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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 24, 1997
                            PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                               MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:28 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Katie McGinty, thank you, very much. I appreciate it. All right, ladies and gentlemen, any other subjects on the day?

Q What's the latest on the budget talks?

MR. MCCURRY: They're still talking.

Q Any progress to report?

MR. MCCURRY: I just had a short conversation with one of our nomads on the Hill. They've been shuttling back and forth between various offices discussing both the tax legislation and the spending legislation. And they continue to see if there are ways they can bridge differences that exist between the administration's approach on tax relief for middle income families. We've got some very specific ideas on how we want to bring tax relief to the American family and they differ with the bills that have been presented by the Republican Congress. We think our ideas on tax relief for middle income Americans are better. And we've been pressing the case for that, and we're seeing if there's any room for agreement at this point. And they're making that assessment.

I think the tone of the meetings has been very constructive and positive. They will likely continue throughout the balance of the day and most likely in the days ahead. One of the things we're doing now is to assess what likelihood there is that we could make some progress before the congressional summer recess. And I don't believe that's clear at this point.

Q Has anybody asked the President or has he volunteered whether he remembers making those fundraising calls?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has addressed that in the past. I'm not aware that he would change the answer that he's given in the past.

Q Well, he has only said in the past that he might have made some.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe the President would change the answer he's given in the past on that.

Q Mike, will you be -- well, not you, but will the President be meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus after Maxine Waters has made demands for this meeting since she's very upset about this disparity in powder cocaine?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Attorney General, General McCaffrey, Eric Holder, the Deputy Attorney General and Rahm Emanuel from the White House staff had an interesting meeting with the Caucus yesterday and heard viewpoints expressed and took those views on board and had they, of course, communicated those to the President. The President did discuss this issue with the Congressional Black Caucus in May when he met with them. And, of course, he looks forward to continuing to meet with the Caucus.

I'm not aware that they've requested any meeting directly with the President because they met with senior-ranking officials of the administration yesterday in what was a good meeting, but very candid meeting.

Q Mike, they're saying, number one, that they were not consulted about the recommendation. They said they were not talked to. They said that the only time that -- as you said, they talked to White House officials --

MR. MCCURRY: We are very aware of what they said, and that was communicated to the President. The President did discuss this issue with them in May and he respects their views, but I think also has set forth clearly why he thinks the recommendation that was made to him was the correct one.

Q Mike, is it still your understanding that the New York Times story today is basically a month-old story based on --

MR. MCCURRY: As near as I can tell, I think the Associated Press moved this story on June 27 and The Washington Post reported it in much the same fashion on June 28th. So they would look like they're following up work of their competitors.

Q It appears to be based on different memos. Do you know?

MR. MCCURRY: It looked to me like the same information, but if you contact Lanny Davis, he can help you out. He knows the details.

Q But the President is standing on his previous statement, is that right?

MR. MCCURRY: He's not -- he has addressed this issue and I think addressed it to his satisfaction in the past.

Q Can you give us a readout on the meeting with Herzog? Is it over yet?

MR. MCCURRY: It's still going on.

Q Are they still meeting?

MR. MCCURRY: And because we've got the time coming up later for the event over the in Residence, what we'll try to do is provide you some readout after the luncheon concludes.

Q Herzog doesn't like Filomena's, or what?

MR. MCCURRY: Light luncheon fare -- cured salmon, and I don't believe it was Canadian.

Q Jack Daniels squab, I believe.

MR. MCCURRY: Jack Daniels squab, cured salmon is the appetizer course, and squab with Jack Daniels glaze. Would you like the rest of the menu? See how well-prepared I am. Want me to read you this since you've been thinking about global climate change throughout the lunch hour. And baby spinach salad. Roasted squab glazed with Jack Daniels.

Q What do they kill he squab with whiskey? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Napa cabbage with wild mushrooms, roasted shallots, tomato parsley spetzel. That sounds a lot better than what we're doing here. See you later. (Laughter.)

Q Any reaction to the death of Andrew Cunanan?

MR. MCCURRY: The President learned of that this morning as most Americans did. He had watched some of the coverage last night. I think the President believes that this moment most Americans will have in their thoughts and prayers the families of the victims. And the President also expressed his praise to the law enforcement officials at the federal, state and local level that worked to locate and ultimately find Mr. Cunanan.

Q Mike, getting back on the disparity issue. I understand yesterday that someone of the Justice Department has said, could there be a recommendation to drop it down to 5 to 1. Would the President support a 5 to 1 drop from 10 to 1?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has already expressed his acceptance of the recommendation he received. That's 10 to 1.

Q There is just a new story that Justice Brennan has just died. Is there any immediate --

MR. MCCURRY: If we -- if that is announced at the proper time, it would be appropriate for the President to have a comment on that, and he will at the appropriate time, if that announcement is made appropriately.

