THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:10 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: I have a very good reason for being late. Where is everyone? They couldn't wait?
Q This day.
MR. MCCURRY: Too beautiful? Well, I am late because we were wrapping up loose ends, and I can say, so I don't -- give you the big news of this briefing right now at the top, which is we have a full lid the minute we're done here. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.
Q Is that what you were talking to Erskine about?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I just went and asked his permission if I could have a full lid. And I spoke to His Honor, the President of the United States, and asked him what he's doing this weekend. He said, as far as he knew, nothing. So he plans to be here, as he said, on campus right up until Monday when we take off for the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
So that's all by way of saying, let's have a good weekend.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not done yet because I have -- (laughter) -- I have what I guess I would call sweet-and-sour news, and it's personnel news, and some of you will be able to guess what it is. But let me start with a couple things.
First, the President of the United States of America is delighted to name as Deputy White House Press Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Anne Luzzatto. And on behalf of my colleague Sandy Berger, who is the National Security Advisor, I can also tell you that she is being named simultaneously to be the Senior Director for Public Affairs at the National Security Council, a title of which I consider less important.
And that is good news for her. Let me tell you, I think a lot of you know Anne or have come to know Anne. Since January of 1993, she served -- well, she began service in the administration as Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Mickey Kantor, running the public affairs operation at USTR, did a great job there and went with Mickey to Commerce when Mickey went over to Commerce and became Secretary of Commerce after Ron Brown's death.
She is a former corporate spokesperson for CBS, I think as some of you know, so she has spent time with your kind, and also traveled, has some political experience in national campaigns in 1984, traveled with Geraldine Ferraro as her deputy press secretary during the general election campaign. She is an attorney, practiced public interest law, served as counsel to the D.C. City Council committee. And she holds a master's degree in American foreign policy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies in Washington.
She has been lurking around here for some time, as you know, and has spent a considerable amount of time adding to her expertise on international economic issues, the day-to-day business we do in foreign policy. And she has been already a very valued member of our team that puts together the daily guidance on foreign policy. So she is ready to go and we are going to make her available to you in that position beginning June 2nd. So when we return from the trip, she will be there.
Now, that's not to say that Mr. Johnson is going anywhere soon. He will be around here, because I don't have a formal announcement I can make about him, the way these things work. But the President of the United States highly values the service he has rendered in that position as our Foreign Policy Deputy Press Secretary and working at the NSC. I think a lot of you do, too. He has done a great job here, and without being too coy about it, I think the President considers him one extraordinary plenipotentiary. (Laughter.)
And his future assignment, which will be an exciting one when we formally announce it, will be good news to all of you who like to sip fine cups of coffee in elegant European capitals. I can't tell you the entity to which he will be posted, but that will be good news. We're all very proud of the job that David has done here. He, of course, worked for me at the State Department before coming here, and he is truly an extraordinary credit to our foreign service and deserves everything he is about to get. (Laughter.) And deserves none of what he has recently gone through.
Now, the harder one, Ms. Glynn -- Mary Ellen Glynn is in about the same time frame departing us to join the staff of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This is something that basically has been in the works since the day Madeleine came here to be sworn in by the President because the President and Madeleine talked about it that very day. And Secretary Albright has been building her team -- I'll tell you some more about that with some other personnel announcements momentarily -- but she's been building her team and also dealing simultaneously with the difficult issue of reorganizing and consolidating some of the entities at the State Department. Mary Ellen's first assignment when she gets over to State is going to be working to restructure the public affairs operation at State as they look at all the different units, at some of the other agencies, and talk about consolidation working with Congress.
So that's not only a very tricky assignment, but one that makes everyone in the world who handles public affairs in the business of being nice to Mary Ellen, which she deserves. But she has done a great job here and, I think you all know, has been a very important part of my day-to-day operation. And we will miss her a lot. And I thought I should tell you this somewhat happy news now so that somewhere along the way with David and Mary Ellen on the trip next week, whether you buy them a pint in London or a heinie in the Hague -- (laughter) -- or a nice bottle of wine in Paris, that you celebrate with both of them the upward movement in their careers, because it's good news for both of them.
She will -- Mary Ellen will make that transition around June 2nd. And not surprising to any of you, the President today is naming Joseph P. Lockhart to be Deputy Press Secretary and he will be taking over for Mary Ellen, making that transition that first week in June. You might ask, where is Joe when announcing this happy news. He, of course, is out to lunch, enjoying one of the last luncheons out with a reporter he's likely to have for some time, given our schedule around here. But he's looking forward to serving you. He has been working on special projects.
