THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
3:18 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: All the news of the day having been made, the press secretary arrives to shed no light on anything.
Q Does Talbott have anything in his hand when he goes to Europe?
MR. MCCURRY: He is going to lead an interagency delegation to key European capitals for discussion with senior leaders on the situation in Kosovo. We have had an active series of consultations with other governments on the situation in Kosovo. And Deputy Secretary Talbott's travels through stops that we've identified indicates that our further consultations with key European allies will continue.
Q On what? I mean, what are you trying to do?
MR. MCCURRY: We're trying to stem the sectarian violence there that has pitted Serbian ethnic populations against Kosovo Albanians.
Q Have you got any plan to do this?
MR. MCCURRY: We've been pursuing exactly those steps that we've identified to you in the past -- encouraging them to use the facilities of the OSCE and others to minimize their tensions and pressed very hard President Milosevic to live up to his international obligations.
Q On an issue that I'm sure is way at the top of the White House priority list, President Ramos said after meeting with the President today that the best efforts have been made to convince authorities to support sharing of the two, what are known as Balinguingui bells now at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. First, is there any agreement on what's going to be done about those bells? And second, there is another bell which belongs to the American army in Korea, which the president of the Philippines doesn't seem to be very informed about --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll bet you it's in upstate New York.
Q There is an upstate New York connection. But President Ramos didn't seem to indicate that that matter had come at all.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that that has come up in my -- can you double check on that? The Balinguingui Bells did come up -- they did come up. The President explained to President Ramos the recently introduced Congressional legislation that would complicate efforts to resolve the issue. The President said he would certainly work for an amicable solution, but he did indicate that because there is now pending legislation in Congress that would make it difficult to return a veterans memorial item, which is what the bells are in this case, that we would have to work carefully with our Congress and with interested parties.
Now, if the issue arises of the bell -- and where is it?
Q It's in Korea --
MR. MCCURRY: In Korea.
Q -- and that was the original bell that the 9th Infantry had. And the 9th Infantry was the one that was slaughtered on Samal.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. And so it's a reciprocal issue then with the government of -- Republic of Korea, presumably.
Q Apparently, the Philippine government hasn't -- at least according to President Ramos -- hasn't asked for the return of that bell. The soldiers who now have it say that they will fight to retain it.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we would prefer, particularly on a day in which we celebrated the enduring friendship and alliance of the peoples of the United States and the Philippines, prefer to resolve these matters amicably, and we'll certainly attempt to do so consistent with the concerns that veterans groups have and also those members of Congress who have been very outspoken in protecting the interests that the veterans have in securing those veterans memorial items.
Q Have you refined the tick-tock of telephone calls through the night? Can you go through who called the President, or who the President called at what time?
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. This will take a little bit of time, but I'm happy to do so.
Let me summarize in a nutshell. The President, since about 10:30 p.m. last night after he returned here to the residence following some of his political chores around town, spoke with Prime Minister Blair four times and Prime Minister Ahern two times, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams twice, UUP leader David Trimble twice -- I mean once, excuse me, once with Trimble -- and with John Hume, the SDLP leader twice.
Roughly how the sequence of those calls -- this is picking up -- incorporating some of what I told those of you who were at the gaggle this morning. When the President returned to the residence last night he had a briefing from National Security Advisor Berger and Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Steinberg, who has been intensively involved for months now with the parties and with the government of the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. They gave him a status report based on their conversations with their counterparts who were at Stormont.
Prime Minister Blair then made a prearranged call to the President about 10:30 p.m. He and President Clinton spoke for 15 minutes, and Prime Minister Blair briefed the President on his assessment -- or the Prime Minister's assessment of where things stood; suggested that he may, if possible, wish to be on standby because there might be a need for the President to engage as the evening went on.
About 12:30 a.m., the Prime Minister called the President again, and he and the Taoiseach actually shared the phone -- they must have been using a hold room or something at Stormont. But they both made several observations to the President, asked him to make some specific interventions, which the President indicated he was happy to do. At 12:50 a.m., the President called Gerry Adams and they spoke until 1:15 a.m. At 1:50 a.m., the President called John Hume, and they spoke until just after 2:00 a.m.
