THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:45 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House. This is the daily briefing; I have no news. Go.
Q Senator Dole says that he was planning on meeting with President Clinton today, but President Clinton cancelled the meeting and it's now not going to happen.
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President has some interest in seeing Senator Dole before the Senator retires next week, and that may happen, but they couldn't work it out for today.
Q Not talking about quitting?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he's already made his decision?
Q Does the White House support the D.C. Control Board's assertions that Vernon Hawkins should be dismissed from his position and banished from D.C. government service?
MR. MCCURRY: I will check with Dr. Rivlin. To my knowledge, the administration's task force on the District of Columbia has taken no position on that issue.
Q Mike, do you have a number for the extension of solvency for Medicare under the President's latest budget proposal?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that the actuaries are looking at exactly that issue. The most recent calculation of the President's budget as submitted in the FY'97 proposal would extend the solvency of the funds through 2005. There's some question of whether or not that might be 2006; it's roughly a decade. So the President's savings package extends the solvency of the funds comfortably into the next century.
Q How does that compare with the latest Republican budget resolution from your analysis? How far would they extend the solvency?
MR. MCCURRY: Their package, because it has much deeper reductions in some of the spending on rural hospitals, nursing care, some aspects of that part of the program, they get an additional one or two years, I believe. But I don't -- it doesn't go considerably beyond the extension that the President has recommended, Leo.
Q Is the bottom line then that while either side can provide -- if they could agree on anything on the budget this year -- could only provide a short-term remedy, that really you're going to have to wait until after the election and set up a Greenspan type bipartisan commission --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to jump ahead and suggest the formula for solving the long-term problem, but let me suggest what the short-term answer is. When the President met with the Republican leadership in the Oval Office this past winter and talked through these issues, it was clear in those discussions that on the table in front of them were signficant savings in Medicare that could extend the solvency of the trust funds into the next century, heading off any temporary problem with solvency, buying some time so a long-term solution could be developed and found.
The President believes that should be done, believes it should be done urgently and now and is within the grasp of both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill and something that he would support. That would then give time for the development of long-term solutions.
Q But everybody knows the real problem starts around 2015, 2020 when the boomers start retiring. Is it the President's view -- after all, he wants a second term -- how is he going to, in the second term, address the long-term Medicare solvency problem?
MR. MCCURRY: There are set -- because of demographic changes that will occur in this country in the 21st century as the baby boom gets old, retires, needs health care, there's a set of issues related to economic security for all Americans that have to be addressed. That's why you've heard the President talk over and over again about the need to protect pension, retirement income security for Americans as they look ahead to their retirement years. That's why we believe that health care needs to be affordable and portable. That's one of the reasons why we are looking at the long-term effort to shore up the solvency of both the Medicare trust fund and, of course, we'll be facing the same issues with respect to Social Security.
But all of these fit togther as you look at demographic changes. In a growing economy, a prosperous economy, how do we account for the needs of those citizens as they reach their retirement years without placing an undue burden on the children of today who will be supporting much of the benefits payed under the federal programs. And one of the clear, obvious answers is we have to do everything we can do today to grow the economy, to encourage savings, to make sure that people -- it's easier for them to put aside money in retirement accounts -- that they have access to private sector pensions such as 401(k) plans -- which is why we've done that. It makes all the more urgent passage of the Kassebaum-Kennedy health insurance bill, which would expand health insurance protections and allow portability of health insurance coverage.
All of these things contribute to a more secure environment for the elderly of tomorrow, and that's a significant --a lot of work to be done in that. The President hopes he has an opportunity to do that as President over the next four years.
Q Mike, how long is the White House prepared to play this tax-break-of-the-week game with the Republicans? They come up with on, you come up with one. Is this going to go on forever, or at some point is the White House going to draw the line and say, enough?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has put forward very carefully targeted tax incentives for things like education, child care -- exactly those things that contribute to a growing economy that I was just talking about. That's the right way to provide tax relief to middle-income Americans. It's a way, frankly, to fit within the contours of an economic strategy for America that's working. And the President is confident that the proposal he made yesterday on college education and extending the American standard of K through 12 schooling to the 13th and 14th year will be good for the economy, good for the individual Americans who get to participate, and will help give many, many citizens access to higher learning.
