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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 10, 1997
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

2:32 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: McCurry, can you top what the President just did, or should we just --

Q Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: It's good for me. It works for me if it works for you. We do have Bruce Reed and Elaine Kamarck on. They're enjoying the Cabinet meeting now underway and they can be here to answer some more questions on it later, or I can try, and muff it up.

Q Mike, what about the three-day deadline the rebel leaders are giving Mobutu?

MR. MCCURRY: As the Alliance and Kabila announced yesterday, they have set up a period in which they've given President Mobutu that option. We believe there should be negotiations between the government and the Alliance with respect to some interim arrangement for new constitutional authority in Zaire, as we said yesterday, but we'll have to see how that plays out. There's been an obvious response given by President Mobutu. The political situation remains very uncertain at the moment, although the situation itself in Kinshasa today has been relatively calm.

Q So do you regard that threat as a serious one that will be acted upon if he doesn't leave? What would the U.S. do?

MR. MCCURRY: The United States, along with others, are close in monitoring the situation, continuing to urge the parties to commence negotiations that would lead to a cease-fire and an end to the hostilities between the two factions.

Q Mike, in a lot of instances on this welfare reform issue, it's cheaper for many mothers to stay home with their children versus working for the federal government at an entry-level salary, and Ms. Wilson, who was just in there in the Cabinet Room, was saying that she had a support system. There are a lot of people out here who don't have support systems. Will the federal government have a support system or some kind of day care situation provided?

MR. MCCURRY: As the President indicated, we have made substantial proposals for increased funding for day care opportunities, and also for another critical link in the transition that must occur from welfare to work, and that's transportation for people who need to be able to get to the jobs that are there.

One of the features of our recently announced surface transportation proposal was increased funding for exactly that purpose, a welfare reform aspect to transportation funding that allows more -- would provide for more availability of public transportation for people who have to get to work, and also day care is clearly one of the real keys to making welfare reform a success.

One of the things we have learned from looking at the experience of those states that have used the waivers granted by the White House to conduct their welfare reform experiments is that you really do have to factor in the day care needs that must be available if women are to successfully gain employment. In fact, where we are bringing the welfare rolls down, that has invariably been a very important and central part of the experimentation taking place at the state level.

Q Mike, the figures that you show, the 10,000 slots overall in the federal establishment, would indicate a very small, modest example to the rest of the country. By your own figures, the federal work force is 1/70th of the total national work force. If you multiply 10,000 by 70, you only get 700,000, not the 2 million slots you need nationwide to meet your goal of getting enough welfare recipients off the rolls and on to work. So you're not even a third of the way to where the President wants to be in terms of setting an example.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we did the math a little bit differently, Leo. Are view is that the federal government is approximately 1.5 percent of the total work force in the country. To meet that portion of the challenge that the President has put forward, which is moving 2 million people off of welfare, and that amounts to moving about 700,000 adults into the work force, because remember you're counting welfare dependents, including children. If you do the calculations in that fashion, according to our experts who will be here shortly, you come up with about 10,000 would be what is the proportional share of the federal effort that should be made if you're tracking consistently.

Now, obviously everyone can do more. One of the things the President is hearing now from Cabinet officials is that, look, this is the commitment that they're comfortable making agency by agency now, but they see lots of different ways that they could build on this, maybe do more. They're also in a position -- some of these agencies that are contracting agencies will be in a position to encourage those that do business with the federal government to try to factor in the effort to hire welfare dependents as part of their --

Q I'll just follow up on one statistic. Fully 40 percent of your 10,000 slots come from Commerce, and I'm just surmising that's Census Bureau --

MR. MCCURRY: That's Census Bureau, and remember, because we're approaching the decennial census, there will be many jobs opportunities that become available because of the census.

Q But that's going to be temporary, right?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they -- it's a multi-year process that they conduct the census. And there will be an ample amount of time during that -- during -- I think they begin the first hiring next year, if I'm not mistaken. There will be time in that period for welfare-dependent mothers to get valuable work experience.

