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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 23, 1997
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                              MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

2:16 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the White House briefing room. You are the press, I am the Press Secretary. You have the questions, I don't have the answers. Let's go.

Mr. Blitzer.

Q The Attorney General and the FBI Director both are now suggesting that Saudi Arabia is being less than fully cooperative with the United States on the Khobar bombing. Is that the White House view as well?

MR. MCCURRY: The White House has a much more nuanced view that takes a lot more words to say. Look, the important thing here is to continue working with the Saudi government on an investigation that matters to the President and matters to the American people. We have worked closely with the Saudis. We expect to work closely with the Saudis. And we expect full cooperation as we proceed. And the FBI and the Justice Department and others can address how the progress of that investigation is going. It's really more within their province to do so.

Q Should the President be calling up the King or someone over there to encourage them to more fully cooperate?

MR. MCCURRY: We have made -- repeatedly made clear on behalf of the United States government and the President, to my recollection, has himself on occasion suggested the importance of this investigation to the American people and the need for full cooperation as we seek information about those who are responsible.

Q About the Ex-Im Bank relationship and so forth -- you know the story I'm referring to on Blockbusters?


Q Is that true?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a lot of details in that story that we would not have any opportunity to know information about here. But I can tell you more about the overall thrust of the policy. We've been very explicit in our work to curb any support of terrorism that the government of Sudan is responsible for. The 1996 statute that is in question here has got an applicability to Sudan that is different from some states that we normally consider so-called rogue states.

Remember, we did not have a total embargo in place against Sudan so that the procedures in place for how we license economic activity or consider licensing economic activity are much different.

David has looked into this, can do a little more on this if you're interested.

Q Weren't they given an exemption for Occidental? I know I asked a different question, but this is fine, too.

MR. MCCURRY: Take it away, David.

MR. JOHNSON: Okay. When the administration-supported Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act was put into effect, the administration determined it was the intent of the legislation that we would keep those comprehensive sanctions in effect for those states which already had them. But the intent of the legislation was not to put in place comprehensive sanctions for the other two states, but to prohibit transactions or flows into the United States of funds which might further support terrorism in the United States. That was the advice the State Department gave the Treasury Department, and it was on that basis that the regulations were drafted. So for Occidental Petroleum or another company, a specific license for the type of transaction that they undertook was not required.

I would also want to point out that it was this administration which put Sudan on the terrorism list, and it's this administration which has taken steps to help isolate Sudan, to help its neighbors in protecting themselves against potential terrorism from Sudan. Also, it's been this administration, which has led in the U.N., for some multilateral sanctions against Sudan in order to put further pressure on that regime.

Q But they weren't given an exemption. Why?

MR. JOHNSON: It was the intent of the legislation, in the view of the administration, that what the legislators intended to do was to prohibit transactions into the United States, prohibit transfers of funds into the United States --

Q This doesn't refer to such a --

MR. MCCURRY: This was their investment in Sudan.

MR. JOHNSON: This was their investment in Sudan. This was not a transfer of funds or an investment in the United States from Sudan or any type of transfer which would tend to further terrorism in the United States, as the legislation intended to prohibit.

MR. MCCURRY: Remember one of the concerns we were dealing with was external sources of support for terrorist activities that might be conducted in the United States and the statute was aimed more at that type of transaction than at investments or flows going in the other direction.

Q But if the intent of the legislation was to prevent money going into the United States to support terrorism here, why can't then companies invest in Iranian oil fields?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, because Iran is covered under a different statute and we do have a different set of economic sanctions in place on Iran. That's the point we were making. The two states that are covered somewhat differently under this legislation include Sudan. They also have some impact with respect to Syria as well.

Q Blockbusters in Thailand.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that is a -- I wanted to do both of these two. On that story, I don't have -- I have not developed anything further here. That's an issue that was apparently dealt with at Ex-Im Bank and the circumstances and details we just are not familiar with here.

Q Well, does the President, Mike, as a general policy matter, doesn't the White House want to --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as a general policy matter, we always want the -- any economic activity or investment activity done strictly according to the rules and the procedures, obviously.

Q Is there any attempt to find out? I mean, I'm sort of nonplussed by the fact that you're sort of acting like, well, see no evil, hear no evil. Is this issue --


Q Is this story not of concern to you?