A little bit about him, for the record. I think most of you know he was the Clinton-Gore '96 Campaign Press Secretary, formerly Executive Vice President at Robinson, Lake, Sawyer, Miller, a public relations firm here in town; worked for both Sky Television and ABC overseas; was Deputy Press Secretary in the Dukakis campaign and Assistant Press Secretary during the Mondale campaign. So a veteran political press secretary and someone who served the President well, and the President is delighted that he will now be serving us in lower press and serving all of you.
More. There are some other -- I guess I'll just for a moment. There's a little bit more reorganizing and restructuring and some other things that we've been doing in the Press Office. One thing that we have done, which I wanted to tell you about, we made the change-over sometime ago. There used to be an Office of Media Affairs here in the White House that was in charge of doing a lot of regional press relations. We've collapsed that now within the White House Press Office. And I think in tribute to the really good people who do a lot of our regional work -- if you work here at the White House, or if you don't work here at the White House and you call in from around the country, you most often talk to folks who work in what we used to call the Media Affairs division. That's now just part of the White House Press Office and they are regional press secretaries and function a lot like our assistant press secretaries who work here in lower press.
So we've been doing a little bit of reorganizing in addition to doing some of the change-over in personnel. As always, we'll continue to try to respond efficiently and promptly and courteously, if not always as quickly as it should be, to your inquiries.
Okay. A couple of other pieces of paper coming out that are important. One -- and it's always good to talk about who is at these kinds of podiums, so it's good to announce that the President of the United States is today announcing his intent to nominate James Phillip Rubin as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs at the Department of State. Jamie Rubin you all probably have come to know pretty well. He was Madeleine Albright's chief spokesman at the U.N., has been serving as her Senior Advisor, has been very invaluable ally and assistant to the Secretary as she has played such a major role in foreign policy. We've got some more on his biographical background in the announcement, but it also -- as the release notes, he will be the Chief State Department spokesman, handling the daily briefing chores at State.
Item, the second, President Clinton today announced the nomination of Stanley Owen Roth as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. I think a lot of you came to know Stanley Roth who is here at the NSC handling Asian affairs. He is a very capable and skilled foreign policy expert on Asian affairs. And we look forward to having him at the EAP bureau over at State.
And then, lastly, the President today is announcing the nomination of Kenneth Apfel to serve as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Ken is a social policy expert of the first degree. He has worked at OMB handling welfare reform issues, Social Security. He is a former Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at the Department of Health and Human Services and will be a great Commissioner of Social Security.
And before I run out of breath with these announcements, Australian Prime Minister John Howard will be in the United States June 25th to July 1st. He'll meet with President Clinton at the White House on June 27th for an official working visit. The President, I think, looks forward to not only a good, active discussion of all those issues that we deal with with the government of Australia that have been part of our partnership with that government, but also this will be an opportunity to reciprocate some of the fine hospitality and the warm welcome he got from the Australian people when the President and First Lady were there in November.
Q Did you leave out Nick Burns, or is that not on your list?
MR. MCCURRY: I did not -- if you'll notice, I did not any ambassadorial appointments today, even though quite a few of them are clearly rumored.
Q Mike, speaking of ambassadorial appointments, we have eight Argentinean journalists that are visiting right now, and they were asking me, when is the President going to announce the new ambassador. Argentina and many other important countries still don't have official ambassadors.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you saw some of our State Department assistant secretary level appointments are coming together now. You saw that I announced a new ambassador for Germany yesterday. So you'll begin getting each day a number of ambassadorial appointments. These have been working their way through the official background process that they go through. The President and his management team just concluded some final decisions fairly recently on ambassadorial appointments.
Some of these take time, of course, because they work not only through the normal security and background check issues, but then we also consult the governments that we intend to send these people do. But those are beginning to move along, as you can tell.
Q Does the President think he'll be able to play golf with Prime Minister Howard?
MR. MCCURRY: No, because that's not --
Q Not enough time?
MR. MCCURRY: Not enough time, but I gather from the latest we're hearing he might be able to go out and chip a bucket of balls on the back green.
Q Is the President going to delay the fast track legislation until the fall?