Q Is there any disappointment in the White House with the rather puny performance of a lot of these agencies that have huge work forces and come in with just a mere 100, 200, or 300 slots?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, if you look through it in many -- I think just about all cases, they have proportionally done what their share of the total federal work force amounts to. Proportionally, they come out about right. But look, they also had to be realistic in putting together goals that were going to be achievable and setting out what they think, given their own experience with the worker trainer program or with other hiring that they do, to put out some realistic assessment of what they think they're going to be able to accomplish.

On the whole, this is a fairly impressive number; 10,000 is a good start in making the federal government a partner in the effort that has to obviously include the private sector in providing all these jobs.

Q These are 10,000 that they're sure they can make?

MR. MCCURRY: They're sure they've got -- well, they've got, as you can tell, 8,000 in definite in the first two fiscal years. The 2,000 beyond that, they bring it up to 10,000. They feel comfortable about it. It's a little harder to project that for the out-years, but some of these agencies are now reporting to the President that they think they might even be able to do better than the targeted figure that they've got.

Q And the -- all the 8,000 jobs on paper will still exist when the last 2,000 kick in -- maybe not the same people, but the same jobs?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, some of them there is some restructuring and churning in the federal work force, and a lot of these are worker-trainer positions, too, because that's the program that we're encouraging people to use. But it will provide, in any event, valuable work experience, and not all of these 10,000 will be destined to become permanent career federal employees, obviously. Many of them will gain work experience in the time that they are able to work in one of these agencies, and then transit into private sector employment opportunities.

Q I assume they're entry-level positions. How much can someone get paid, and what are the six people going to do at the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: The worker training program, which currently exists, pays an established stipend. I think maybe either Bruce Reed or Elaine Kamarck can tell you more about that when they come. Some of the slots are subject to the regular and civil service GS scale, but in other cases they're looking to try to create things that fall under that trainee program.

One of the interesting things we found was it was by and large not used as extensively or as effectively as it could be used. So one of the things we're doing is putting a little bit more focus in that program that's been available within the federal government and seeing if we can't use that as a way of stimulating the agencies to respond.

Now, here at the White House, the six that we're hiring, we will design suitable job opportunities. The first, my understanding, will be in Bruce Reed's shop itself in the Domestic Policy Council staff, and they're prepared to locate a good candidate right away. I think they might even have one, and Bruce might be able to tell you more about that.

Q Mike, a sort of follow-up on that. Have you calculated that whatever it is they get as the stipend is more than they get on welfare? I mean, because they get health benefits on welfare. In other words, does it solve the problem the President has always talked about, that sometimes it pays to stay on welfare?

MR. MCCURRY: It won't -- well, when the experts come, we'll tell you with certainty. It will if they go into a regular GS slot, but the worker trainee program I think might calculate it a little bit differently. But, remember, these folks will then get work experience that then is effective in translating to other work opportunities that will exist in the private sector. That's the real shortcoming now, and many of these women do not want to be on public assistance, and they would prefer, of course, to be in a work situation. We think there's value in encouraging them to do that and, of course, there is a requirement that they do that as well.

Q But they will lose their health care, they will lose the kinds of benefits they now have on welfare, just as if they moved into any other private sector job that doesn't provide -- any other job that doesn't provide health care.

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to defer that question. I think they still are available for coverage under federal employee health benefits, right? But we'll have to check with them when they come in.

Q I understand the White House was looking at two plans, two proposals to train these people, the welfare recipients. Are you gearing towards the Marriott plan?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they've looked at the Marriott experience in designing the work opportunities that will be available here at the White House. I don't know that they've modeled it directly on that program, but they have certainly found that to be an instructive model.

Q What percentage of the workers that are hired by Commerce generally in the census period of hiring will be welfare workers? If 4,000 people here will be --

MR. MCCURRY: What percentage of that is of the total hire that they will do for census? I don't know. We'll see. Maybe you can check at Commerce and see if they can tell you.