Q Two questions on the Tahoe Summit. One, with the expectations of both the Governors of Nevada and California of the $300 million federal participation in the Tahoe Basin, will the President come through with that? And secondly, are there any plans for him to address the whole issue of the Washoe Indians and their demands of the federal government?

MR. MCCURRY: On both of those questions, I would have to defer to Katie McGinty who was just here. I don't know the answer to either one of them. I think there is some plans to discuss the federal role in what is a cooperative effort involving the state and local governments and the local development and tourist promotion authorities, but I'll have to check further on it.

MR. LOCKHART: She did address that this morning.

MR. MCCURRY: She did address that point? Okay.

Q Yes, but she didn't address the question about the Washoe tribe's request for land?

MR. MCCURRY: All right, we'll find out about that. Maybe we can a little more on that tomorrow.

Other subjects?

Q We missed all those wonderful fast track people. Do you have anything on that?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think a number of them had planned to come, but they had a vote. They were all scrambling to get back up to the Hill for a vote. It was a very positive meeting. The President laid out what he believes is a very strong argument for fast track authority, centering principally on the fact that free trade has been a critical element of our economic strategy, which is producing very significant results for the American people, and the President needs the authority to continue those types of agreements that will keep markets open and keep American prosperity rising.

He then heard from members around the room and they expressed the concerns that we all know are there, that there need to be sufficient protection for working people in the United States and concern paid to the needs of workers in other countries, there needs to be attention paid to environmental issues -- all issues that we are very well familiar with and the President thought it was very useful to hear from House Democrats about some of the concerns they're hearing in their district.

But on balance, the President believes -- and I think he feels the American people believe -- that we are in a strong economy and people appreciate that, and most Americans understand that one element of that is our ability to go out and compete in the global marketplace.

Q Is there a date to send that legislation up to the Hill sometime --

MR. MCCURRY: We've indicated that we would be sending it up in the fall. Part of the discussion today was exactly how to sequence the timing of issues that we'll be considering later on in the fall, where we plan to make the big push for fast track authority later in the fall.

Q September, October -- any particular date?

MR. MCCURRY: At the appropriate time in the fall.

Q Besides extending NAFTA, what does he want fast track for?

MR. MCCURRY: He needs that authority to pursue any number of free trade agreements. And the number is among the things that has not been precisely determined, but we have reached 200 free trade agreements during the course of this administration and that's done with the authority the President needs from Congress to negotiate a deal which then is submitted to the Congress for review by the Congress.

Q But he couldn't satisfy them on labor and environment, could he?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that he assured them that he would certainly have those concerns very much in his mind as he pursues these agreements and whether or not they are satisfied with that, I think you would have to ask them, but we've demonstrated our capacity for addressing those issues squarely even as we pursue our interests in free and open trade.

Q Just to briefly defend my newspaper, a return to the subject before. Was it your impression that it had been previously reported that the President had personally requested a list of fundraisers to solicit, that he himself wanted to solicit?

MR. MCCURRY: I think The Washington Post lead June 28th was, the White House was -- the lead was, newly-disclosed memos suggest that the President personally requested a list of names. So yes, they wrote about that, I think, several weeks ago.

Q But perhaps, given the renewed interest in the subject today by the publication of The New York Times on the subject, you would ask the President whether he has refreshed his memory as to whether he might have made any phone calls.

MR. MCCURRY: I believe I answered that question for you already.

Q No, not that question, actually.

Q Has the President received the DOD report on what happened at Kamisiyh on March 4th, 1991, and most importantly, does he still have confidence in DOD's investigative authorities --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to have Anne answer that question.

MS. LUZZATTO: I don't really have very much to say about it, because the Pentagon briefed on it this morning. But for the record, I think it's important to say that the President has been committed to getting out all the facts related to Gulf War illnesses, and he said he won't stop pushing until all unanswered questions are answered and believes that the presidential advisory commission that he created is a good catalyst for doing so. And I think with respect to this latest plume analysis, this is an example of yet another step in understanding -- helping to understand the scope of possible exposure and an example of moving forward with the inquiries. But I refer you to the Pentagon for all other questions.

Q But this was a question of competence in the Department, not simply a question of revealing the data.

MS. LUZZATTO: Well, I think the process of inquiry as it moves forward and continues to look into these things is something that he is committed to ensuring is thorough. I think that's probably the best way to answer that.

Q On Justice Brennan, were you saying that he is -- that you know, the White House knows that he has died?

MR. MCCURRY: I wasn't saying anything at all on that subject. And if there's anything to say on that subject, at the appropriate time the President would most likely want to address it.

Q Is there any process in place -- pre-vetted individuals for possible Supreme Court nominations?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know why that would arise.

Q He's retired.

Q Mike, any reaction to Specter saying he's going to go to the three-judge panel and ask for -- bypass Reno and ask for an independent counsel? And does the White House believe he'd have legal authority to do that?

MR. MCCURRY: It's the first I've heard about it. I don't have a reaction.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:43 P.M. EDT