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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Quincy, Illinois)
For Immediate Release                                   January 28, 2000

                              BRIEFING BY
                      CHIEF OF STAFF JOHN PODESTA
                              TO THE POOL

                          Aboard Air Force One
                       En route Quincy, Illinois

12:09 P.M. EST

MR. PODESTA: -- try to move on that. I think we've spent time on both sides of the aisle to try to move forward to see if we could find a way to move forward on modernizing Medicare and the prescription drug benefit. It's clear that they have ideas that are different than ours, but we're going to keep pressing the case to have a benefit that is a voluntary, but available to all seniors under the Medicare program and that will provide affordable drugs for them.

The President last fall met with Senator Roth and Moynihan, and Chairman Roth at that time pledged that this would be first order of business. You know, we're looking forward to trying to sit down and see if we can make progress on that.-- you know with regard to, specifically, what's their reaction, what do we - you know, we stayed up late, we got up early and came here, so we'll be doing that really over the weekend, and into next week.

Q Any nibbles on those retirement savings accounts? That's an idea that was run up the flagpole last year. You didn't get anywhere and you came back and you put a lot more into it this year. What's going on with that?

MR. PODESTA: Well, actually, we've kind of redesigned it. We've had about a $250 billion program last year on the USA accounts. This is, I think, a very attractive tax relief aimed at helping people save, create wealth, save for retirement. It's very consistent with ideas that have been put forward by both sides of the aisle on this. So we think we can get some traction on this. I talked to Senator Lieberman yesterday, who's been one of the leading proponents of this IDA concept, which we have expanded into the new retirement security accounts aspect. I think he's very excited, thinks we may be able to find some middle ground together.

Q What's going to make it different this time on that? Why would it be different?

MR. PODESTA: I think that USA accounts was maybe, it was very substantial and I think it was considered more in the context of creating individual - last year on the Hill it was, I think, considered more in the context of creating individual accounts within the Social Security system, itself. This year, I think, it's more clearly separated and we think we need to build and strengthen all the legs of the - of providing retirement security. And I think in that context we actually might get more interest and more support by both Democrats and Republicans.

Q When did you get to bed last night, finally?

MR. PODESTA: About 1:30 a.m., 2:00 a.m.

MR. LOCKHART: What does the White House think about losing Doug Sosnik?

MR. PODESTA: In my emotional farewell this morning - I'm sorry, at the senior staff meeting, in which people were lined up to get tickets in 2001 - (laughter) -- I said to the staff that I think that over the past many years Doug has provided the grease in the joints of the White House; that it would have been a lot of metal rubbing on metal if it hadn't been for Doug. And while probably no one in the room could exactly describe what Doug's job description was, we're going to miss him very, very much. He's been not only a great support to the President and a great advisor to the President, but I think a person whose made the White House staff really hum.

So I keep thinking this is a big trick and he's had so many run-ups to leaving that I decided this is just another head fake by having this Harris story appear in the Post, and it's not for real and I expected - when I heard he was going to Davis I realized he was going to probably be around for the rest of 2000. But they told me they're putting a press release out in New York today, so we're finally coming to grips with the fact that we might actually lose him.

Q How is it the President decided to go to Illinois for the second year in a row after State of the Union?

MR. PODESTA: Well, he likes coming back here. I think that we thought about coming back to a community that he had been to in the '92 campaign, or near a community that he had been to in the 1992 campaign. We looked around, we talked to Senator Durbin. And Quincy seemed like a great place to come and talk about progress that we've made since the President and Vice President came to office in 1993. We have, I think, a community that is very much looking forward to the President's visit. The Mayor just told me - you're already been briefed on this - that the last President who's been to Quincy was Teddy Roosevelt, which we didn't know when we made the decision, but seems sort of fitting, given the State of the Union last night.

Q It's also befitting the weather. Teddy Roosevelt loved going out in this kind of stuff.

MR. PODESTA: I don't think the President will be wearing a buffalo-skin coat - (laughter) - but I think we'll have a good time there today.

END 12:15 P.M. EST