Now, that was a stand-alone proposal that he made yesterday to fit within our overall effort to expand college opportunity. And the President will have ideas as we go through this debate of things that we can do to continue to grow the economy, continue to protect Americans that are in the middle-income and lower-income scales, and also, things that we can together do as a country that will make for a more prosperous America in the 21st century. That's a large part of what he has worked on in the last three and a half years, it's a large part of what he will talk about during the campaign, and it's a very large part of what he hopes to work on over the next four years.
Q A quick follow on that. In regard to the requirement that a student maintain a B average to get the subsidy in his second year, do you have any concern that the members of the faculties will be under severe pressure because the student may go to the faculty member and say, gee, I've got to get a B or else I'll lose my subsidy?
MR. MCCURRY: That issue was looked at by the President's policy-making team as they analyzed the ideas. Frankly, Governor Miller yesterday, as he accompanied the President to New Jersey and provided good testimony of what the experience has been in Georgia and they have not faced that problem -- but that goes to the heart of what academic standards are at each of the institutions that would provide education to students who would be benefitting from that credit, and it really is not the business of the federal government to apply those in some type of educational standard.
Certainly the President hopes that those institutions of higher learning maintain good standards and grading policies that encourage learning. That's the fundamental requirement of any institution of that nature.
Q Are looking at another targeted stand-alone tax cut that might benefit the middle class and the poor?
MR. MCCURRY: With respect to?
Q Another tax cut.
Q A tax cut of any kind.
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard of any tax cut related to housing. Some of you are asking because of the home ownership event tomorrow.
The President's -- the thrust and bulk of the President's tax relief as he proposes it for the middle income is contained in our FY '97 budget proposal which builds on his Middle Class Bill of Rights tax relief package. I haven't heard of any substantial expansion of that. We put a little extra into the education incentives yesterday with the tax credit that added some portion to the cost, but we also indicated how we'd pay for it. Tax policies have to be pay-as-you-go and they have to be within the contours of the balanced budget that the President is committed to delivering.
Q Going back to Medicare, the President has his proposal on the table, the Republicans have theirs, but neither side is talking to each other right now about that. Is the President going to do anything between now and the election to try to reach a solution -- come out here, invite the Republicans to negotiate on Medicare alone, agree to a commission, go on national television? Is he going to take any steps in the wake of this report to do anything other than wait?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has repeatedly suggested to the Republicans in Congress and the Republican leadership they need to come here to the White House and sit down and write a balanced budget agreement. Within the contours of that balanced budget agreement, you would certainly have Medicare as a component part.
What the President suggests is that in the Medicare discussions, as part of the larger budget discussions, there have been significant savings agreed to by both sides, represented by the proposals they've put on the table, and that we can take care of the short-term solvency problem into the next century by adopting what's on the table already, laying there in front of them. The President believes that should be done. He repeats the offer to do that type of work now. But, frankly, we are getting off an extraneous debates on things like constitutional amendments when we ought to be doing exactly that kind of work.
Now, what is he doing about it? He's going right to the Hill in about 10 minutes. He's going to talk to the House Democratic Caucus. He's certainly going to raise once again the importance of completing the agenda of those things that we can get done this year. He'll again call upon the Republicans to do that. We'll see if -- if we can't get it done with the current Senate Majority Leader, maybe the next Senate majority leader will be more amenable to doing that type of work.
Q Mike, even if you were to do what the President has described, and even if that actually accomplished what you say it would accomplish, you're talking about extending the -- kicking the problem down the world for three, four, maybe five years from the date that it is now projected to go belly up. Is the President going to be content to offer a solution or a temporary solution, or does the President feel that it is incumbent upon him to address both the short-term and the long-term problem here, because there doesn't seem to be any disagreement that the problem is there; there is a short-term and a long-term and it's the kind of the thing that in the past has required the leadership of a President to address?
MR. MCCURRY: Right, this is the same question as before. The President, in 1993, offered that kind of leadership with no help from the Republicans. We extended the solvency of the Medicare trust funds an additional three years. And so they would not have gone -- they would have gone belly up, as you said, sooner had not the President demonstrated that kind of leadership in 1993.
