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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 31, 1997
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                              MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:09 P.M. EST

Q Is the President going golfing?

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Yes. So let's go home.

Q What time?

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Kris Engskov, who is the brilliant --he must be at least Deputy Press Secretary. (Laughter.)

Q He's your boss.

MR. MCCURRY: He is my boss. He's the one that tells me what to do. Kris Engskov, who, I think as many people know, is one of the most influential figures at the White House Press Office, and has for many, many months now --

Q We've been sucking up to the wrong people? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: -- demonstrated his thorough competence in dealing with the most difficult issues that we manage here at the White House Press Office day in and out -- suggests that the President might go for a little golf outing momentarily.

Q With whom?

Q He had a new driver in hand when I saw him.

MR. MCCURRY: Did he really? Actually, I don't know if he's going to do anything other than enjoy the fact that he just had a nice working session on the State of the Union address, which went splendidly well.

Q So tell us about it.

Q Tell us about the State of the Union, please.

Q If he's going out golfing, he must be finished, right? Could we get an advanced text? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Let the record show the Associated Press has made the first inquiry for the advanced text of the State of the Union address in this calendar year. And we appreciate that.

Q How long is it?

Q Five days early.

MR. MCCURRY: Let me tell you a little bit about the speech, because I know some of you have to write for the weekend. This -- we've told you often, and I think I've said often, that in a very real sense the President wrote the 1997 State of the Union address during the course of the 1996 campaign, because over and over again the President took to the American people exactly those policy proposals that he believes defines the way in which America can meet the challenges that we face as we think about a new century and how we can get organized and be prepared for the 21st century.

So all the ideas, from literacy to family and medical leave, to reforming welfare and how we can make that a success, to things we need to do to continue the kind of economic growth we saw reflected in the a economic statistics today -- those were the items he drew to the attention of the American people during the campaign, and you can well imagine that those are exactly the items that he will lay before the Congress and the American people when he speaks next week.

The President will suggest, first of all, that we need to have a concrete action plan that really gets us prepared for the 21st century. And, in a sense -- I think I've told some of you -- the President probably wrote the State of the Union address in his head as he wrote his Inaugural address. Because his Inaugural address was a visionary statement of the America, the land of new promise in the 21st century that he described I think very eloquently up at the Capitol when he was sworn in; the State of the Union message is now the concrete road map on how you arrive at that destination.

The President will start by saying, before we can really come together in a bipartisan way to do the work necessary to prepare for the 21st century, we have some unfinished business. I expect he'll identify that unfinished business as balancing the budget and doing it now and getting on with the hard choices necessary to do that. He, of course, will, two days after the State of the Union, submit a balanced budget plan to the Congress.

Second, he will say that we've got to make welfare reform a success. And he will talk at some length about the challenge every American faces -- whether you're an employer, whether you're working in a community, whether you're trying to assist those who are welfare dependent -- how we can all come together to make this historic challenge of reforming our welfare system a successful one. He'll spend time on that issue.

And, lastly, he'll say America's democracy at this point, after the troubles of 1996, clearly needs to be reinvigorated with campaign finance reform. And he'll describe those three items as the unfinished business left that has to be addressed as a matter of urgency by both Congress and those in a position to help across America.

He then will turn to what he will describe as his top priority as we think about the things that we can do to make the 21st century filled with that promise that he described in the Inaugural address. And he will say education is clearly the top priority as we think about preparing for the next century. And he has spent now this morning working with his team, a considerable amount of time on that portion of the address. That's the one that he believes is going to be very important in describing how we get from here -- enormous opportunity because of the strength of the work we've done in the last four years -- to there, the beginning of the next century, the new millennium, in which the American work force, American young people have to be prepared to meet the challenges of a global economy and the interdependent world that we live in.

So long section on that. He will then turn to how we can strengthen families and communities. You can expect him to talk about helping the American people make that necessary evaluation of the needs in the workplace and the needs in the family, and making -- reconciling those demands and those challenges so that you can be successful both at work and at home.

You've heard the President on that subject often. The Family and Medical Leave Act plays a large role there. He will also then talk about strengthening our communities, coming together to fight crime, to combat drug use, to do many of the things that he has talked about in terms of creating a better environment in which the American people can raise their children.

There's a long section that follows on America's leadership position in the world and why that is so central to preserving the opportunity the President sees in the 21st century. And he will describe in some detail in a year in which, as you know, we've got a very ambitious foreign policy agenda, those things that he will identify as major challenges for both the Congress and the President.

And then, finally he will conclude by stressing a theme you've heard him stress often, that Americans have to come together, reach across gender, ethnic, and racial divisions to combat these problems that we face, to meet the challenges that arise, and to move together as one people into the 21st century.

