THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Nashville, Tennessee) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release J une 25, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISER GENE SPERLING; ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR CAROL BROWNER; AND CHAIR OF THE COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY KATIE MCGINTY
The Briefing Room The White House
1:22 P.M. CDT
MR. TOIV: Good afternoon. Thank you for your patience, here and in Nashville. Our briefers today are Katie McGinty, who is Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; Carol Browner, Administrator of EPA; Gene Sperling, the President's National Economic Advisor; and Sally Katzen, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs over at OMB. I believe Katie and Carol will have statements, and then they'll be open to your questions. And please be patient as we try to intersperse questions from Nashville and from here.
This is on the record and for sound -- off camera, obviously.
MS. MCGINTY: Good afternoon. After meeting with his advisors and Administrator Browner this morning, the President made a very significant decision and has made a very significant announcement this afternoon that represents a major step forward in protecting public health and a major step forward in fashioning common-sense and flexible implementation schemes to meet the objectives of the Clean Air Act.
This builds on the President's legacy over the last four and a half years of bringing the environment and the economy together to achieve important environmental objectives in an economically sound way.
On the public health front, the President today is taking a major step forward with regard to a new pollutant that has never before been controlled. That pollutant is very small, tiny particles that we know cause premature death. And the President is strengthening current smog standards that we know seriously exacerbate asthma conditions and other lung ailments, and that particularly affect children.
Asthma is on the rise throughout the United States. We know it's one of the leading causes of children's hospitalization and, following from that, a leading cause of for children missing out on school days. So the step -- the decision the President made today advances our commitment to clean air in this country and allows us to take important gains on a pollutant that we know causes premature death and other pollutants that we know dramatically exacerbate lung conditions and particularly asthma.
On the implementation side, the President is taking an initiative that will help us not to recreate the wheel but to work in partnership with states, local governments, and industry to build on the many worthy efforts that are already underway and that have already resulted in significant gains in cleaning up the nation's air. Again, this follows the President's tradition
over the last four and a half years to meld strong environmental objectives with common sense in economic implementation schemes.
This decision follows what was a very thorough, intensive, and constructive process that all of our agencies participated in, from which all of us learned, and as a consequence of which produced what we think again is a major step forward in public health and a major step forward in terms of flexible common-sense implementation plans.
I'd like to turn it over now to Administrator Browner, who can flesh out for you some of the details that are part of this package.
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: Thank you. I will shortly send to OMB for final review EPA's recommended final air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter, otherwise known as smog and soot.
Let me just explain for those of you who have not understood all the intricacies of the Clean Air Act. Under the Clean Air Act as passed by Congress, reaffirmed by President Bush, President Carter, EPA is required to review the public health standards for the six most commonly found air pollutants every five years and to determine, based on current best science, whether or not those public health standards in fact protect the health of the American people.
What we are announcing here today is that we have completed the review of two of those standards: one for ozone, or smog -- it is what you're experiencing outside here today in Washington; the other for fine particles. In the case of ozone, the recommended final standard would be updated from .12 parts per million of ozone measured over one hour to a standard of .08 measured over eight hours, with an average of four -- of the fourth highest exceedance per year. This is the first time the ozone standard has been updated in almost 20 years.
For particulate matter, what we are talking about are little tiny things, 2.5 microns in size. You cannot see them, but when they become imbedded in your lungs, you cannot cough them out, you cannot spit them out. They result in childhood respiratory illness and premature death. This is a new standard. Today we have a standard for larger particles. We do not have a standard on the books for fine particles. The new standard for fine particles would be set at an annual limit of 15 micrograms for cubic meter, measured over the course of the year, 15; and a daily limit of 65 micrograms per cubic meter to allow for more flexibility in implementation while maintaining the strong public health standard.
This is a culmination of a thorough scientific process, extensive, constructive interagency discussions. It is, quite frankly, clear that the air quality standards of the 1970s must be updated so that they are right for the 1990s. The final product, I am delighted to say, is a major step forward for protecting the public health of the people of this country. Together, these new standards will provide new health protections to 125 million Americans, including 35 million children.
This administration takes its responsibility to ensure strong public health protections combined with flexible implementation very, very seriously. And with the leadership of President Clinton, Vice President Gore, we are building on a record of strong public health protection for real people and real communities. The scientific evidence, all of it independently peer-reviewed over and over again, tells us that the current standards for smog, for soot are not protective enough; they leave far too many Americans at risk, too many children at risk. That is why we must act.