He's again offering that leadership and saying, we have together put together budget proposals that can extend the short-term solvency of those plans. And the President has always acknowledged -- the trustees of the fund will acknowledge today that there is a long-term problem that develops well into the next century that has to be addressed. And the President considers that part of his responsibility as President to address. Frankly, in the midst of a political season, campaign year, it's not likely that they're going to get agreements on the long-term solvency of Social Security --
Q Well, I know that. Is the President going to let us know --
MR. MCCURRY: Brit, I'll finish for you -- long-term solvency of Social Security and Medicare is not likely going to get addressed between now and November. But that will be a central challenge facing the next President, and certainly President Clinton hopes to be here to address that challenge in 1997.
Q Will there be any way to know what kind of a proposal -- are you saying here that he will have a long-term proposed solution for this in a second term and not before?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying it will be a central challenge that the next President will face, be it Bill Clinton or Bob Dole or whoever, to address these long-term funding issues as they relate to Social Security and Medicare. That does not set aside the need now, this week, today, to make progress on doing what we know we can do today, which is get a bipartisan agreement on Medicare savings, to extend the solvency of that fund, and postpone any solvency problems well into the next century.
Q Mike, if this is going to be an issue in the campaign, why is it being addressed publicly by the candidates now? How can you put that debate off?
MR. MCCURRY: How you restructure Medicare to get savings that you need, protect the program, protect the beneficiaries of the program, and do that within the context of a balanced budget has been an ongoing part of the debate throughout this year, throughout the budget deliberations last year, and it will certainly be a part of the political dialogue during the campaign this fall.
Q Does the President think, Mike, that there can be a long-term financing solution to both Medicare and Social Security that preserves both programs as universal entitlements without means testing?
MR. MCCURRY: That's certainly the President's goal and objective. Why? Because those are programs that have been central to the life of this country since the 1930s and 1940s, and they have been a key part of providing a social insurance safety net for millions and millions of Americans. They are sort of the bulwark of America's social safety net for the elderly. And the President certainly begins and discussions, any deliberations on those long-term issues from the perspective of preserving the integrity of the programs as they exist.
Now, how do you structure them? How do you deal with the demographic changes that we will face as we get into the year 2010, 2015, 2020? Those are difficult issues. Everyone here knows those are difficult issues. But they'll have to be addressed smartly, prudently, and with an eye towards preserving what has been one of the great legacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Q Well, Mike, you were just asked if the President believes he can preserve Medicare without means testing. He said publicly that he's open to the idea of means testing.
MR. MCCURRY: There have been elements of means testing introduced into the Social Security system through the taxation and benefits. That's been done with bipartisan support. Frankly, when the Greenspan Commission in the 1980s addressed that question, they had put an element of means testing into that program. But the fundamental thrust of that program as a universal program that is available to all Americans was not tampered with.
Q So the answer to the question is, no, there is no way to save these programs and keep universal without some kind of means testing?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not what I said, Mara. I said -- you asked specifically is he against all aspects of means testing. I said no, the program has had elements of that introduced into it. How do you preserve the integrity of these programs as you look well into the next century? That is going to be a difficult challenge for the next president, but it's one that President Clinton is willing to take up and meet if he should be reelected by the American people. And I'd suggest it's one that will probably have a great deal of bipartisan consensus as you look at what the options are. But it's going to be hard work. I'm just suggesting to you the reality is it's not likely going to get done between now and November.
Q But he will have a proposal in a second term if he gets one for handling both these issues?
MR. MCCURRY: Again, Brit, for the third time, the next president is going to have --
Q Try yes or no; that would simplify everything.
MR. MCCURRY: -- the president is going to have to address these long-term funding issues. That's going to be a central challenge facing the next president. And President Clinton looks forward to meeting that challenge.
Q Back on the District. The President appointed Andrew Brimmer just about a year ago, and I'm curious why there's no words of support from the White House as Brimmer takes what's probably is his most important and certainly his most public --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check with Dr. Rivlin on that and see if we are working in that. Obviously, we're following the controversy very closely and the D.C. task force that the President has put in place, if it has something to say, we'll report back to you on it.
Q Does the President plan to be more active? There's been a lot of criticism in the city that he has not really done much.
MR. MCCURRY: He's done a great deal and met recently with a group of leaders from the District and made it clear to them that he continues to be actively involved in the life of the city that he lives in.
