THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:35 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me do two things. I want to say a word about two of my colleagues, since today is the first day at the White House without Don Baer, the President's Assistant for Communications Policy, and Jodie Torkelson, who has been the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration. They are -- both have been not only friends but really good colleagues of mine. Don Baer, through a long period of '95 and '96, I think, was singularly the person who most helped the President stay riveted on a message that the American people found very persuasive in the election last year. I to this day am amused at how often a lot of his good hard work was attributed to others. I think many in this room often saw the hand of Dick Morris in just about everything that happened over the course of two years, but I think very often the pen was actually in the hand of Don Baer, and, often the case, he was the one who really adjudicated differences and viewpoints between some of the President's senior advisers and some of his political advisers. But he did an extraordinarily good job and the President has gone of out his way to pay a farewell to him and it's richly deserved.
Jodie Torkelson, who worked for Leon Panetta for 15 years managing his office and, I think -- Barry, the budget committee staff, too?
MR. TOIV: And OMB.
MR. MCCURRY: And OMB, is really one of the most talented managers I've ever seen. She kind of ran the White House, set the administrative logistics level and did an extraordinarily good job, and she will be missed. She's been paid tribute to by the President and Erskine Bowles and others as the only person in the White House who consistently says no to the President, the First Lady, the Chief of Staff and every one on down the line; but she always managed to do so very gracefully. And I wanted you to know that the White House is mourning the departure of those two extraordinary colleagues.
Q Are you taking questions now? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I was sort of savoring that nice moment.
Q Let me ask you, did you really mean to suggest that some of the ideas that we might have thought were the kind of ideas Dick Morris would generate were actually from the brain of our departing friend here?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it was meant more to suggest -- it's often said of Mr. Morris, and I think he himself would acknowledge it's true, that he has maybe 10 ideas a day, of which five are totally goofy and two or three might actually be of merit. Don Baer was often the filter that separated the profound from the less than profound.
Let me also announce the President of the United States of America will --
Q Before you finish Dick Morris -- (laughter) -- while we're on the subject of Dick Morris, as you may or may not know he is now advising one of the political candidates in Honduras on how to get elected. And I wonder if the White House thinks that this revived political consultancy on the part of Dick Morris in Honduras is good or bad.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any comment on that. If they start building bridges to the 21st century in Central America, you know where that idea came from -- no. (Laughter.) I will resist that comment. No, I did not know he was doing that, to answer your question.
The President of the United States of America on August 12th will travel to St. Louis, Missouri, where he will meet with local business leaders, talk once again about the importance of creating in the private work force opportunities for mothers who have been welfare-dependent. He will talk about some commitments that are being made there locally, and that evening will attend -- he will attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser we're giving. We're working closely with Congressman Gephardt's staff and others in setting that event up. There was a little confusion on that yesterday on, not your part, but my part. Glad to clear that up.
Q This is the President's first chance to line-item veto. Speaker Gingrich said today it would violate the spirit of the budget agreement. Are you inclined to accommodate that line of thinking, or is there some thought that you should exercise the prerogative just to show how serious you are about having it.
MR. MCCURRY: I want to be clear. This is the first legislation coming to the President that has -- first tax legislation that has, as required by statute, those items identified which are limited tax benefit items and therefore subject to the line-item veto. I don't want to speculate on whether or if the President will exercise a line item-veto authority. He has the constitutional obligation to look at those provisions that are identified by statute, and, if so, use the statutory authority under the act to excise any spending items or even, in some cases, revenue items that are not warranted. And I have no reason to think one way or another at this point whether he will consider using that authority.
I think, as to the parameters of the agreement and the very difficult negotiation that went to achieving this historic balanced budget agreement, the President will remain faithful to the agreement, just as he knows the Speaker and the Majority Leader will as well, as we go through the appropriations process.