Q What do you mean by encouraging contractors? Is there going to be some policy of tying federal contracting to hiring welfare -- similar to what's done in affirmative action already?

MR. MCCURRY: We haven't done that. We haven't proposed that as a specific policy now, but certainly there are ways in which these agencies can encourage that type of involvement by contractors -- not a requirement, is my understanding, but some of them think that they will have opportunities to encourage those who are doing business with the government to step up to the challenge the President has put out.

Q But not as a formal requirement of the contract.

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard that described yet as a formal requirement.

Q Financial incentive, I'm sorry.

Q How is this going to work practically? I mean, if there are two equally qualified people who walk into an office and one of them is a welfare recipient and one of them is not, does the welfare recipient now get the job?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, each agency has got its own human resource management personnel that makes those kinds of hiring decisions in any event. And then we're not -- it depends on the nature of the position, depends on the qualifications. Federal employee personnel make those kinds of judgment calls all the time, based on a whole number of factors, but these are jobs that we think are not -- remember, in many cases -- newly created jobs. This is not adding to the federal work force. We're taking available slots as they come along or in the worker trainer program, and then adding this as an element in the recruiting, in the outreach that offices do to locate candidates for these jobs.

Q Right, but presumably, if they're not newly created job, I mean, they're jobs that people would otherwise be applying for anyway. My question is --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, maybe not in every case. One of the things that the agencies have responded to is to think of assignments and work that can be done within these agencies in which these would be suitable candidates for that type of work.

Q Is there a surplus of jobs now, Mike? Is that the situation? Are these jobs unfilled now?

MR. MCCURRY: They're -- in some cases, in these agencies, there are unfilled positions. In some, they are restructuring because of the overall downsizing of the federal government, they're redeploying resources. And in some cases, again, this worker trainer program will be available where it hasn't been used extensively in the past.

Q To follow up on what Bloom was asking, is there a sense that there is quotas within the agency to fulfill --

MR. MCCURRY: Not quotas.

Q -- you have to be welfare --

MR. MCCURRY: Not quotas, but they have now given the White House and given the President some pretty specific targets that they're going to try to meet agency by agency.

Q Is there a certain number of jobs set aside --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, there's --

Q Are there a certain number of jobs set aside for welfare recipients?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are these jobs that they've identified that have been set aside and targeted. They don't -- they're not drawn from the type of career positions that are for different types of functions that these agencies have. These are jobs that the agencies themselves have identified would be suitable for candidates coming from this universe of applicants.

Q Following up on that, Mike, will there be or will there not be preferential treatment to these welfare recipients when they apply for a job?

MR. MCCURRY: This is not like -- let's use an example -- it's not like the veterans preference that currently exists in civil service hiring. This is an added factor that will be considered. And the agencies themselves have identified specific jobs that they think these candidates would be eligible for. But it's not a formal preference the way the veterans preference works.

Q If I wanted to -- if I were a welfare recipient and wanted to work at the White House, how would I apply for a job?

MR. MCCURRY: You would go to -- we will have a procedure here, but you would it like you would now -- you would contact the Office of Administration, which manages the personnel office here at the White House for the Executive Office of the President, and make a formal application. And we will post jobs, just as we already do at the White House, with this being an element of the outreach and the recruiting, saying here is an attractive opportunity. And as the President indicated to you earlier, we will also be working with state welfare agencies to make sure that they understand the availability of these types of jobs and try to match candidates up to job opportunities that are available.

Q Is there a standard background check with them?

MR. MCCURRY: You'd have to -- anyone who works here at the White House would have to go through all the same clearance procedures that exist for full-time White House work.

Q You talked very briefly on this CIA story. I know it wasn't on your watch, but do you contemplate any changes now in the CIA procedures, and do you have any reaction to that coverup?