MR. MCCURRY: No, it is a source of concern to us, but there are others who can appropriately look into it. Also, I mean, the ultimate conclusion here was that the economic transaction suggested did not go forward. That's important to note as well.

Q So nobody at the White House is looking into it?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't say that no one is. I can say that we don't have any -- to my knowledge, have any source information here that's relevant. But I'll see if we're doing anything further to follow up on it.

Q Mike, on the face of it, is it -- I mean, you say it's a source of concern -- does it look as though it was wrong?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to characterize it because we don't have enough facts to make a characterization.

Q But, Mike, you don't have enough facts to make a characterization, but you don't seem to be trying to get the facts.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I suggested to you, there are other people -- there are people responsible for looking into questions like that. There are procedure and regulatory procedures underway. And this happened within an agency outside the White House and there are appropriate ways to look into questions like that.

Q Does the President have any concerns that perhaps someone that he appointed to a job might not be acting appropriately?

MR. MCCURRY: The President always wants people he appoints to a job to act appropriately, of course. But we -- again, we don't -- as is often the case, we do not prejudge guilt, even though some do.

Q Mike, on another subject, can you set the record straight as to when Web Hubbell went to work for Lippo, when the White House knew that he had gone to work for them?

MR. MCCURRY: I can repeat what I've now been told by counsel and by Mr. Davis. It's all set forth in a statement that I think Mr. Davis has made available to a bunch of people. Mr. Lindsey indicates in his June 1996 deposition testimony before Senator D'Amato's committee that he believes he learned that Mr. Hubbell had been retained by the Lippo Group in the fall of 1994. He was reacting, at the time, to a list of Arkansans who he had been told might be invited to, by the Lippo Group, to travel to Indonesia. This matter has been, I think, reported on on many occasions. Lindsey advised the Arkansans, by the way, against making that trip. The first press accounts of Hubbell's retention by Lippo appeared not until February of 1996.

Q When did the President know about it?

MR. MCCURRY: He knew about it -- he does not recollect directly when he first knew about it, whether he saw it reported or heard that it was reported, or whether he learned about it from some other circle. In any event, the key thing and the most important thing is that, based on the information provided to counsel, neither the President, nor Mr. McLarty, nor Mr. Lindsey had any knowledge of Mr. Hubbel's retention by Lippo prior to being retained. That's the fundamentally important point.

Q What do you mean?

MR. MCCURRY: They did not know in advance of his retention, that he was under consideration or under --

Q Well, was he given it simply to help him along financially when he was in a bind?

MR. MCCURRY: We would have no way of knowing, having not known that he was --

Q And there was no influence by the U.S. -- the White House to give him the job?

MR. MCCURRY: Having not known in advance that he was retained, we would have no idea why he was retained in the first place. You would have to ask either Mr. Hubbel or the Lippo Group.

Q Does the White House know whether Mr. Hubbell arranged any kind of meetings between any official of Lippo and anybody at the White House subsequent to being retained?

MR. MCCURRY: Do we know whether he retained --

Q In his capacity, what was he to Lippo, and were there any meetings that he arranged for Lippo people with other people at the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, as you can imagine these days, it requires great care and precision to answer a question like that. I don't have access to me right here and now the entire record of depositions and public statements on this matter, and without checking that very carefully, I would not answer that question or attempt to answer that question. I will refer it to Mr. Davis and he might be able help you out on it.

Q Do you feel that people in the White House are always leveling with you?

MR. MCCURRY: I take it as a matter of faith that my colleagues give me the information I need to do my job. And if I felt that anyone was knowingly not doing that, I would not be standing here.

Q Has that been true?

MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely.

Q Mike, there's a question that we've had a little confusion over, and I think at one time you said you were going to take it and then I think maybe it kind of slipped through the cracks. I'm wondering if you could try to clear it up. When the President did an interview with The New York Times, it was acknowledged during that interview that it was at a meeting with him that John Huang specifically raised the question of whether or not -- whether he would go from the Commerce Department to the DNC, and Bruce Lindsey then followed up on it. But what was unknown, has been a little bit unclear is whether the President actually himself acknowledged that question or had any response when he heard it, and I wondered if we could get more of a definitive answer on it.

MR. MCCURRY: I am almost positive that Mr. Davis has answered that question for news organizations and, not to cross over on something that he has dealt with very directly with people on, I would suggest you pose the question to him.

Q Because when I posed it to you before, you said that you would find out about it.