We also believe that these standards must be implemented fairly and reasonably. We are going to work closely with cities, states, businesses over an extended period of time to give them the opportunity to meet the new standards in cost-effective, reasonable ways. We can have air that is both safe and healthy to breathe; and we can continue the nation's economic progress. America has done it before; America can rise to the challenge once again.
There is no clearer sign of this President, this Vice President's commitment to strong public health protections for the American people, sensible implementation, than the announcement we make today.
Q How does it fit in with the international -- the allies being so opposed on the question of global warming and everything? Does that fit in? Does that appease them?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, this is a slightly different issue in the sense that we are looking at domestic air quality here and the global discussions are focusing on global air quality and climate change. But one of the important things about this announcement is that while we take it in order to protect children, protect people who are at physical risk here in the United States, it will simultaneously help us to reduce those same pollutants that are at issue in the international discussions and that are leading to climate changes.
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: The benefits of strengthening these public health standards are felt in terms of asthmatic children, in terms of premature deaths avoided, respiratory illnesses -- avoid it -- those are extremely important for real people and real communities across the country. Obviously, climate change is an issue that affects the world as a whole, and it does, as Ms. McGinty said, involve some of the same pollutants and there are some benefits from strengthening the standards.
Q If I could follow up on Helen's question, do you think that the decision that you're making today will make it easier to reach an agreement with the allies on these global warming issues?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, it certainly will help the United States to achieve our objective of reducing the emissions that are causing climatic changes or disruptions in the climate system. In terms of the overall discussions that are happening in the international arena, these standards would not be particularly at issue. It's just part of what the United States brings to the table to say, while other countries have been tossing around various numbers in these international discussions, the United States has actually been taking real action that begin to reduce the pollutants. So it reenforces our message that hypothetical numbers aren't really the objective here; the objective is to reduce the pollution that's causing the problem.
Q Carol, could you elaborate a little bit or explain the new classification of a transitional -- in other words, this more drawn-out or more flexible implementation process for ozone? What does that really mean to people trying to meet these standards?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: As important as the public health protections are, equally important is sensible, reasonable implementation. And the implementation package which we worked with all of the parties here today to develop will allow, first of all, in the case of ozone for those states who participate in an emissions trading program that came about through the work of governors' representatives from 37 states -- for those states who participate in that, it will allow them to meet these standards, to meet a tougher public health standard in most instances without any additional work.
And because of that, because we can actually deliver cleaner air faster through our implementation plan, we will not have to take cities through a redesignation process. Our goal is to get the air cleaner, do it through sensible implementation. And this implementation package that is part of this announcment will allow us to do that.
Q In other words, a city or an area will not be designated a nonattainment, even though for a certain period of time, even though --
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: It's important for us to, one, allow the cities to collect the information -- that is what the law envisions; two, it is important to allow the solutions that the governors have put forward to actually take effect. And so our implementation plan allows for that to occur, and therefore, why go through all of the, quite frankly, what would be really just paperwork of redesignation if what you can really get is the cleaner air delivered much more quickly. And that's what the implementation will allow for.
Q Now, when would these new standards actually affect a city like New York or Cincinnati or --
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: In the case of a city that doesn't meet the current standard -- and we still do have areas where they are continuing to make progress towards the existing standard -- they would begin their work on the tougher standard as they complete that work. For those areas that might not today meet a tougher public health standard, if their governor supports, as we have an indication from 33 now of 37 governors, the trading, the emissions trading program -- which is a very common-sense, cost-effective implementation tool -- for those of you who don't know the issue well, it's acid rain. The acid rain program involved the trading of pollution credit. That same, very successful implementation strategy will now be applied to ozone or smog as it is commonly known.
So for those governors who subscribe to that, and we do believe it will be the vast majority, we will give the time to get that program up and running, because it results in cleaner air that much faster and it results in a much more cost-effective manner.
Q How many years are you allowing? What's the deadline on all this?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: The Clean Air Act has a whole set of deadlines that play out. In the case of ozone, the first steps that would be taken under sensible implementation would begin in the fall.
We've already had a history of work in this country of efforts in this country on the part of both cities and industry in terms of the ozone pollution, and we would be building on those successes.
