which is the date of the Taiwan elections. Is there any connection here between that --

MR. MCCURRY: The State Department announced that one-month period. I believe it was related more to our active dialogue with China on these matters than anything related externally, but they should speak to that point.

Q On Cuba, the Hill seems to be spurning your calls for a compromise on Helms-Burton and then moving ahead. Will the President veto the bill that contains Title III as is now in the House version?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as the President indicated here the other day, he wants to sign that bill now in light of the incident last Saturday. We want to work with the Congress to produce a measure that protects U.S. interests and protects those who have valid claims the Cuban government.

We're not certain that the current version -- there are two different versions. We're not sure that either one of them will do an adequate job of that, particularly when it comes to the extraterritoriality provisions of Title III. But we hope Congress will think hard about that issue, think about what is going to make sense, and develop some process by which the President can accept the legislation. And the most likely candidate in that department would be some type of waiver provision that could work to the satisfaction of the administration. We'll continue our dialogue with those on the Hill on that and hope to see if they can pass it.

Q But as is, it would be veto bait, correct?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as is, the bill's got a lot of problems that we hope can be fixed. But I'm not threatening any kind of veto.

Q Wasn't it previously -- was there not a previously stated veto threat out on the --

MR. MCCURRY: My recollection of the statement of administration policy on the bill, the Senate version, there was -- or House version -- do you remember?

MR. JOHNSON: The House version.

MR. MCCURRY: -- the House version -- they had veto threat pending against it, not the Senate version, and it was because of that specific provision. In general, on Helms-Burton, we had always said there were things about the bill that we thought made sense and that we saw as a useful contribution to our effort to bring about the change in Cuba that we seek towards democracy, towards market economics.

In light of the incident Saturday, we recognize that there has to be swift action to tighten the economic embargo on Cuba. And the President said so here the other day, and we will work with Congress to achieve that goal.

Q Well, given the recent events in Cuba -- the shootdown and the like, do you think the President's sort of in a box right now? I think Republicans think he is.

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware. I saw him earlier; he didn't look like he was in any box. (Laughter.)

Q Do you want to start on the --

Q No, we didn't see him earlier -- that's the point.

Q He said he saw him, though.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, sir?

Q The rollout on tomorrow's TV conference --

MR. MCCURRY: I'll tell you a little bit about the event tomorrow. First of all, the President looks forward to seeing about 40 media and entertainment industry executives tomorrow for a discussion about what we can collectively do together to find common ground in giving parents a tool they need to protect their kids from promiscuous and violent programming -- entertainment programming, television programming.

You're all aware of the President's interest in the V-chip -- violence chip -- technology. He's challenged the industry to come together and see how we can use that technology to improve the way kids learn, the way they have time together with families, particularly during evening hours. The President believes we need to improve both the quality and the quantity of programming that is aimed at enriching the lives of children in America. And he hopes this conference tomorrow will lead to more discussions, more efforts in that direction.

We're very encouraged by some of the things we've heard from the industry. There seems to be acknowledgement within the industry that that is a very important and worthy goal. And we hope tomorrow's conference can lead to some progress on how we achieve a goal that will be important for kids, for their parents, and for America's culture.

Q Besides the investigation the FAA is doing with the Brothers to the Rescue, is there dialogue within the administration and this group to try to dissuade them from going out there again?

MR. MCCURRY: There has been an active dialogue with Brothers to the Rescue to make sure they understand the risk associated with flights in close proximity to Cuban territorial waters. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that Brothers to the Rescue are well aware of that risk -- certainly now; certainly before the incident Saturday.

We will continue that dialogue. We will work through issues associated with some of the plans that they have publicly announced, and we'll do so in a manner that is consistent with our obligation to protect the safety of American citizens, but our obligation to also to acknowledge that there is a right to free travel in international airways and international waters.

Q The administration's view that the Brothers to the Rescue should beware of flying below the 24th Parallel, but merely that it should be aware of flying within Cuban territorial or above Cuban territorial waters, correct?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are two different concerns. Clearly the Cuban government asserts an air defense identification zone ranging up to the 24th Parallel, but they have a specific territorial claim out to the 12-mile limit. It is against our law, against federal aviation regulations for anyone to violate international air space without the approval of governments so that is, of course, a source of concern.

Q You mean national air space, don't you?

MR. MCCURRY: National air space -- the territorial air space claimed by a governments. We do have concerns related to that and that's in fact reflected in our own U.S. air regulations.

Q Well, what about the 24th Parallel? Is it the administration's view that those planes should not fly below the 24th Parallel because Cuba claims it?

MR. MCCURRY: No. Those are international airways. They are done so in a way -- they're not making, by the way, a specific claim to territoriality in that region. What they're saying is that is an area in which they assert some right to be notified under customary international law related to civil aviation by asserting that it is a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone. We have one similar off our coast, and we ask pilots in that region to identify themselves and to call in.