Q Mike, getting back to tomorrow, if the President is not going to announce tax incentives tomorrow, is this just a pep talk for home ownership?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's a lot to talk about when it comes to home ownership because of the record the administration has compiled on home ownership opportunities. Since the President took office, 3.7 million Americans became home buyers, and that's the sharpest increase in home ownership in 30 years. Last year alone, 1.4 million Amercians became home owners, that's the largest one-year increase in three decades.
And he's going to talk about that, but he's also going to talk about ways that the dream of home ownership can now be made more affordable for those at the lower end of the income scale who benefit from FHA loans and who qualify for the FHA mortgage program. There's some things that we can do, we think, that will increase the affordability of those loans.
Q So there will be some proposals tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: There may be a piece of news tomorrow, yes.
Q Chairman Clinger has released documents --
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily a big piece of news, but a piece of news.
Q Chairman Clinger has released documents showing that Bernard Nussbaum asked for Billy Dale's FBI file, apparently in violation of his own policy about contacting the FBI.
MR. MCCURRY: I spoke to Mr. Fabiani just before coming out here, aware that he had made those remarks, and they are attempting to figure out now what document he is referring to. They could not give me an answer to what document is in question, so I don't have anything further.
Q Well, this is a document that the White House had originally claimed under executive privilege and turned over last week.
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct, and they are looking through the documents that were provided voluntarily to the committee to see what --
Q But Clinger released that document.
Q Yes, there's a facsimile of the document.
MR. MCCURRY: -- Chairman Clinger may be referring to.
Q There was a request for his FBI file.
MR. MCCURRY: So we'll find our more about it. When they find out more about it, they will report it back to me.
Q I can give you what Clinger gave us.
Q In any event, is the White House attempting to contact Bernie Nussbaum to figure out what he had in mind when he asked for these documents seven months after Billy Dale had --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is they are trying to find out what the document is that Chairman Clinger is referring to.
Q How hard can this be?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they are working on it right now, Brit, and I don't have an answer for you. If I had one, I'd give it.
Q In any event, is there any concern about the White House lawyer asking for information on an individual, saying that he was being considered for access six months after he was fired?
MR. MCCURRY: We're going to get facts, and then we will see what we have to say about it.
Q Could you just restate for us the White House policy in terms of contacts with the FBI? Because after the initial Travelgate brouhaha, there had been a policy in place that the White House would not directly contact the FBI. What is the understanding of the policy today?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that those contacts are governed by the policies in place, there has been no change in those policies, and they should always be appropriate contacts.
Q Could you tell us why the administration thinks it's a good idea to allow U.S. oil companies to buy Iraqi oil?
MR. MCCURRY: I can tell you the State Department is briefing elaborately and exhaustively on that subject now. But, in general, the purpose of the oil sales that have now been authorized by the United Nations under U.N. Security Council Resolution 986 is to provide humanitarian relief to the suffering people of Iraq. That was important. We supported those oil sales, and we believe that America's oil and gas industry can be a part of the management of those sales so that the proceeds go to the people who are badly in need of relief.
Q Could I follow up on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure.
Q And the notion of U.S. firms writing out checks to oil companies belonging to Saddam Hussein's government, is there anything unseemly about that politically?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not how the 986 program works. The 986 program, if I understand correctly, the proceeds go -- revenues go into an escrow account, right, that will then be governed and supervised by the United Nations so that the relief go to the people of Iraq and go to support the U.N.'s activities in Iraq. As you know, the United States took the position that was not only a good idea, it's an idea that should have been pursued by Saddam Hussein a long time ago because a lot of suffering by his people have occurred since then.
And the simple view is the United States should not be excluded from participating in the provision of that revenue to those individuals because we, frankly, have got some expertise that we think will be good and we'll make sure that the program works effectively.
Q Could I just follow up? One last question. Some critics say that, in the end, the U.S. and the U.N. backed away from previous demand that the U.N. distribute the humanitarian relief rather than Saddam Hussein's government.
MR. MCCURRY: The program of relief that will be administered under U.N. supervision was very carefully drawn. In fact, the criticism, frankly, of several weeks ago was exactly the opposite -- that the United States and the United Kingdom were being far too tenacious in demanding certain conditions on those sales. Remember just a while ago, the question was, well, gee, aren't we being too tough on Iraq when it comes to structuring those sales. So we believe we've got a good, equitable resolution of the issue in the Security Council.
