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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 19, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY
                             JOE LOCKHART

                           The Briefing Room

1:10 P.M. EDT

Q Anything on Panama?

MR. LOCKHART: You want something on Panama? Well, it's Panama you want, Panama you'll get. The President completed a few moments ago his meeting with President Moscoso. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, was a very productive session. For her part, President Moscoso focused the conversation on the historical importance of the Canal turnover, which will take place at the end of this year.

Q Is the President going there?

MR. LOCKHART: We haven't made a decision on who will head our delegation. She said that this is not the end of a relationship, but a new beginning of a strong friendship. She committed strongly on the protection and security of the Canal and committed to work with the United States government to meet that goal.

There was a discussion on our joint efforts on counternarcotics and also some environmental issues that the U.S. government and Panama have been discussing through the years.

Q What about counternarcotics?

MR. LOCKHART: They discussed our efforts on counternarcotics and also on the environment.

Q -- of the south border with Colombia of traffickers and stuff?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that it got that specific.

Q What are we involved in in terms of security? Haven't the Chinese bought the shipping rights on both ends?

MR. LOCKHART: No. That is the kind of silly stuff that gets out from time to time in this town. The security of the Canal will be controlled by the commission controlled by Panama. There are two ports where cargo will be loaded and unloaded, that were put out to competitive bidding. That bidding process was won by a Hong Kong company, which is, I think, the largest company in the world doing this kind of business, so it was no surprise that they won this business. But the security, the locks at either end, will be controlled by Panama. And the treaty is very specific about the right of all nations to have equal access to the Canal.

Q I gather that she flatly ruled out any sort of narcotics center, anti-narcotics center in which the U.S. would be basing forces specifically --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we had discussions going back some time on that kind of force, that we were unable to reach an agreement. We have reached agreement, now, with the government of Ecuador and with the Dutch Antilles, to have these forward locations, as they're called. You know, we worked in good faith with the government of Panama, but we were not able to reach an agreement.

Q What about the cleaning of the bases?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President made the point clearly that we've met our treaty obligations of what was practicable to do, as far as cleanup. Most of the cleanup has been done. There are some areas that are impossible to get to, as far as moving forward. But he did say that we wanted to continue to remain engaged, and work with Panama in an effort to deal with this issue.

Q Wait, can we follow up, one more? The question of security, if there is a problem, if there is a breakdown, are there provisions for America to become involved?

MR. LOCKHART: There certainly are within the neutrality, within the Panama Canal Treaty and the Neutrality Act, the U.S. government has the right to intervene when we believe our national interests are at stake, and that was true when it was signed and it will be very true as we move into the next century.

Q Will any U.S. forces stay behind at all, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think there will be any forces there, no.

Q What is the general feeling of the President, confident that the partnership is going to keep on going fine? Is there any concern?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President was happy with the message brought by his counterpart that this is a new beginning of a very important relationship, a very strong friendship between our nations. We will work together on issues of trade, counternarcotics, and we're very confident that this handoff will go as expected and as detailed 22 years ago when the treaty was signed.


Q Yes. Back during World War II, the Panama Canal was a very important security concern of the United States not too many years ago. We're now in 1999, into the next century. Is it true that the Panama Canal is really not that important strategically as compared to what it used to be? I know you're concerned about security, you have the right to intervene. But is the truth that this is not the prize that it once was 50 years ago?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me just say I'm not going to try to rate in comparison. It remains important. I think there is a carrier there right now, as we speak, steaming through. So it still has importance to our strategic interests, and we made sure -- the United States government, working with the United States Senate in 1977 -- that our interests were protected. They were protected. They will remain protected going into the future.

Q Is the President planning a trip to Panama? I mean, he has been invited and --

MR. LOCKHART: I have no announcements to make on any travel to that part of the world.

Q He's never been there.

MR. LOCKHART: There are a few places still left on the list he hasn't been. (Laughter.) And we have 15 months to rectify that. (Laughter.) Nebraska and the rest of the world. (Laughter.)

Q Compare the two?

Q Mississippi.

MR. LOCKHART: We've been to Mississippi.

Q We have?


MR. SIEWERT: We went to Mississippi. New Markets.