The President believes, and we have good reason to believe, that the American people like a comprehensive, detailed description of what the President's plan is for the future. This is not only about the State of the Union at this moment in 1997, which obviously the President feels is strong and is reflected in some of the strong economic data we saw today, but he also believes it's about making America stronger as we think ahead to the next century.

This is, in short, a work plan not only for 1997, but in a sense a four-year work plan that carries us into the 21st century. And for that reason he'll talk at good length, and I would guess probably about an hour. That has been, we've found in the past, no problem for the American people. Pundits sometimes don't like it, but the American people appreciate that comprehensive attention to issues that they face in their daily lives.

Pretty good run-down of where we are. You can write --now you can all write something off the weekend for that, right?

Q What's the lead?

MR. MCCURRY: The lead? You get to write the lead, and you'll do that Tuesday.

Q One hour.

Q Is he going to itemize initiatives? Are there going to be initiatives that we haven't heard of yet?

MR. MCCURRY: You will hear him in the area of policy provisions say many of the same things you've heard him say in the past and make many of the proposals he's talked about in the past. I think what he's trying to do is put a little bit of new vigor and life into those proposals by maybe framing the argument in a way you haven't heard before, having some specific ideas or goals associated with some of those policy elements that will make the speech, we hope, a little more newsworthy.

Q One subject you didn't mention was health care. Is that going to be one of the things he talks about?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be a significant description of the health care needs of the American people and things that will be in the President's budget to address the health care needs of especially America's children. There will a reiteration of the President's call for service and a reference to the very important President's summit on service that he will host with President Bush in April. Some of the things you've seen the President describe in recent days and weeks will be reflected in the address as well.

Q Just to follow up, does that include Medicare and Medicaid as parts of this?

MR. MCCURRY: The President will talk about how we do have to generate necessary savings within Medicaid and Medicare as not only part of a balanced budget plan, but as really defining the government portion of health care delivery in America in a way that continues to increase the quality of service while minimizing the increasing costs of that health care delivery system.

Q Mike, how much poll testing has Mark Penn done in preparation for the speech? And will you have heroes, as has become traditional, sitting in the audience with the First Lady?

MR. MCCURRY: The President will -- there will be a number of people who will be there as his guests and I think he might reference. I think they're still deciding things like that. This is a weekend in which the nation's governors are in town, and if you think about what I've just told you, a large part of what the President is going to talk about reflects work that is not just the federal government's work, but it's certainly the responsibility of state governments as well. Implementing welfare reform, certainly bringing world-class standards of excellence to our schools and education, dealing with the complicated question of resources when it comes to health care delivery -- these are all issues that are very much on the agenda of the nation's governors.

And, of course, the President will be having dinner Sunday night with the governors. He will then be meeting Monday morning with the governors who are here for the NGA meeting. And I suspect many of them will be staying around Tuesday night for the speech.

Q How about the polling?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- look, as every White House I think anyone here has ever covered, we do go out and sample public opinion from time to time, just as your news organizations do. The President has made it very clear what he's going to do and made the decisions about how he will lead this country into the 21st century. But he has looked for ways to make that argument as crisp and as sharp and as persuasive as possible.

Q On the children's health care issue, Senate Democrats --

MR. MCCURRY: My boss, Mr. Engskov, arrives to describe that the travel pool needs to depart.

Q A lethargic press corps struggles to life.

MR. MCCURRY: A lethargic press corps struggles to life so they can go out on a crisp, early spring day.

Q If he's going golfing it must mean he has completed the statement -- every dot or tiddle. Is there another dot to put on? (Laughter.)

Q When he gets in the car to drive to the Hill on Tuesday. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: The State of the Union is a work in progress.

Q On the issue of children's health care, Senate Democrats are taking the approach that you either offer a tax credit or a voucher. Is it correct to say the White House would prefer just to expand Medicaid coverage for children that aren't covered now?

MR. MCCURRY: You may have gathered that from things you have seen various administration officials say, and I wouldn't dispute that contention. But I think some of these issues I have to leave to the President in his presentation to Congress, and then following up, our presentation in the budget.

Q Mike, will he touch the immigration issue? It's a very divisive issue in this country -- legal and illegal immigration?

MR. MCCURRY: In the early work that I've seen on the speech there is a way in which he addresses that issue. But I can't promise you at what length or in what variety he will do that.

Q Why does he think he has to implement the welfare bill when he's already passed the buck -- law, I mean -- (laughter) --

MR. MCCURRY: -- we passed that buck; it's the only one we did.

Q And states are passing the buck down to the local level with some dire results already.

