THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:00 P.M. EDT
Q What's going on with your effort to be more timely at briefings? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: You know, I'm trying to get all this stuff together and get this and that and the other.
Q What stuff?
MR. MCCURRY: We had moved it later because of the Georgetown event.
Q To 1:30 p.m.
MR. MCCURRY: 1:30 p.m. -- so, I'm trying.
Q Why can't you notify us if it's going to be a half-hour late?
MR. MCCURRY: We normally do. We normally do, and today we just didn't.
Q It's always a half-hour late.
Q You don't normally --
MR. MCCURRY: You want to have a briefing or not? We can delay it further to have this discussion.
Q How can you get an attitude about this, though? I mean, it's really offensive.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. Well, we'll take more time. Let's talk about this as long as you want.
Q Disaster relief.
Q Mike, are you --
MR. MCCURRY: I will do my best. You know, I try to come out here and have answers for you and I can try to be here and not have answers for you if you want me to be on time.
Q Couldn't you be more realistic about the scheduling, about when you're honestly going to be here.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm happy to try to do that. I've in the past suggested to some of you that we would just move it formally to 1:30 p.m. and I got all kinds of squawking about that and you say, no, no, no, you can't do that.
Q Work on that. I'm in favor of that.
MR. MCCURRY: Should I take a vote of you here?
MR. MCCURRY: All in favor of 1:30 p.m.?
Q If it's actually 1:30 p.m.
MR. MCCURRY: All opposed, who want to try to keep it at 1:00 p.m.
Q Move it to what time it's going to be.
Q If it's actually 1:30 p.m.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll try to make it better -- see, the choice is, though, I'll try to get here at 1:00 p.m., but I may not have as many answers, or I'll do 1:30 p.m. The extra half-hour makes it easier to get a little more information.
Q How about 11:00 a.m. so we can have a lunch once in a while.
MR. MCCURRY: You just won't have any answers, Helen. You know the government and the White House doesn't gurgitate -- regurgitate answers in that kind of time frame. It's just not realistic.
Q When do you eat lunch?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't, because we're getting ready for this.
Q Mike, can you tell us what is it about the Rangel bill that the President is really -- phases in his education tax cut or phases in child tax -- other --
MR. MCCURRY: But it embraces many of the key elements of the President's education tax proposals. And, moreover, the President's four tests that he laid out yesterday, the bill does a great deal to meet the terms of those tests that the President identified, the four specific concerns that he had that he thought a tax bill should address.
But in the education area, this bill comes very close to capturing at least the spirit of the President's desire to provide incentives for education and to move to a more universal availability of Grades 13 and 14 with the tax credit that we would provide for those types of expenses.
So I think on balance it's a very good faith effort. I suspect the President's meeting with Minority Leader Gephardt was helpful yesterday in getting a last-minute -- some last-minute changes in what was coming together on the House Democratic side, particularly in the area of the deduction. They did some last-minute fine tuning on the deduction that pleased the White House.
So I think on balance it's a good -- as I said earlier today, it's a far better starting point for discussion of a tax bill for this round than the Chairman's mark, and many good useful, positive ideas that we think should ultimately be in the final bill.
Q Mike -- about giving us the seven members -- (laughter).
MR. MCCURRY: Not today. (Laughter.)
Q What's going to happen on disaster relief now? What's the next move?
MR. MCCURRY: We just are waiting for the Republicans to come to their senses and present the President a good, clean bill that gets the funding where it needs to go and doesn't gum up the works with extraneous measures. We suspect we're going to have that within days, but it will be up to the Republicans to understand that the President is not going to accept something that's unacceptable.
Q Mike, is the White House being proactive on this as far as trying to reach out? Are you waiting for them to come to you? Where do we stand?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we've been -- plenty of discussions back and forth. The Republican leadership knows what the President is looking for in an acceptable bill and we're not -- we're waiting for them to come forward with something and they apparently are having a little bit of trouble getting themselves together within the Republican caucus to figure out how to respond to the President's veto. But we assume that sooner or later they'll get organized.
Q Let me follow up, if I may. I think that there is a perception that while the Republicans may have miscalculated it, the White House and the Democrats are more than happy to let them sort of stew in the wind --
Q Stew in the what?
Q I don't know. (Laughter.)
Q -- and not do anything about this. Is that accurate?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean -- we won't let it drag -- we will not let it drag on forever. If the Republican leadership is incapable of organizing the Republican Caucuses to present disaster relief, we'll try to step in if it's possible and write the bill for them if there is a way of doing that, if they just remain in a suspended state of chaos. I mean, that hopefully won't go on forever. The Speaker has indicated that they are going to try to step forward today with some ideas, and we'll see if they do and what they are.
Q So you think the speculation that there could be a new deal coming as early as later today is realistic?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that that's speculation, Wolf. I think the Speaker said so, did he not?
Q He is speculating.