Q Mike, with all the flap raised about reported morale problems in the Navy in the wake of Admiral Boorda's death, does Admiral Johnson have any special instructions from the President to deal with this issue?
MR. MCCURRY: He is a superb commander, a combat veteran, someone whose record and experience the President was aware of before his name even began to surface in connection with this post. The President, as you know, has just issued a statement that indicates the reasons why he selected the Admiral for this very important position and he has very specific instructions to ensure that the United States Navy remains the greatest Navy on Earth. And the President believes that he'll provide that leadership.
Q Since we're not at State, can I ask one question about the oil sales, and that is, is this a tightly drawn change in the executive order so that it applies only to the 986 sales, and this is not a long-term change in policy?
MR. MCCURRY: This is not a change in our policy with respect to Iraq. Iraq needs to fully comply with all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The 986 oil sales are something that this administration and the previous administration advocated under U.N. Security Council Resolution 706 and 712. And we continue to believe that the provision of humanitarian relief to the people of Iraq is something that the international community ought to support.
Q Do you have to -- does this apply only to the two sales that are permitted now?
MR. MCCURRY: The technical aspects of that are covered over at State today.
Q To get back to the Travelgate documents for just a second, you said that the White House is trying to figure out what document they're talking about --
MR. MCCURRY: And what Mr. Nussbaum's view of the document is. And when they've got more to report, they'll report it.
Q So wait a minute. You're not saying the White House is not aware of this document --
MR. MCCURRY: No, not at all.
Q -- or it's ramifications?
MR. MCCURRY: I mean, we provided a series a series of documents. We're making sure we understand exactly what he is referring to and what he is construing from the document that he has talked about publicly. And we're in contact, I understand, with Mr. Nussbaum to try to determine what the facts are. And when we have the facts, we'll tell you.
Q When you come back -- you are, in fact, taking the question and send us something on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Fabiani has been dealing with many of you and I'm sure he'll have an answer soon.
Q Could I ask you again, why then, if the White House is not really sure exactly what that document meant or what was intended by the document, how then could the White House claim executive privilege for that document?
MR. MCCURRY: You're testing my patience a little here. I made it clear that we're trying to get facts. When we have facts, we can give answers.
Q House Republicans are suggesting the administration is withholding FBI documents in the Bertin and Gonzalez murders in Haiti. Do you have anything on that, and are they?
MR. MCCURRY: This resurrects pretty nearly the same allegations that he made at a press conference back in December of 1995, and since that time the administration has twice testified on the Hill to the substance of those allegations. I'm not aware that there's anything new. We've provided over a thousand pages of documents to the Congress in connection with that matter.
Q Mike, can I ask you about Gingrich's comments that Commerce Department workers may have shredded documents of Secretary Brown?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he, to my knowledge, did not make any such comments publicly. He made some comments privately, so they've been reported by others. I think it's incumbent upon the Speaker, having made such an outrageous statement, apparently, that he clarify whatever it was that he had in mind on that. That is --
Q Are you sure the statement is outrageous?
MR. MCCURRY: I am confident that it's outrageous. The statement that there was some delay in reporting the facts and circumstances of Secretary Brown's air crash from here at this White House is an outrageous suggestion.
Q And a quick follow-up. Tony Blankley has been quoted as saying that scandals will drive Clinton out of the White House.
MR. MCCURRY: He's known for his somewhat bizarre wishful thinking.
Q Another Gingrich question. The Speaker has sent a memo to Republicans on the Appropriations Committee for their guidance this year to be generous to Republican colleagues in difficult districts and to be also nice to California. The President has also been nice to California. Do you see this as part of a new bipartisan attitude toward the state? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: If the Republicans in Congress wish to support or be supportive of, or match the very fine work that the President has done for California over three and a half years, that only redounds to the benefit of the Golden State and it would be welcome.
Q Mike, what was the nature of the interest in a meeting with Senator Dole the President had? Did he want to discuss his remaining days in the Senate legislatively or just wish him well in his future endeavors?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it was something the President wanted to do as a courtesy.
Q Is the White House concerned about the fact that U.S. banking laws and U.S. laws may have been broken in the transfer of millions of dollars from the President of Mexico's brother --
MR. MCCURRY: There's an article in The New York Times today on that subject, and we've got some folks looking at that. I'm not prepared now to address specific questions on that, but we'll see, maybe we can get back to that subject tomorrow.