MR. MCCURRY: Remember, this all, in a sense, comes about -- these matters relate to events that occurred during the previous administration, but lots of this information is now coming out of the affected agencies, principally Defense and the CIA because the President put the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses to work pressing the agencies to get a more thorough explanation of whatever exposure or risk Gulf War veterans faced during the conflict. So a lot of this is -- you know, the system itself is disgorging the information, too slowly as the CIA readily indicated yesterday, but disgorging it in part because they're getting a lot of good pressure and necessary pressure from the advisory committee to do so.

Q What's the practical effect now on the veterans? What happens now?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, if I'm not mistaken, this information was made available yesterday when it was posted up on Gulf Link, which is the network that's available now for the veterans, which is monitored closely by veterans' advocates who are tracking the Gulf War illnesses issue. It was made available to them precisely so they could learn more and understand more about the sequence of events that led to the destruction of that one site, which is, since these documents deal specifically with that, but it's part of the effort to make literally thousands of pages of documents available to them, and will certainly and already has become part of the formal inquiry that the advisory committee is making pursuant to the President's decision to extend the life of the committee.

Q But do you see it meaning any more money to them in the near future.

MR. MCCURRY: They were -- there was some continuation funding provided. When the President decided to extend the life of the committee, they had to make some type of financing arrangements for it.

Do you know?

MR. JOHNSON: It shouldn't in and of itself mean that, but what it does mean is that the people who are trying to reach out to the veterans and gather more information about exactly what happened now have information that they can use, and it's now unclassified, to try and get more information about the impact on the veterans. So I think that's where the impact on the veterans community is going to come. They've got more information. Therefore, they can gather more data about exactly what happened when this destruction took place.

And that in and of itself could yield information that's helpful to the PAC and to others who are trying to get to the bottom of this.

Q Mike, does the administration plan a program of incentives and penalties to try and push states to increase seat belt use?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President some time ago said we were interested in working to increase seat belt usage, and he tasked the Department of Transportation with coming up with ideas on how we could accomplish that goal. I expect sometime in the not too distant future we'll say a little bit more about how we might go about doing that. It's not fully prepared yet, although I've seen some reporting on it that looks generally accurate.

Q Mike, on Monday, trade sanctions are set to go into effect on Japanese ships if Japan does not reform its port practices. And U.S. and Japanese negotiators are meeting right now in Washington to try to head off the sanctions. Is the White House confident that the negotiators will succeed this week in their meetings?

MR. MCCURRY: We're confident they're going to work hard at trying to do so.

Q On your state-by-state chart on the welfare caseloads going down by 2.7 million in the last four years, you show California going against the trend and actually having somewhat higher caseload. Does the White House see this as strictly a function of the longer recession in California? Or is it that California lagged in welfare reform?

MR. MCCURRY: If I'm not mistaken, my belief is it's changing demographics more than anything else. It was the rise in immigration and in some -- in legal immigration into the state, and that was principally the change that accounted for it.

MS. GLYNN: Immigration from places like Chicago as well.


Q That's legal. (Laughter.)

Q Mike, what's the administration's reaction --

I'll just have to refer it to Bruce. Bruce, will you see if these guys can come here because they've decided to kick the questions to them, obviously.

Q Mike, what's the administration's reaction to Hong Kong's, the future Hong Kong government's announcement that there would be more restrictions on citizens and activities there?

MR. MCCURRY: We -- if you can hold it for a second, I'll get it precisely. Since I made up a -- I made up a perfectly fine one earlier but I can't remember it now. The foreign policy boys really organized this really well.