MR. MCCURRY: The President -- we've been consulting a lot on the Hill. We have got a lot of trains on a small number of tracks, and we're trying to make sure none of them collide in any one station at any one time. In addition to all the balanced budget issues that are now coming along, we've got the China normal trade relations issue that we're dealing with. We're going to have other economic and policy legislation that we'll be dealing with between now and the summer recess. Then, of course, Congress will take a summer recess.
So after very active consultation on the Hill the last several days between Erskine Bowles, Ambassador Barshefsky, and others, the President has come to the conclusion that we should push hard for fast-track authority beginning in the fall, in September, and use the time between now and then to help really educate the American people on all the benefits that free trade has brought to this country. A large part of the reason that we are doing well economically and that the economic performance has been strong is because of the increased volume of exports that we're sending abroad and because of the healthy trade relations were developing as a result of our commitment to free trade.
And the President knows that he's going to have to make that argument real well to create an environment in which Congress will give him the fast track authority he needs to negotiate the agreements we seek. So we will make that push in September and we are -- have actually been pleased with the reaction we've gotten from our consultations. The leaders that we've talked to on the Hill the last several days are pleased, first and foremost, the President is committed to making a very strong push for fast track in the coming year, and they agree that it's a sensible timetable that we have outlined.
Q Has the President been briefed about the U.S. Marines killing a Texas teenager on the border? And this is the second incident this year of U.S. Marines killing -- they killed a Mexican national in January. A number of people are beginning to raise questions about whether it's a good idea to continue having them on the recon missions.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'd have to check if that was added into some of the information he was briefed about. A number of us talked about that earlier today, and I presume that it was mentioned in some of the things they ran down for the President earlier. I don't know for a fact that it was, but my guess it was probably was. And it is something that concerns us and that we certainly are going to work with the agencies to follow.
Q The Republicans in the House say that the delay in passing the emergency disaster relief legislation is really not going to make a whole lot of difference to the victims in the short-term since FEMA has enough money to pay for all of that emergency relief.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think I take a different view. Where did I put the paper that allows me to take a different view? Let me blabber on here and maybe someone can go find that piece of paper for me.
Wolf, in rough detail -- someone will get the exact number -- here's what's at stake. There is about $5.6 billion worth of disaster relief that's in the supplemental legislation that now Congress has left town and left behind on the desk. Of that $5.6 billion in disaster relief, about $1 billion of that amount is for things that really stop dead in their tracks until Congress comes back and passes the legislation. It is true that for FEMA, for the Army Corps of Engineers, for the SBA, which are the lead agencies in doing disaster relief, they are able to get that money to individual people and really help with the core work on disaster relief -- that's true.
But disaster relief is also about allowing communities to rebuild, allowing people to put their lives back together, making sort of the long-term changes that get people going again after a disaster. And a lot of that funding is now coming to a dead stop. money that is supposed to be diverted -- or supposed to be used as part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's community development block grant money that helps relocate families away from flood plains or out of areas that have been damaged by floods, that funding halts.
The most dramatic effect is in programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They've got a lot of things that help clear debris from crop lands, that recover areas that have been damaged by floods. And it's very, very critical, particularly this time of year in the upper plain states, to get your planting in because the spring planting is very short. So this 10-day gap is going to affect a lot of the funding comes through programs that are run by the USDA, and there are some other programs in other agencies of government -- the Department of Commerce, the Economic Development Administration, as well, has got programs that provide economic assistance to communities.
So I think it's true that money is in the pipeline for the most immediate emergency needs, but there are lots of things that now get put on hold for 10 days, and 10 days -- it's 10 days lost as people try to rebuild their lives. And that's why the President and the White House believes that Congress should have tried to finish this bill. This bill was held up for a purely political reason, which is that they were trying to add an objectionable and extraneous budget provision to a disaster relief bill. And for two weeks now, at least, we've made it more than clear that that's a non-starter as far as the White House is concerned. And they fiddled around with it and then it got too late and then they left for their holiday. And it's just not a good message to send and, as I said earlier, it doesn't reflect well on the Republican Congress.
Q Mike, these are activities that were going on and now have to stop in their tracks, like you said. With all the reinventing government and making these agencies more flexible and more customer-friendly, can't they find a way to shift some money around so they can keep on clearing debris from crop land?