Q To change the subject, what does the President hope to accomplish with this afternoon's meeting with congressional leaders?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President hopes we can develop a framework for moving forward to meet our dual goals of maintaining our fiscal discipline and investing in our priorities. He's made very clear, the President is the one person who's involved in this who's put forward a plan that actually invests in our priorities of education, smaller class sizes, more teachers, more cops on the street, protecting our environment, while at the same time remaining fiscally disciplined, making the tough choices, the tough budget choices, that we need to make to continue to move forward.

As I said this morning, it's our hope the Republicans will put the attack ads aside, the talking points aside, and come down and work with us in good faith. We think that that's in the best interests of the American public, and that's what we hope will happen.

Q When you say develop a framework, what do you mean? Have everybody go along with what the President wants them to do?

MR. LOCKHART: No. We develop a process whereby we can work through these issues in an honest way that doesn't involve duelling sound bites, and involves real work, real choices, tough choices, to get the budget work done. We're in the end of this process. We are now into a period where we're going to have to go to a second CR. The time to get the work done is now, and the way you get the work done is you sit down and talk to each other.

Q Well, we've gone from a framework to a process. By a process do you mean a series of meetings or can you define that?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't define it because I'm not going to prejudge what frame of mind the Republican leaders will come down in.

Q You've got to have something to offer them.

MR. LOCKHART: And I'm not going to prejudge what frame of mind the Republican leaders will come down in, but clearly, we know what we have to get done, and I think this is the first step in sitting across a table from each other and starting down that road.

Q Joe, their frame of mind, apparently, is they're declaring victory today with a bunch of news conferences, saying that the President, in fact, has acceded to their wishes on Social Security, that he came out of the box saying to set aside 62 percent of the surplus, and they said, no, let's just take 150 percent of the surplus and not use it toward the budget. And he came along late this summer and agreed to the same thing, and again yesterday.

MR. LOCKHART: I just have to tell you that that's one of the most absurd notions I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of absurd notions. We came forward with an overall plan on how to strengthen Social Security, how to reform Medicare and extend its solvency, and to make the investments we need. We haven't had a lot of help from Capitol Hill on that front. Now we're in a situation and the President put forward numbers at the mid-year that said we can do all this and we don't have to touch the Social Security surplus.

The Republicans are trying to use the night is day argument, that we'll do something, but we're going to say we're not doing it, and we think we'll be fooled by it. But I'll tell you something -- everybody knows what they're doing. Their own CBO has said their appropriations bills -- they're the only ones allowed to write these appropriations bills -- the bills that they've written, under no duress from anyone, spend the Social Security surplus.

The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Houston Chronicle, The Associated Press and The Washington Times have all said they're spending the Social Security surplus. I can give you the sites. So the argument that somehow, they have won a victory here, when they, through their own actions, through their own appropriators and appropriation process, have already dipped into the Social Security fund is absurd.

Q Is that a sound bite, Joe?

Q Joe, I don't quite understand that, because they're suggesting other ideas for potentially ameliorating that, like having across-the-board spending cuts, potentially this EITC notion. I mean, they haven't actually done that yet any more than you have. I mean, your offsets haven't been enacted, either; technically, you could say you've spent surplus as well.

MR. LOCKHART: If they want to put down on the table and if they bring down here on the table what would be a 17 percent across-the-board cut exempting defense, and if that is their position, if they should articulate it clearly and they should talk to us about how they believe that that won't impact the running of our government and working Americans around the country -- that's not what they're planning to do. What they're planning to do, and what they are doing is using a number of accounting gimmicks. They're using directed scoring, 13 months in the year, emergency spending designations to try to hide the fact of what they've done.

Again, what I said this morning: the need to put aside the talking points, put aside the attack ads, and move forward in an honest and straightforward way, to get their work done and work with the President so that the American people, in the end, come out ahead.

Q Is there coverage?

MR. LOCKHART: There is no coverage.

Q Does the President want to find some way to compromise with them? Or is he just going to try to convince them that what he's proposing all along is right?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think the President said yesterday, he doesn't expect Congress to go along with 100 percent of what he wants. But he's got certain bottom lines, particularly on education, law enforcement, and the environment -- that he will make that point to them very clear today.

Q The President will get a CR in the next few hours, or day, that funds the government through the 29th. Is he prepared to sign that?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we haven't seen what they've sent, but I think the President has indicated that it's unfortunate the Congress hasn't been able to get their work done. But if an extra few days helps them get that work done, that he most likely will let them do that.