MR. MCCURRY: No, I know what you're -- you're referring to the work that some states are doing to really press resources into especially urban communities to deal with the indigent population that we're talking about that's got to make that transition from welfare dependency into work. This is a process, the historic process of reforming welfare as we know it that involves governors, that involves mayors and local communities and county executives, social welfare agencies at the community level. I think this is plenty of work for everyone to do here. And the President's work is very clear as well, which is to go out and stimulate economic growth, encourage the private sector to respond.

I think you all know, just as we demonstrated with the event yesterday, the degree which he's been putting attention to encouraging the private sector to provide those employment opportunities that have to be there if we're going to move welfare dependent mothers out of welfare and into employment situations.

So there's a lot of work for everyone to do. There are implications for the federal budget; we understand there are implications for state governments, too.

Q Does he think there's enough money to go around for the kind of job that --

MR. MCCURRY: There's never enough money to go around. That's why we have to stimulate a response from both the private sector as well as use prudently the resources of the public sector.

Q Mike, he's always talking about, obviously, bipartisanship, but in this speech will there be any very specific calls or maybe some Republican heroes in the audience or anything like that?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to -- I know you're interested in heroes and things like that. He will obviously talk about the need for bipartisanship and for coming together across that aisle that runs right up the middle of the hall of Congress that he will speak to, to bridge those differences that exist in partisan politics to come together on this agenda. The work that he will describe, in short, won't be done unless Republicans and Democrats work together.

Q Right, but anything more specific or tangible?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, this is Friday; the speech is Tuesday. I think I've given you enough to get you through the weekend, and I'm not going to offer much more by way of specifics.

Q It's been great. (Laughter.)

Q Really, we've enjoyed it.

Q Will he call for any kind of budget summit or budget meetings to try to short-circuit the --

MR. MCCURRY: I think I've exhausted my specifics.

Q Mike, a House Republican aide this morning in a briefing for reporters, speaking specifically for Chairman Archer, expressed the fact that the Chairman is very disappointed that the White House appears to be -- that while Archer has claimed to be reaching out for a bipartisan budget or tax solution, the Treasury Department yesterday apparently briefed congressional Democratic staffers on elements of the President's tax proposals coming up next week, but apparently has left Republicans out. Has the President spoken to Chairman Archer, or has he called? Has there been or will there be any attempt to also brief Republicans and Ways and Means types?

MR. MCCURRY: Sounds like Chairman Archer wants a briefing.

Q It would seem that way.

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure he will get one.

Q It was described as a very unwelcome sign by this Republican aide speaking for Chairman Archer.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm sorry that that staff member feels that way, but Chairman Archer himself had a very good meeting with the President on a range of issues related to taxation and other issues. And I think Chairman Archer is pretty familiar with the President's thinking on that. So maybe the staff person can do a little checking on the Chairman's thinking.

Q Mike, on that point, through his aide, Archer was saying that he felt Treasury wasn't reflecting the pledge of bipartisanship that the President apparently made to Archer, by not inviting Republican staffers to the tax briefing.

MR. MCCURRY: There is a very -- in fact, I didn't bring it with me, but it was a very long list of briefings that OMB and others will be doing on tax and spending elements within the budget. We have not done, to my knowledge, any comprehensive briefing on the budget itself. We have done some specific explanations of portions of the budget, and by no means will we exclude the Republican chairs from briefings on the budget. But we're doing different things in a way and a fashion that fits the time available for both the staff members and then some of our experts that exist.

We expect to have people on the Hill, I think beginning Wednesday, to really go through the budget. And some of us will be on the Hill to brief on the State of the Union address. So it will be ample briefing, and I regret the fact that Chairman Archer feels like we didn't reach out, but certainly we'll reach out to him. We can't do this work without him, so we will want to actively encourage him to take a look at the proposals that we have, and I'm sure there will be an effort to be in touch with Chairman Archer and his staff.

Q Mike, is the White House sending Congress some sort of a message today on international family planning legislation?

MR. MCCURRY: We do -- there is a mandated deadline of tomorrow to make the determination on the status of some unobligated funds related to our international family planning efforts. This is money that has been appropriated by Congress, but it's being withheld under an agreement in the appropriations bill passed last year.

We have to make a determination as to whether the delay in the expenditure of these funds has had an impact on the proper functioning of the population programs that are run by AID. And the President, I do expect, later today will send a determination to the Hill that says, there has been a negative impact and when you delay the amount of money that's been appropriated and the kind of programs that AID works through, you create consequences for those who are the designated population that would be served by these programs. You create, among other things, unwanted pregnancies, the likelihood of abortion and a steep rise in maternal mortality rates.

So what we will be saying is that we've got to go ahead and move to release these funds. That's an issue. Then we'll be on Congress' agenda for votes I think beginning early next month, if I'm not mistaken. But we will be sending that determination later today and then there will be a debate in Congress about whether or not they're going to accelerate the expenditure of the funds that have been obligated already. We're not talking about additional spending, this is funding that has been obligated but has been withheld under the agreement when the appropriation itself is passed.