We are obviously concerned about any changes in Hong Kong's legal structure that restrict civil liberties for the citizens of Hong Kong. One of the features of the joint declaration and basic law that we attach great importance to, and certainly we believe the United Kingdom and the People's Republic do, are the aspects of the formula that insists upon one China, two systems. The system that has existed for the people of Hong Kong has been valuable in encouraging commerce, encouraging the kind of freedom that has led to the economic success of Hong Kong. And our belief is that the transition foreseen by the declaration and by the basic law would continue to protect those types of freedoms for the people of Hong Kong. So, we view with some concern any effort that would diminish the civil liberties and freedoms that the people of Hong Kong have enjoyed.

Q Have we conveyed that message to the Chinese?

MR. MCCURRY: We have very regularly and very recently had contact with the Chinese government on the subject of Hong Kong. It was reviewed, if I'm not mistaken, by both the Vice President and the Secretary of State during their recent visits.

Q Mike, assuming that the Chinese ahead once the hand-over is complete, what recourse would the United States or anybody else have?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the People's Republic knows that the entire world is watching very closely the transition that will occur later this summer. And that transition is one that should be based upon the commitments made already by the People's Republic and the United Kingdom.

Q Well, Mike, with respect, the world has watching carefully over a lot of things in China -- human rights and treatments of its workers -- and it hasn't made any difference to the Chinese government. Why would it make any difference now?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know that I would say that's true. It's made some considerable difference to them because they have labored fairly extensively to address the criticisms that they have faced in the international community on exactly that issue. We have said repeatedly that the full benefits of the policy of engagement that we are pursuing bilaterally with the People's Republic cannot reach their full potential while we have impediments related to our fundamental disagreements over issues like human rights. And a step backwards instead of a step forwards with respect to Hong Kong would certainly have some consequence.

Q Mike, if the assisted suicide bill that the House passed today came to the President, would he sign it?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, the President opposes assisted suicide. We have also, as a government, through the Justice Department, taken that position in court.

Q Mike, can I follow up on the one question on Hong Kong? Is Martin Lee going to be meeting with the President?

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Lee will be received at a senior level here at the White House. The level has not been determined. We value our opportunity to exchange views with him.

Q When will that be?

MR. MCCURRY: Sometime next week.

Q Mike, on Evans and Novak last weekend, Sandy Berger was asked about the perception in the Arab world at least that the United States is tilted now in the Middle East toward Israel. Does the President -- is the President concerned by headlines such as The Washington Times following the Netanyahu meeting, that the President was unable to budge the Prime Minister? Is there any concern in the White House that this perception might be growing that the United States is no longer evenhanded in this Middle East policy?

MR. MCCURRY: The President understands that, ultimately, perceptions yield to reality, and the President's hard work at the moment on the peace process is aimed at getting the parties back in the course of dialogue that will resolve their differences, and that will ultimately prove the value of U.S. mediation efforts and the role we play as, we believe, an evenhanded facilitator of the dialogue between the parties. That has been our historic role; it has been one that has led to considerable success in the past for both Arab countries that have participated in the process, people of the region, and also for the government of Israel as it deepens and nurtures its contacts with Arab nations in the region, particularly in the Middle East.

That is a process we're committed to, and we do so delicately because, given the delicate nature of the process, and we have even just recently been criticized within Israel by those who feel we have been too critical sometimes of the actions of that government.

So there are, from time to time, roles that we have to play that do raise some measure of criticism, both in the Arab world and Israel; we understand that, but we think we do what is necessary to advance the process that we believe in that we think holds so much promise for the people of the Arab world as well as the people of Israel.

Q Does the President plan to meet with the Palestinian delegation?

MR. MCCURRY: There are no plans currently scheduled to meet. The Secretary of State begins her meeting right about now with the delegation that is here today, and the President is, of course, available if his participation is warranted or is recommended by his foreign policy advisors.

Q On a completely different subject, Mike, the First Lady was asked on CNN about having donors stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, and she was asked if she intended to change policies on having guests at the White House. She said no. Does that mean that the First Couple is still having donors stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, or that they would in the future, or both, or neither?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that they've had any guests recently, but I don't know why they wouldn't in the future. They've got, as you know from the list we gave you, a lot of friends who also happen to be financial supporters of the President's political efforts.