Q -- spending more money on education than you asked for. What's wrong with that?

MR. LOCKHART: I just don't buy the way that they've put their numbers forward. There are a series of issues that are important about how you go ahead -- how you attack our educational problems. I think the most important one that the President has articulated is on teachers and reducing class size. And they have written it in a way that makes it look like they support it, but they never will, because the money has to be authorized; it won't be authorized. They've made that clear.

On after-school, they've cut significantly the after-school program. They've not done what the President believes is quite important on accountability, as far as providing money to help the worst schools, the lowest-performing schools, either turn around or close down. Their attitude is, let's just close them down, let's fund some vouchers. The President doesn't agree with that approach.

Q Now, are you saying that they are not spending as much as they say they're spending, or that they may be spending more than you asked for, but not in the ways you want to spend --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think -- first off, we're not all the way down the road on -- particularly the House is not spending -- is not providing the resources the President wants on programs. I'm not exactly sure where the Senate is.

Q They've had the money in education, though, and in some other areas of appropriations bills as well. Just as a general proposition, is that encouraging that they've started to, if it's not the same priorities as you, at least funded these things to a greater extent?

MR. LOCKHART: Obviously, through the process, they've made some steps in the right direction, but there's still more to do, and that's the purpose of this meeting today, to get the final work done.

Q Joe, is this no coverage idea the White House's idea, or did the Republicans request no coverage?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that they made a request. I think we just felt that it was more productive to let them get in and have a working session.

Q The NAACP is calling for a tourism boycott of South Carolina until the Confederate flag is removed from the State House dome. Will that affect President Clinton's plans to go there, as he has every New Year?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know whether it will affect it since we haven't made a decision on what we're doing at the New Year yet.

Q I understand that you haven't made a decision, but will he take that into account?

MR. LOCKHART: I'll check. I hadn't heard that.

Q Speaking on those types of issues, the President seems to be talking a little bit more about inclusion. In today's speech on Capitol Hill, he talked about the hate crimes legislation. He's also talked about other issues racially. Is this an effort for the President to start laying the groundwork for this book on race that's impending?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think his comments today on hate crimes is to try to convince Congress to reverse a very troubling decision they made in the dead of night. It is hard to see a justification for removing the language on hate crimes. I think there is a consensus in this country that this is a problem we need to deal with, and his comments today were an effort to put some pressure on Congress to restore that language to the bill.

Q Joe, a follow-up. Is it true that the President is definitely working on this book and is diligent in trying to get it out soon?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I talked to him about it last week.

Q So tell us what he said.

MR. LOCKHART: He said he's got some more things to do. He's got one chapter in particular that he's been spending some time on and it will be done when it's done.

Q Is that economic development?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think particularly reflecting some new information and new thoughts he has in the aftermath of the New Markets tour, and in anticipation of continuing to stay involved in that issue.

Q On the hate crimes issue, is the White House going to demand that lawmakers restore that language this year or --

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President made clear that he thinks Congress should reverse the decision made late last night, and he's going to continue to keep pressure on them.

Q You just said a moment ago that one of the bottom line issues for the appropriations process is education, preserving education funding. And earlier this morning, you said that the President believes there's a better way to fund appropriations than through the Social Security surplus. But you didn't rule that out. So is Social Security also off limits? Is that a bottom-line issue?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, you're asking me to make Shermanesque statements before the negotiations have started. Unlike our counterparts who want to tell you that night is day and black is white and whatever else, I'm telling you the President has put forward a plan that doesn't spend the Social Security surplus. I think it's incumbent on those who have already tried to spend it to explain why they have to do it this way, and that's what we're going to discuss.

Q Did you make a Shermanesque statement on whether or not he signed the VA/HUD bill today?

MR. LOCKHART: I can make a Shermanesque statement to say that he hasn't signed it, and it's possible that that may slip until tomorrow.

Q Oh, it may slip until tomorrow? Okay, and while we're on that, the ag bill -- you still have that. Is he planning to sign that?

MR. SIEWERT: We have not yet signed it.