MR. MCCURRY: He gave the impression, in any event, that they were going to have some new ideas and we hope they do because we want to get on with it.
Q Have you set a firm date for the meeting between President Clinton and the big three automakers?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, no.
Q What is -- June 27th --
MR. MCCURRY: Let me just check and see. I don't know whether we have or not.
Q Back to the race panel, can you give us any further guidance on when you might release those? And, secondly, can you talk a little bit about the process of coming up with the names? Are you looking for geographic diversity, philosophical diversity?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we are first and foremost looking for people who would be willing to commit time to help the President work over the course of the next year on those things that he will identify Saturday as the component parts of this initiative. He has got in mind a half-dozen or so people who are really going to provide expertise, provide inspiration, and provide hard work, be in a position to be, in some cases, surrogates for the initiative itself, go out and speak on its behalf, gather information and facts, bring facts to the attention of the American people, which is a key part of what the effort will be about, and I think we are probably going to be in a position to announce that before the weekend, maybe even tomorrow.
Q Can you talk a little bit more about the meeting that he had last night with some leaders --
MR. MCCURRY: Why don't you? Joe was there, and let me have Joe do that.
MR. LOCKHART: I think you've all seen the list, so you know who was there. The President opened the meeting with a very short synopsis of what he was hoping to do over the next year and some of his thinking, and then basically went around the room. I think nearly everyone had a chance to talk a little bit about their perspective on this.
I think the most compelling thing coming out of it for the people on our side on the staff who have been working on it was really how close the people in the room's thinking were to where we have moved over the last couple of months on the issue of mixing dialogue with study, as you've heard, with also sort of action, whether that policy or best practices.
There was a general consensus among the group that you have to look at all these things, you have to balance each of these elements in order to be effective. And I think the other issue that there was consensus on is that we have to look broadly at this race issue -- not just the black-white issue, but we have to confront the black/white issue because there is a unique element to that historically, if we're going to move forward.
Q Joe, is there a strong possibility that any one person that was in the meeting last night could possibly be on the advisory board? Is there a strong possibility?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we'll know that as early as tomorrow. You can compare the lists.
MR. MCCURRY: Anything else on that?
Q Mike, an unrelated question. Common Cause says that they're planning on demonstrating outside the Mayflower Hotel tonight when the President goes for this fundraising event. And they're saying that the President is being hypocritical by going after soft money only a week after saying that this corrupts the political process.
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President said a week ago that he would ask the Federal Elections Commission to begin a process that would complement the effort to ban soft money legislatively that we're seeking from Capitol Hill. There's nothing illegal about it. We've made it very clear that we will have to continue to raise and spend money within the current system until the system changes -- either by actions of the Federal Elections Commission or by a change in federal law. So nothing new there, nothing new in Common Cause demonstrating -- they've been doing that -- although, I don't recall them demonstrating when the Republican National Committee received a $1 million soft money contribution. They had some things to say, but I don't think they were down there picketing.
Q Can you describe what the purpose of tonight is? It sounds like it's a little bit different from some of the other fundraisers.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's really a meeting more than a fundraising event. I mean, they are going to try to convince some of the top and very well-known fundraisers within the party to make a special effort beginning this year to raise money that will not only deal with the financial debt that the party faces now but then also raise the money necessary to conduct an effective 1998 campaign.
Q Who is coming?
MR. MCCURRY: You'd have to ask the DNC. It's like 40 to 50 of the people who I think are fairly prominent, fairly well-known Democratic fundraisers that have been with the party through thick and thin over the years.
Q Is there any reason why the names wouldn't -- couldn't be made public?
MR. MCCURRY: You can ask the DNC.
Q They're saying they're not releasing the names.
MR. MCCURRY: We're going to -- you can be in there, and I think those of you who cover politics can look around the room, and I think you'll recognize a lot of them. I think some of them -- at least my understanding is, some of them will be available to talk to you afterwards, too.
Q So you don't see any reason why the names couldn't be made public?
MR. MCCURRY: I will live with whatever the DNC says they're going to do.
Q Mike, what about the -- call for a bipartisan commission on campaign finance reform? How does the President feel about that?
MR. MCCURRY: The whole commission idea, remember, goes back to the Speaker and the President trying to get something going on that front, and the Speaker took a walk on it. So we've had to pursue other ways to achieve campaign finance reform. It's a great idea in theory, but when we tried to implement it in practice, we couldn't get very far with it.
Look -- and that begs the question. We've got a bill ready to go -- it's got bipartisan support -- that the sponsors themselves are very enthusiastic about. And in the end of the day, passage of the McCain-Feingold/Meehan-Shays legislation is the way to get done serious campaign finance reform that reflects not everything that both parties would independently put forward as campaign finance reform, but something that represents the kind of compromise you're going to have to have.