In the case of the fine particles, it is a new pollutant. There has never before been a public health standard for the fine particles. And in that instance, we have to build a monitoring network across the country to actually measure how much of that pollution is in the air at any given time. Then we have to work with individual states to develop their plans for reducing the pollution. That plays out over a five-, seven-, eight-year period under the law.
MR. SPERLING: One of the arguments that was made on particulate matter -- and we had complete consensus through the administration there should be a new standard -- that there should be a standard for 2.5, the fine particles. Everyone agreed on that.
Some people who opposed this said, wouldn't it be better to go through a period where you have additional monitoring and science. And what we have here, in just the course of doing this, you would have a five-year review, so there would be another five-year period for five years' review of the science and the monitoring before any designations of non-compliance would be made.
So putting this standard down and starting on the process of making this country focus on providing public health in this area does not mean that we would not have the benefits of five more years of scientific review before any designations are made.
Q You've put in the wording here, several years more before many areas actually comply. What does "several years more" mean?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: In the case of ozone or the fine particles? As Gene just explained, in the case of the fine particles, it's a brand new pollutant, so there is no monitoring network, there is no data in terms of all of the cities. We have data on many cities but not all of the cities. So the first thing you do is you build the monitoring network. That will take up to five years, and in that time, as the law envisioned, we will conduct another review of the existing science as we have recently completed. So it gives us a chance to make sure that all of the science is made use of and is thoroughly reviewed, as the law envisioned.
Q Is this open-ended then?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: No, once you have -- the law says, the law lays out -- the Clean Air Act is very responsible in both providing a level of public health protections but then laying out deadlines. Once the monitoring is built -- that will take approximately five years -- you then another two years for the designations to be made, and then the reduction strategies would begin.
Q If you're monitoring over the next five years, and your review of the 2.5 standard shows that it's not really a problem, or that science doesn't prove that it's having a health impact, would you just not enforce the 2.5 standard?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: What the law would actually require you to do is to make an adjustment in the standard, and there is a history to that, based on the best available science. The science that both the PM and the ozone standards are based on -- in the case of PM it's 10 years of science that we looked at; in the case of ozone it's 20 years.
But there is more science. As is the case with science, there is always more science coming forward. And the good thing about addressing a new pollutant is that we have the opportunity to make sure that we have taken account of the best available science as we move forward, and we will certainly do that.
Q Do the standards announced today match your original recommendation?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: There are modest revisions in the original proposals that were made.
Q Such as? Could you tell us what they are?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: In the case of ozone, the concentration level, .08, how much pollution can be in the air, was our proposal, and that is the final. In the case of how many hours over which you measure the pollution, today it is one hour. We propose to go to eight hours. It gives you more stability in the system, and it is at eight hours.
And then there is a formula used for what are called exceedances. We had proposed to use an averaging formula at the third highest over three years -- how's this for confusion? We have made a minor adjustment there. We have gone to the fourth highest over three years. Again, that is designed to give us the kind of flexibility to allow for sensible implementation while guaranteeing the public health protections.
In the case of particles, there are three issues. One is, as Gene pointed out, the primary decision, which is to set a standard for a pollutant that has never had a standard before. That is the 2.5 size pollutant, the 2.5 size particle. EPA had proposed an annual number and a daily number, and you do that because it's how you manage the pollution over a period of time. The annual number that we proposed was 15; the daily was 50. In other words, any individual business could be at -- or any individual city could be at 50 on an individual day, but would have to be at 15 when you average over the whole year. We made a minor adjustment on the daily. We kept the annual at 15 and we moved the daily to 65. It's a minor adjustment, again, to allow for flexibility and implementation.
Q In making those changes, Ms. Browner, do you have estimates for how many counties will fall out of compliance?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: We don't at this time. We are still looking at that.
Q Substantially different, modestly different, sort of different?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: Than from the original proposal? I think it's premature to speculate at this point.
MR. TOIV: I have a related question from someone in Nashville. Of 100 or so top metropolitan areas, can you give a list of those that would not meet the new requirements?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: Again, this is a public health standard. That's the first step in the process. Then you move into the implementation phase of the process as envisioned by the law. That requires that certain information be collected in literally city after city, so it is premature to really speculate until the cities have the opportunity to collect and analyze all of that data.
In the case of the fine particles, remember, it's a new pollutant, so there is no monitoring network pursuant to EPA guidelines in place yet. We will have to actually build that over the next several years.