Q Did they speak about the peaceful solution of Armenia --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the two Presidents are continuing their discussions and they are going quite well, I can report. We expect to issue a joint statement shortly after the conclusion. But, of course, one of the items on the agenda was the situation in the Caucasus and, specifically, the effort by the Minsk group to promote a resolution of conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh. But I would prefer to leave it to the conclusion of the meeting and the issuance of the statement. I believe that President Aliyev will be available at the stake-out at the conclusion of this meeting.
Q Do you have a dollar figure on the oil contracts that were signed today?
MR. MCCURRY: A dollar figure? I don't see that in the fact sheet and I don't have a dollar figure. We might be able to get that from some of the representatives of the companies that were in attendance.
Q And how important is resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to allowing the oil production to go --
MR. MCCURRY: It's not necessarily dependent upon; it's certainly an easing of tensions in that region, and the Caucasus generally will help all the countries in the Caspian Basin develop those oil and gas resources and see them move through a variety of transmission routes to acceptable ports. But a diminution of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh will contribute to regional stability and will be very important not only to Azerbaijan, but to Georgia and to adjacent trans-Caucasus nations.
Q Was Amoco among the signing parties?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, they were. There were four. They were Chevron, Amoco, Exxon and Mobil.
Q What's the position of American government on Section 907, which prohibits direct military assistance to government Azerbaijan?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has taken the view in our Congress that such carve-outs are contrary to his constitutional prerogatives when it comes to conducting foreign policy. We have specifically sought the repeal of Section 907. That is not included in any of the recent legislation that has passed our Congress, but we'll continue to work with the Congress to see if we can't eliminate from foreign assistance language something that we think is a barrier to our mutual improved relations not only with Azerbaijan but with all the countries in the region, including Armenia.
Q Then why not do an Executive Order?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to -- we need to work with Congress and seek first a change in the legislative language.
Q Apparently, with regard to the explosives case in New York, the subway plot, there were apparently telephone calls made by some of those --
MR. MCCURRY: I am just not going to comment. There is an ongoing investigation under way by federal authorities, by state authorities. They are pursuing leads. You've heard representatives of the FBI and local law enforcement officials speak to these points. It serves no useful purpose for me to comment on the status of the investigation. The President has been receiving briefings from his National Security Adviser, Mr. Berger. Mr. Berger has been in contact with Mr. Freeh on a regular basis to learn the status of the FBI's efforts. But it's just not profitable or useful for me to comment on the investigation.
Q On the line-item veto, I'm just curious about how the process is going to work as we go through the appropriations cycle. Will the White House give some sort of advance notice of items that -- in the bills that would be subject to line-item veto? Or are you going to wait for the bill to come here before you make any sort of --
MR. MCCURRY: We'll follow the procedure outlined in law. The President is presented a bill. He can -- he signs the bill and then within five days has a period in which he can notify Congress of his choice to elect to excise any spending measure or any revenue measure that is unacceptable. The process we will use to make those determinations is one that the Chief of Staff has delegated to Gene Sperling at the National Economic Council, working with OMB, in some cases with Treasury, with other agencies. And again, I'm going to decline to speculate on how it might come in play. We've never been in this situation before. We don't know whether there will be items that will be used. But to answer the Speaker's concern, we will not do it in a way that violates the fundamental agreements that were necessary to achieve the --
Q So then the quick question is, is none of the bill then applicable until the five-day period has expired? Is there a hold on its effectiveness?
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President can just excise from the bill. The law is enacted but he can elect to excise from the legislation anything that is -- he considers objectionable.
Q Yes, but recognizing that there is only a limited number of items on which he can act, do those items go into force?
MR. TOIV: Yes, they do.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's right. They go --
MR. TOIV: They only go out of force if excised.
MR. MCCURRY: They are enacted into law and then -- they are enacted into law upon the President's signature, but then he can remove from the enacted legislation anything that he specifically line-items.
Q As well you know that Russia given to Armenia many heavy military techniques. Did they speak about this?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not -- I've told you what I can tell you at this point about their conversation. Since it's still ongoing, I can't answer other questions about it.