The President then had a follow-up conversation with Mr. Berger and Mr. Steinberg. I believe he tried to catch a little bit of sleep, but was interrupted at some point around about 3:00 a.m., I gather from Senator Mitchell's observations, but he had at some point roughly around 3:15 a.m. or so a long conversation with Senator Mitchell and thanked Senator Mitchell for the hard work that he had been doing and they assessed where things stood at that point.
Our understanding is, as a result of the President's calls with Mr. Adams and with Mr. Hume, there were follow-up conversations that the two Prime Ministers had with the parties at Stormont, and things began to accelerate somewhat at that point.
At about 5:00 a.m. this morning, Sandy Berger got a lengthy read-out from his British counterpart and then had -- I believe there were some follow-up conversations with the parties in Stormont. That led to a conversation briefly, just after 5:00 a.m., between the President and Mr. Adams.
And then at 10:55 a.m. this morning, after the President had come here and started his workday, he had a lengthy call with David Trimble. At about 11:17 a.m., Prime Minister Blair again called the President. That call was briefly interrupted so that the Prime Minster could speak with Mr. Trimble. They obviously were talking in person.
At 11:30 a.m., Prime Minister Blair again called. The President had asked him to do several specific things that were necessary as the agreement took final shape. Based on that call, the President then first called the Taoiseach, Prime Minister Ahern. The President then called John Hume, and that conversation occurred just prior to Senator Mitchell's reconvening the final plenary session when the agreement was approved.
And the President was going to call Gerry Adams again after the session. I don't know whether they have connected yet.
Q Mike, the President made it sound like he was doing nothing more than cheerleading. But what you've just described sounds like he was very intensively involved in the negotiation and even --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President I think has characterized his involvement quite clearly. He was asked to do some specific things. He was happy to do so and pleased if that played some role in the agreement that was reached. I think that, first and foremost, he would credit the parties and credit the two Prime Ministers and certainly the very able work of Senator Mitchell for having been far more critical in the outcome.
Q Was he asked to twist Adams' arm?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to characterize the nature of the calls.
Q He made the calls because they asked him to do something; he called Adams.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he was specifically asked at one point to call David Trimble, so that's not necessarily so.
Q Is it a foregone conclusion that he'll go to Dublin and Belfast next month?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think it is. I think the President believes that this historic agreement needs to be absorbed by the peoples of Ireland. It needs to be carefully reviewed and discussed as it is implemented. And it would be presumptuous at this point to make any decisions absent any formal invitations from either the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom.
The President clearly will remain in close contact with leaders, and I imagine there will be further discussions. On prior occasions we've heard from both governments that it might be helpful to have the President celebrate this achievement in person with the people of the United Kingdom, of the Republic of Ireland, and of Northern Ireland. But, as the President said today, those are decisions that can easily be deferred as we do the important work now of encouraging the parties and the people to implement the agreements they've reached.
Q Has there any thought been given to use the White House as a venue for a formal accord signing, like Oslo?
MR. MCCURRY: I've heard nothing to that effect.
Q Senator Mitchell, what is his role from now on?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's anxious to come home to his baby and to his wife. And I think he has expressed himself clearly on that. He's done an extraordinary and masterful job, and he's anxious to come back here.
I nominate him to be commissioner of major league baseball, if anyone is interested in that. But I think that he's anxious to get on with some of his private life and private chores.
Q Mike, how strong do you think or does the White House think that this support is going to bear up against possible INLA shootings where -- they've done this repeatedly where they want to disrupt --
MR. MCCURRY: We have seen over these many weeks and months that the parties have been in discussion that hard-line factions in the paramilitary operations on both sides are willing to continue to resort to violence. And the overwhelming and fervent desire of the President and the White House at this point is that the peoples of Ireland greet this peace warmly, and insist upon its fair implementation, and acknowledge the courage and the leadership and the vision of those leaders who reached the agreement.
And we believe that public sentiment can overwhelm those who would continue to believe that bombs and bullets are the way to settle the differences and the troubles in Northern Ireland. I think it's an extraordinary moment of opportunity, and the President, having seen in the faces of the people of Ireland the fervent desire for peace, believes that their wishes can overcome.
Q Can there be any outreach to those groups?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there can be in the sense that we have always been rock solid in trying to nurture a climate in which peace will take hold there. That's the purpose of our involvement through the Fund for Northern Ireland. That's the reason why the President has designated a special envoy to be a part of the effort to bring economic assistance to Northern Ireland. It's one of the reasons why we've worked hard through our diplomatic representatives to encourage private-sector investment in Northern Ireland to build an economic infrastructure there that can bring a better quality of life to both Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland, and to the Republic of Ireland as well, for that matter.