MR. LOCKHART: We have not yet signed it. I think we have expressed a number of concerns about the majority's unwillingness to deal with some of the structural problems with the Freedom to Farm Act. Once again, they've sent down a bill that provides sort of across the board payments to farmers whether they are in distress or not. Payments are made to many who aren't even farming. But I think given the dire need of many farmers in this country and given the decisions and the timetables that they face, that the President will find a way to support that.

Q Joe, during the pre-campaign of Mrs. Clinton in New York, she has come out against using the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico as a firing range or military training range. The commission has just put out a report recommending that it be phased out in five years. There are hearings today in the Senate Armed Forces Committee. Is the President prepared to reconsider the notion and eliminate that?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President had asked the Secretary of Defense to take a look at this, and they went forward and appointed this panel. The Secretary of Defense I think made clear yesterday, or the Pentagon made clear, that they're not prepared to make a recommendation at this point. They've received the report from the commission, but Secretary Cohen has called for more mediation and dialogue to see if we can't work out something that is mutually acceptable to the people of Puerto Rico and to our national security interests.

Q So he will present the final recommendations to the President?

MR. LOCKHART: He will continue this process, and at some point we expect a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense. And the President will then act on -- make a decision after he's had a chance to see the recommendation.

Q -- continue, right -- the live fire --

MR. LOCKHART: No, there's no live fire going on currently there, is my understanding. And that's what -- we're trying to work through this issue as quickly as possible.

Q Joe, I wanted to ask you about the atmosphere leading up to this evening's meeting. Since the rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the veto of the foreign aid bill yesterday, the President decried what he called "new isolationism" by Republicans in the Senate. And on the Hill you've got some Republicans who are privately saying this meeting is just a sideshow, they don't expect anything to come out of it. Given the sort of recriminations that have gone back and forth, should we really expect a good-faith, productive effort from both sides?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, you'll get a good-faith effort from the President. I know that the Democratic leaders have pledged to work forward in a good faith way, and I expect the Republican leaders to do the same. As the President said very clearly yesterday, people were sent here to do a job; we don't get paid to fight personal battles. And I think the President has proved time and time again that he can put aside the last battle and move on to the important work that he was elected to do.

Q Joe, speaking of last battle, James Carville said yesterday about the selection of Robert Ray to be the next independent counsel, or to fill Ken Starr's shoes, "this whole thing is just a political deal to try to help Giuliani; this thing stinks and I'm going to start a fumigation program." (Laughter.) Does the White House share that sentiment? Do you believe that there's some impropriety in selecting someone who worked for Mr. Giuliani?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't believe that -- personally, I don't believe that there's any impropriety here, and I haven't heard any repeated to me from anyone inside the White House.

Q And just to follow up, you had said earlier today that it was a dubious proposition to pick this gentleman in particular. The court said yesterday they had confined their search to Starr's office because they thought that was the most expeditious way to move forward. Do you disagree with that assessment, do you think it --

MR. LOCKHART: No. Again, as I think -- I was out here Wednesday or Thursday, whatever day it was -- any criticism was not directed at one particular person. It was the idea that there seemed to be -- this seems to be an endless process, and we ought to wrap it up and find a way to, as some of us said, re-energize the process.

Q Joe, on Social Security, you mentioned your plan. Of course, Archer has a plan. Breaux has some ideas. What has to happen from the White House perspective before you can engage in some serious, constructive talk about reforming Social Security?

MR. LOCKHART: We've had actually some constructive talk this year with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle on reform of Social Security and extending the solvency. We have not given up on the idea that we can use the surplus, and move forward this year in the context of locking up funds and using them to extend the life of the Social Security surplus. We've heard a lot of rhetoric from the other side, but no real commitment to do something that would be effective in locking up the money.

I think we're going to continue to work on that front. We're going to get through the budget issues that the calendar forces us to settle over the next week or so, and the President remains open and committed to working with anyone, whatever their party affiliation is, to get this done.

Q So after the budget is settled, the President will sort of push some effort to get together and --

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has been talking about this and working on this for two years, and that effort is not limited to the appropriations calendar.

Q Has Senator Helms apologized to the President yet? Any phone calls, any --

MR. LOCKHART: No, Senator Helms has not apologized to the President, nor do I think he's indicated that he feels he needs to.