Q Mike, did we firm up whether that's 75 or 80 items, roughly, that --
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's a total count. I've seen it reported that it's 80 and I haven't heard anyone dispute that number. I think it's in that neighborhood.
Q A few weeks ago, Secretary Rubin had expressed concern about the tax bill containing several special interest provisions. Why wouldn't the President veto special interest provisions if they're so identified?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if the President finds something that's vetoable under these provisions, I don't think he would hesitate to use his authority. But I'm just not going to speculate at this point about whether or not he might elect to use that authority.
Q On the $6 billion settlement, will you deduct this amount from the settlement or will you raise the cost of a settlement?
MR. MCCURRY: On the tobacco settlement?
MR. MCCURRY: The White House at this point can't even begin to speculate about what the total dollar amount in the tobacco settlement might be. We have not completed our review of the proposed settlement. In general, we are taking the position that the industry's liability, or what they would pay into a total settlement, won't be reduced as a practical matter by that provision in the tax bill.
Q Does the President have any reassurances or response to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's bill, H.R. 2296, and the letter that was dictated to Caribbean diplomats threatening sanctions if they increased trade with Cuba?
MR. MCCURRY: I would have to learn more about the legislation. I think the President has spoken generally to the issue of our desire to promote good relations and ties with the Caribbean nations. But that specific piece of legislation, I have not seen any analysis of done by the White House.
Q Come in the same day in which NAFTA parity failed. And the President in his summit to the Caribbean leaders promised that he would deliver on that particular bill. Should the U.S. --
MR. MCCURRY: As I've already said, we don't know --
Q be dictating foreign policy to these Caribbean leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: I've already indicated to you we're going to have examine the bill and study it. I can't comment on it until I've done that.
Q Mike, do you have a better idea now as to when the bills coming down, the tax and budget bills, and when the President might sign them?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. It is going to be Tuesday at 11:00 a.m., and I think it will be done with appropriate fanfare on the South Lawn and a cast of hundreds, thousands -- (laughter) -- of enthusiastic, cheering Americans who celebrate the arrival of a balanced budget and a tax cut for the American people.
Q Mike, you said the President wouldn't hesitate to use the veto authority if he found something that was vetoable. What kind of criteria, what kind of things --
MR. MCCURRY: Sound ones. Sound criteria based on the President's excellent judgment.
Q What does he consider objectionable --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I'm not going to speculate any more on this.
Q There seems to be a little difference of opinion on the wisdom of a Madeleine Albright trip to the Middle East --
MR. MCCURRY: Only on CNN, Wolf. (Laughter.) Nowhere else have I found that. I think you had kind of a bad story last night and you're trying to invent a reason why it was bad today -- that's my impression.
Q Well, is there a difference of opinion?
MR. MCCURRY: No, there's absolutely no difference of opinion. The President, as I told you earlier, Ambassador Ross is going to go to the region. It may very well be appropriate for the Secretary of State to go, but I think she agrees with the President -- I know she agrees with the President that we should conduct our diplomacy in a way in which we help the parties do what they need to do.
What they need to do right now is to work with Ambassador Ross. I think Ambassador Ross will particularly concentrate on security cooperation, and I imagine he'll have important discussions with Chairman Arafat, as well as with Prime Minister Netanyahu. But that's the only anticipated step at this point.
Q When he says that he's going to send them after the period of mourning, is that in reference to the seven-day --
MR. MCCURRY: Let me -- you know what? That was not a bum story, because I think all of you guys reported last night was it was under consideration that she might go, and I think that was true. If that's all you reported. I think you've got maybe a lot of other people in the room breathing heavy that you had reported that she was on her way to the region.
Q My colleague did report that she was considering a trip to the Middle East.
Q Well, actually, Mike, on this topic --
MR. MCCURRY: And that's why I want to go back and protect her, not to mention you, Wolf.