So our work with that respect will continue. There were, by the way, no specific discussions of any economic assistance during the President's phone calls last night, but the presence of the United States in this process is acknowledged by the parties to be important, and the President gave ample assurance last night that that presence will continue.
Q What is he doing for the rest of the day? Has he taped his radio address, and what's it on?
MR. MCCURRY: He is taping his radio address. It will be about this very significant moment of peace on a weekend in which two major denominations are celebrating important religious holidays. And he will, I think, try to get out and play some golf later in the afternoon. And then he and the First Lady are going to head to Camp David, as he indicated.
Q For how long?
MR. MCCURRY: For the entire weekend if we have our wishes.
Q Has the President paid his taxes?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will sign his tax returns Monday, and my able staff will brief you, as we do annually, on that.
Q Kenneth Starr said on camera today that we are examining our obligation under the statute as to whether they need to investigate whether David Hale may have been paid off. With all the things that Kenneth Starr has investigated, are you at all concerned that he isn't rushing to investigate something that the Justice Department is now asking him to investigate?
MR. MCCURRY: There have been others who have commented on that and -- did Mr. Kendall have anything to say on that today?
Q You have never had any comment on that.
Q No one has commented, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I really don't have any comment on it. It's not something that we have been focused on here at the White House. It surely is something that the President has not devoted any time to in the last 24, 48 hours.
Q He doesn't seem to indicate that he feels any need to go out and investigate?
MR. MCCURRY: That issue then would arise between Mr. Starr and the Attorney General and Mr. Holder, presumably. But I don't believe that we should have any comment on that here.
Q The original Gerry Adams visa -- it was '95, I guess -- was very controversial. As the President looks back, as other people in the administration look back, was that a pivotal moment in advancing this process?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think the parties are in a better position to give you an assessment of that, and also the government of the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. The President firmly believed it was the right thing to do and believed it would help set in motion the kind of dialogue that might lead to an opportunity to build a peace. That was his purpose in granting the visa, as we stated at the time. But it really is up to those who have negotiated this peace, made the hard decisions, and demonstrated the courage necessary to overcome differences to say what mattered and what didn't matter.
Q In the calls last night, can you flesh that out a little bit? Is he in an office in the residence? I mean, is he working at his bedside? Is he in his underwear or pajamas or whatever? (Laughter.) I'm trying to get a sense of --
Q Boxers or briefs? (Laughter.)
Q We know where you're going.
MR. MCCURRY: The call -- the President got back -- he was out around doing various political chores last night. So the first set of calls that he made were in the residence. Those that occurred in the middle of the night and very early this morning, he obviously made from the residence and he was awakened. So presumably he struggled to get to the phone in some way or other.
But the calls that he made as the discussions were in their very final moments were here at the Oval Office.
Q Did somebody come in and awaken him, or does somebody answer the phone or does he answer the phone?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Berger calls him up and awakens him. And then he holds forth.
Q Answers his own phone, does he?
MR. MCCURRY: Presumably, yes.
Q The BBC is saying that they're crediting President Clinton with helping over a stumbling block, somewhere in the early morning hours, over the issue of decommissioning weapons on each side. Can you enlighten us on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd prefer not to. I think it would be better for the parties who struggled to reach these agreements to address that. Some of them have indicated that there was an issue that arose with respect to decommissioning, but I think they're in a better position to describe exactly the nature of that stumbling block.
In any event, it was overcome and the President is delighted it was overcome.
Q How about telling us about Tuesday? What happens on Tuesday? It's the race forum and then --
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, I'll do week ahead when we wrap up everything else.
Q Is there a readout of the generic engineering and biological weapons roundtable?
MR. MCCURRY: The readout is very consistent with what I told most of you the session would be about this morning. The President had an excellent review of current capacity with respect to biological weapons, what the threat is and could be of use of biological weapons by either a foreign adversary or here at home. They reviewed procedures that are in place to protect U.S. troops abroad from the threat of biological weapons and also what we can do here if we ever faced any terrorist use of biological weapons.