Q Did you finish the question on changes?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: Those were the two changes, plus the original proposal did not include an implementation package. The final package that we sent to OMB does include an implementation package, again designed to ensure common-sense, cost-effective implementation of the standards.
Q Was the President under great pressure not to go for this? And what made him bend?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: There was a process that I guess we were all -- we've all been engaged in over the last several weeks. It was a very constructive process. Everyone contributed to it. And today we met with the President, in keeping with that process, to explain to him where we found ourselves, having concluded the process.
MR. SPERLING: I would just say it was fairly standard for how you do a policy process because it's -- regulation has some different aspects, but myself and Katie and Sally Katzen, each in our right roles, tried to coordinate process and everybody could have a -- everyone have their input, everybody could hear everybody else.
What we found was that we had consensus on several things. We had consensus on moving to eight hours on ozone. We had consensus that there should be a new standard for 2.5 fine particles. There was consensus on the implementation strategy that was worked on together.
On the standards for ozone at eight hours and the standards for 2.5, there were some reasonable differences among -- as you would expect when you have 10, 11 departments involved. But the good thing was that, as we had the process, what happened was -- and people listened to each other, I think some of those differences started to narrow -- not to the point of consensus, but I think that they were well thought out and the differences did narrow.
And then, as we usually do, once we feel like we've gone as far as we can, we go to the President and we say, here's where we are, there are a couple of options for you to look at, and present it to him, and he makes the call. That is the standard. It is more the exception that you have 8 or 10 departments all come to a consensus on everything. Life would be boring. I wouldn't have anything to do.
So this really did follow the normal process, the way we do things. We did talk with him before he went to Denver. We were afraid we were taking too much of his time as he was preparing for the Summit of the 8, so we agreed to meet again, that he would think about it and read more on the plane back, and that we would meet again this morning. And that's what happened, and he talked with the Vice President several times throughout, and made his decision today.
Q -- conversations that he had in Denver with the foreign leaders about the importance of the environment influence his decision-making process?
MR. SPERLING: I think that he had had good briefing and is very familiar with these type of issues, obviously as a governor and as President has dealt with them. So I don't -- obviously I can't totally read his mind, but, no, I think that he was very -- was getting very familiar with the issues, what the different options were before he left. And I think he came to a decision that he felt most comfortable -- I think he felt most comfortable with. That's not to say that I don't think that he found the Summit of the 8 informative in a large matter of areas, and I'm sure including climate change.
Q Do you think he'll have much of a fight in Congress -- attempt to block these regulations several times on the Hill?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: Look, Congress has an important oversight role to play. We welcome that oversight. We've appreciated the interest, the hearings that we have participated in thus far. Obviously, this will be sent up to Congress for the 60-day review, and we will make ourselves available as we have already to explain both the public health benefits and the sensible implementation that is now a part of the package.
Q A question for Gene. I know that under the Clean Air Act, the economic impacts are sort of under the table** for Administrator Browner to take a look at. Did you look at that in the White House? And if you did, can you give us a summary of what the impact would be and how it would differ with the flexible implementation?
MR. SPERLING: Well, the first point you make is right. All of us who are looking at the standard have to look at the health standard and provide it with a margin of safety. So a lot of people were involved with that, but our discussions were on the science and on the health standards. And I will say that without any exception, people held very rigorously to that understanding and, you know, we had more discussions about different studies and when you could -- what you could draw from certain correlations, but we stayed very faithful to that.
On the implementation, as Carol said, there the Clean Air Act certainly allows you to consider the cost and the practical realities of cities complying. And what we did was we had just a very constructive process with Sally Katzen and Carol and Katie and Linda Lance and Kathy Walman and others. Lots of others. And we explored different things. We also were getting, as Sally went through her process, we had gotten an enormous amount of information -- maybe she could talk about that -- some from a wide variety of mayors and governors, and in the industry -- public health community, environmental community. So we tried to take all of those things into account and I think we came to something that we felt, as said, would be solid health standards, but would have the kind of common-sense and flexible implementation that would make this practical for people to implement and would ensure that we were always taking into account, as the Clean Air Act complies with, the most up to date science as it further develops.
Q -- that we know when these might go into effect if everything goes -- just look at the process. What happens now?
MS. KATZEN: Let me first, however, pick up on something that Gene had mentioned and actually go back to your question.