MR. MCCURRY: I did not have an opportunity to do so, and I'm sure Mr. Davis will be helpful to you.

Q Mike, when you say that you are confident that you're being given the information you need to do your job, do you have any sense that you are being informed on a need-to-know basis, or on a basis of full disclosure?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has given orders to people on the White House staff to be candid and forthcoming in dealing with the questions that we take from you. And that's the basis upon which everyone here ought to be operating because that's the direct order of the President. And if anyone is not, I think there would be an issue.

But at the same time, I'll tell you, it's been reported here and there today about information coming in dribs and drabs. You know, questions come in dribs and drabs, too, and we try to deal in a forthright way with the questions we get, get the information, get the answers as best we can, and then provide it. And it's not a perfect process because the human capacity to deal with complicated questions is not always perfect.

I guess one alternative would be to say, well, we're never going to answer questions until we have one hundred thousand percent locked up all the information you could conceivably want to know. But then I think we'd be reading editorials about we were stonewalling. So we take the risk of going out and answering questions as best we can, sometimes making mistakes, in hopes that we get everyone pointed in the direction of the truth, which is the way we should be acting.


Q Mike, do you think the White House will -- the President will insist that we have training courses for these women who are being taken off of welfare? Some can't read and some of them have no skills at all.

MR. MCCURRY: I think a fundamentally important part of welfare reform as those women, in many cases young women, make the transition from welfare dependency to work is the right structured environment in which they can learn job skills. And a very interesting part of many of the experiments that are taking place now at the state level that have been authorized by state welfare agencies is to do exactly that type of training, to create opportunities that young women can get training opportunities in the work force, can have day care provided for their dependent children and can learn, in effect, how to do work in the first place, so that they can be fully employable as they move off of welfare.

So, yes, that is a very important feature of welfare reform. It is administered in most cases at the state level by state welfare agencies, but it's certainly encouraged by the federal statute and certainly encouraged by the Department of Health and Human Services as they work with local authorities.

Q But can we depend on the states to do that? Some of them may just not want to do it.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'd check with some of our welfare reform experts, but I believe it is a feature of the law that creating those types of training opportunities is, in fact, one of the goals and certainly there are incentives in the welfare reform legislation itself to encourage states to do exactly that.

Q To follow up on that, the Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter expressing concern that there is a risk involved in employers taking on liability of welfare recipients and they recommend having intermediary companies do the training. What is the White House view on that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, on that point, we responded to that at the time the President had his meeting with CEOs. I think I understand their concern. Their concern is that the private sector is willing -- many employers in the private sector have demonstrated their own intent to be a part of the solution here and to work to actively recruit and hire welfare dependents. I think the Chamber of Commerce was trying to make the point that maybe not every economic enterprise in the private sector can do that. And, of course, they have a responsibility to speak for a very wide cross-section of members, some of whom might be in economic circumstances where they could not take on that burden.

I don't think we were suggesting by the President's lifting up of those companies that have agreed to do it that every company will be in an equal position to provide those employment opportunities. We're trying to create an economy in which economic enterprises are thriving, profitable and that they can be in a position to provide those kinds of employment opportunities. But I think the Chamber, given the diversity of its membership, was speaking for a wide cross-section in the private sector.

We will continue to sort of focus on the positive, which is that there are many private sector employers who are committed now to meeting the President's challenge of providing those million jobs in the private sector that will be needed if we're going to make welfare reform a success.

Q Mike, what is the White House's reaction to the Canadian deal with the Cubans?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't have much to add to what the President said earlier. I think his reaction is the White House reaction. (Laughter.)

Q I'm sorry, I missed that.

MR. MCCURRY: If I could embellish on it, I would try. (Laughter.)

Q I think you said at the gaggle, you would look into Yeltsin's health and see if there was any information you could give us. Do you have any on that?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything specifically on his health. I don't think our information is contrary to information that has been reported by government spokespeople. We essentially know what they have made public. I don't know we're in a position to have anything beyond that. I know that there is concern, clearly, within the political environment of Russia expressed on that subject. The Duma consideration of a non-binding resolution on that subject we don't believe should be over-read at this point. It's an expression of some concern within a body of opinion represented within the Duma. But we'll get a more thorough assessment, I think, of the current political environment in Russia and certainly information on the status of our bilateral work on issues of common concern when Deputy Secretary Talbott returns back from the meetings he's just had in Moscow.