Q But, you know, last night they were considering and they decided not to. Can you --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, they considered 12, 13, 14 things to do last night. I mean, that's what kind of session it was, as I had indicated to you.
Q -- answer my second question.
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q As we know that Russia has given to Armenia many heavy military techniques, arms. Did they speak about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not had a chance to talk to our President about their conversation. Once I do, I'd be happy to answer the question; but I can't answer a question I don't know the answer to.
Q On the budget, does the administration have any message in particular to the 20-somethings, or whatever, the people who don't have children, the people who aren't affected by these tax breaks in any way, people who feel that they're not getting --
Q Gene Sperling. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: The people who, as we demonstrated yesterday, fall in the Gene Sperling category. Yes. There's a good answer, and the answer is the economic statistics that we saw today. There is a vibrant, growing economy that has lower rates of inflation, lower rates of unemployment, has been performing well for all Americans -- all Americans are getting the opportunities that come from the economic performance that we've seen.
But, you know, some people who maybe are suggesting now that they are not benefitting from this legislation do have some opportunities. Think, for example, of the HOPE Scholarship tax credit. There will be an incentive now for Americans to go back and get an additional year of training, if not even to enroll in a community college or in a university full time. Think of the tax credit provision for those who qualify and a substantial number of Americans will qualify. There will be an incentive to go back and take a college course and get the additional training that will help you earn more money in the growing economy of the 21st century.
I mean, those are important opportunities and they are available to people who might not necessarily directly get a tax credit or be eligible for the reduced capital gains tax rate. But there are substantial benefits available to millions of Americans under this legislation. And, more importantly, the economic performance that this bill will help sustain will benefit all of America.
Q So what school will Sperling be going to? (Laughter.)
Q You were talking about the HOPE Scholarships and somebody being able to go back to school, but what about the person who has already perhaps exhausted their bank accounts and gone through four years of school, whether it's state or private, and now they're out, they're single and in the "real world" -- you know, 23, 24, 25 -- they have their first job, they're not about to leave that first job to go back to school, yet they're not seeing any of the benefits of this tax bill?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know that that's correct. I mean, they will presumably be able, if they want to, to borrow money knowing that they're going to get in a typical community college setting the full cost of any tuition they pay refunded to them through the tax credit when they file their income tax, because they get the $1,500 back. And my guess is that will open up here opportunities for private sector lenders who know that people are going to be eligible for a tax credit who will probably assist in that transition -- not to mention colleges themselves. Local communities, local educational jurisdictions, I think, will probably want to establish ways they can assist exactly that kind of student to take advantage of the opportunities that are in the bill.
Q So you don't think they're getting the short end of the stick?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think that they're getting a great opportunity. But the opportunity comes with some responsibility, as the President often suggests. They're going to have to make the arrangements, take the initiative to seek those educational opportunities in order to get those kind of benefits. The philosophy of the bill is, there isn't something for nothing. These are all things that encourage the kind of opportunities that will help people become more productive members of the work force and help those, obviously, who are getting the child tax credit, help them raise children, do those things that are going to help keep them productive in the work place.
Q Can we go back for a second? When the President said that he would send Dennis Ross after the period of mourning, is he referring to the seven-day period? I mean, is there a reasonably imminent departure here?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct, although we traditionally and routinely do not pinpoint his itinerary when he travels.
Q But he was referring to seven days?
Q Next week, roughly?
MR. MCCURRY: He was saying that the traditional mourning period in the Jewish faith, yes.
Q Are you satisfied with the way the Palestinian Authority has been cooperating with the Israelis since the bombing on Wednesday?
MR. MCCURRY: There has been cooperation, but as the President has suggested, there needs to be a much more direct, persistent, systematic effort to thwart terror. That's one subject that will be on Ambassador Ross' agenda.
Q Mike, in view of the aborted bombing incident in New York, when Dennis Ross gets to the Middle East will he ask the Palestinians not only for closer security cooperation with Israeli security forces, but also closer cooperation between Palestinian Authority's and U.S. security agencies?