Q Joe, on Medicare, Senator Breaux calls the President's proposal not bold enough, says it's a half-measure. Some other critics are worried that cost instead of quality of care will go into the decisions about the preferred provider networks. Can you answer those criticisms?

MR. LOCKHART: Sure. I think the President has put forward a very broad and bold program to reform Medicare. I think we're at the point now where we're trying to make a down payment on that, and in the reforms that he's put forward in the fee-for-service programs in particular, these are very effective, very reliable private sector practices that will save money.

The important point is, there's two issues here on quality and on cost. On quality, quality will not be sacrificed under this plan; only the best and highest quality will be allowed -- quality health care providers will be allowed to participate in this. And on cost, obviously using private sector practices will help save money, will help lower copayments, but the important point to remember here is, this will be optional, it will be voluntary. For those who want to stay in their traditional fee-for-service program, they will be able to. So you'll have a system where you'll be able to lower costs, and not sacrifice choice, not sacrifice quality -- and we think actually improve quality, at a lower price.

Q Joe, the Pentagon has described Gulf War Syndrome as everything from a myth to a stress-induced psychological disorder. With today's findings from the Rand Corporation that an inoculation of PB against nerve gas cannot be ruled out as a cause of Gulf War Syndrome, would the President be willing to entertain compensation for Gulf War service veterans who have suffered from this syndrome?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the Pentagon ordered this study, and I think it reflects their deep concern and commitment to understanding the roots of this issue. The study has come back and said that this PB, this bromide, they can't say it's the cause, but they can't rule it out. So new studies will be ordered to do additional work to try to get at the cause of this problem, and we're going to wait and see on the results of those. I'm not going to predict, one way or the other, of what action will be taken short of the scientific evidence that the Pentagon has been searching for.

Q Can I follow up? On the anthrax inoculations, does the White House have any second thoughts on forcing the service people to take the anthrax vaccine?

MR. LOCKHART: I think if you look at the executive order that was issued last week on informed consent, you'll find that there's very -- there is a new waiver process and very strict guidelines for when informed consent will be used. So it's something we took a long, hard look at, and we think the executive order reflects that.

Q Joe, on the compensation question, are you saying that there would have to be some judgment that there was a definitive cause, and that it could be tied to one thing --

MR. LOCKHART: No. I'm saying that I'm not willing to speculate on that issue while the investigation and the review is still ongoing.

Q You're not saying that there is any consideration of compensation, but only looking to see whether or not it's the government's responsibility?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying that their focus is rightly on looking to see if there is some cause to what this study and several other studies have been looking at.

Q Joe, you've criticized the Espy -- investigation for having dragged on too long. Over the weekend, former Secretary Espy said that it was prompted by racial bias. Does the White House concur with the view that race played a part in that whole process?

MR. LOCKHART: I think former Secretary Espy certainly is in a position to make a judgment of his own. I don't know of a judgment that has been made here. I don't know that that particular issue has been considered.

Q Joe, is this going to be the last CR that the President will sign?

MR. LOCKHART: I think they certainly can get their work done, and I think they've given themselves now another eight-day extension. That's certainly enough time to get their work done. Ask me again next week.

Q How does that square, though, with Senator Lott saying that now their drop-dead deadline is November 19th for finishing up on --

MR. LOCKHART: I have to think that Senator Lott wants to get home, has probably spent too much time in Washington during the year, as all of his colleagues are. I can't believe that they have decided that they need another month of this.

Q Any further movement on the financial services discussions since you talked this morning?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think as I mentioned this morning, there was important progress, and I think an important victory for the administration for the issue of privacy as far as improving the notice and choice elements of the bill. As you remember, the House bill had some significant privacy protections in the bill that they passed. The Senate bill did not have those protections. We, in working with the conference and with congressional leaders of both parties, have been able to strengthen even what was in the House version.

I think there are talks ongoing now as far as dealing with the CRA provisions that we still have concerns about. We're moving in the right direction here, but we still have some concerns and we're trying to work them out.

Q On the agriculture bill, you said that he'd find a way to sign that. Is he going to do that soon? I mean, there's a lot of emergency money that presumably farmers would want to get quickly.

MR. LOCKHART: I think we will deal with that in a very prompt and efficient way.

