THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:55 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The White House daily press briefing shall commence. Assuming that someone has a question.
Q Is the President watching the vote?
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President is participating in a scheduling meeting right now, so we can soon let you know about all the fun things we'll be doing in the next several weeks.
Q Mike, on this diplomatic immunity story with the Georgian, Senator Gregg is -- wants Clinton to hold up $30 million in U.S. aid to Georgia if they don't waive diplomatic immunity.
MR. MCCURRY: We are aware that he has made that suggestion, but we're also continuing to pursue the matter as the State Department indicated that they are pursuing it, awaiting the report from the Metropolitan D.C. Police about the incident itself. They will continue the discussions they already have underway with the government of Georgia through the embassy. And again, as we said yesterday, we hope that we will resolve the matter satisfactorily.
Q Are you aware that perhaps the Russians might be trying to get the Georgians to waive diplomatic immunity? Have you heard anything like that?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not had any information conveyed to me about that, no.
Q Is the President going to call the new leadership in the House and the Senate after the votes and all that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if you recall, he did call them when they were designated by their respective caucuses. He called to congratulate the Speaker and Majority Leader Lott when they had their organizational sessions and designated them as the leadership of the respective caucuses. In a sense, he's made that congratulatory call already and he obviously will look forward to working with the Speaker, with the Majority Leader as the Congress organizes.
Q He's not going to call today?
Q So he's not going to make any calls?
MR. MCCURRY: He will be in close contact with the Speaker and the Majority Leader as we begin the work that the 105th Congress will be doing.
Q So he's not going to make any -- why didn't you say so?
MR. MCCURRY: I said he already called them. He called them to congratulate them before.
Q Two weeks ago.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, two weeks ago. And I'll let you know if the President has any telephone conversations with them. I'll let you know.
Q Did he call them on the first --
Q But considering the difficulty he's had in the interim you might think that he'd want to call him today -- the Speaker has had.
MR. MCCURRY: They've spoken, I believe. I'll find out. As I indicated this morning, they've talked from time to time.
Q About the difficulties the Speaker is having?
Q What effect do you think the debate over the Speaker's ethics problems will have on the President's dealings, on the administration's dealings with the Speaker and other members of the House Republican leadership?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no way of predicting.
Q So you don't think it will have any effect at all?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will go about doing the work he's been elected to do, working with the Congress that has been elected by the American people, working closely with the leadership, including the Speaker and the Majority Leader. There is a lot of work to do; the President looks forward to doing it.
Q Mike, there has been some talk that the President's going to have an event to kick off his desire to see an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act. I was wondering when are we going to see that kind of event, what kind of event is it. And there's been some talk that he's actually going to be in a movie on ABC -- he'll be part of this made-for-TV movie that ABC is going to air, I think on January 21st.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure when the air date is. I saw a note from Ginny Terzano on that, because she worked on that. We can find out more about that. You will recall he taped that segment quite some time ago last year, and ABC, has, I think, indicated an air date coming up fairly soon, but it does highlight the role that he played in the act. We will be talking about the President's desire to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act, as he suggested at the Family Conference in Nashville last year. I don't have a date yet for when we would do that publicly, but it will be a subject the President will turn to fairly frequently in the coming year.
Q Mike, I just want to ask Peter's question another way. Senator Thompson's hearings are about to begin, and I'm wondering what impact --
MR. MCCURRY: He asked about the Speaker.
Q He did. But I want to ask what the President's ethical problems and how they might affect the dealings with the Hill and the legislative issues. He told The L.A. Times last week that if the Republicans aren't even-handed in the hearings, that he will not let them use a balanced budget deal as a cover to make them look respectable. Is he suggesting that if they don't handle the hearings properly that he won't be in a mood to negotiate with them?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he was suggesting that he hopes that there will be a balanced approach to inquiries about campaign finance that will demonstrate to everyone's satisfaction that we need campaign finance reform. That's an important issue, and that issue should not detract from our ability to deal with other issues that will be on the agenda -- balancing the budget among them, doing the things necessary to expand educational opportunities for the American people, addressing some of the issues related to welfare and successfully implementing welfare reform that you'll hear the President talk about frequently, and dealing with all of the things the President said before the country during the campaign period, which we now need to translate into a program for action.