MR. MCCURRY: I would need to check on that. I think as a practical matter, I believe we have worked out some security cooperation measures between the United States and the Authority that I believe are in effect. But I would need to check that specifically. I don't know directly the answer to that.
As a general practice, yes, we -- the President, from Sharm el-Sheik forward, has put together a great deal of effort to build a process of international cooperation when it comes to fighting terror. And we have done, I think, a good job of getting governments working together, getting law enforcement agencies working together to share information. I believe that has been true in the case of the Authority, as well, but I can do a little more homework on that.
Q Could you take the question as to, A, whether we do have such an arrangement with the Palestinians and, B, whether we consider it adequate?
MR. MCCURRY: I will and I'll have Anne work on that.
Q Mike, could the administration currently certify that the Palestinians are doing what's needed to deter terrorism in order for them to continue -- the Palestinian Authority to continue to receive U.S. aid?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a presidential-level determination, so I can't make it here for the President at the podium. But as a practical matter, under the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act, that certification will be a moot point now because the Act will expire next week.
Q Mike, I need some clarification on the tobacco tax that passed yesterday and the actual settlement. It seemed this morning that you were indicating that if they got $50 billion credit on the $360 billion settlement, that the President couldn't accept that, actually bringing down the total cost of settlement. And you seemed to go against that just now. Did I misunderstand you?
MR. MCCURRY: No, to the contrary. Our view is that the net liability that the companies will face as a result of the settlement is not likely going to be reduced by this provision. Now, there are aspects of the provision that are still being examined by the administration. There have been indications on Capitol Hill there will be an effort to repeal that particular provision. It was necessary to have that provision there in order to get the children's health program that is in the spending bill.
But we use the figure $368 billion. We don't know that that is the -- in fact -- the dollar value of the settlement that will eventually be reached. We don't at this point have an adequate review to know whether that is in fact the parameters of the settlement that the President would endorse, since the President hasn't completed the review.
Q You also indicated this morning that you were surprised that this provision made it into the budget. Lott and Gingrich are saying --
MR. MCCURRY: I was personally surprised, but I don't think that -- I think there were negotiators who work for the White House that knew of it.
Q Is that one of the items possibly subject to a line-item veto?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that because it's in the spending bill.
MR. TOIV: It doesn't reduce revenues, so it probably isn't.
MR. MCCURRY: It doesn't -- it's not a tax expenditure. It's a revenue enhancer. (Laughter.) It's a good question, Mark, but I don't -- I don't believe so. But we'd have to probably look at it more carefully.
Q The National Cancer Institute released a report today saying that radioactive fallout from nuclear testing in the 1950s and '60s, and the report states that every American alive during that time received higher doses. Does the President think the country has an obligation to help those who may have gotten cancer as a result of this testing?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe the Institute's report -- I learned of it and others learned of it here at the White House when it was reported at our staff meeting this morning, and I think that we've got some of -- some of our Cabinet agencies are actually examining the report. I can't guess at an answer to that question until I know more about the report.
Q Mike, if there is a UPS strike, would the President consider intervening in any way?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's -- let's put it this way, the President's authority limiting this strike consists of the provisions in the Taft-Hartley Act, I believe, which have been used -- last time when -- for the steel strike in 1952 by Eisenhower? So I think that you can guess the answer at that.
Q The United States courting of the -- Azerbaijan --I was wondering how does that affect Armenia and Russia per se? How does it affect the relationship between the United States and Russia and Armenia?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we still will seek through a variety of ways to maintain very close bilateral working relationships with the Russian Federation, with the government of Armenia. Our view is that our enhanced ties and our closer working relationships with governments in that region generally will contribute to stability, and there's nothing about a closer relationship between the United States and Azerbaijan that will impede any of the work we do with other governments in the Caucasus or elsewhere in Central Asia.