The President heard from a collection of the government's leading experts on the subject and was grateful to have their wisdom about a subject that he has addressed publicly on numerous occasions. It was a good session and will lead to further consideration of the issue. Although this was not designed to be any decisionmaking meeting or implement any specific plan, it clearly reflects the President's desire to keep this issue front and center as we assess threats to our national security in the post-Cold War environment.
Q Though it wasn't designed for decisionmaking, did the President come up with anything that might lead to something specific down the road?
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily. I mean, just to continue the work that we're doing to both understand the threat, to assess the risk, and then to identify counter-measures that are suggested. And there's a lot of good discussion of that and that will lead to further thinking and further review and work by the interagency group that was represented around the Cabinet table. But I don't want to suggest there's any specific plan that arose from this meeting.
I think there's further work to be done on that and the President intends to keep it very high up in the thinking of the National Security Council and the other agencies that were represented.
Q Mike, the Prime Minister of Japan has announced the long-awaited stimulus package. The U.S. has said we're awaiting further details, although we find it encouraging or we welcome it. What details are looked for and can you just recap the administration's reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'd say again, reiterate what Treasury Secretary Rubin said yesterday, that we welcome Prime Minister Hashimoto's announcement of steps to stimulate the Japanese economy and we look forward to seeing more of the details.
Some of the details have now been provided by the government or the Prime Minister, but there obviously will be additional details that are fleshed out in weeks ahead. We believe it's crucial that Japan move forward very quickly to implement and put in place what is a very strong program.
Secretary Rubin said yesterday that we -- Secretary Rubin had some comments yesterday on currency-related matters. I will defer to him; he is the administration's authorized spokesman on matters related to currency. But I would say that the President believes a strong Japanese economy is in the interest of Japan, the recovery that we need to see in Asia and, ultimately, in the interests of the global economy, and it ultimately can affect the economic interest of American families and people who are involved in commerce internationally here in the United States.
And as to the specifics, I mean, we think that all the elements that were identified by the Treasury Secretary -- how do you foster domestic growth, how do you strengthen the financial system in Japan, how do you open the Japanese market through further deregulation -- those are all the central issues. Those are the details that presumably will be addressed because they've been identified by the Prime Minister, but ultimately the people of Japan and the government of Japan will have to be in a position to make the best judgments about what they do to restore health to their macro-economy.
Q Could you give us a read-out on the Ramos meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: I think President Ramos gave a good one. I will go through the key points from the President's perspective if that's helpful. Obviously, the President enjoyed the opportunity to meet with President Ramos as he winds up what has been a very productive term as president. This was a reciprocal working lunch that matched the President's state visit to Manila in 1994. It gave the President an opportunity to recognize President Ramos' accomplishments; underscores all the work that President Ramos has done to strengthen democratic institutions in the Philippines and to institute economic reforms.
President Ramos, while he has been here on this visit, has also seen other senior U.S. government officials, seen officials from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and has visited with the American private sector interests who enjoy the benefits of commerce with the people of the Philippines. The President expressed his appreciation for the role the Philippines has played in the ASEAN troika. They've had a leadership position in that very important regional organization.
They reviewed efforts to restore democracy in Cambodia. And both Presidents expressed hope that the amnesty that's been announced for Prime Ranariddh in his recent return to Cambodia will help create conditions necessary to conduct free and fair elections in July.
The President mentioned that he appreciated the visit that the Foreign Minister of the Philippines had with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and that the meeting had sent an important signal to the Burmese military that it needed to begin a political dialogue with Burma's opposition.
The President also thanked President Ramos for his leadership in APEC, an organization that President Clinton has devoted considerable personal attention to. President Ramos, as a host of an APEC summit in 1994, has been a very important leader of that regional economic forum.
And the President also expressed support for -- or his appreciation for President Ramos' support of accelerated trade and investment liberalization in the Asian Pacific, as has been pledged by APEC leaders. The President stressed the importance of implementing early sectoral liberalization and noted that increasing trade flows would be important in restoring the economic health of the region.
They had some discussion of other bilateral issues very briefly on the matter of the bells, as we discussed earlier. And the President pronounced himself delighted with what was a very successful official working visit.
Q Can I follow up on the issue of the bells? Ramos seemed to come away from the meeting believing that the President supported his proposal to sort of split the difference. Is that not quite the case?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President certainly indicated a strong desire to address the matter and find a solution. And the President believes that President Ramos has in good faith put together a compromise proposal that should be very seriously reviewed. But because of the pending legislation in Congress, the President could not and cannot resolve the matter entirely without further consultations with Congress and interested parties. And the administration will pursue the matter.