Q What about Defense appropriations?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we've made clear, on Defense and some other bills, that we need to sit down and talk to the leadership, and find out what their overall plan is. You know, Representative DeLay talked openly about their secret strategy, of how they were going to bring us to their knees with their strategy of sending bills down here. We've said that enough is enough, let us know what the strategy is.

Defense appropriations -- the Republicans have talked a lot about our wanting to invest in priorities. But Defense appropriations goes significantly above what the President requested, and what the Pentagon requested. There's things in there that the Pentagon says that they don't need, particularly a ship that's being built, that will be build in Pascagoula, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's hometown. The Pentagon doesn't need it now.

But I think, overall, we need to wait and see how they plan to pay for all of the spending that's come down here, which their own CBO says goes into the Social Security surplus now.

Q Joe, on options on offsets, the Republicans have made pretty clear that they're not going to go for an increase in tobacco tax. So where does that leave you on other ways of offsetting increased spending?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we put forward in our budget -- and you can go look at the budget -- a number of ways to offset spending. We have a number of those ideas. We'll talk about them. And what we've made clear is, where there is a shortfall -- and this is something that I think differentiates us from the approach the Republicans have taken -- where there's a shortfall, and where there's a priority that the President believes must be funded, we will pay for it. And that is the message that he'll bring to the meeting today, and we hope that that's something that will be received.

Q Joe, any chance for us to see the President after today's meeting? And do you have any idea what he's doing tonight at these two --

MR. LOCKHART: He's going to -- he'll be speaking tonight, which you will -- the first one is -- is that just print reporter? He's got two events tonight, so you'll certainly see him coming and going.

Q How are you going to read out the budget meeting?

MR. LOCKHART: I expect that the participants will go out to the stakeout. I expect that Chief of Staff John Podesta will represent the White House and go out and talk after the meeting.

Q You're estimate is more than 90 minutes, right?

MR. LOCKHART: My guess is probably not before 6:30 p.m. or so.

Q How was the guest list chosen? DeLay's not coming. When your invitation went out, how was it phrased?

MR. LOCKHART: There are various ways to do this. This is what I think we call the "tight leadership," the small leadership group, which is the five leaders, and there are various, then, different formulations or reconfigurations as you expand out. But this is the smallest group that comes down on a bipartisan basis.

Q On the banking bill and the Medicare giveback bills, would the President veto the Medicare giveback if those fee-for-service provision deficiencies, whatever you want to call them, aren't included as far as banking if the CRA provisions aren't --

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has been very clear if they can't meet his concerns on CRA, that the bill isn't going anywhere. But again, we've been in productive discussions with them over the last few days, so I don't want to preclude that we can reach an agreement.

On BBA givebacks, it goes back to the very simple question that we raise on every bill, which is, how are we going to pay for it. We are not going to move forward in a way that just says we'll worry about that later, or we'll dip into this -- I think the Republican leadership on this have said that they want to use the on-budget surplus to pay for some of the BBA givebacks. But, unfortunately, seven other appropriators got there first and have already claimed the on-budget surplus, which is why the CBO says, again -- and I know everybody's tired of hearing this -- but the CBO said that they've spent -- and I know you're tired of reporting it, too -- but that the CBO says they've spent the Social Security surplus through their appropriations bills. These are the bills they wrote, they sat down and they wrote, and they are in the process of sending down to the President.

Q Joe, isn't it true that the CBO's latest assessment is that the budget, as submitted, does not spend the surplus?

MR. LOCKHART: No. It's that we have at least two, maybe three letters looking at --

Q The letter that I read from Crippen to Hastert said that his budget, as proposed, does not break the cast and does not spend Social Security.

MR. LOCKHART: I'd be glad to show you a couple other letters that --

Q They claim that it's a work in progress, and that the final work doesn't spend the surplus.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think a simple calculator, which we'd be glad to provide, helps them add this up. If they need it, we'll provide our help. But it's, ultimately, kind of a silly debate. On the day that your own CBO comes out and says, well, frankly, you're spending the Social Security surplus through your appropriations bills, the Republicans put on an ad attacking the Democrats for doing what they've just done.

As I said in the beginning, it's time to put that all aside -- put the politics aside, put the ads aside, put all the talking points and the press conferences and the gallery visits aside and sit down and get some work done.

Q Thank you.

MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.

END 1:45 P.M. EDT