Q What they say is that this is Plan B, that, in fact, some of these people are sponsors of McCain-Feingold, cosponsors, and that they really don't have much faith that it's moving through Congress, there's not much indication that it is, as you've suggested, and that this is sort of a fall-back plan.
MR. MCCURRY: I suggested that, I think -- and as you know last week in passing, Senator Feingold called me and said, look, don't give up the ship because we're having some movement, we're getting new cosponsors on the Republican side. He's got a plan of how he's going to work this over the summer, so I don't want to undercut the effort that he has underway. He thinks that in the end of the day, particularly once we get into the hearings on campaign contributions, that public support will build and that there is a better chance than conventional wisdom would suggest.
But pursuing other ideas simultaneously is obviously what the President intended with the petition to the FEC, so we would understand people looking for other ways to move the issue along.
Q Would you support that effort?
MR. MCCURRY: Whatever works, but as I just said, the commission -- we tried the commission and we didn't get anywhere with it. Remember, we went through that whole episode where we actually named our own members of commissions, and we couldn't get any response from the Speaker or his side, so if it's going to be meaningful and lead to something real, sure, we would support something like that. But we've tried that before, it didn't work and there would have to be some reason to convince us that there's new life that a commission could bring to the whole debate on campaign finance reform.
Q Since Nancy Kassebaum-Baker and Walter Mondale were appointed to this campaign finance reform effort by the President, could you tell us what they've done and who in the White House has been working with them?
MR. MCCURRY: They were -- the way it was structured, it was specifically structured for them to have an independent effort so that they would be able to pursue their own work and do it outside the contours of anything established within the government or within the White House. So they're operating independently.
I can find out more about it. I know that they've had a series of events and activities designed to lift the public profile of the campaign finance issue and to lift support for campaign finance reform itself. And I think they've been writing to and speaking to those issues in a variety of ways.
Q How successful would you say they've been?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, not very, because the public has not engaged on the issue; there's not widespread interest in it amongst the American public, as near as we can tell, and certainly there has not been sufficient movement on Capitol Hill. But at the same time that's no reason not to continue to press the case and to continue to try to get the changes in the law that need to be made.
Q Mike, I believe when the President announced the Kassebaum-Mondale appointment, and then when he announced his support for McCain-Feingold, officials said he was going to travel the country and do events to build support for campaign finance reform. Are those events still planned, or is there anything like that --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't recall that we said that. I said that we would continue from time to time to speak to the issue, and the President has.
Q Mike, some critics are saying -- this is another subject -- that President Clinton isn't practicing what he preaches as far as the welfare reform issue. The White House has hired the first welfare recipient, and that woman did not have that much training -- she needed minimal training; whereas he is telling all these companies to go out and hire these people and train them, and this woman indeed did not need that much training because she had worked for the federal government before.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're not saying solely that they should go and train people who are unskilled workers. We're saying that you have to -- people are on welfare for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes they're in between jobs; sometimes they're in areas -- there aren't many left in the country -- but areas in which there are high levels of unemployment and it's hard to find work. There are communities like that remaining in the country. And training, day care, skill development has to be a part of a successful effort to move people from welfare to work, but it doesn't have to be solely that.
There needs to be ways in which we can bring people into the work force and keep them there.
Q What do you say to people who say you're not practicing what you preach?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not true. We've got some statistics and numbers we can give you on the federal government and its own commitments. We made the pledge that the federal government would try to take some proportionate share of its own burden of making the hiring opportunities available to people moving off of welfare, and that's happening. It's happening all around government in agencies, happening here at the White House. They've hired I think at least one --
MR. TOIV: At least one, and at least one more very soon, and there will be several.
MR. MCCURRY: One hired, one about to be hired and several more that are being interviewed. So we are doing it here at the White House as well.
Q What happened with the Emir? Can you get us anything on this?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, the President -- I can put out a written statement on this, too, but they had a good half-hour meeting in which they explored aspects of the excellent bilateral relationship we have with the government and people of Qatar. The President told the Emir we remain committed to maintaining peace and civility in the Gulf region. We explained our views of the threats posed by Iraq and Iran, a subject that I think as you know from the Foreign Minister was expressed on behalf of the Emir in the meeting.
They talked about -- obviously talked about our shared commitment to a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the Middle East, and the President expressed appreciation for the government of Qatar's support for the Middle East peace process itself. And we acknowledged that the role they will play in November hosting the Economic Development Conference in Doha is an important step forward in the process of building the environment that will create the conditions for peace in the region.
MR. MCCURRY: One other -- he is seeing -- had seen Secretary Cohen, already; he is seeing Secretary Albright later today and I think during his stay will also see Secretaries Daley and Pena. So you may want to check further with colleagues at those agencies.
Q Why is he seeing these people?
MR. MCCURRY: Commerce is -- a lot of interest that we have and that they have in investment opportunities in the region, specifically in the development of their petrochemical industry and I imagine that's probably on his agenda with Secretary Pena as well. With Secretary Albright, it will be a more comprehensive review of our relationship and specifically the Middle East peace process itself, exchanging views.