Q Of the 10,000 jobs in the welfare initiative, how many of them are full-time, permanent jobs?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll have to check with the folks. They'll be here in a second and you can ask them.

Q Also, another question on the 10,000 jobs. If you're not generating new jobs, these are jobs that would exist anyway, don't you just hire welfare recipients for these jobs that would otherwise be held by other low-skilled workers that would apply and get them?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, we are creating for all Americans a growing economy, providing millions of new job opportunities, nearly 12 million new job opportunities in the last four years. Ultimately, the goal is to provide employment opportunities for anyone who is seeking employment. And that's why we've got an unemployment rate that's on the decline. Some of these jobs will be a fraction of the jobs that are necessary to make good the commitment of moving people from welfare reform to work, will come in the federal sector, but the vast majority of them obviously will be in the private sector. So the answer is, in some respects we hope there will be jobs available for anyone seeking employment, ultimately.

Q Do you have any concern that what's really happening is that working poor people are being kind of disadvantaged in favor of poor people who have been on welfare?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, we're talking about welfare-dependent mothers who in most cases have small children, and that's the typical case we're talking about. We make no apologies for making federal employment opportunities available for exactly those kinds of people. They are, in many cases, the poorest of the poor, which is why they are AFDC caseload individuals to begin with.

Q But, Mike, for precisely that reason, the question that Mara asked about the calculation that those people make about the reason why they don't go to work is because they might lose their health benefits, their welfare benefits.


Q If you can't assure them that they'll be better off in the short term -- you're talking about --

MR. MCCURRY: David, you're missing the fundamental premise of welfare reform. That is, in fact, one of the reasons why we are ending welfare reform as we have known it for exactly that reason. That's the calculation that welfare-dependent mothers have always been making, and that's why they no longer will be able to live in that condition of dependency permanently. I mean, they know and they -- certainly, many -- as adjustments in the implementation law has taken place, they know they're going to face a cutoff, so many of them now know that it's important for them to get the kind of job experience, job training opportunities that will get them back in the work force, because that's ultimately where they're going to have to be.

Q Mike, just so I understand the math, you --

MR. MCCURRY: Leo, I'm going to save that -- let me --

Q No, no, on the overall national figure to reach the 2 million, your point was that if you get 700,000 job slots --

MR. MCCURRY: Bruce can help you as soon as he gets here. Any other subjects?

Q Yes. Has the White House decided to ask the FEC to ban soft dollar donations?

MR. MCCURRY: We have not made that decision that I am aware of. There have been some discussions about that here at the White House, but we're still reviewing the matter.

Q Mike, the CIA says that George Tenet's nomination has not gone to the Hill yet because of White House bureaucracy. Is that true?

MR. MCCURRY: Probably. (Laughter.)

Q Mike, has the President decided who to appoint to the Federal Gambling Commission study or study commission, or --

MR. MCCURRY: You guys are here in the nick of time. (Laughter.) Leo Rennert wants to -- I hope you brought your calculator with you, because you're going to need it.

He has not -- we are very close to making final decisions on that. I expect a nomination soon. Let's do all the other outstanding ones. FCC, we don't have any final decisions on that. Fed, the recommendations have not gone to the President.


MR. MCCURRY: FAA -- haven't even heard -- that's the first time I heard about that one. (Laughter.) Ambassadors, President's making a lot of final decisions on that, and the announcement is expected soon. What else do we want out there? Surgeon General -- thinking about that, looking for a good candidate.

Q White House press spokesman. (Laughter.)

What else have we got? (Laughter.) White House Press Secretary, always looking for an attractive, available candidate for that job, so the incumbent can go do something better than this.

Q Do you have an agenda for this meeting that's been announced, at least in Japan between Prime Minister Hashimoto and President Clinton? There have been reports out of Japan --

MR. MCCURRY: Have they announced it?