Q How much money are we talking about?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's a total appropriation of $385 million. In the money that's affected by the delay itself, if you delayed it all the way until -- I think it's July, right -- the funds would be released in July if you didn't start spending them sooner. I think the total consequence of a delay until the end of the period, which is July, is $123 million. That's out of the total appropriation.

I saw The New York Times; to credit them, they had a pretty good story on this I think, yesterday, that had more detail on that.

Q Who does he send the determination to?

MR. MCCURRY: Congress. I think it's an official notification from Congress. We popped a light up here, so I can say all the good stuff now since we're in the dark.

Q Mike, I understand that Alexis Herman is going up to see Lott today. Do you know what they're going to talk about and who asked for the meeting and whether you can give us a readout afterwards?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't say who asked for the meeting. I can tell you that the President's nominee for Secretary of Labor has been on the Hill often, has been doing courtesy calls to a variety of members of the Senate. Certainly, one with the Majority Leader is very important to her and, we hope, to him. She wants to clarify any concerns that he may have. She looks forward to meeting with him.

She is not in a position to really provide any kind of readout because we're in a period in which her nomination lays before the Senate as it advises and consents. I think it wouldn't be proper for us to provide any more detail, other than to say that we hope they have a productive meeting.

Q Mike, on the Tony Lake issue, could you --

Q Can I follow with a question about Alexis? On Alexis, did you mean your comments yesterday to be by way of an apology to Senator Lott, the one that he asked for?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think one was called for in light of the fact that his concern was based on the way in which it was reported. I think it was misreported. There was a motive attributed to my remarks that wasn't there, and I think I've clarified that to the Senator's staff's satisfaction and hopefully to him, too,

Q And on Lott's concerns about whether Ms. Herman may have been involved in targeting African American donors improperly for the DNC with her, of course, ties to the DNC in a position in the White House, are you able to sit here -- are you able to stand here and tell us that that certainly did not occur?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, she has -- she's in a position where she can clarify any concerns on that. The specific activity she had with respect to a constituency outreach program that related to affirmative action programs has been well briefed now to news organizations in this room by Mr. Davis.

Q On the Tony Lake hearings, there are two things apparently that are in question. One would be the investments, the stocks that weren't sold on time, or whatever. The other issue is the Bosnia policy. And is it your understanding now that Justice is investigating both of those?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't speak for the Justice Department on that. I believe there was a referral of that matter attempted by Congressman -- was it Hyde? And it would be within the province of the Justice Department to tell you whether or not they're looking at that matter. I think Tony Lake, himself, has been very clear on that. He says, in retrospect it would have been better to advise Congress of it.

But in any event, the issue, which is, was there an effort made to get arms into the hands of the Bosnian Muslims so they could deal with the very serious offensive they were facing from the Serbs and was there -- how did that impact on the U.S. role in enforcing the embargo, was then addressed by Congress itself shortly thereafter, shortly after the items that -- the matter under consideration with respect to Tony. And Congress mandated the very policy that was at question; mandated that we not enforce the embargo. So if there was a concern about that it was, in fact, the stated policy of the United States government as enacted by law not to enforce the embargo.

Q But you had Shelby up there using the word lie.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I am not familiar with everything he has said. I know that Tony, who is a very honorable person, has been dealing with this matter in a very straightforward way, has been answering individual concerns of Senators and is in a position to do so. And I believe, the White House believes, that at the end of the day when he addresses these matters the senators will be satisfied and he will be confirmed.

Q But, Mike, isn't it a question, Mike --

Q Back on taxes for a second. One of the criticisms the Republicans had of the President's proposals last year for, shall we call it, middle class tax relief or a child credit of some kind is that after three or four years be sunsetted, I think, after the year 2000. And that they said over the longer haul the President's package is really a net tax increase with more offsets that didn't expire, whereas the tax breaks did expire. Will the tax package that he sends up with whatever middle class tax components -- will that be permanent this time, as Chairman Archer has called for in his op-ed piece in the Washington Post? Or will they again be for a three, four-year package that will expire?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you couldn't get me to do specifics on the State of the Union, which is Tuesday, so we'll try to get specifics on the budget, which is Thursday. We're not going to do that. There will ample opportunity to unveil the portions of the budget. We think we have a sensible way in which we can bring tax relief to the American people so that they can see their tax burden minimized and see tax relief targeted on things that will continue to grow the economy, in ways that we've talked about in the past. And the President will have specific ideas he'll set forth both in the State of the Union and the budget.