Q What does the legislation do?
MR. MCCURRY: The legislation -- a brief summary would be that it prevents the relocation of authorized veterans memorial items that are currently in U.S. possession to foreign entities -- I think is a fair enough summary.
Q Is the administration going to push Congress to increase aid to Ireland, Northern Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: The President didn't make any specific commitment to do so last night. But as he observed earlier today, the benefits of peace -- one benefit of peace is it creates an environment in which prosperity can flourish, in which there are interests that both the private sector would have and those who assist economic opportunity, it creates a more secure environment for investment. And we do contribute currently, I think, roughly $20 million a year to the fund for Ireland.
We will look at that matter -- or look at that amount, that dollar amount, as we assess how useful the fund has been. But we also expect that there will be considerable interest in the private sector in investing in a peaceful Northern Ireland because of the extraordinary work force that exists -- Protestant and Catholic -- in Ulster, and because of all the structures that are suggested now to be in place as a result of this agreement between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and then under strand three, in the larger regional grouping that would include the Republic of Ireland, the U.K., and Ulster.
Q Gerry Adams sounded a little hesitant after the meeting adjourned today. How confident is the White House that he's going to sell the proposal effectively to Sinn Fein, which will vote on it next week?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President credited all the leaders today for the extraordinary courage they have shown in reaching this agreement. This is not an agreement easily come by, given the history, given the tensions, given the divisions that have existed. And the fact that these leaders, all of them, including Mr. Adams, have overcome these sectarian differences to reach this compromise is a moment of hope. But it is only that at this point.
It has to -- this is not -- as several of us have said today, the last day of this peace negotiation is the first day of building the new opportunity for peace that results from this agreement. And I think that's going to take diligence by all of those involved -- by both governments that were noble in advancing this agreement, by all the parties who put a great deal on the line and a great deal on the table in order to reach the agreement. And it will require persistent courage in overcoming those who would still like to resort to violence as a way of advancing their own cause.
I think each of these leaders are going to have to make judgments about how best to proceed, but the role that the United States foresees is to encourage those who are taking the necessary risks in order to build a peace -- in the case of Mr. Adams and, indeed, in the case of all of these leaders. In one way or another, they are certainly taking political risks, and in some cases they may be taking risks that are even graver than that.
Q Week ahead.
MR. MCCURRY: Week ahead. Anything else? Okay. Week ahead. Monday is the Easter Egg Roll here, with 30,000 of the President and First Lady's closest friends including, we hope, many of you and your families, the first time ever the Easter Egg Roll will be cybercast on the Internet. How do you do that? (Laughter.) It's a very good question.
Q Picture of an egg rolling, a virtual egg.
MR. MCCURRY: Take a carton of eggs -- virtual egg.
Q Do you know that the tour office, you know this goes from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and the tour office is giving the press passes at 1:30 p.m.?
MR. MCCURRY: With all schedule C employees and White House staff.
Q Oh, Schedule C -- you get a yellow card; you go in at 9:45 a.m.
Q Don't argue with her.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's -- everyone gets different time slots. But given how hard everyone is working, I'm sure you'll appreciate the later hour.
Tuesday, the President will go to Houston and I'll give you a little bit about the forum that ESPN is organizing to assist the President with his initiative on race. He'll hold his second national dialogue on race in Houston on Tuesday evening. The 90-minute event will be broadcast live on ESPN, as we've indicated and as ESPN has announced, at 8:00 p.m. eastern time, 7:00 p.m. central time, central daylight time.
This conversation on race, which ESPN is organizing and has structured, will provide the President's initiative on race with a unique opportunity to engage the broadest possible audience in the important conversation that the President has launched on race in America. It will examine issues involving race in the sports arena, explore areas of success, challenges faced, areas that still need work, including how sports teams are preparing to meet the change in demographics that will be a part of America's culture as we think about the 21st century.
And in some sense, the discussion about race in sports will help illuminate the larger question the President has identified in his initiative, which is how does race affect all walks of life in America as we think about our society in the 21st century. The program is going to be moderated by Bob Ley from ESPN Sports Center. It will include questions from the audience in attendance at the Wortham Center in downtown Houston and a prominent panel of figures in sports.