Q Along the lines of what Josh is asking, often when the President has set a target date for something before and things have fallen behind, he's scheduled some kind of event to highlight that. Does the President have anything on campaign finance reform scheduled at all between now and July 4th when he had hoped to --
MR. MCCURRY: That's one of the reasons why we worked the letter -- moved the letter forward with the Federal Election Commission and tried to bring the idea to them --
Q That would be it?
MR. MCCURRY: -- and we'll continue to look for -- we've had some discussions back and forth with the sponsors on the Hill about other things that they might do as well. I wouldn't rule out that we won't find some other ways of addressing the issue.
Q In the President's open remarks tonight, is he planning on a major speech, a minor speech, a few casual remarks?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably a short one and along the lines of what you would expect.
Q Steve Forbes said today that he's going to launch a radio and television ad campaign against the budget deal with Congress.
MR. MCCURRY: I heard him on the radio, I heard one of the ads on the radio.
Q Is there any reaction? Is the White House --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it was great. You should really listen to it, because he just kind of beats up President Clinton's bipartisan deal. The long and short of it is, the ad serves to convince whoever listens to it that the President is a bad guy because he supports $85 billion of tax relief. And I was listening to the ad, and I said, I think most people think -- sounds like what Clinton has done here is pretty good. And of course what he's objecting to is a bipartisan balanced budget agreement that both Speaker Gingrich and Majority Leader Lott obviously have put their names to.
So the ad is -- while it's aimed at President Clinton by name, it also indirectly attacks the Speaker and the Majority Leader, so it's more example of this internecine warfare under way in the Republican Party, which is quite entertaining to watch, but of course I wouldn't want to comment on it. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, the reported breakdown of the way the President hopes to generate a quarter million dollars of contributions from the big-money donors attending tonight, over the next two years, appears to kind of beg the question of his asking that individual contributions be limited to $100,000 a year, though in fact the contributor is only being asked to contribute $100,000 of their own money every year. I wonder if he doesn't think that's really kind of finessing that rule, one; and, two, whether there has not been some kind of resistance to it from folks in the DNC who might like to tap these guys for a bit more money.
MR. MCCURRY: One, no he doesn't. Two, we haven't had the meeting yet, so we don't know yet.
Q Mike, is it correct that Craig Livingstone arranged a meeting between the President and Yogesh Gandhi?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I gather from the article I saw that Lanny may be able to help you on that.
Q We've been led to believe over time that Mr. Livingstone had no high-level access at the White House, he was a comparatively low-level worker. If, indeed, he arranged this meeting and you're not disputing it --
MR. MCCURRY: The article I read, Deborah, said he was an advance man, that he was the advance man on the site. Now, that's a role all of you are familiar with; that's not a high-level role.
Q Why did the President feel it necessary to go outside of the airline area to get someone to head the FAA? Is that a signal that the FAA is not functioning well?
MR. MCCURRY: No, and I would caution you to make that judgment. I mean, first and foremost, he wanted someone who was a very strong manager, and Jane Garvey, because of the work that she has done at the Federal Highway Administration, has had experience running a large transportation agency. I think first and foremost, that's a skill the President thought was very, very important.
But, remember, she was Director of Aviation for Logan Airport, which is the 13th largest airport in the country, and has experience in aviation and working in commercial aviation in that capacity. So the President is quite confident she's an excellent nominee and of course she will be working with Mr. Osborne, and the two of them together I think will bring a very effective management effort and morale-raising effort to the FAA.
Q Do you have any reaction to Senator Helms's apparent decision to support funding for the United Nations?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I -- on and off with the State Department this morning. They are working very closely with Senator Biden and Chairman Helms. We deeply appreciate Chairman Helms' cooperative work on a bill. But we're at that point where a lot of details are still left to be ironed out -- some that are reported today apparently may not necessarily hold up as they start working through the drafting of the legislation.
So we're being a little cautious. I think it's good that we get a commitment to move forward on the paying of the arrears, and we think it's good and have insisted ourselves that it be linked directly to an effort to bring reform to the management practices of the United Nations. But they've got a lot of work left to do on this bill. There's some things within the bill that, frankly, we don't like all that much -- not related to the United Nations, specifically, but there are some other issues that the State Department can tell you more about. But we'll continue to work with Chairman Helms in the cooperative spirit that he has engaged and see if we can't finalize legislation that will satisfy both the administration and the committee.
Q Mike, back on disaster relief for a second. Would the White House support a scaled-down disaster relief bill?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we need to fully fund those disaster relief activities that are critical to the people who are looking for some assistance for their communities and for the individuals who need assistance. I don't know what "scaled-down" means at this point. I don't think the Republicans do either. They've floated some ideas and floated some notion of what that might be, but I think we'd want to see what they're actually talking about.