Q He made specific comments about if they weren't even-handed, he was suggesting that something -- that maybe negotiations wouldn't be able to --
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't read the President's remarks in that fashion. I think he was suggesting logically that there needs to be a balanced approach on the issue of campaign finance reform, and that that would set a tone for how work can proceed in the 105th Congress, and it was important not to get bogged down on a single debate or to turn it into an overly partisan, divisive debate because there was so much work to do on balanced budget, on dealing with Medicare, on expanding educational opportunities and doing a whole range of things the American people have elected Congress and the President to do.
Q Why did the President meet with Senator Moynihan today and what did they talk about?
MR. MCCURRY: The both had looked for an opportunity to talk, because the President, among other things, wanted to tap the wisdom of a senior United States Senator who has served this government in so many capacities over nearly four decades now, on a range of issues that are very much currently part of the agenda that the President and the Congress will deal with. The Senator is a noted expert on questions related to social insurance in America. He has very strong views, for example on questions of how to properly calculate the effects of inflation in our economy and he has a stated position on that particular matter. That was the large subject of their discussion today.
But the President sees Senator Moynihan as someone who is a very wise -- I hesitate to say "senior statesman," but certainly senior senator, that he looks forward to working with, particularly given the Senator's important role on the Senate Finance Committee, which will be dealing with many of the issues that are central to the agenda that we've been talking about the last several days.
Q The current and former presidents of Common Cause were here this morning. Did they meet with the President or someone else?
MR. MCCURRY: They did not, to my knowledge, meet with the President. But they have been here often over the past several weeks as we do the work of thinking through the issue of campaign finance reform that we were just talking about -- how do we structure a bipartisan approach in the Congress that will lend momentum to new campaign finance legislation build on the model of the McCain-Feingold measure that was pending in the last session of the Congress.
Q I'm sorry, small detail: did the President --
MR. MCCURRY: They have been here, I think fairly often over the course of the past several weeks, meeting principally with Mr. Hilley on the Legislative Affairs staff.
Q Did the President ask for the meeting with Senator Moynihan. Was he the one who invited -- he issued the invitation?
MR. MCCURRY: They agreed to it mutually. Both, I think, were anxious to have an opportunity to get together. And the President has been, as you know, talking to individual members of Congress and consulting with them as he begins to address many of those issues that will be on his second-term agenda.
Q Mike, anything definitive yet on when the budget will be submitted?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing definitive. We have requested formally that February 5th be the date of the State of the Union, and as I indicated yesterday it makes sense to us, and we hope it makes sense to Congress, for the Congress to hear the President's broad explanation of the program he's placing before the Congress of which the FY'98 budget submission is a piece. So for us it makes imminent good sense logically to follow up with the submission of the budget in the days immediately following the State of the Union. We await their response.
Q Does the President have any other plans to meet with individual members of Congress outside the leadership the way he did with Chairman Archer?
MR. MCCURRY: He has plans to. I can't detail specifically who he might see right now, but he will be, over the course of coming weeks, reaching out individually to both leaders of the new Congress, and then also individual members that play significant roles on various measures that will be on the congressional agenda, and certainly on the President's agenda as well.
Q What's the purpose of this summit meeting this weekend?
MR. MCCURRY: The summit meeting this weekend? It's the -- the Cabinet has been -- the President wants to get groups of his Cabinet members together in working sessions to begin to structure a timetable and plan of action to carry out many of the things that he will be talking about in the Inaugural Address in the State of the Union.
It's an opportunity really to come together bringing --making the inevitable transition from the old team in place to the new team identifying the precise goals and objectives that we've got in the area of domestic policy, economic policy, foreign policy. The only problem we're having at the moment is that the idea of a retreat up in Camp David is conflicting with other very important activities this weekend.
Q The playoffs.
MR. MCCURRY: You got it. (Laughter.) There's one member of the senior staff of the President in particular who has a strong interest in the performance of the Carolina Panthers.
MR. MCCURRY: So this might change somewhat our modalities for the weekend.
Q It looks like the weather might interfere, too.
MR. MCCURRY: The weather might interfere, too, so we may either shorten this or think about moving it to a different date. But we might stay here in town, conceivably; maybe Blair House or something like that.
Q No cheeseheads on the staff? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: There was a -- some of you may recall we made a little visit to Lambeau Field -- when was that?
Q During the campaign.