Q What does the President --
Q Did you not have these sessions open to TV because you didn't want to make the Armenians mad? I mean, why was it stills only?
MR. MCCURRY: That was not a factor, not a factor.
Q What happened to the Kennard nomination? One of the FCC names has gone up today?
MR. MCCURRY: Barry Toiv, you're on.
MR. TOIV: It has not happened yet.
MR. MCCURRY: It has not happened.
Q Is there a reason why it didn't go up with the other FCC Republican nominee who went up today?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm getting a lot of help from Barry here, as you can see. (Laughter.) Barry, do you want to answer that?
MR. TOIV: It wasn't ready to go.
MR. MCCURRY: It was not ready to go.
Q Do you expect that soon?
MR. MCCURRY: The Senate will be in recess until September.
We will, by the way, have a very large number of -- are these nominations we sent up or intents to nominate?
MR. TOIV: These are all intent to nominate.
MR. MCCURRY: Either nominations or intents to nominate as we kind of clear off things going into August. So be on the lookout for paper on personnel items this afternoon, although I don't anticipate that one being one.
Q Mike, was William Weld back at the White House today?
MR. MCCURRY: Did he come back in today, do you know because Podesta was gone -- not that I know, because he was working up on the Hill, but he was in close contact with Susan Brophy from the Legislative Affairs staff.
Q Has the White House ruled out the possibility of a recess appointment for him?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not under consideration.
Q Mike, on the Weld topic, is there any concern right now about the criticism that he is soft on drugs? Is that an administration concern?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Because it's not true, there's no concern. I mean, he has a very strong -- as a governor -- a very strong anti-drug record; as a prosecutor, brought numerous cases. He is fully supportive of the administration's anti-drug strategy, and that would not be an issue in his nomination.
Q What is the President's answer to the possible increase of U.S. involvement into the conflict resolution in Caucasus because it was discussed in meeting with Shevardnadze and I'm sure it's discussed now?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have indicated that we see as part of the Minsk process taking of a more engaged role with the governments of Russia and other governments in the region -- government of France too that participate with us in this process. And one thing the President is no doubt reviewing and did review with President Shevardnadze is the need to accelerate our efforts this year to try to bring some resolution to the conflict.
Q How about sending international forces like peacekeepers there?
MR. MCCURRY: The process that has been under way is one that is a diplomatic one and not one that has been an active peacekeeping type mission.
Q What is the protocol significance of billing the Aliyev visit as an official working visit as opposed to a state visit?
MR. MCCURRY: A state -- well, in diplomatic parlance a state visit involves different types of receptions and processes. This is a very familiar and very proper process for this type of visit. Official working visit implies just what the name says -- a lot of work to be done with a country in which the United States enjoys close relations.
Q Is there a reason why it was not billed as a state visit?
MR. MCCURRY: We have only a few number of state visits any particular year, but it says nothing about the status of our relations with Azerbaijan.
Q Mike, since the -- bill didn't make it in the budget agreement, is there a new proposal by the White House to perhaps use the fast-track measure or any other new proposals from the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: We're going to continue to work to enhance our relationships with governments in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Basin Initiative will be something we return to in the fall. There will be other opportunities on other pieces of legislation to try to push forward our proposals for enhanced relations in the region.
Q Also, do you have any idea how soon the President is going to be working on that?
MR. MCCURRY: When we return in September and once we have judged what the legislative calendar is going to be in both the Senate and the House, we'll see what opportunities are to advance it. There will be, in the period in the early fall, we believe, some opportunities to move forward on that. The President, of course, was disappointed that we were not able to reach agreement that would have allowed that to be included in the balanced budget legislation that he will sign next Tuesday.
Q What's up for the weekend? What's he doing Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will give the Radio Address tomorrow. Did you --
MR. LOCKHART: We suspect golf.
MR. MCCURRY: We suspect a weekend of summer outings --
Q How about this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: -- nearby, that involve 18-hole recreation -- (laughter) -- and maybe this afternoon, too. So the President will be nearby, but probably just recreating over the weekend. Beyond the Radio Address, no other schedule that I'm aware of.