Far better would be for them just to strip out those provisions and send the fully funded supplemental down here. There are a lot of activities that are in that bill that I think there are broad bipartisan consensus on. And they just ought to get on and pass a clean bill that's fully funded.
Q Follow up, just for a second. If the strategy yesterday as he described it was to keep the heat on or put the heat on, what is the White House strategy today?
MR. MCCURRY: To watch them sizzle. (Laughter.) Which they seem to be doing. But I think that's probably a good indication that this thing mercifully will come to some conclusion pretty quickly and we'll get a bill, which is what we want and what we think will happen.
Q But you're suggesting that if, in fact, they provided $800 million which would cover all the money authorized for all the existing disaster relief efforts, that that would be acceptable?
MR. MCCURRY: There were other things funded in this supplemental that are important, and important in a variety of communities and a variety of federal program areas that I don't want to say are not also necessary, but I think that first and foremost we ought to be respectful of the needs to take care of those communities and people that need help. And I think Congress is going to arrive at that point pretty quickly, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's within the next day or so.
Q But would $800 million take care of the urgent needs to deal with --
MR. MCCURRY: Jim, I don't know exactly the amount that is earmarked for disaster relief; my impression was it was more because the FEMA-SBA replenishment was more like $1 billion-plus, I thought. You don't know what the breakdown is. I thought it was over $1 billion, but obviously -- something that would fully fund the efforts to take care of disaster relief. We would prefer not to have to revisit the whole supplemental process again because we're getting on in the fiscal year now and some of these federal program activities need funding, but we think in due course and probably pretty quickly Congress can send us something that would be acceptable.
Q Senator Lott's office was complaining about your comment yesterday that the Republicans are seeking to deliberately undercount blacks and Hispanics.
MR. MCCURRY: That is exactly -- if you saw the experts who commented on the National Academy of Science's study, they say that is the practical effect of refusing to fund any statistical sampling method, because the areas that you're going to miss are areas in which there are high concentrations of minority populations. That's a fact, that's not a characterization.
Q Is there a strategy here? I mean, that's --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if they have a strategy, but that's the practical effect of their reluctance to fund any sampling technique. That's a factual statement, not an opinion.
Q So you don't believe them at all when they say they want to count everybody?
MR. MCCURRY: What I believe to be true and what the National Academy of Sciences said through the report that they issued last night is that you can't count everybody in this country. It's very, very interesting -- take the time to walk through the numbers. The year 2000 census will cost about $4 billion. By the way, that's "B" in billion -- I think our transcript was wrong on that yesterday. But to get -- to reduce the size of the undercount by a third, you would have to spend another $3.7 billion on top of that, and you would still have a substantial undercount.
So what the recommendation is, is the only way you will get an accurate census is if you sample, if you use statistical sampling as part of your methodology. And the reasons for that are pretty clearly set forth. I think it's worth kind of educating people on this subject a little bit. You can't get an accurate census unless you use sampling because it is, in fact, not enough money in the world to count everybody. That's the point.
Q So how do you read their offer to, I guess, add the $3 billion to come up with the money to --
MR. MCCURRY: I think you go back to Senator Lott and say, look, it's going to cost -- if you want to count everybody you have to spend -- well, if you want to just reduce the undercount by roughly a third, you have to spend another $3.7 billion. So if you want to wipe out and undercount altogether -- what is it, 18, 20 -- you know, $50 billion, how much do you want to spend on a census.
So go ask Senator Lott how many extra billions of dollars he wants to spend on the census.
Q Well, Mike, it sounds like it's just another $10 billion. Have you asked them whether they're willing to spend that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm suggesting if the Majority Leader wants to spend $10 billion, on top of the $4 billion that is estimated for the census, that's a very interesting proposal. But I'm reluctant to put any words in his mouth, that should come from him. If that's what he suggests he wants to do, we certainly would consider that. I don't know if it makes a lot of sense, frankly.
And you still -- you spend $10 billion, I think the experts will tell you you're still not going to count everybody. In fact, you probably will -- there are many experts who believe the more that you try to count everybody, the more likely you are to develop errors in your methodology.
Q Mike, are there any meetings scheduled here today on the -- trying to find a resolution to the disaster relief bill?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've had meetings internally and compared notes with what we're hearing on the Hill and I think our congressional affairs folks have had some contacts on the Hill, so we've followed what the deliberations are up there. We remain open to moving to a solution as quickly as possible.
Q But as far as you know, is anybody coming here to the White House from the Hill to talk about this?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I've heard, although we may have some of our --
MR. TOIV: No, they're -- I mean, staff people --
MR. MCCURRY: Our staff people tend to go up there when they need to, and they've been in contact and I'm not aware that they've had any meetings up there. We're in a position right now, we're sort of waiting for the Republicans to decide what they want to do.