MR. MCCURRY: During the campaign. And there was photographic evidence of the President's press staff wearing a cheesehead.
Q There's a cheesehead in the White House? (Laughter.)
Q So regardless of where it happens --
MR. MCCURRY: Even though said press staff member is, in fact, a San Francisco 49ers fan, truly at heart.
Q Mike, we understand that it's going to be less touchy-feely, to use a technical term.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, yes -- I don't know that it will be touchy-feely at all. It's a working session with individual groups of Cabinet members arrayed around foreign policy, domestic policy, and economic policy as the key areas of focus. Working sessions that would --
Q Anyone from outside government?
MR. MCCURRY: No, just members of the Cabinet and members of the White House staff.
Q No facilitators?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's pretty good at that himself.
Q Does the President have any reading on how each Cabinet member is going to make out in Senate confirmation?
MR. MCCURRY: We understand a number of the perspective Cabinet members have been doing courtesy phone calls, I think, and maybe some cases some courtesy visits. But those are going well and we appreciate the strong statements of support that many of the President's Cabinet designees have been earning on Capitol Hill.
Q Any comment on the Newsweek Paula Jones article that suggests that there was a virtual deal to end this and to work out an out-of-court settlement that sort of collapsed at the last second?
MR. MCCURRY: No, and I don't have any specific knowledge of that myself of that. You might want to address that to the President's attorney.
Q Back to Senator Moynihan again for a second. He's had some fairly tart things to say about the President and the administration generally, particularly on welfare.
MR. MCCURRY: He's had tart and mischievous things to say over a long career in public service.
Q But since he was meeting with the President particularly this morning, did they make any effort to bury the hatchet? Did they discuss welfare?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that there was a need to do that. It was a very productive meeting and the President very much appreciated the Senator's wise counsel. His thoughts on subjects related most specifically to the measurement of inflation and its impact on government programs, but also the conversation then broadened out into larger issues as well, and it seemed to be a very friendly and amicable session.
Q Did it lead to any change in the President's thought about how to go forward on CPI and give us the latest on what his view is about dealing with that.
MR. MCCURRY: The President, I think very carefully explained our view of how this issue ought to be addressed. It properly to be addressed by experts who look at the calculation of inflation in the economy, and I think there is widespread agreement now that we need to look for the correct and best possible measurement of the impact of inflation on government programs and on programs that are important to the American people.
But it was not necessarily a session designed to change thinking, it was an opportunity for the President to hear Senator Moynihan's very provocative views on that subject.
Q What about the experts from a couple of weeks ago? Why doesn't --
MR. MCCURRY: Our views on the Boskin report are as we stated them at the time.
Q Does the President believe the current measurement is not the best possible one?
Q Given that the President already knows Senator Moynihan's views on the CPI, what was the point of the meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, he's generally aware of them, but to now be specifically aware of them by having had the profit of a conversation was a useful way to spend time together.
Q Was there any appeal by Senator Moynihan to have the CPI considered earlier in the budget deliberations?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that tends to get into the private nature of the conversation that they had, and I guess I'll decline specific comment on that.
Q But does the President think the current measurement is not the best possible one?
MR. MCCURRY: As stated, yes. We said at the time that everyone expert in this field, and the President relies on the experts in the field, agree that we need to do a better job of calculating the impact of inflation, and that there are a number of different ways of looking at that and a number of very capable experts doing so.
Q Mike, apparently the Peruvian government has called off dialogue with the guerrillas holding the hostages in Lima until the guerrillas show some clear sign of also wanting dialogue. The Japanese Prime Minister has expressed concern over this, saying it raises worries that some unexpected accident might occur without maintaining contact. Does the U.S. encourage and is it pushing the Peruvian government to maintain open channels of contact?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, our posture has not changed at all. We have had a very active dialogue with both the government of Peru and the government of Japan about that situation. It remains of enormous concern to the United States government. We continue to believe it's best for us not to comment on the actions of any of the parties attempting to deal with the situation.
Q When do you think the President will invite Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich over to the White House for a get-together?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to predict when, but they will see each other a lot as we go through the period of the next several weeks, certainly. During the Inaugural period the President will be on the Hill. Then they'll have lots of opportunities to talk, and, as I've told you the last several days, they have been talking on and off during the holiday season, and, obviously, will be in close contact as the work of this Congress begins.