MR. MCCURRY: Some of these programs literally have no spending authority left. They have no funds left to spend for some of these activities. Others are just things that they were working towards planning, but part of the planning that you do is to figure out how you're going to spend the money that's available. If you've got, for the example of the CDBG program at HUD, if you've got $500 million available and you've got 33 different states that are affected by disaster declarations, you've got to be able to plan where you're going to go. It's probably of questionable legality whether someone who works in the government can then plan to spend money that has not been appropriated.
Q This is an authorization bill, not an appropriations --
MR. MCCURRY: This is appropriations.
Q So they have the spending authority; they don't have the money to spend.
MR. MCCURRY: In some cases, while we don't authorize in appropriating language, sometimes the appropriations may clear the way in which the money is going to be spent. And that's especially true in a bill like this, attempting to deal with some emergency needs.
So there is a consequence. I mean, it's not correct to say that there are no consequences. It would not be correct to say that all this money is now held up, because FEMA will be good. And, to answer your question, FEMA has done a good job of figuring out how they're going to make do with the resources that are available until they get this supplemental. But, as I said earlier, we just had some bad floods out in the state of Washington. We're dealing with disaster relief type issues all the time, and if there is another major disaster before this money is appropriated there could be a real problem.
Q Mike, as you indicated, the bill was held up by the argument over the CR material. For the record, could you say again what it is that the President finds so objectionable in the bill that he would participate in holding it up and threaten to veto?
MR. MCCURRY: The veto threat comes about because the early versions and drafts of this legislation would essentially try to write into law a formula that says if we run out of appropriations at the end of the fiscal year we put in place sort of the Republican version of a spending plan for the federal government on a temporary basis, on a continuing resolution basis. We sort of just revert back to what their priorities are as opposed to taking the kind of work that we've done in a bipartisan way.
Now, there was some language floated about and discussed about, maybe you could do some type of automatic, continuing resolution that reflected some of the bipartisan agreements we've reached on the balanced agreement. That made a lot of sense, too. They could have written that kind of language in. But this is more about a kind of political stand-off between the two parties in the Congress than it is about getting the disaster relief passed and appropriated that people need.
Q Mike, of the two examples that you gave, though, the one with the HUD funding, that's, what you're saying is, planning for future community relocations being delayed. The only thing that might actually be stopped that you ticked off --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm summarizing. Let me go through, let me do more on it then. The funds that are -- in HUD, the funds are used to buy properties out as they help people relocate from flooded areas. It helps -- they also use some of that money for loans to businesses that don't have credit history that will allow them to qualify for the SBA loan program. So part of this is to deal with people who wouldn't qualify under the SBA disaster assistance that's provided normally as part of disaster relief.
There is also some of that money can go to businesses that have been affected by floods. Some of it could be used for buy-outs, similar to -- look, it's principally used for people who are trying to buy themselves out of current housing situations if they run into some damaged property needs and they're looking for some temporary credit facility that allows them to buy out of an existing mortgage or something like that so that they can move on. That's money that is then not in the pipeline.
Over at Agriculture, the Emergency Conservation program, funds are exhausted from that program now. They have no funding left. They were all expended for the Pacific Northwest and so there is now nothing there for Ohio, Arkansas, the Dakotas, Minnesota, any of the late spring floods that we were dealing with. It means that the delays in that program, it's about $70 million in that program. It means that farmers aren't going to be able to plant their crops without that conservation program funding. They can't get out, as I said earlier, rehabilitate the lands, they can't level out and prepare the crop land for planting. And, obviously, it will have a ripple effect on farm income.
There's another program called the Watershed and Flood Prevention program. That's one in which I think they go in and repair levies and do stuff that protects crop lands from run-off. There's no money left in that program. There was $166 million in the bill to put money in for that --
Q Can you finish talking about --
MR. MCCURRY: We can get some more -- that's probably easier to do, without reading the whole thing. Can we see if Larry can do that? He said we can probably scrub this and put it out. Okay.
Q So what you're saying, in effect, is that the Republicans --
MR. MCCURRY: The Department of Interior -- remember out at Yosemite, when they were trying to repair all the stuff that was damaged out at Yosemite, rebuilding some of the facilities within the park. The money that the Interior Department needs for that is gone. Now, that's 10 days in which they won't be able to repair one of the facilities in a major national park. We're going into a summer season when there's going to be an opportunity for people to visit parks. So there's some consequence there, obviously.
Q So you're saying that Republicans were more interested in going on vacation than in --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm just saying that they ain't doing a good job of running the place. That's what I'm saying. They ought to be doing -- I mean, they're responsible for running their affairs in a more efficient manner.