Q So as far as the administration is concerned --

MR. MCCURRY: We, by the way, have in connection with that, have a so-called NOTAM, a Notice to Airmen, which advises of the danger of operating in that area so that people are aware that there have been assertions by the Cuban government that that's an area of danger. We've talked to Brothers to the Rescue about that and certainly advise any general aviation pilots that plan flights in that region as to the risk that's involved.

Q But the administration is not saying that Brothers to the Rescue should not fly down to the area where the administration believes that those planes were shot down?

MR. MCCURRY: We have not said that. But we're obviously dealing with some issues -- because of plans that have been announced by the group, we're dealing with some issues that we'll have to manage out in the coming days that guarantee that the safety of Americans be ensured and that those people have a right to travel in international airs and waters, have those rights recognized as well.

Q Specifically, Mike, what mechanisms are available to the federal government?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into that.

Q You mentioned a dialogue. Who's been conducting the government's side of this dialogue? Is this the FAA or other --

MR. MCCURRY: The State Department has done it principally through folks associated with the Inter-American Affairs Bureau at State.

Q Mike, five years ago after the Persian Gulf War there were high expectations that Kuwait would institute some basic reforms in its society, become more open, more democratic. Does the administration feel that these expectations have been met? And, if not, is the Amir being advised that the United States would like him to do more in terms of --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have done -- especially in terms of freedom of the press and other things, they've done an extraordinary amount. Concern about human rights, about political liberalization, about democratization are an active part of our bilateral dialogue with the government of Kuwait.

Q Was that issue raised today, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: It will arise during the course of the Amir's visit here, but I don't have any indication it came up in the short meeting the President had with the Amir today.

Q Mike, on the media execs tomorrow, for just a second, I've got two questions. One, I'm not quite clear on exactly what it is the President wants to derive from -- or hopes to accomplish out of tomorrow's meeting. And the second one is I don't think that I've ever heard an explanation from the administration as to why parents don't already have the control that the President talks about in that if they don't like what television their children are watching they can either change the channel or turn the thing off.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, parents also have to do laundry and wash the dishes and be other places. They can't be there monitoring the television at all times. It's also true parents can turn off the television and read a book to their children, and that's not a bad idea either. But this is an important piece of technology that gives parents some comfort to know that there is another silent guardian there keeping watch on their kids' viewing habits when they can't be there for whatever reason, if they're out of the room or if they're away somewhere else.

And I think that that is important technology that's available. There is the capacity within the industry to help parents make use of that tool. And what the President hopes happens tomorrow, to answer your question, is that they can work together to find a way amicably that the industry can work together, sort of spurred on by those who got access to the bully pulpit, to make the right kinds of decisions as it's related to programming and kids.

Q Do you expect some kind of an agreement on programming standards to come out of this meeting?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we expect a good, productive discussion tomorrow and we'll see what happens at the conference.

Q Is the President likely to ask more for the industry to reduce the level of violence in its programming, or to identify the violence in its programming; and is he more concerned with violence in real world programming or cartoon violence, about which there is an equal, or an ample amount of objection from parents also?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's concerned about violence, but not only violence; coarseness, as well -- things that are debasing, things that are, frankly, not appropriate for kids. And he's concerned especially about that time in the early evening when families have the best opportunity to spend time together. So those are the kinds of issues we've looked at and we agree with. You know that we have taken the position we ought to expand some of the quantity of time available for children's programming, and we hope that the industry would think about a commitment to even generating more of that type of programming.

But I must say that the White House, going into this meeting, is very pleased by the preliminary comments from industry executives. They seem to be working through these issues, as well, and seem to want to be cooperative. And they seem, also, to want to have a productive conversation tomorrow.

Q Does he want the violence shifted out of the family time? Does he want it simply identified? Does he want it reduced in cartoons, as well as programs involving --

MR. MCCURRY: He wants a good conversation with industry executives tomorrow that might perhaps lead to some combination or mix of all of those things.

Q Do you expect a rating system to be announced tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I just made it clear I'm not expecting anything other than a good productive meeting tomorrow. And if there are any announcements to make, we'll make them.

Q How did the idea for the President to get involved in dealing with violence in Hollywood -- is that a Clinton idea or is that a Dole idea?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's the -- the President talked to that when -- in 1993 in one of his very first trips to Hollywood long before, as far as I know, the Majority Leader raised the issue. But it's been a source of concern. In fact, I think the President raised this during the course of his campaign for the presidency. It's something that he felt ought to be done and should be done.

Q Mike, March 1st, two days from now, the certification -- has the President received a report from the State Department already?

MR. MCCURRY: No, the Department has not sent anything over and they will be the ones announcing no earlier than Friday, I imagine, what the certification decisions are.