Q And is the President participating in these internal meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've briefed him and he's given us some ideas as to how he wants to proceed. He wants to see this thing wrapped up, as he said yesterday.
Q Do you know if he's been on the phone with Lott and/or others today?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule it out. I don't know that he has been, but he tends to talk to the Majority Leader a lot and often outside the earshot of staff.
Q Is there a meeting on NATO today?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, yes. I had forgotten -- you know, I never really went through the entire schedule today. We've got -- remember the President, at the suggestion I think of the Majority Leader, put together a congressional advisory group on NATO and they've -- you know, we've been briefing them on and off on the plans going into the Madrid process. They're going to meet with the President tonight at 6:30 p.m, just for a discussion of how issues are shaping up as we prepare for Madrid.
Q So who's coming over, who's part of that?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have the list yet of who's actually coming in, because we're not sure of how many members -- I can't remember how many they appointed, but they appointed a number of people, mostly in the foreign affairs area from the Hill to be a part of that advisory group.
Q Do you still support three new members of NATO. Is that the President's decision?
MR. MCCURRY: We support the efforts that Secretary Albright made recently with her NATO counterparts to address and move that issue forward, and we support what Secretary Cohen will be doing in Brussels as he meets with NATO defense ministers; and we support, in short, a calm, quiet, collaborative effort to arrive at consensus since we have to get 16 governments to agree to who and how many.
Q With the position expressed by Secretary Albright, do you expect that to remain the same as you're going to Madrid, or are you expecting any change in that?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Briefly put, her position is fewer and better and the first shall not be last.
Q And you don't think that will change?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that our views are pretty well known to the other governments and the question now is how we resolve it going into the summit. And we're at a delicate moment, as you can tell, which is why I'm moving my lips without saying anything. (Laughter.)
Q You don't sound very delicate.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's just because you have this well-trained ear that hears through the diplomatic language and catches the nuance, Wolf.
Q Back on the disaster bill --
Q The Senator that says he's bringing a letter down tonight supporting the inclusion of Slovenia. Is President Clinton receptive to that?
MR. MCCURRY: We've had good, thorough discussions of the issue of Slovenia, Romania, other possible members within NATO, and we are still seeking the consensus that we must have prior to the summit itself.
Q Mike, to what extent is this coming emphasis on race relations driven by the President's desire to make progress on that issue a big part of his own legacy?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's driven more by his desire to make progress on the issue. And it's something that he has thought about a lot during his presidency, talked about a lot during his presidency -- and that we've had reminders, often painful reminders, of how important it is to try to address this issue in a forthright way. And he thinks it's important to try and it may or may not end up being part of whatever record he leaves for the history books.
Q A lot has been written and said here about the timing of this, doing it now because there aren't any major racial conflicts going on. Is that accurate?
MR. MCCURRY: It's accurate that there is not a crisis atmosphere like engendered prior efforts -- the Kerner Commission and others. But I think it's all the more important to do that, because the evidence of prejudice and racism is sometimes subtle and sometimes doesn't expose itself through the thrown brick or the hurled epithet; it's sometimes a quieter kind of prejudice and bigotry and all the more important to confront it and speak to it in times that are not filled with crisis.
I think that's the President's intent. I think I mentioned to some of you earlier today the Gallup Poll that just came out, which really has some evidence of the perceptions that I think are wrong and that need to be corrected that the President wants to address. I think we have ample evidence that we need to confront the issue and a need to make it more than just one speech, to make it an ongoing effort.
Q But there are people who hope that you will do more than just confront the issue. There are people who are looking for solutions and there's been ample evidence of this from all different sides -- from Ward Connerly to various civil rights organizations in California which are hoping he will come with plans and programs.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. Well, we are not going to solve the problems of prejudice and racism in our society Saturday in San Diego -- I can assure you that right now. But what we can at least do is to sketch the way in which we might use the coming year productively for exactly that kind of effort. How do you seek solutions and how do you use the tool of government when necessary; how do you use the power of persuasion when necessary to have people confront the reality of the society that we live in. And then figure out how to positively do something about it and bring about the kind of change we need to bring about.
I'm not going to suggest to you the President's is going to have all the answers to that Saturday in San Diego. In fact, he can't and he won't. But I think that he'll have a pretty good idea substantively how we can tackle the right questions and how we can -- how he can apply himself and how others can apply their energies to addressing those issues in the coming year.
Q Will this conversation, Mike, extend inside the White House? I mean, in other words, will the process look inward, as well? Also, where are you on putting together the list of people of color and senior administration folks?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we've got -- we've got a good set of numbers that the -- Barry can give you more on the numbers on the administration and -- what was the first part of the question?
Q The first part of it was whether this process will look inward and if this conversation will also take place within the walls of the White House.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. In fact, part of the positive -- one of the positive outcomes of just the internal deliberations here at the White House is a lot of people have spoken very personally and very candidly about their own experiences and their own feelings, in a very moving way that I think has had a lot of impact on the President and on others on staff. And I think that's been a very positive part of just the exercise of preparing for this one speech.