Q How does the CR continue to --
MR. MCCURRY: They've got to be accountable for not getting the job done before they decide they've got to run off for a recess.
Q How does the CR continue Republican priorities? Isn't it just to continue the current year plan into the next fiscal year?
MR. MCCURRY: But that results in across-the-board cuts that reflect what the spending priorities were for the Republicans. In early language they wanted to cut it back to 98 percent. Now there's been some discussion of going back to 100 percent.
Q I understand you've got some sort of White House negotiating team headed by Mr. Lindsey to talk about product liability. Do you know what kind of progress they're making toward an agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: I know that they were talking -- it's not specifically related to tobacco, just product liability generally. There have been some discussions about looking again at the whole issue of product liability. We went through a fight last year on that issue. I think they have been examining the question of what should the parameters be of the White House view if Congress begins to move again on product liability legislation. We've had some good discussions with Senator Rockefeller and others on that, but I don't know that that's moving towards any concluding point.
Q Is the White House involved in getting the tobacco tax moving?
MR. MCCURRY: We are right at the same place we've been all along. Mr. Lindsey continues to actively monitor. The folks who are in the discussions have not come in anytime recently, but Bruce has been on the phone with them and talked to them. I think his assessment is probably pretty close to what Attorney General Mike Moore said today. He discounted some of the reports that they are close to or on the verge of any kind of an agreement. But our understanding is that they are making some progress and we continue to be interested in the details.
Q Mike, could you talk about why the administration was so interested in filing a motion for dismissal in the Filegate case today, Judicial Watch Filegate case in U.S. District Course?
MR. MCCURRY: No, you've got it wrong. They heard oral arguments that we filed all those motions -- we filed motions for summary dismissal of those suits, geez, weeks ago, and they've been a matter of public record since then. They just heard oral arguments today.
Q But the oral arguments were about your motion to dismiss the case.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. Well, all the pleadings are there and the briefs give you good reason on why they moved for summary judgment.
Q Why do you think the case still has no merit?
MR. MCCURRY: For all the reasons outlined in the briefs that have been public documents for weeks now.
Q Can you lay out those reasons a little bit?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I don't have the briefs in front of me, but you can get them, you can read them. It's a pretty straightforward answer. And remember, the group that has filed these suits is Judicial Watch; remember who they are, what their background and history is.
Q But are you afraid that filing the motion for dismissal will give the impression that the White House has something to hide?
MR. MCCURRY: No. The whole point of filing a summary judgment for dismissal is because the case has no merit. That's the argument. The suits, in the view of those -- the parties that have filed the brief, they don't believe that the cases have any merit, and that's why you file for a summary judgment of dismissal -- not because you're trying to cover it up. It's just because it's a bogus suit.
Q Mike, there was a report in the Wall Street Journal this morning that when Mack McLarty testified before a Grand Jury in Little Rock several years ago he asserted executive privilege and then subsequently the White House has withdrawn that. Can you tell us if that's correct, if he had the President's authority to exert executive privilege, and what the basis of that would be?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is only the President of the United States can assert executive privilege. But beyond that, I don't know enough about the case. You should really check with Mr. Davis.
Q Mike, is there a new initiative from the White House to help bridge the gap as far as the computer situation is concerned for minority --
MR. MCCURRY: April, I had a bunch of paper on that that I just did not bring out with me on that, but I could run through that for you if someone can go get me that paper. It's a little thing that kind of talks about the question she asked yesterday.
Q Mike, yesterday the President endorsed the idea of a V-chip for the Internet. Was that the first time he did that, and how does the White House plan to proceed?
MR. MCCURRY: Did anyone work on that yesterday? That was -- there is some, I think, R&D work, technical work that's being done to develop new software. I'm not sure where within the government they're doing it.
Look at these guys, laid back, taking it easy. Let's do some other things while they're hunting down paper.
Q It's been announced and reported in Canada the new ambassador to Canada would be Gordon Giffin, another lawyer from Atlanta. I haven't heard if you've announced it or not. Maybe you can give me some background on Mr. Giffin is.
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Giffin is like others in the category of rumored ambassadorial appointments. He is a very, very interesting guy, a long-time activist within the Democratic Party, but I think this is the case of someone who is a rumored ambassadorial appointment who really brings extraordinary credentials to the job.