Let me do the week-ahead while we're on it. The President on Monday morning will meet with business leaders to discuss climate change. He's got, again, a desire to consult with a wide range of constituencies and communities as we prepare for our role in the negotiations that will lead up to the conference in Kyoto, Japan, and assessing the attitude of U.S. business leaders will be an important part of that. He will do that Monday. He also speaks Monday afternoon to the National Urban League Convention. Tuesday, he signs the budget agreement; Wednesday, no public schedule; Thursday, no public schedule yet except for some fundraising dinners in the evening. Friday, no public schedule as of yet, and he plans to do the Radio Address, this says, Saturday. Is he -- next Saturday he plans to do the Radio Address here live.
Q Mike, fast-track authority is supposed to be a high priority of the President when Congress comes back. Does he hope to have congressional action by the time he goes to South America on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Because he, among other things, would like to be in a position where he could give them better ideas of what the schedule would be for negotiating agreements for any government in the region or any entity that is going to be the subject of free trade discussions.
Q Has he gotten any commitments from Gingrich and Lott that they can accommodate that kind of timetable?
MR. MCCURRY: He has had discussions with them about it, as you know. I don't know if he's had specific conversations about timing. I think that he has pointed out the importance of fast-track authority and that legislative action on fast-track authority this year to both the Majority Leader and the Speaker, but it's clear from what we've been doing, such as the very good meeting the President had last night with members of the House, that we are trying to build our support in Congress for that legislation. And I don't think the President needs to remind the Speaker and the Majority Leader of the importance of that legislation. In fact, they have, in some cases, suggested to him that he's going to have to work hard to try to get it. So I think they're fully aware of what the situation in both houses is.
Q In looking ahead, the President today listed five top priorities in the fall, but he didn't include in that list campaign fundraising reform. Is there a reason that that's not one of his top priorities?
MR. MCCURRY: That was an oversight on his part because, of course, as he said in his statement yesterday, he is fully supportive of the efforts of Senators Feingold and McCain to bring that legislation to consideration in September. And that will, in fact, be something that he does consider a priority.
Q Mike, why is former leader Emanuel Kosta (phonetic) not a deportable immigrant -- United States?
MR. MCCURRY: You've got a lot of questions in your area and the NSC staff I think will help you out at the end. Anything else?
Q It's about Iran. Secretary Albright said that we should not read much into the pipeline with Iran as a diplomatic gesture. How does the President feel about this?
MR. MCCURRY: The President agrees with the sentiments expressed by the Secretary, obviously. There is a decision we had to make and, again, it relates to some of the things we were talking about with respect to Azerbaijan about the advisability of helping countries in that region benefit from and develop Caspian oil and gas resources. As a practical matter, this is a decision that does not -- is not aimed at benefitting the government of Iran; it benefits the government of Turkmenistan, which is going to ultimately be the beneficiary of the pipeline route. There will be some transmission costs that Iran can try to recover, but there's nothing about this that would allow independent investment in their oil and gas sector that would directly benefit the government of Iran.
Q Any change then toward Iran as the new president will assume office?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has suggested that, while intriguing, the election of Mr. Khatami is -- and now the inauguration of Mr. Khatami, which is this weekend, is an important moment, because the people of Iran in an election have spoken in an interesting manner, and what the President now desires to see are the changes in the behavior of the government of Iran, which would indicate whether or not this new government is one that can moderate the behavior of a regime that we have found highly objectionable in the past.
Q I have a follow-up. Next week is the anniversary of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act the legislation that is -- brought this whole issue of the Iran pipeline, and under the legislation, I believe the President has to report to Congress on the progress of our allies, and if they're not cooperating, the threshold for investment falls to $20 million. Do you know if and when he plans to do that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check on that. I don't know the answer to that. Okay, thank you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:13 P.M. EDT