Q What's the White House's understanding of the status of Senator Dole's campaign fund? Is he -- by your understanding, is he flat broke now?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know whether it's so much flat broke or that he has spent what he's allowed to spend under federal law. So they are very quickly be at the point where it would be very hard for them to conduct campaign activities and stay within the framework of federal election law, it seems to us.
Q You said pretty close to that about a week or two ago. I'm asking basically if he has gotten there.
MR. MCCURRY: I have to believe that they are beyond that point, but there are others who watch that more carefully at the Democratic National Committee and certainly over at our campaign, and they're more qualified to comment on it.
Q Mike, on Admiral Johnson. Did the President meet with Admiral Johnson and any of the other potential candidates for the CNO job? And how much was his choice for a new CNO restricted by the many scandals floating around some of the other candidates?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- the President was confident he had a very capable group of senior officers to look at as candidates for the CNO position. He is absolutely confident that this choice is an excellent one. It has gotten very strong support from the Secretary of Defense, as you know from the Secretary's comments in Portugal earlier today. He is confident Admiral Johnson will be a superb leader of the Navy. And he was certainly well aware of his career, well aware of his reputation within the Navy, looks forward to seeing Admiral Johnson soon.
Q But he didn't meet with him prior to --
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge.
Q Does he have plans to meet within him one on one?
MR. MCCURRY: He may -- he could conceivably do that sometime soon, but we will let you know if something like that is scheduled.
Q Mike, what role, if any, did John Dalton have in Admiral Johnson's selection?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Secretary is someone whose opinion counts a lot here at the White House; it certainly counts with the Secretary of Defense and others. There were a large number of people who wanted to make sure that this Navy remains the best in the world who participated in the thinking about the candidates and making a recommendation to the President and advising the President on his selection.
Q Has the President talked to Dalton about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check and see if he talked specifically to Dalton, but I know Dalton was a participant in the selection process.
Q Mike, given the high profile of Boorda's exit from the job and what that did to the Navy, why didn't the President do something more high profile with Johnson today?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the way in which this important position was announced is consistent with the way it's traditionally done. Quite frankly, we're in a very heavy political season. Admiral Johnson will have to be confirmed. He has been confirmed to promotions in recent times. When was his most -- did he have a four-star proceeding?
MR. JOHNSON: Deputy chief.
MR. MCCURRY: When he became deputy chief, he went through a process -- is that a confirmable slot? Deputy chief is a confirmable slot in the Senate, so he has been through a confirmation process and we certainly hope he will be confirmed. But, frankly, it might make it a little bit easier if we handle this announcement in the way that it is customarily handled. That does not take away anything from the President's determination to make sure the Navy understands it is a valuable part of the projection of our military strength overseas and a valuable part of our national defense.
Q Well, Mike, there was some talk after Admiral Boorda's death that the President would either have an event or have some occasion where he could talk about the Navy and the kind of healing process it has to go through. And you guys decided not to do it on the Intrepid. But I'm wondering if there are any plans to --
MR. MCCURRY: That's not the case. The President has done a lot in the days since Admiral Boorda's death to really reach out to the Navy at all ranks -- enlisted personnel, senior officers, and others, Admiral Boorda's staff. And I believe that that outreach has been well received. But there are others here who can tell you more about it.
Q There is nothing planned for the future?
MR. MCCURRY: He will continue to provide the kind of leadership that he knows he must provide as commander-in-chief.
Q Mike, one more question on long-term solvency of Social Security.
MR. MCCURRY: I thought you were going to ask about California again.
Q As the President looks at this problem, starting in '97 and beyond, can he envisage any solution that would be other than bipartisan?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to -- the President is confident that if people in good faith address the problem and look at the long-term problem, we can reach bipartisan solutions that have the support of strong majorities from both sides of the aisle in both Houses. It most likely will have to be that way. If we become wrapped in politics on the issue making the long-term decisions we'll need to make on these programs, it will be much, much harder to get that.
And that's the history -- it's been the history of dealing with Social Security and Medicare from the beginning, that when we deal with funding questions as they have arisen, when we dealt with very serious solvency questions related to Social Security in the early 1980s, the solutions that were found we bipartisan solutions because they have to be. And the President's confident we can get that kind of agreement. But it, admittedly, is much more difficult in the context of the political season in an election year. But again, I would say there are some things we can do now to make sure that we deal with the short-term solvency issues that can get bipartisan support and ought to get bipartisan support.