And that's something that, yes, a number of people have made the point that it's of such great value even within the White House that we ought to continue the working group that's been preparing for this initiative and continue the dialogue that's started among some of the individuals that have participated in that process.
Q Where are we on the Fed nominee process and the vetting?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I should have a little tickler file that says, check Fed for Bloomberg, and just kind of, like, pop up on my computer screen every day.
Q She's got one already. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, back on Yogesh Gandhi, you were just suggesting that Craig Livingstone served in the role of simple advance man. Given that you have a whole advance --
MR. MCCURRY: I said the story I read, Deborah, suggested at this event that you asked me about that he was the advance man present. And I don't know -- I think you should, as I said earlier, talk to Lanny about it.
Q What I'm trying to understand is, he was at that time Director of White House Security and there's a whole advance staff. Why would he be serving as advance man when he was Director of Security?
MR. MCCURRY: A lot of people who have had advance experience from time to time at the White House take time to do particular events. That's not unusual.
Q Mike, the event at the Mayflower tonight -- is there someone the President is meeting with there that you don't want us to know about? And, if not, what would the rationale be for not releasing the list?
MR. MCCURRY: Obviously not, because we wouldn't have you come in and take pictures of all of them.
Q Right, so why not --
Q They could hide.
MR. MCCURRY: Anything else?
Q Mike, if the President's going to ask these folks tonight to give $100,000 this year and $100,000 next year, doesn't that indicate that he doesn't expect the FEC to take action -- one, to ban soft money or, two, that he and Congress can work something out on campaign finance reform?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, if the FEC takes action and bans soft money, we won't have to raise those sums of soft money -- and, more importantly, the Republican National Committee won't be able to, either.
Q Then how are you going to make up the difference? Isn't the DNC still going to be --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you have to -- do it in smaller contributions, whatever is authorized and allowed by law.
Q I just want to pin you down on the list. Obviously you're under no legal obligation to release the list of the people at this thing.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not true, John. Anyone who agrees to participate in giving this money or raising this money, we have to disclose those names to you, and I think --
Q Correct. But we want the list of people who will be there tonight and you're saying no. I just want to be clear on where that decision is being made. It's being made at the White House, is it not? Not the DNC?
MR. MCCURRY: We gave -- as I told you yesterday, I gave -- and a number of us here talked -- I said, you've got a choice: you can either put out the list -- if you want the event closed to the press, then you're going to have to put out the list of who is there, you're going to have to have people brief on the meeting afterwards.
Q This is you speaking to the DNC?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, and others here, others here who were talking to them about the event.
Or -- and I said if you want to do what we customarily do at these events, which we -- we don't customarily put out the list of people attending, we bring the pool in and you guys come in and cover it. I said, you can have your option and you can do it. You know, quite clearly what it is, they're making a pitch to these guys who try to get some of them involved -- some of them probably pretty clearly are going to say yes. And I just think that they're probably sensitive to that issue. But that's -- ask the DNC if that's their thinking.
Q Mike, back on disaster relief, one of the concerns that folks in Grand Forks have is that while there's all this political stuff going on here in Washington over the bill, they still don't know what portion of the money is earmarked for disaster relief, what percentage of that, how much money they stand to get. They don't know. Why is that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think that's true. I think the bill --
Q That's is essentially what they told me yesterday.
MR. TOIV: They should talk to the Congress. I mean, they wrote the bill.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it's Congress who is writing the legislation and they are writing to specific program needs, which we've identified and we briefed you on all of the things that we're looking to get. Now, what's going to be in the final bill -- I mean, you're right, I think they say, well, we don't know what Congress is doing. Well, that's correct; we don't know what they're doing either.
Q You have a bill that the President has vetoed, but of that bill, they don't know what percentage of that money is due them.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not possible, because the bill specifically earmarks, item by item, what the payouts are. It may be that they're not quite clear how much of their individual effort would be funded through FEMA, but they can work with the federal representatives that are on hand from HUD, from Ag, from FEMA, from SBA and get a better sense of that.
Q What they're telling me is those people will not give them numbers until Congress and the White House get together.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, that's true. It would be irresponsible for any federal official locally to sort of promise these folks that you're going to have money. These people are living in trailer homes and they want to know is the money going to be there from the federal government to buy my home that I can't live in anymore, so I can have some money and go buy something else. No one on site right now can tell them yes, it's going to be there. They can't, because there's no law that's been enacted. That's why we keep saying Congress has got to get on passing the law and help those people who are in those circumstances
Q This just in. A source close to the tobacco talks says the Attorneys General expect to have a deal next week. A, has the White House heard this? B, what are you going to do when there is a deal?