Q Is the focus of tomorrow's meeting just television programming or movies as well?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the focus is in particular on television programming, but also with the other entertainment industry executives there, what type of programming we can generate out of the entertainment industry that would be useful and good for kids.

Q Is the President prepared to bargain on the spectrum, the digital spectrum or whatever it is that the networks are interested in in exchange for getting their help on --

MR. MCCURRY: That's not an issue that he's likely to raise in the course of these conversations because our view on spectrum allocation auctions are pretty well-known. The analogue spectrum that -- we've got a proposal for doing that. We believe that the digital spectrum ought to be made available so that it can -- a lot of different kinds of programming, including some of this quality programming we're talking about can proliferate rapidly.

Q Mike, on the President's abortion letter this morning, the National Right to Life says this is just an attempt, this amendment proposal, to gut the legislation. What do you say?

MR. MCCURRY: No, this is an attempt by the President to make sure we protect the Constitution because the Constitution, specifically in the Roe v. Wade case has got language that protects the right of women in America to have choice and that's what the President seeks to further in his letter.

Q Following the President's phone call with Speaker Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich has been expressing optimism that there could be a seven-year balanced budget deal within the next few weeks. What did the President say to encourage Speaker Gingrich to believe that we may be on the verge of a deal?

MR. MCCURRY: The President told him in private, in very hushed and whispered tones exactly what he said publicly -- that he would like to see a balanced budget agreement; he thinks that what we've got in front of us on the table can be put together to achieve that end; and he thinks we need to do it soon, in the next two three weeks. Very confidential conversation I just gave you.

Q Well, was there a specific proposal on how to achieve it in the next two or three weeks?

MR. MCCURRY: They did not attempt to write a budget during the course of a conversation which was otherwise devoted to the President's decision related to Cuba. He had called he Speaker to advise the Speaker of the actions he was taking with respect to Cuba, and the subject of the budget came up. And the President said, I really think we need to get down to business and do this. And they spoke about the importance of getting that historic agreement written. And the President continues to believe it can be done.

Q Does the President want to invite Gingrich and Dole back into the Oval Office to finish up what they started?

MR. MCCURRY: The President wants to get the agreement done. The door is open. Wolf, thank you for reminding me that the door is open. The door is open, but -- and we imagine in the coming days and over the course of the next week or so there will be some conversations that will give us some sense of whether this is going to be doable. At the very least, we'll move forward on the FY '96 appropriations issues that are outstanding, but everything that we have heard so far indicates that there is some willingness to try to work through these issues. So we can both write and complete the 1996 budget process and, hopefully, look at some certain decisions that would guarantee a balanced budget by a date certain in the future.

Q Mike, one more on the meeting tomorrow, clarifying on the earlier question about the rating system. It will be on the table, won't it, the idea of a movie-like rating system for TV programs?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the industry -- some industry executives and some industry sources themselves have indicated a desire to talk about exactly that type of issue. That's certainly something the administration has a keen interest in and I very well expect that will be part of the agenda tomorrow.

Q Will the President make specific proposals, Mike, or is it the feeling of the administration that that smacks too much of censorship if he makes specific proposals for rating and for shifting violence --

MR. MCCURRY: The concept of ratings is something that matches up to the violence shift technology, which the President strongly embraces. That's the way you'd send coded programming notes to a V-chip in the middle of a TV somewhere that would turn off the TV when it needs to be turned off, in laymen's language. I explained that -- there's probably a lot better technical explanation, but that's where the issue of programming comes to play.

Q Mike, on another subject. With Ireland and Britain moving toward all-party talks, what does that do for the Adams visa question? Does it enhance the chances he'll get that visa?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything new to offer on the Adams visa question. You've all seen the President's statement; he's very encouraged by the summit meeting today between Prime Minister Major and Prime Minister Bruton. We hope that the date-certain for all-party talks will stimulate further efforts now by all of the parties to acknowledge the importance of the cease-fire and to acknowledge the importance of resolving issues in the talks themselves. We will look at all of the other issues related to visas and things like that in the coming days. But today is a day to celebrate this step forward today. At a time in which the peace process needed a boost, it got it today, and that is something that the President warmly welcomed.

Q What's the President's message to the IRA given today's announcement?

MR. MCCURRY: The importance of honoring this cease-fire cannot be understated. The people of Northern Ireland are clear in wanting to see the bombs and the bullets ended. And the IRA better get that message, because history is now moving in the direction of peace, and they're going to be left behind if they don't acknowledge that.

Q Does the White House have any direct involvement in the process of negotiations, proximity talks, for example?

MR. MCCURRY: We have always felt that any peace process, but especially this one, has to be conducted by the parties themselves and the type of face-to-face dialogue that we can often encourage, and certainly that is the reason why we maintain very active contacts with the parties and with the government of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. But our role is to nurture a process that the parties themselves must successfully complete.