Q As a follow on that, since one of the big issues discussed in the conversation on race thus far has been on the economic front, one of the biggest issues in race and sports has been on ownership. Do you think that's going to be a prominent part of the discussion.
MR. MCCURRY: I suspect it very well might be, particularly because John Morris, who is the Chairman of the Board of the San Diego Padres, will be included and that certainly is an issue that the major league baseball owners have discussed amongst themselves from time to time. The President of the San Francisco '49ers will be there. There will be representation then of both athletes and management as they discuss professional sports. And I can't imagine that that subject won't arise.
Q Mike, is he going to visit a space center, is he going to --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, Senator Glenn called recently and said that just by happy circumstance a part of his training, since Congress is in recess, will occur in the next two weeks down at the Johnson Space Center and he suggested the President should come down there. I have no information on whether or not they're going to actually put the President in a centrifuge or anything like that. (Laughter.) Or whether they'll drink some Tang together. I don't know what they're going to do.
But the President is very interested in the training program that Senator Glenn is going through. Senator Glenn flew himself down to Houston at the beginning of the current Congressional recess and was very much looking forward to the training down there, and was delighted that he'll have an opportunity to give the President a tour. And that will occur while they're down there.
Let's see if I have a schedule. Do we have a whole schedule for Houston?
COLONEL CROWLEY: That's all we're doing now, there's downtime in the middle of the day.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, they're also going to get a briefing on the Neuro Research Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center. There will be -- oh, I'm sorry, the Neuro Research Laboratory is going to be launched in Florida on April 16th, but they have some of the folks from NASA who are involved in that who are going to brief the President on that. They will take a tour of mission control. The President will address about 600 center employees while he's down there.
The President had visited Johnson Space Center once before in February of 1994, so this visit will focus more specifically on some of the training that's occurring related to Senator Glenn's mission, but it will be an opportunity to also get an update on other NASA activities.
Q When is it?
MR. MCCURRY: December? Good question. I don't know.
Wednesday, the President gets back very early in the morning from that trip. You all will be -- oh, by the way, Monday afternoon, I think at 3:00 p.m., we foresee a briefing by Ambassador McLarty, Mr. Berger, and Charlene Barshefsky here related to the President's trip to Chile for the bilateral visit and the Summit of the Americas. You all will be departing early on Wednesday. The President will probably do something during the day on Wednesday related to many of the tax benefits that Americans will enjoy as the Balanced Budget Act is implemented -- talking about tax credits and deductions for educational opportunities, matters related to child care and retirement income security.
The President and the First Lady depart at 7:30 p.m. There is some possibility he might make some brief statement prior to departure, but we'll advise you on that. And then Thursday, we begin the schedule that you've already seen related to the President's trip to Chile.
Q On the tax benefits, is that related to things in the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: The President wants to highlight those things that will be -- as Americans are paying taxes, the President thinks it's a good idea to remind them that they're going to be getting some tax benefits that begin to kick in the next time they pay taxes as a result of the legislation Congress passed and the President signed.
Q Does the President think that there is likely to be a $50 billion surplus?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is aware of some of the different calculations that exist on the surplus. We have our own estimates that have been provided by OMB; you've seen some of the estimates that the Congressional Budget Office has generated. I'm not aware that the Federal Reserve has announced any formal numbers on estimated surpluses, but in any event, the principles we have on surpluses are very clear -- that they ought to first and foremost be devoted to saving Social Security, and they should not be spent without careful attention to the commitment Congress and the President have made to fiscal discipline and balancing the budget, but that we first need to think about how we look at the long-term entitlement issues before we think about what to do with the surplus.
Will there be a surplus? Surely there will be because that's now been agreed. The size of that surplus is unknown at this point.
Q What about using some of the surplus, if larger than expected, to take the place of the additional revenues from the tobacco bill, for example?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President believes that we're going to pass comprehensive tobacco legislation, as he's said, and he's identified ways in which the revenue from that can be used to help families in America and promote health care opportunities and child care opportunities for America's families. And, as to any other surplus arising in the budget, the President has been clear that ought to be devoted to Social Security first.
Q What time are you going to release the tax returns on Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll do that -- I think, Barry Toiv is going to brief on that at the regular hour here. It will be available at some point around early afternoon.
Enjoy your Easter holiday. I'll see you all later in April.
END 3:54 P.M. EDT #489 - 4/10