Q Back on Tony Lake and Bosnia. But, Michael, isn't the ultimate question not the ultimate policy, but how it was carried out and the fact that many in Congress think that this administration misled Congress on how they were carrying out the Bosnian policy?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think the question is more appropriately, was there adequate notification to Congress of something that occurred. And Mr. Lake has addressed that and will no doubt address that when he gets his confirmation hearing at the end of next month. And I think that he will be able to walk through the policy, as we have done many times here in the past, the reasons why we had concern about the status of forces in Bosnia as the war at that point continued, the reasons why we thought it was important for the Bosnian Muslims to be strengthened. And the aspect of the non-instructions delivered is a matter that he will be prepared to deal with at some length. I think that he will clarify that record, do so to the satisfaction of senators, and he will be confirmed.

Q But wasn't it the President's decision as to whether Congress would be told, or not? I mean, isn't that the President's decision?

MR. MCCURRY: There were a lot of -- there were a number of people involved in that decision, and Mr. Lake, who we're talking about here, has indicated that in retrospect he would have thought it preferable to inform Congress.

Q Mike, without asking you any specifics about the State of the Union or the budget, could you tell us whether sometime next week we can expect the President to endorse any recommendation of any of the three factions in the Social Security Advisory Commission?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that we're going to change our view of that report as we stated it at the time it was released.

Q Could you repeat that view, please?

MR. MCCURRY: We can get you the transcript at the time.

Q This morning, when we asked you whether Alexis Herman's nomination was in trouble, it was a very long pause before you said you didn't think so.

MR. MCCURRY: I was trying to decide, am I in a position to make that judgment. I'm not. It's the Senate that advises and consents. We believe she can satisfactorily answer the questions and concerns that we've seen publicly raised, and perhaps there will be others. And she's working very hard, meeting with individual senators, meeting obviously, as you know, with the Majority Leader today, and making her case. And we think it's a very persuasive one. But whether or not she's in trouble is not -- we can't tell you that. You've got to go ask 100 senators and find out.

Q Just now you said Tony will be confirmed.

MR. MCCURRY: And Alexis will be confirmed, too. She can make a strong case for her nomination. The President is convinced that she's an excellent nominee. And we would suggest that she'll be confirmed as well.

Q Why did you say, perhaps there will be others.

MR. MCCURRY: Say again.

Q Why did you say perhaps there will be other questions raised?

MR. MCCURRY: Because I don't know what's on the mind of 100 senators.

Q On Alexis again, one of the issues is -- one of the issues that might come up in the future is that some of the things that she's been involved in are part of the investigations that are going on more broadly into the administration and campaign fundraising. Is there any fear that if she becomes Labor Secretary, that she would then have to return again and again to the Hill to answer questions of the Senate in ways that might be -- disturb her work as Labor Secretary or might be embarrassing for her or the President?

MR. MCCURRY: There's just no possible way for me to predict issues that might arise. She's up there. She's working on the issues that have come up and addressing those. And I think that some of those matters are clearly issues that I suspect individual senators will ask about. And she will be in a good position, I think, to answer and satisfy their concerns.

Q Mike, on the White House database question, the First Lady said that she does not think that she would have ordered the setting up of that, but a lot of the documents that refer -- that have been released by the White House referring to it make frequent references to it being a number one priority of the First Lady -- documents written by Marcia Scott -- and of the President. Can you reconcile these two versions of what happened?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, you've got someone else suggesting what Mrs. Clinton thought was a priority and then Mrs. Clinton herself describing it, so you've got the authoritative source, which is Mrs. Clinton.

Q In the area of health care, last year the President signed into law legislation to prevent drive-by deliveries, so to speak. There's legislation pending by Congresswoman DeLauro that would extend the same protection and require a 48-hour stay after breast cancer surgery. Does the President -- or is the President willing to support this mastectomy legislation?

MR. MCCURRY: I'd need to check on that. I think that's a subject that he has a great deal of personal interest in, but I'd need to check further on it. I haven't seen that issue addressed myself.

Q Mike, any statement from the President on Congressman Frank Tejeda's death and who's also going to the funeral?

MR. MCCURRY: We do -- in fact, we have a written statement that we're going to issue very shortly that expresses the President and Mrs. Clinton's condolences on learning of his death. He was, the President says, a friend who dedicated himself to serving his country and his community, and will long be remembered for his perseverance in the face of adversity. And we have a longer statement available. There is, I think, a considerable delegation preparing to go to the funeral. I do not know yet which members of the administration might be representing the President there.

Q Is that why the flag is at half staff?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, sir.

Q Do you have any more details about Mr. Aznar's visit? And what is it the White House wants to talk about?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have a number of things coming up. The President, of course, will be receiving the Presidents of Portugal and Spain here. In both cases, we have considerable bilateral interests that relate to the future of Europe. When we talk about the 21st century and the challenges we face, I think you'll hear the President say at the very top of that agenda is the future of an undivided Europe in which East and West are joined in the common pursuit of democracy and security in that region, and indeed global security.