Q In relation to the conference tomorrow, has the President consulted or will the President be speaking with young people about how they feel about the programming they watch?

MR. MCCURRY: It's something the President has done often in some of the roundtable discussions he's had. He's talked to his own daughter about this subject, and he has had opportunity to get opinions from young people, because they know, too, and there's an active dialogue among young people about what their viewing habits are and what their general interests in entertainment programming should be. So those opinions are very valuable.

Q Mike, in announcing hearings on the Farrakhan trip, Congressman Tom Lantos accused the administration this morning of not enforcing the law with respect to Farrakhan. Is anyone besides Justice investigating this trip -- Customs, INS, anything of that nature?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any basis for an allegation of that nature, but I will tell you that any process underway, given the facts of the case, given the question of travel, would be Privacy Act covered matters. So there's a limit to how much we would say, and maybe we need to help the congressman understand better what exactly are the procedures that might be underway.

Q I have a question about the potential efficacy of the V-chip? There seems to be more and more evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, that kids in their early teens or even preteens are more computer-literate than their parents. Is there a potential there that they could actually run circles around their parents and program these things to their own satisfaction while mommy and daddy are somewhere else?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, Leo, it would be a stretch for me to comment on that. I'm not technologically proficient enough to know if you could get around the kids.

Q Ask your kids. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: My guess is, most of what I hear about kids and their ability to use the amazing technology available in the information age, the answer is probably, yes. But, on the other hand, I think parents can set rules in houses, as most parents do. And I think that that's part of the process here is to give a tool to parents that they can effectively use.

Q When is the President going to get around to naming a successor to Alice Rivlin?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't even looked at that question. I'll check on that. Ask me tomorrow.

Q Yesterday Congressman Gephardt and today Senators Daschle and Bingaman unveiled proposals that would encourage companies to treat their workers in a variety of ways more favorably, including a realigned sort of corporate tax structure. Is the President willing or able at this point to endorse those proposals? And how much interaction has there been between the White House in the development of those --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've had with two Democrats in the Congress that we highly regard -- we've had conversations with them and we certainly will review their proposal. But I remind you, you know, the President's got his own very ambitious agenda when it comes to exactly these kinds of questions. We want to raise the minimum wage. We want health care reform. We want pension protection, simplification coverage, pension portability.

We've got our balanced budget proposal, which I talked about earlier, which we think if enormously important to working families because it will help grow the economy in future years, put more money in the pockets of taxpayers and working families. We've got out proposals that are related to technology, to the literacy challenge, the $10,000 education deduction, which we're still fighting for and hopefully in the context of a balanced budget agreement could achieve. So we've got our proposal. We've got our agenda and that's, the President believes, is the right one.

Now, other Democrats are going to have their own useful ideas. We certainly will look at them, but we've got the opportunity to do these things the President has put on the table now and that's what the President wants to move forward on.

Q Well, why would you hesitate about embracing the initiative --

MR. MCCURRY: I can't hear the question.

Q Why would the President hesitate at this point in embracing their effort to promote this legislation? I mean, he's talked about these ideas. They support his.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I say, we will look at them. Some of them, I think, are going to pick up on some of the things the President himself has proposed. A lot of them might be useful, but we're in an active dialogue with the Republican majority in this Congress.

First of all, to make the obvious point, they've got to pass Congress. And we've already got an active dialogue going on with Congress about how to move forward on some of these things. And those ideas that we're pushing in the context of those deliberations, we think are the right ones.

Q -- any reaction to the Senate Banking Committee -- voted to extend the Whitewater hearings indefinitely?

MR. MCCURRY: Our only reaction is, they deserve an explanation to the American people about why they're going to spend hundreds of thousands more on top of the $30 million of taxpayer that's already been spent reviewing these matters when there doesn't seem to be anything new that they can learn about the matter itself. This process now in the Senate has gone on longer than Iran-Contra, longer than the Watergate hearings. It's gone on longer than the O.J. trial. And at some point I think the American people are saying what are they spending all of our money on when they don't seem to be coming up with anything new.

Q Mike, in a related area, on the Madison case, what are the White House thoughts now? What is the President --

MR. MCCURRY: I can't hear your question.

Q How is the President going to testify now in the Madison case?

MR. MCCURRY: How is he going --

Q Since the judge ruled that videotaped testimony is not acceptable.

MR. MCCURRY: I hadn't heard that. You'll have to check with Mr. Fabiani.

Q About the certification process, Mike -- a few weeks ago Senator Dole sent a letter to the President about the Mexican policy in antidrug courts. Has the President wrote back to the Majority Leader of the Senate?

MR. MCCURRY: We haven't developed any response. We are looking at the facts, and we will make a judgment on certification based on the merits and not by political considerations.

Thank you, Terry.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:00 P.M. EST