Q To what job? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: To the job that he has not been announced for in any way, shape, or form yet. But he grew up in Montreal. I believe he is bilingual or is close to being bilingual, speaks French -- has spent a lot of time in the private sector working on issues that are related to U.S.-Canadian relations. He is probably known to many of us who have known him in the political world as someone who is extraordinarily close to Senator Sam Nunn, former Senator Sam Nunn, and has worked for him. He has also been a counsel to various entities of the Democratic Party over time going back years and years, and is someone who has got a very keen understanding of U.S. policy objectives as they relate both to U.S.-Canada relations and other aspects of how we deal in the Americas on a number of issues. He has kind of an ongoing interest in a variety of policy-related aspects.
Now, all that said, we have not made any formal announcements about intent to nominate, but the President thinks he's one heck of a good guy. (Laughter.) And, frankly, he has been rumored for -- in the past -- for many jobs here within the White House, too. So it's someone the President's had his eye on for a long time. He, by the way, if I'm not mistaken, went -- accompanied the President when we went to Canada last year to the state visit to Ottawa last year.
Q In 1995.
MR. MCCURRY: '95, right. You got that?
Back to you question. This came up yesterday a little bit -- the whole question of -- maybe related a little bit to the question about computer use yesterday. One of the things the President was stressing yesterday is the importance of computers in classrooms. And April asked a good question yesterday: What about poor school districts where people can't afford it? That obviously is a problem. There are some things that we're doing related to that.
First of all, in the Telecommunications Act, remember we fought for something called the e-rate which allows discounted access to the Internet. That's especially important to school districts that have fewer resources available because they can get -- according to a sliding scale that is based in part on need and on resources --discounted access to time on the Internet. And that's important to particularly inner city, urban school districts.
We've also been working with private sector partners in all 15 of the empowerment zones to figure out ways that we can provide computer technology to classrooms in communities that are distressed. They've been doing a lot of interesting stuff in Oakland and Harlem -- particularly with bringing America Online into classrooms that are located within the empowerment zones.
And we've also got some grant funding that's available under our technology literacy challenge fund. You remember that? That's the -- that's where we go out and sort of figure out ways through state governments to make literacy funding available. And some of that funding is specifically earmarked for poor school districts so that they can bring computer technology into the classrooms.
So that's, obviously, important as we reach towards that goal of wiring every classroom to the Internet -- that we think about ways that we help school districts where there are fewer resources available in poor communities. And we're doing some things with respect to that.
Q So will the President be pushing out -- making a directive or something so that these school districts will be aided by the federal government and searching out these e-rate situations?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, well, we'll be using all of these programs that we have available to continue to try to help those school districts that need that access. All this that we're doing now we'll continue to press forward on.
Q Mike, last -- earlier in the week, you said that after the Flinn case was decided that the President wanted to say something about Flinn and that you had changes in mind to take into account for the reality that women are now in top jobs.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I didn't say that. I said, it was not appropriate to comment. If he maybe had something to say, it would be more appropriate to say afterwards. On behalf of the President, I think I said earlier today, he thinks that the Air Force has handled this in the appropriate manner.
He is also especially anxious, I think, to see what kind of work Secretary Cohen can complete. Secretary Cohen has already started some reviews of issues related to the integration of genders within the military. They've been doing a lot of things that tangentially relate to some of the cases that have been in the news recently -- not only the Flinn case, but the Aberdeen case and others.
There are sensitivity issues that are involved in bringing change to the U.S. military, and we believe the Pentagon and the Secretary of Defense are effectively addressing those and looking at those questions in trying to do things that will help.
I would make one point about this generally. You know, in general, the Armed Forces have been agents of social change in America. If you look back at integration, if you look at some of the major changes that have occurred, and certainly the changing role of women in our society, the Armed Forces have very often, because of the diversity of the Armed Forces to begin with and because of the size, they have been leaders of change and not of those who resist change. I think that a lot of work has been done to try to make sure that women as they integrate within the military and do so effectively, the President's confident that the problems that arise and that have arisen can be addressed by those who are responsible for management. They are doing so. The President's confident that Secretary Cohen in particular is taking this on board and will continue to press to make sure that that very important aspect of change in our military is a successful change.
Q -- no specific ideas that he wants to throw out right now, it's still in Cohen's court?
MR. MCCURRY: They are pursuing some very specific things there that they do, and the briefs that we've got here lead us to believe that the Pentagon is certainly cognizant of the fact that they need to look very carefully how they handle a whole range of issues that are related to integrating the sexes within the military.