There are significant issues to manage with respect to NATO, the adaptation of NATO to the new challenges of the post-Cold War era, how NATO and other institutions of European security integrate and relate to each other. There will be considerable discussion the President is looking forward to with both presidents on those matters. And then I think, as you know, the President will be journeying to the Netherlands for -- The Hague on May 28th and 29th for a very important U.S.-European summit.

One of the things that we will do in all cases in each of these three sessions, which we consider very important to our diplomacy with respect to our closest European allies, is to codify and advance the new transatlantic agenda that we've talked about -- that was first formulated at the U.S.-E.U. session in Madrid last year, two years ago? December of '95. And that has put in place kind of a work program that we do in the context of the U.S.-E.U. program that is very, very important to us. It relates to trade issues, regional security issues, a lot of the things that you hear us describe when we talk about our bilateral concerns.

So I think he's certainly, with both Presidents, looking forward to good working visits here and then translating some of that work as we do it in the context of our very valuable work with the European Union.

Q Mike, last week -- in addition to President Clinton -- a possible visit to India. Are there any plans? And also, any other countries on this trip?

MR. MCCURRY: I have not heard anything about the status of that invitation or whether we have responded yet. To my knowledge, we have not had a response.

Q The Peruvian radio today is reporting that Fujimori will be here on Monday after he attends the meeting with Hashimoto. Have you heard anything since yesterday and has the President accepted that request?

MR. MCCURRY: The President does not have any meeting on his calendar. We do understand from news reports that President Fujimori will be here. My understanding is that Assistant Secretary of State for InterAmerican Affairs Jeffrey Davidow will be greeting President Fujimori. And at this point, I'm not aware of any other meetings scheduled.

Q Have they requested a meeting with the President?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe we have received any official request from the Peruvian government for a meeting.

Q Mike, you were asked yesterday a question about the parades in Northern Ireland and this new report that's come out about it. I think yesterday you said you weren't a position to really reply, but have you got a reply now?

MR. MCCURRY: Bingo, Mr. Johnson. The United States believes that the North Report offers valuable insights and recommendations to deal with the very controversial and divisive questions that the parades and the marches -- marching season itself raises in Northern Ireland, especially during the season in the summer when most of the marches occur.

The establishment of an independent parades commission is an important and valuable recommendation. We're pleased that the British government is moving to set that type of commission up. And we very much it can be up and running in time for the marching season this summer so we don't see a repeat of some of the violence that we witnessed last summer.

Last summer's events cost the people of Northern Ireland dearly, both economically and politically. And it's vital for the future progress of the Northern Ireland peace process that new ways be found to bring these communities together and to deepen and nurture a process that holds out so much hope to the people of Northern Ireland.

Q The fact that the British government has postponed the most vital part of that report, which is that the police not be given the powers to judge about the parades, does that not weaken the kind of position?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that those -- the British government itself should better be in a position itself to describe their rationale for implementing the recommendation of the North Report as they saw fit. Others will evaluate its effectiveness. We saw the utility in at least moving to set up the independent commission. We hope that it can be equipped and designed to do the very important work that is suggested by the North Report, which is to bring the two communities together and to make sure that those public demonstrations of historical remembrance are nonviolent.

Q Mike, reports from Ireland seem to suggest that this talk about positions hardening on the various sides -- is there anything that the President has planned or in the offing to try and move any of that forward by way of meeting with anyone or --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we -- those who have had contacts with the parties -- and we have suggested we have ongoing contacts with the parties, although we don't detail them in specificity -- have encouraged them to try to break through the stalemate that has clearly existed. And part of that is related to the suspension of the cease-fire. And we have been adamant about the importance of restoring the cease-fire so that the talks themselves occur in an atmosphere in which -- of inclusiveness, so that all can participate.

Senator Mitchell continues to remain in close contact and heavily engaged in working with the parties to attempt to bridge the differences. But it is a difficult process and difficult moment, and peacemaking is generally such -- from the Middle East to Bosnia to Northern Ireland, the places we've talked about today -- these are complicated ethnic tensions and historical rivalries that exist, and bridging those kinds of differences is a very important part of the work we do as peacemakers and a very important part of the work we will have to continue to do. It's not easy going, but it's important work, nonetheless.

Q No meeting on the President's agenda at the moment with any of the parties?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I am aware of. We have, from time to time received various leaders of and representatives of the parties here. The President has, from time to time, been engaged, so has the former National Security Advisor and U.S. diplomats will continue to be engaged from time to time.

Q Are you putting out a week ahead? Are the governors meeting -- I know they're coming Sunday night, but are they meeting here on Monday or at a hotel?


Why don't we run through a real quick look at the week ahead.