Q Since the White House has been so forthcoming lately on previewing portions of the President's budget, is there any plans to outline children's health care initiatives?

MR. MCCURRY: I thought in some places, a pretty effective job of that has been done already, since a lot of it has been speculated on in the press already. I'm not aware of any formal plans to present that, but we've still got a number of days left between now and February 6th. There's nothing scheduled to do that right now, but it's a key item of concern for us. You've heard Democrats in the Senate and elsewhere speak to their interest in that issue as well. So I'm sure there will be a fairly vigorous public debate on the subject.

Q What do you expect to come out of this meeting on campaign reform? Is there going to be any news?

MR. MCCURRY: No, not news. The news was made earlier this week when Senator McCain and Senator Feingold reintroduced the modified version of their legislation and when the President expressed his very strong support. What they need to do now is to come together -- those who are advocates of reform -- and figure out how they're going to climb the hill to get the act passed because it certainly will be an uphill fight.

But the President wanted to meet with the proponents of the legislation -- both House and Senate side -- with leaders of the reform movement itself, and then talk about what role he can play personally and what role the White House can play in advocating a measure that's necessary to restore the public's confidence in our political process.

Q Why will it be an uphill fight -- all the revelations of abuses --

MR. MCCURRY: It will be an uphill because at least one critic, opponent of the legislation has already indicated some intent to filibuster the legislation. So we have to get more than a majority.

Q What are the features in the Feingold-McCain bill that are preferable to the President than the Daschle bill that was one of the first to -- is there something, some element of the McCain-Feingold bill --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have a direct comparison item by item between the two. Senator Daschle's got some ideas on it. But I that clearly the President has embraced the modified McCain-Feingold legislation.

Q The President talked in some detail about his Medicare proposal on Monday even before the budget comes out on February 6th. Does he see some way to put the budget negotiations on a fast track so you don't have the traditional process where it's done the entire year?

MR. MCCURRY: I suspect from hearing him talk that that may have been partly his design. He's certainly indicated by reaching out to the Republicans by indicating some desire to be flexible and to listen carefully to the concerns raised by the Republicans that he is willing to address some of their concerns, and hopefully, we're creating an environment here in which we can make progress sooner rather than later on a balanced budget agreement.

Now, there are realities that come into play. We have to put a budget up. That budget has to go and be defended. There has to be testimony on the budget proposal of the President. But I'll tell you so far, the White House is very encouraged by the serious response we're getting from the Hill.

Congressman Archer, for example, sent us down a letter yesterday with some questions about our tuition tax credit proposal, the Hope Scholarship proposal. Well, that was a serious letter, and it asked very serious, legitimate questions about how the process would work. We think we've got very good answers and we'll be working closely with his committee. But how rare is it that a president's budget and economic proposals are taken seriously enough on Capitol Hill that we begin this dialogue even in advance of the budget being submitted. Normally, everyone declares the budget dead on arrival, and then we go into an extensive pattern of negotiation. We don't know yet what's going to happen, but so far, based on the comments coming from some of the Republican leaders on the Hill, they're taking what we're saying seriously, and the President's very encouraged by that.

Q Does he have some formal process in mind that would come into effect right after February 6th to avoid some of the delays that usually mark --

MR. MCCURRY: He does not, himself, have a formal process designed. He has an intent to work closely with the Republican leadership of Congress to see how quickly we can make progress on his commitment to a balanced budget and on their commitment to a balanced budget, and we take them at good faith; they want to get the job done, too, and what we're suggesting is, we will make a budget proposal to them that is a serious one. We know they have serious ideas and amendments and proposals that they want to make in return, and that we will be receptive as we engage in dialogue on those proposals. But that can happen, I think the President suggests sooner rather than later, so we don't stretch out through the whole year in an extended budget process that leaves us right on the verge of the new fiscal year without a budget plan in place.

Q Mike, is Senator Cohen being sworn in tomorrow, and is he being sworn in here at the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answers to that yet. We'll keep you apprised. I think certainly the President, if it can work out, would seem to be willing to do that, but we'll have to apprise you of the schedule later.