Q -- is going to be --

MR. MCCURRY: They haven't announced it.

Q The report is out of there. Are you going to announce it now?

MR. MCCURRY: No. But let's just say hypothetically. if the Prime Minister and the President were going to meet anytime soon -- let's say towards the end of the month -- they would, as they always do, review the full range, full aspects of our bilateral relationships. Increasingly, when we meet with the Prime Minister of Japan, we no longer focus on those difficult trade issues that so dominated the relationship in the past. We now have an opportunity to fully explore regional security issues, the full host of items that are on our bilateral agenda. The Japanese are being very helpful in so many places around the world where we're working with them together -- in the Middle East, with respect to our efforts to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, and with respect to our engagement with China and how that deepens the commitment the United States has to the Pacific community.

On all of those things, we have very cordial and warm exchange of views with the Japanese government. And I'm sure, hypothetically, if we got together with the President of Japan towards the end of the month, we would have exactly that kind of meeting.

Q Why don't we it in California?

MR. MCCURRY: By the way -- and I still can't -- for theological reasons that the NSC cannot explain to me, I can't tell you when this blessed event might occur, but the Prime Minister and Secretary of Defense Cohen had a very good visit -- I guess, what, two days ago? Two days ago. And among other things, the Prime Minister talked about how much he was looking forward to seeing the President. They reviewed some of the issues that would be under discussion. The Secretary and the Prime Minister had an excellent discussion about the forward deployment of U.S. forces in the region and in Japan specifically. They obviously talked about the continued need for that forward deployment consistent with the local sensitivities that obviously must be addressed. And the Secretary of Defense said that the Prime Minister is obviously addressing those with a great deal of courage.

Q Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Save that tape and we'll make that the read out of the meeting after it occurs -- (laughter) -- whenever it occurs.

Q Would a key point of the hypothetical --

MR. MCCURRY: You want to keep me going on this.

Q Yes.

MR. MCCURRY: Excellent, excellent, keep going.

Q -- hypothetical discussion of the foreign exchange rate. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: No. Let me see. On exchange rates, matters related to exchange rates and currency, the White House relies on our chief spokesman, the Secretary of the Treasury. As you know, the President believes that a strong Secretary of the Treasury is in the nation's interest. And we have had a strong Treasury Secretary for some time now. (Laughter.)

Q Mike, with the BLS discussions on experimental CPI, does the White House see anything sooner rather than later on a revised CPI?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is working very hard and very effectively on that issue, and they will report in the time -- along the lines of the timetable that they have already suggested they would report. And we'll see what happens then.

Q Just to clarify on the Fed, are you still expecting the President to look at the memo today -- to look at the Fed memo?

MR. MCCURRY: He hasn't gotten it yet. Right? As of noon he hadn't gotten it.

Q Are you expecting him to get it this afternoon?

MR. MCCURRY: It's aimed in that direction and probably going to end up there soon. But then what he does with it or whether he accepts the recommendations or wants to revisit it is the kinds of decisions Presidents get to make.

Q Is he getting more than two names?

MR. MCCURRY: I believe he's getting two recommendations for two vacancies.

Q Have you set a date yet for the meeting at the White House with the Big Three automakers?

MR. MCCURRY: Still not -- still no, have not yet.

Q What is the agenda for that meeting? (Laughter.)

Q Bilateral relations.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, bilateral relations with the -- full explorations of the issues of mutual concern that might exist between the leaders of the major automakers and representatives of the President and the federal government.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

Q Really, you can go now, Mike.

MR. MCCURRY: I can go. No, I can't go. I can introduce the honorable Bruce Reed, assistant to the President, head of the Domestic Policy Council; Dr. Elaine Kamarck, Vice President Gore's chief policy -- what is your title -- chief policy advisor, fantastic guru of reinventing government, explainer of all charts --(laughter) -- and intricacies related to the welfare reform announcement the President made today.

END 3:15 P.M. EDT