Q -- the governors, and how that's going to work.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. First of all, I think you know we're doing the radio address live tomorrow on the Family and Medical Leave Act. And the President will have a dinner for the governors and their spouses on Sunday evening. That is an in-house pool coverage of the receiving line, according to this.

Q What about the toasts? He usually has a toast at that dinner.

MR. MCCURRY: He usually does. It doesn't say the toast here. Oh, no, I'm sorry, it does say that -- receiving line and toasts. Monday morning at 9:15 a.m. he'll have a group of the governors here. I guess the governors will be in the East Room. And I saw -- I had a note on -- yes, they're going to do -- the format for that will be: the President, the Vice President, Governor Miller, who is the chair this time around of the NGA and Governor Voinovich will all make opening remarks. That will be pooled, and then there will be a roundtable discussion that the President will have with the governors. Obviously, we expect the dominant subjects to be the ones we just were talking about earlier -- certainly education, welfare reform, Medicare-Medicaid, budget-related issues.

Q Is the roundtable covered?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Well, East Room, roundtable discussion.

Q No, but he was asking, do we stay in there for coverage of that?

MR. MCCURRY: No. You're just there for the opening remarks. You're there for the opening remarks. Then they get down to the good stuff.

Q What time is that?

MR. MCCURRY: At 9:15 a.m. -- that will be 9:15 a.m. Monday morning. Then the President will -- he goes out to address the Democratic Governors Association on Monday night. Tuesday, obviously we've got State of the Union address, and we'll tell you more on Monday about how we will provide whatever details we can earlier in the day for early deadlines. Hopefully, we'll have a little bit more.

And Terry Hunt -- you guys, if we had an advance text, that would be two years in a row.

Q It was 10 minutes early last time.

MR. MCCURRY: No, we did pretty well last year. I think we had it out pretty early last year.

Q -- so we can have it --

MR. MCCURRY: No, no, no. We had excerpts at 6:00 p.m. I think we had a full text by about an hour early. A challenge for Don Baer and team.

I'm going to go through the rest of the week. Then Wednesday, as you know, we go down to Georgia. Thursday is the National Prayer Breakfast and the budget presentation, and the President and Vice President will be speaking at the budget presentation on Thursday. We haven't set a time for that yet.

Friday, the President at 1:00 p.m. will meet with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, who will be here. And I think that's -- is that the last day of Gore-Chernomyrdin Friday? Yes. It will be at the conclusion of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission meetings the President will hear a report from the Vice President and from the Prime Minister on their deliberations.

Q Is that an open thing? Are there questions and answers with the President and Chernomyrdin?

MR. MCCURRY: It says coverage TBA, but it's in the Oval, so I assume that's a pooled meeting.

Q Bilateral news conference?

MR. MCCURRY: Traditionally, with Gore-Chernomyrdin, the two principals of the commission hold a press availability or some type of press availability. Do you guys know? Hold on. Ginny sent me over a note. It doesn't say that. Their normal format is that the two of them have a press conference, but we'll let you know next week.

Q That will occur after the --

MR. MCCURRY: Generally at the conclusion. I don't know whether it's before or after the meeting with the President. I assume it's afterwards, but if it's not, we would give you some kind of readout on the meeting.

Q The President and Vice President will speak on the budget, you say?

MR. MCCURRY: When we announce the budget on Thursday, they will both have remarks on it.

Q Will they take questions, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: Let's wait and see, because we then have got a series of presentations that go through the major parts of the budget. I mean, this is the traditional annual budget briefing and we've got a lot of participants there.

Q Where will you do that?

MR. MCCURRY: Over in 450.

Q Database question again. The documents are suggesting that at the time the thing was set up that suggestions were made that it be established in such a way so that it would not be subject to Freedom of Information inquiries. Did that happen and, if so, on what grounds was it established so the Freedom of Information would not be subject to --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, first and foremost, the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Executive Offices of the President anyhow. So I don't know how that would have been even an issue, because we're not subject to FOIA in the Executive Office of the President.

Q The documents seem to be saying that it had to make sure that to avoid public scrutiny --

MR. MCCURRY: We'll have to take the question. Barry and I don't know.

Q Mike, this morning you were talking about the fact that the meeting in the Hague, you might tack something on to that or some additional thing. Did you --

MR. MCCURRY: Nothing going out tonight. Nothing decided on that probably.

Q Could you post the answer, David, to John's question?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, if we can get it. If we post the answer -- I took the question, so we'll try to get a written answer, yes.

Q I thought it was David who said, take it. Did you say Barry? I'm sorry.

Q Is there anything new on the White House program to hire people off of welfare?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I looked into that yesterday. They said that they have essentially gone back and forth with OPM on it, but nobody has resolved any -- I mean, the more conversations they have, the more issues that get raised. And so they're working their way through the issues that present themselves. That's a matter of federal personnel guidelines and then resource availability and some other issues. But I've asked to be alerted to any developments on that.