Q In resigning from the bench yesterday, Judge Sarokin in New Jersey said that the Republican politicization of judicial decisions this year is driving some good judges, including himself, from the bench. Would the White House agree with this assessment?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I can't provide an assessment. I'm not aware that there have been other resignations or other justices seeking senior status or other changes in the bench because of the politicization of judicial appointments. Certainly, from his letter it was clear that was true in his case. That is certainly something that has concerned the President, and it's been of concern to a great number of people in America's legal community.
Q Is that a concern to the President even though Sarokin had previously said he was going to resign anyway?
MR. MCCURRY: The general nature of the debate has been of concern to the President, yes.
Q Mike, on Helms-Burton, the OAS had its general assembly in Panama. Twenty-three out of 24 countries voted for condemning the U.S. for the Helms-Burton and asked for an investigation on the Organization's judiciary committee to determine if its legal. Only the U.S. voted against the resolution. What's the White House reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: The outcome of the vote in the Organization of American States was consistent with the views all of those nations have expressed on the subject of economic sanctions with respect to Cuba. We have a different point of view on Cuba. We believe the economic pressure we're bringing to bear on Cuba is important as part of the process of bringing fundamental political change to that island and in that regime. But that has been a point of differing viewpoints within the OAS for a long time, and the vote was not as surprise.
Q Senator Moynihan introduced the President's welfare bill today, but says, "I do not support this bill and indeed I'll oppose it with a lot of conviction." Given the fact that the Republicans hold the Congress and Moynihan is the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, why bother?
MR. MCCURRY: Why did Senator Moynihan bother to introduce it?
Q No, why did the President go ahead with this when his own -- when the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee says he opposes it.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, not to take away my former employer's expertise on the subject matter, we are, as I've said here before, we are reaching some substantive consensus on welfare reform -- tough requirements, making sure we are easy on kids by taking care of kids through child care and health care, making sure that the employment opportunities provided as part of welfare reform are real ones. And earlier this year we had some bipartisan consensus between governors that, unfortunately, then evaporated when the issue became much more political up on the Hill.
But you can see in the whole debate on welfare reform now coming together around some key substantive points of agreement. And, frankly, the debate, as the President I think will suggest to members of the House shortly, the debate on welfare reform now is much more encouraging when you look at legislative vehicles like Senator Breaux and Senator Chafee's measure or the Castle-Tanner measure over in the House. Those are the pieces of legislation from which you could structure welfare reform. And the President continues to believe that we can get that done because substantively the sides are together.
Now, this is now a political issue in the context of the national election. It's not clear that there will be any bipartisan passage of welfare reform, but this is a subject, again, where there could be real progress. I mean, we've got -- look, balancing the budget, reforming welfare, expanding health insurance through Kassebaum-Kennedy, and raising the minimum wage all could get done. Frankly, they could all get done by next Tuesday when Bob Dole leaves the Senate. And the President of the United States would much rather hand Bob Dole some pens at signing ceremonies than hand him a gold watch.
Q Mike, a quick question about California. I'm wondering if the President is still planning to hold a fundraiser in San Francisco. Apparently, a San Francisco newspaper is reporting that Willie Brown has told Clinton not to come because there is going to be a huge gay demonstration if he does.
MR. MCCURRY: We're going to San Francisco and we're doing whatever we're doing.
Q The fundraiser is on?
Q Can you confirm that Willie Brown has advised him not to come?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check with Leon Panetta. I know Mr. Panetta had a good conversation with the Senators and with the Mayor, and I didn't hear anything of that nature reported as a result of those conversations. But I'll check with you.
Q Does the President have anything to say about Governor Lamb's flirtation with the Reform Party?
MR. MCCURRY: Though iconoclastic and though provocative and interesting, he considers Dick Lamb a friend and considers him an interesting force in American politics. Whatever decision he makes with respect to the Reform Party is his alone to make, and we'll deal with it when he makes a decision.
Q Would he still be a friend if he ran against him?
MR. MCCURRY: I think you can have amicable and adversarial relationships. I try to prove that to you every day. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you.
END 1:32 P.M. EDT