Q Mike, the IRS and the Justice Department have kind of politically -- decisions to make whether to pick up on the Gingrich investigation off the Hill. How will the White House go about making sure that the decisions made by those two departments or not have any appearance of political influence or sway from the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: We won't. We will let them do the job the way they are supposed to do it under the law, because when the White House attempts to interfere in any way, pro or con, politically, it can lead to the wrong result. They are confident, professional, law-abiding civil servants there who will have to do their job under the law. And that's what we would expect of them. We would expect them to be scrupulous in applying the legal standards that exist.

Q And the decision -- to go forward, would that complicate White House feelings with Gingrich, do you think?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't speak for the Speaker and say what his reaction would be. I can say that for all Americans, we have been trying to encourage an atmosphere of cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service and that's a two-way street. If you talk to the IRS, they have done a significant amount of work to try to make themselves more customer-friendly, knowing the antipathy in which they're held by many Americans. So they've worked hard on that problem. But that's true for every American, and not just the Speaker.

Q Come on, Mike, there's no stoppage of being mean by IRS, and everybody knows that. I don't know why Mr. Richardson hasn't done more about that yet.

MR. MCCURRY: Have you been having troubles with the IRS? (Laughter.)

Q Yes. Other people are, too.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, one of the things I think they're proud of over there is that they've got a good customer hotline. You can pick up the phone and call and yell at them, and there's someone who is supposed to listen very carefully.

Q Mike, you've rejected all of these stories that have been out there for about a month or so that -- is politicization going on, and that conservatives are being targeted?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any credible news organization that's reported anything like that.

Q -- The Wall Street Journal --

MR. MCCURRY: They've had some editorials on that subject, but -- credible news reports.

Q Mike, in a television interview yesterday, the President talked again about the Entitlement Commission, or the Medicare Social Security Commission for the long-term fix. The new element is, he said he'd like to see results by the middle of next year. Other than just talking about it, what will the President do to actually get that off the ground and invite Congress to actually put a panel together?

MR. MCCURRY: We haven't changed our view that this is a two-step process. We're going to have to deal with the short-term question of solvencies, particularly with respect to the Medicare Trust Fund and look to extend the solvency defined along the lines of the proposals we outlined the other day, and then we take up the longer-term question in which the President wants to design a bipartisan process that will work. Now, he's indicated some things about the utility of a commission, but the number of commissions, whether it would just have Medicare and Social Security or have the two funds together or do OSDI and HI together -- all of that is a much more textured discussion that would have to be developed, working with the Congress. There are no answers to that yet, because we have no formal design for that type of process in place.

The President is simply indicating the reality here is we're going to have to have some type of bipartisan process that can get to these issues.

Q But what exactly is a textured --

Q What has to happen next to get that going? Are you waiting for Congress to --

MR. MCCURRY: Remember, the long-term questions that any process, bipartisan process would address are impacted by the decisions we make right now on the budget that affect the short-term solvency of those funds. You make either larger or smaller the problem that a commission would have to deal with, depending on the decisions you make for the five-year track on a balanced budget plan. So that is -- what comes first is writing a balanced budget plan that gets us to balance in 2002, and that helps define the problem that you would then see addressed by another bipartisan group. But that's going to have to come later in the year, obviously.

Q -- probably not happen until the fall. If he wants to --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the thrust of the earlier question is why, why does it have to happen. Well, maybe we can do the five-year balanced budget agreement sooner rather than later which gets us into discussions sooner rather than later of the longer-term issues.

Q Mike, why doesn't the President insist that the Central Intelligence Agency check with him or first confer with him on their projects?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I believe they can't undertake projects without a presidential finding. So by law, they do.

Q Oh, come on. You don't mean that the President has -- is deciding what goes -- approving what goes on by the CIA all the time?

MR. MCCURRY: He better be, or else someone, somewhere is breaking the law.

Q -- that can happen.

Q How does the President think he can be most useful in the campaign finance fight? Is he likely to be traveling trying to build support on this?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that he believes that he can be useful both as a leader from the bully pulpit, as someone who can try to have some influence over members of Congress who have to consider the issue, and as someone who can demonstrate through his own leadership as an elected political leader that the political institutions of government function with integrity. That was the purpose of some of the remarks he made to the Democratic National Committee. And I think the President would be the first to acknowledge that with respect to the last point, we start in a deficit position and we better made clear that we are intending to conduct our activities with integrity.

Q Aside from the brief comments made when meeting Kofi Annan today, is he expecting to make any further push? Is he willing actually to expend any political capital on Capitol Hill to get the funds, the arrears paid?