Q Can the President empathize with Newt Gingrich's ethic-related problems?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has got a lot of work to do and he's focused on the work that he's doing. Try again, not worth it.
Q What's he going to wear at the Inaugural, a business suit or a tuxedo?
MR. MCCURRY: Something appropriate for the occasion.
Q Striped pants and tails?
MR. MCCURRY: Something appropriate for the occasion. The Inauguration, the last time I checked, was January 20th, so we're early in the month for those questions.
Q Will he be there on time? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: He will make every effort to be there on time, yes.
Q Mike, is there supposed to be a meeting with CEOs on Friday? There seems to be some information out there that the President is going to ask CEOs of various businesses to kind of lend a hand on welfare to work.
MR. MCCURRY: What the President intends in the session that he'll have with major leaders from the private sector on Friday is to follow up on the very good session we had in Hartford, Connecticut during the campaign period. You recall back to the day after the debate in Hartford, the President had a good meeting with a number of corporate business leaders who were there to express their support as leaders in the private sector for the President's political efforts during the campaign.
But one of the things that came out of that session was a real commitment on the part of many of these leaders of private enterprises in the United States to employ those who are currently dependent on welfare. And the President made a very strong pitch that the private sector has to be a part of the effort to successfully implement welfare reform, that there have to be jobs there as we move welfare-dependent mothers off of welfare into work situations, that there have to be good available jobs to make that transition work.
The President intends to follow up on that in this session on Friday, and a number of leaders in the business community have been very responsive to this and have been working hard at it and had been organizing some of their efforts. And this would be an opportunity, I think, to put a spotlight on those things that the President is doing and those things the President wants others to do to make welfare reform a success.
Q What companies?
MR. MCCURRY: We will, as we get closer to Friday, be able to give you a more detailed list. We've got a couple that I think staff can tell you about, but we'll do more on that Friday.
Q Does the President plan to meet with the Japanese Foreign Minister in -- Prime Minister in April, like reported today?
MR. MCCURRY: Excuse me, I missed that. Not that I've heard of. What do we have coming up in April? I'm not aware of any plans, but I'll ask the NSC staff to check on that further.
Q There's a report in U.S. News and World Report that Clinton and Yeltsin could meet in a third country as opposed to in the United States; specifically, Ireland. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.
Q Would it be at Ballybunion?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not set a time or place other than to say that the month of March looks like a good general time frame for an expected meeting between President Yeltsin and President Clinton, and maybe -- the expectation had been the venue would be somewhere here in the United States, but we had never specified that to make it clear that we were willing to accommodate President Yeltsin's schedule needs, too.
Q What's the coverage of the Cabinet meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: Do you want to come? Would you like to come?
Q As facilitators. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: The coverage, it depends on where we do it and how we do it. If, in fact, we decide not to trek everyone up to Camp David and do it here locally, I'll be able to give you a very modified readout that you will find less than satisfactory.
Q When do you think you might do that?
MR. MCCURRY: When the thing's over. Or maybe Monday morning. I'd rather do it Monday morning.
Q That's too late.
Q This high-placed staff official who is interested in the Panthers, would this person be going to the game in Green Bay or just watching on TV?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think probably just watching his charges on the field.
Q Does this person own any -- an ownership interest in the Panthers?
MR. MCCURRY: This person may have had to get rid of his ownership interests in the Carolina Panthers, but he did have some interest in that. Others did, too. I think there were others who, including, I think, the President -- that was not exactly too far from his mind -- that might want to think about 12:30 p.m. Sunday being a time that we wouldn't be talking about the FY '98 budget or things like that.
Q Have they heard of videotape?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that never works. (Laughter.) Mr. Knoller is saying, well, just tape the game and watch it. Has anyone in here ever successfully taped a game and not heard the score afterwards?
Q Now, wait a minute. If you're the President you can order people not to tell you what the score is.
MR. MCCURRY: Not a good idea if you're the President to order people not to tell you things that, otherwise, are in the public domain. Can we all agree on that? Yes, we can all agree on that.
Q -- the problem not knowing the score.
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. Too many people don't know the score, that's correct. This person, particularly, on occasion. All right.
Q Is this briefing over?
MR. MCCURRY: There wasn't much -- I don't know that it ever began. (Laughter.) See you tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:57 P.M. EST