Q Senator Slade Gorton says that General Fogelman, the Air Force Chief, was wrong in commenting and speaking out against Lieutenant Flinn while before the case had been adjudicated that he prejudiced the outcome. Does the President still have confidence in General Fogelman?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not an issue that the President has been asked to address. That would be an issue that more appropriately should be addressed by the Air Force.
Q Are we finished with Flinn? The Senate has passed the budget resolution basically intact. Considering that a week ago everyone was touting how it was going to have that health care provisions for children -- the increased health care for children, people here were touting all that, and considering what happened Wednesday night, are you planning on a separate program to push those separate ideas, separate push for this?
MR. MCCURRY: You're correct, by the way; the President is gratified the Senate completed work on that and my understanding is there are only a few technical differences that exist with the House-passed version, so we should have this historic balanced budget agreement written into law as a budget resolution very shortly when the Congress returns. That's an important piece of economic news. It's an important piece of news for those who understand that a large part of this economic success we've had is built on the path of deficit reduction that we began seriously in 1993 with the first deficit reduction act passed during the Clinton administration.
Yes, the President is also gratified that that agreement includes the money to cover 5 million additional children who are currently uninsured, and we have said all along there needs to be ways to expand that coverage and make sure every kid is covered. And we will look for ways, I think as I said yesterday, it's obvious that the Kennedy-Hatch approach could be a very useful approach as we think about expanding coverage. It's not part of the agreement. We will honor the terms of the agreement we've reached, but there's nothing that prevents us from continuing to press for the kinds of funding for programs that the President feels is necessary.
Q Do you feel it can be done without raising taxes on cigarettes?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, of course; that's self-evident. Yes, there are lots of different ways you could expand coverage.
Q Wouldn't it make it that much easier?
MR. MCCURRY: But the approach that has been suggested by Senator Kennedy and Hatch obviously could be a useful one in the end of the day. First things first; we've got to get this balanced budget codified and written into law.
Q Is the White House going to have its own proposal for going from 50 percent of the kids to all, or are you just going to wait to see what comes out of the Senate? There are a bunch of different things floating around.
MR. MCCURRY: We have always said -- remember back to December of 1994, we have said that health care reform is a step-by-step incremental process, and we've always said the next -- we've taken steps. Kennedy-Kassebaum was a step. Covering 5 million more kids is a step. There will be additional steps that come along the way. And we are going to have additional plans, and we are going to work with members of Congress who are like-minded and, as I've said, that it could be Kennedy and Hatch have found a very useful way to advance that step-by-step process forward.
Q But what I was asking was, are you going to wait --
MR. MCCURRY: Not at this time, but perhaps after we complete balanced budget amendment. Look, there will be a number of things as we get the balanced budget agreement written into law that we're going to have to address. And long-term entitlement reform, pressing for a bipartisan process on that is going to be key; we're going to have to do that. Figuring out ways to continue to take steps forward in health care reform clearly would be one too.
Q Mike, I'm still trying to figure out, was yesterday the first time the President endorsed a V-chip for the Internet?
MR. MCCURRY: Did you do any yesterday on the V-chip question? Barry may have handled this up in West Virginia yesterday.
MR. TOIV: Well, I'm not sure I have more than you got yesterday from Ann Lewis. The President has not specifically mentioned the V-chip, but this is work that we've been doing because he's been concerned, obviously, about ways that parents can help -- can protect their kids with regard to stuff that comes through on the Internet.
Apparently, it's our understanding that technology does exist within the industry. It's being developed by the industry. And so I think the President was referring to that yesterday.
Q Is there any procedure that -- I mean, is it something that -- is there any kind of official "endorsement" you expect?
MR. TOIV: Well, right now -- not right at this moment, but it's something we're looking at.
MR. MCCURRY: By the way, Barry Toiv continues his position as deputy. (Laughter.) We have a good lineup. That's a bunch of talented folks sitting in that row right down there. You've done a good job.
Can we end this misery right now?
All right. Thank you.
Yes, I have to modify -- you know, I announced a full lid at the beginning of the briefing, and you all worked your way into --
Q Are you taking it back?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're going to try to get this -- people expressed an interest in the description of some of these programs that would be delayed. We're going to try to get that out to you. I'm now aware of anything else that's going on.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:53 P.M. EDT