For purposes of setting a standard the Clean Air Act is clear. And it is a health-based based on the best available science. Under the executive order tha governs all rule-making in the Executive Branch, an agency that is developing a rule will submit with the final package to OMB, a cost benefit analysis even if, as the case is here, they cannot take into account the costs or the benefits of the cost-benefit ratio in setting the standard itself.
So when we received the package from EPA, we will have a full-blown analysis that will be part of the final package and will be made publicly available when EPA submits the final package as approved by OMB for the Federal Register.
The second point is that as part of the interagency process, we understood early on how important this was, and instead of simply waiting for people to call us and come in and talk about their issues, their concerns, their problems, we did an extensive outreach. We had an extensive outreach with state and local officials, with the environmental groups and public health groups, and with industry. And we met, I met personally with probably 20 or 25 different groups. And it was clear for a lot of these meetings that everyone professed their dedication to clean air, but were worried about how it would be implemented, how it might affect them. And we sat and we listened through very long meetings about the different issues that were raised for different industries, for different localities, for different regions. Part of that information was brought to the table during the interagency process as well.
As Gene said, everyone learned a little bit, and what you saw, what we saw in the EPA proposal that was finally developed, the final presentation, clearly reflected what they had heard in terms of the implementation pieces. And they sought to meet those, not necessarily for economic reasons, but because of what had come through in terms of this discussion.
So it was, I think, a very productive way of trying to address some of those issues, fully consistent with the act and fully consistent with the mandate of this administration to protect public health in a common sense way.
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: I just want to clarify time frames. We're dealing with something unique here. It is the first time we've ever set two public health standards at one time. It is the first time it has ever happened in the Clean Air Act, so let me take one -- ozone first.
The implementation package that is part of the public health ozone standard, will rely to large part on a regional state sponsored plan to address the long distance transport of ozone. What do we mean? Ozone moves long distances. What is generated in one state may be affecting another state and the quality of their air. We have been working with the governors, their representatives, over the last two years to develop a regional solution that will rely on the trading of pollution credits. We got the support of the governors and their representatives last week for such a solution. That solution will take some number of years, as is always the case, to implement.
The first significant round of pollution reductions will be achieved in 2003, 2004. You'll see reductions beginning with the first trading, but you'll see a large chunk of it occurring in that time frame.
Remember, we are continuing other things already in place across the country for ozone because it is a pollutant, an air pollutant that we currently deal with, we currently have standards and we are strengthening those standards.
In the case of the fine particles, it is a brand new pollutant. There has never before been a standard for the tiny, tiny particles. Because this is a new one, we have to first go out and build the system, as Gene explained. The reductions in that case would begin in approximately 2008, but before that happens there will be the opportunity, as envisioned by the Clean Air Act, for another scientific -- a five-year scientific review.
So that gives you the deadlines, if you will, the time frames that this will move forward.
MR. MCCURRY: We've got filing pressure down in Nashville because they need to leave there shortly. There is one question from down there that was relayed to me about the President -- how closely is he following the Russia Mir space station collision. He has received via NASA an update from his Science and Technology Advisor, Dr. Jack Gibbons. Most of the information provided to the President is consistent with what's been briefed already.
Any other questions that we need to deal with?
Q He's been getting reports down there?
MR. MCCURRY: He's received a report from Dr. Gibbons that summarized the latest information that we have from NASA, which is consistent I think with what has been briefed publicly.
Q -- that they're okay?
MR. MCCURRY: Tune into CNN, just what they're saying on CNN.
Q Will he make any surprise announcement in the speech tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think he will certainly talk about the degree to which the world is united five years after the Rio treaty in seeking quantifiable, measurable reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases that are now scientifically shown to have climate consequences. He will reiterate the position that was taken jointly by the Summit of the 8 in Denver this past weekend. He will certainly make reference to this decision, showing the United States is willing to take the type of tough measures necessary on our part to deal with at least some aspects of the problem.
Q -- New York tomorrow? And given the new time of the speech, is there likely to be an advanced text?
MR. MCCURRY: Our briefing schedule tomorrow, since we've shifted everything late in the day, is to sometime mid-afternoon, in time for people who need to file, to at least do a preview of the speech, of the President's two bilaterals in evening. He plans to see U.N. Security General Kofi Annan for review of U.N. reform issues, a discussion of several of the issues on the United Nations General Assembly, and then also matters we've been pursuing directly with the Secretary General and the United Nations Security Council.