MR. MCCURRY: He is. He went out of his way today to reference the need for those funds, to remind a skeptical Congress of the utility of the United Nations and what it does. He's also encouraged the Secretary General to go to the Hill and make that argument directly himself and to talk about his own personal commitment as reflected in their meeting today to reform at the U.N.

We hope that's a process that can begin to change some minds on Capitol Hill. But if there's still adamant opposition, the President understands that he will have to take the lead in pressing for the United States meeting its obligations.

Q He said in his budget he's got a plan to repay it. Can you give us any details about that?

MR. MCCURRY: No, not any -- many details. I mean, our idea -- our view is that with this renewed commitment to U.N. reform and as we demonstrate that that's happening and as things happen there, the climate for enacting appropriations that would retire the arrears will be more favorable. That's likely going to be a multiyear process or at least something that stretches out beyond FY '97. I think you'll see that reflected in our budget proposal.

But the general parameter of the arrears of well-known. The President's intent to retire it is well-known. The practical matter the President addressed earlier in the Roosevelt Room is obvious that without substantial progress towards reform, the climate for appropriating the money is not going to be very favorable in the Congress.

So all of these things, I think, have to work together to create an atmosphere in which the American people are confident that the resources that we expend on behalf of the United Nations are being used wisely.

Q -- issues do you think will be attached to any payment plan either from the White House or from Congress? Reform means a lot of things to a lot of different people. We've already heard people talking about lowering the U.S. assessment to 20 percent from 25 percent.

MR. MCCURRY: One of those people being the President, of course, because that's stated U.S. policy that we want to see that contribution amount lowered to 25 percent. That's a --

Q No, to 20 percent --

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, 20. Well, we have indicated that we believe that the appropriate share is 25 percent. The President has said so to the U.N. General Assembly. I'm not -- conditions, I think, is not the most useful way to look at it. We have obligations. We have expectations. The expectations are that Kofi Annan will do what he just committed to the President to do to proceed with real reform -- administrative reform, procedural reform, management reform -- at the United Nations that will assure that resources are used prudently.

That being done, we think the climate will be much more favorable in the Congress for appropriating the money that would retire our obligations. But our obligations are there, nonetheless, in the President's view. We think that we are headed in the right direction. And certainly everything about the President's meeting today with the Secretary General would confirm that.

Q -- the strategy for passing the campaign finance bill after their meeting, or do you think they'll not --

MR. MCCURRY: I think that if they come up with a clever strategy, the worst thing in the world they could do would be to talk about it.

Q Mike, are you aware of any phone calls that were made from the White House on behalf of the Blockbuster project? And would it have been incorrect for such phone calls to be made either from people at the White House or, say, a John Huang?

MR. MCCURRY: I think I already indicated that that's a matter that Mr. Davis will have to take up. I'm just not prepared to address it.

Q -- such phone calls would be appropriate.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, looking at -- I don't know the regulations enough to know what is considered appropriate and inappropriate with respect to pending transactions at the Ex-Im Bank. I imagine there's a stated either statutory or regulatory procedure that's in place on when things can be discussed. Even though there are restrictions on what the Ex-Im can talk about -- I mean, there are restrictions on what the Ex-Im Bank itself can say about pending applications. They are governed by a pretty serious set of rules and stipulations, and I'm not going to wing an answer to that question.

Q Given that the President considers education one of the centerpieces of his second term, is this flexibility on capital gains and considering a capital gains cut contingent on Congress showing flexibility on his education proposals?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to say it's contingent --

Q -- flexible on that --

MR. MCCURRY: I think there will -- the President has pointed to ways -- and there are many ways in which both sides can come together in this discussion. And I'm not going to attempt to write a bargain here, but there are a lot of different ways that I think both sides could approach each other on a huge range of issues. Look, any budget negotiation and budget agreement is going to be the result of a very complex set of discussions relating to a large number of items in what is, after all, a huge federal budget. And one item is not necessarily going to be directly related to another item because I think, as in most negotiations, everything will have to fit together and nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed.

Q There's a plan in Congress about Republicans and Democrats to have a retreat for not only the members, but their families, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in April. Will the President agree to speak there or to take part in that?

MR. MCCURRY: He's been trying to avoid chocolates, so I don't know that he's going to be able to do that. I'm not aware of any plans for him to do that, although he certainly hopes members of Congress, when they retreat, have time to spend with family.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 3:50 P.M. EST