Q In your search for an IRS commissioner, are you looking for someone who has a strong background in management?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the status of the search, but I'm sure we're searching for someone who is excellent, well qualified, capable of leading the challenges that the IRS faces as it modernizes and prepares for the important work the Agency must do in the 21st century.

Q Taxpayer friendly.

MR. MCCURRY: Friendly to taxpayers, willing to serve the customers, willing to fulfill the ambitious goals of the Vice President's effort to reinvent government as we know it.

Q Mike --

MR. MCCURRY: You asked. (Laughter.)

Q Mike, on the question of Fujimori, you've given an impression that makes it sound as though the President is not interested in meeting with him. That's not what you want to construe, is it?

MR. MCCURRY: Not at all. The President -- look, we've announced two meetings the President is having with the President's close allies today, and that was done in a very formal way as a result of very careful diplomacy. You know, we just don't normally -- the President of the United States doesn't have just sort of drop-by visits. The President does have a great deal of concern for the situation currently in Lima and the status of events at the Japanese embassy. He has deliberately been very low key in talking about that, for reasons that reflect the recommendations of his counterterrorism experts in our government.

So we have a very proper response here. We are, of course, very interested in President Fujimori's views, not only on that situation, but the range of bilateral issues we have. He will have just had a very important meeting with Prime Minister Hashimoto in Toronto. We will want to have a report of that. Assistant Secretary Davidow, of course, will be in a position to learn more about that and if there are any other meetings scheduled as a result of that, we'll let you know.

Q Are you somewhat surprised not to have heard from President Fujimori or someone in his office?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have, traditionally in diplomacy, a way of doing business of this nature.

Q Did you discourage him from asking?

Q And apparently it's not being followed. So are you somewhat surprised? I sense tension in your remarks. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, doctor. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I have no tension. (Laughter.) We highly value his views. We're looking forward to having an opportunity to exchange views with him, but we also --

Q Some other time.

MR. MCCURRY: We have a President preparing for a very important State of the Union address on Tuesday night. And we also have concerns about the way in which we conduct highest level diplomacy, particularly at a moment when we're dealing with a very, very difficult hostage situation in that country.

Q So you're ruling out a visit by Fujimori?

Q Sounds like they don't want him to come.

MR. MCCURRY: I've said that he's not -- I just went through the week ahead, and he's clearly not on the President's calendar.

Q Mike, I'd like to go back to next week and certainly the State of the Union in general. The President, so far as I know, is still a Democrat. (Laughter.) He's still the head of the Democratic Party. Medicare --

MR. MCCURRY: You're not finding anyone who disputes that notion, are you?

Q Well, what can I say? Medicare and Social Security are Democratic programs. Don't the millions and tens of millions of Democrats who voted for Bill Clinton have some right to expect to hear the President next week talk specifically about what he would do to really save those programs as they were originally envisioned and perhaps even invoke the name of FDR?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, again, I'm not going to get specific, but the future of those programs, the bedrock social insurance programs that have protected millions and millions of Americans from indigence in old age and when facing health care emergencies, is of course a hallmark achievement of America in the 20th century and one that the President, as he thinks about the 21st century, wants to preserve.

The President has often spoken of the way in which we can assure that Social Security is here not only for the generation that will retire -- the baby boom generation -- but for the children and their children. And he will have a moment when he can reflect on that important work, I'm sure, in the State of the Union address.

But he will also point to the very important work that needs to be done right now to extend the solvency of the Medicare Fund and then those steps that we can take in the future as we look to longer range questions that arise as we get deeper into the next century.

Q Mike, as a follow-up to that please, the choice of words -- you didn't use entitlement. You said social insurance. Did you do that on purpose?

MR. MCCURRY: No. (Laughter.)

Q Mike, you said in your meeting that the only -- in your statement -- the only meeting scheduled right now with Fujimori is with Assistant Secretary Davidow, but you also inferred that after that meeting, other meetings might take place with other officials and maybe, perhaps --

MR. MCCURRY: Is that what I implied or is that what you inferred? (Laughter.)

Q Well, I'm asking you because I think in one of -- you did mention we'll see after that meeting -- what he has to say.

MR. MCCURRY: You do so good in your inferences.

Q Well, I'm surrounded by experts, the press corps -- (laughter) -- but I would like to -- no, I really want an answer. Is that the only meeting that will be scheduled or could other meetings arise?

MR. MCCURRY: I said that the Assistant Secretary will meet with President Fujimori and have a dialogue. If there are any other subsequent meetings, we will announce them accordingly. I don't expect anything to happen here at the White House at this point.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:59 P.M. EST