He will then see Republic of Korea President Kim, a review of issues related to security on the Korean Peninsula, certainly the status of our effort to encourage four-way talks, an update on the status of the negotiations that could lead preparatory conversations with respect to four-way talks. They will also review our understanding of the current food shortages in the North, in the DPRK, and other regional security issues normally on our bilateral agenda.
Q Mike, on the Mir, are we comfortable that the Russians are telling us everything we need to know?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding from NASA, or at least what's been briefed to the White House, is that NASA right now is in very close consultation with its Russian counterpart. They're exploring all aspects of the problem and trouble-shooting various aspects of the problem. I'm not aware of any problems in the free flow of information between NASA and their Russian counterparts.
Q -- reports about Starr --
MR. MCCURRY: Reaction to the Washington Post story on Starr -- we've refrained from comment on that here at the White House today. We understand that another of people are quite understandably expressing themselves on the matter.
Q -- those people who are expressing their outrage?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not taking any position, but it's easy to understand why people would find this curious.
Q You don't have any --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just not taking a position on behalf of the White House. There have been a number of people in a position to comment, including one of the President's attorneys.
Q Mike, how soon are we going to get nominations on a FEC commissioner? I heard that --
MR. MCCURRY: I have no clue. FEC? I'll have to check on that.
Q Mike, do we have a time on the South Korean president's bilat?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe it's at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow tonight. Is that correct? Time for the bilat tomorrow I think is early evening but beyond many deadlines.
Q Will there be a readout afterwards?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q Readout afterwards?
MR. MCCURRY: I think I just gave you a pretty good readout of the meeting. (Laughter.)
Q Shall we use that tomorrow?
Q Is he going to do anything on Friday?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, you can make that past tense tomorrow. (Laughter.)
Q Is there any change in the decision -- are they still considering whether to release -- make public the note that the Supreme Court --
MR. MCCURRY: I think they are considering that question. As you know, they've been provided to the Independent Counsel, and I think there is some sense, concern, about the nature of grand jury proceedings, and the secrecy that should be attached to grand jury proceedings.
If you will recall, the President's attorney expressed himself on that matter, or felt compelled to express himself on that matter following some public statements by representatives of Mr. Starr not long ago.
Q Anything on Friday?
MR. MCCURRY: Anything on Friday -- well, I'm sure we will do something. We've got the talks with at least some representatives of the audio companies. And one or two other things, and I'll that up for you tomorrow in New York.
Q What about --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't look ahead that far for you right now.
Q Mike, is there any reaction to the Court striking down ERISA today?
MR. MCCURRY: Didn't we put out a written statement on that? The President had been weighing saying something about it at the conference today and I thought we opted to put a written statement out. I believe we have a written statement coming on tha case.
Q -- some of his reaction to the -- disappointed?
MR. MCCURRY: I think so. I mean the President was a strong supporter and numerous times cited the importance of that Act in giving Americans the right to acknowledge their own expression of faith, appropriately, even in public settings, and publicly financed settings.
The President had instructed the Department of Education, consistent with the Act, to provide people with a variety of ways in which they could honor and mark their own faiths appropriately in settings that would not pose Constitutional problems. So I think the President will naturally express some disappointment about the decision.
Q -- order in Miami delay any of the Nicaraguan atrocities* --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has been working, you've heard from Commissioner Meissner on this, too, been working to address the problems related to immigration aspects of Nicaraguan citizens who are here as residents in the United States.
We're acting consistent with the law, but also consistent with our responsibility to evaluate case-by-case the needs of individuals who are in our immigration system. We believe we can do that effectively without jeopardizing compliance with the recently passed law.
Q -- seems to be taken, moving more and more away from the wall between humanity, church and state?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think the President has always acted consistent with the basic constitutional protection, the freedom of expression, but also done so in a way that honors the faith that underpins the founding of this country and the Constitution itself.
Q -- founders -- there is a wall.
MR. MCCURRY: The founders also had lots to say about the religious nature of the founding of this country, which is obvious from our history.
Q -- somewhat democratic --
MR. MCCURRY: A long reaction to it. Let's not do it here because these guys are trying to get out and I think you've heard most of what we have to say on that subject.
END 2:15 P.M. CDT