MR. MCCURRY: The last we checked before I came out here, and of course I've been out here almost an hour now, so it is conceivable that it is not -- something has happened in that time. (Laughter.) But the last I checked, when we checked with Lindsey prior to this, is that they're about where it was reported today. They've got a lot of work to do and it doesn't look like they're close anywhere to a deal.
Q What's going to happen when they do get a deal? It will come here, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they will be -- we'll know about it because we're in direct contact with the parties and we'll see what it is and see whether we like it or not.
Q Mike, on that, did the President receive a letter from C. Everett Koop and the associated groups yesterday?
MR. MCCURRY: It hasn't come in yet. We heard about it. Dr. Kessler and Dr. Koop both sent a letter down here.
Q Saying don't sign off on anything until health groups have --
MR. MCCURRY: And we don't intend to. I think we would very closely consider the views of the public health advocates in their community prior to rendering any judgment on a bill, but we've been in active contact with them during the process of these discussions so that we can sort of get their sense of what they're hearing and know more about their thinking.
In a sense, a lot of that has already happened.
MR. TOIV: Mike, June 27th on the auto manufacturers, the auto executives.
MR. MCCURRY: If I tell them that we're having the interesting with the auto executives on June 27th, they're then going to ask what's on the agenda.
Q What's on the agenda, Mike?
Q What's on the agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: Issues of concern to the President and the --
Q Bilateral relations.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. (Laughter.) I think -- most likely -- I mean, I know what is on our agenda. We're interested in the general impact of the framework agreements in trade and how the -- what the experience is of the automotive industry as they deal with that reality. And we are also interested in their experiences in job creation and their contributions in this economy.
If you hear the local radio -- since we were talking about ads that are on the local radio earlier -- there's a Chrysler, Ford -- one of the other -- GM, I guess -- together are funding an ad campaign in which they talk about the number of jobs they've created. It's great. They play a little tune on the piano. And they said, if each note were job, you'd have to listen to this music for 14 straight years in order to hear all the number of the auto -- hear all the jobs that have been created. A very clever ad.
Q How anybody the Jerry's ads? Have you heard the Jerry's ad?
MR. MCCURRY: They're just bragging about their part in being a part of the Clinton economy. It's good.
MR. MCCURRY: What -- I forget what day tomorrow is at this point.
MR. MCCURRY: In fact, we're talking to the Business Roundtable tomorrow. We're going to talk about the economy and how strong it is, and how in 1993 we made the commitment to reduce the deficit with not one Republican vote -- do I need to remind you? -- and that has created the longest sustained period of job creation -- 12.3 million new jobs, low rates of unemployment, low rates of inflation -- what some economists are describing as, "as close to nirvana as we get on this earth."
Q But nirvana is nothing. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q But nirvana is nothingness. It just means kind of being absorbed into nothing. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: That's --
Q I just thought I'd point that out.
Q -- the status of our concerns --
Q What about the environment, Mike? What about environment? Are they going to discuss that, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Given the -- that the BRT itself has been expressing its mind on that issue, I can't imagine that won't come up.
Q What about taxes?
Q Civil rights task force tomorrow or Friday?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we'll do that tomorrow. And I think Joe plans to bring some of the people who have been working on this task force in to kick off the briefing tomorrow and tell you a little more.
Q What time?
MR. MCCURRY: Regular briefing.
Q The regular briefing.
MR. MCCURRY: Regular briefing time.
Q Is the Business Roundtable in the morning?
MR. MCCURRY: Afternoon. Anything else on the calendar tomorrow? That's the principal thing on the President's calendar tomorrow, but we will be giving you more details on the President's race initiative.
Q Mike, just one more thing. A, is the President going to talk about taxes at all at tomorrow's Business Roundtable discussion? And B, I had heard somewhere that a group of people were coming here to talk to officials at the White House on Medicare or Medicaid; do you know anything about that?
MR. MCCURRY: They may be coming in to talk about some of the committee action that's occurred and just how we're going to deal with that. There is an awful lot about some of what's happened on the Hill with respect to Medicare that concerns us greatly and some of the actions they took in the markup are not to the President's liking, particularly the way in which the Senate mark on the tax bill deals with some of the children's health issues. We much prefer what Senator Rockefeller, Senator Chafee have been working on. We've been trying to move people in that direction. We don't think that the Chairman's mark is helpful.
So I think there are probably some discussions. I don't know -- we'll have to check on who specifically, but I think because there's been a lot of action on the Hill, there's probably some effort to get together people in the health community to talk about it.
Q Tomorrow's talk to the Business Roundtable, will taxes and budget issues be part of the President's --
MR. MCCURRY: I think it may be part of the discussion. I think the President will focus generally on economic issues, but he will tell them -- give him the sense of his priorities on both the budget agreement and the legislation resulting from it that we've expressed publicly, and hopefully have some dialogue on that.
Okay, thank you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:49 P.M. EDT