Exchange With Reporters in Miami, Florida
Q. Anything new on North Korea, Mr. President?
The President. As you know, the Board of Governors of the IAEA is meeting tomorrow.
Our goals remain the same. We haven't changed our policy. We did do quite a bit of work yesterday, spent a good deal of time discussing this. But I really don't have anything else to say at this time. I'm talking to our allies. And we're working through this and what our options are.
Q. Is there any possibility that sanctions can be avoided at this point?
The President. Is there what?
Q. Do you have any reason to believe that sanctions can be avoided at this point?
The President. Well, of course, they can. They can—that really is a decision that's up to the North Koreans as much as anything else. But there are—we also have some hope that they will go forward. They did let the inspectors in; then they didn't; they did. There seems to be a difference of opinion within their country about how to proceed. So to some extent the ball is still clearly in their court. But we are proceeding to consider all of our options and to talk with our allies about it.
Q. What is your hope based on, that they might allow full inspections, sir?
The President. I didn't say I hope. He didn't ask me if I hoped they would.
Q. You said that there's still a hope, you said?
The President. Well, of course, there is. There appear to be people within North Korea that want to proceed to normalize the relations of their country with the international community and people who don't. And we'll just have to see what they do now, where we go from here. But our objectives remain what they have always been. We have been entirely reasonable and forthcoming. And we have also worked very closely with not only our strong allies in South Korea but with the Japanese, the Chinese, and others who share many or if not all of our objectives. So we're going to keep going forward, see what happens in the next few days. But the next step is to see what happens at the Board of Governors meeting.
Q. Are tensions ratcheting up so high—there appears to be some concern that this may evolve into some kind of armed conflict, given the height of the rhetoric?
The President. Well, I have done everything I could to avoid ratcheting up the tensions while being firm in the objectives of our policy and what I think are in the interests of not just the United States but the people of that part of the world and Asia. So we're just working ahead.
I'm not trying to ratchet up the tensions, I'm just trying to work through this in a very deliberate but very firm and disciplined way, and that's what we'll continue to do.
[At this point, the President moved from White House reporters to a group of Miami reporters and continued answering questions. His remarks are joined in progress.]
Health Care Reform
The President. ——have a system of comprehensive benefits, leave Medicare alone—it works—but add prescription drugs, and phase in over time options other than nursing homes for long-term care, and cover people who work through the workplace. Nine out of ten people who have private insurance are already covered through the workplace. This is a very, very big deal. And it is imperative if we're ever going to do what we ought to do to give security to the American people.
We've got to reform the insurance system. You can't have in any given time 39 million people without health insurance. You can't have 113 million—30 million Americans with lifetime limits on their policies. You can't have 81 million Americans with preexisting conditions so that they can't change jobs or they're paying insurance premiums that are too high. You can't have rates that discriminate against older Americans when older Americans are the fastest growing group of our population and more and more of them want to work. So these are all things that have to be dealt with. And I think that the Congress is going to face up to their responsibilities this year. We've got the economy turned around. We're going in the right direction with the economy. We're going to have welfare reform, got some very important school reforms going. But we have to face the obligation to deal with health care reform.
Cuba and Crime Legislation
Q. [Inaudible]—rule out the possibility to talk with Fidel Castro in the near future?
The President. Yes, I have no plans to do that.
The other thing I want to emphasize to you, that before we get to health care—this is a very important issue here in Florida, and I talked with the Attorney General about it in some length just yesterday—that Congress must move quickly to pass the crime bill. In addition to all the interest groups trying to kill health care reform, delay on the crime bill could cause us significant problems. So that's the other big objective. Next week when Congress meets, or this week now, we've got to go ahead and pass that crime bill. I feel very good about where we are on that.
Q. [Inaudible]—any change in the current policy?
The President. My policy is clear, and I have no plans to change it.
Q. Mr. President, on immigration, the State of Florida is talking about a lawsuit against the Federal Government to recoup the monies that this State pays on incoming refugees. Should the Federal Government help pay for that?
The President. We should pay more. And under my administration we are paying more than ever before. This situation had been allowed to develop, in my judgment, to a very severe degree when I became President only a little over a year ago. Since that time, we have moved aggressively to try to alleviate the health, the education, and the welfare costs that States bear because of immigration. The States that have the biggest burdens, California, Florida, and Texas, to some extent New York, have not been fully reimbursed. But I'm moving ahead to try to alleviate this burden. It isn't fair. National policies, or lack of policies, and the inability of our country to control our borders in the face of illegal immigration, are not the fault of any particular State. And it is a national responsibility. But we are moving in the Congress to try to alleviate these burdens. I worked hard—we made some real progress last year. We're going to make some more this year. And I think Florida should do what they can to keep the pressure on us. But they need to know that I'm on the side of the Florida officials on this one. It's just going to take some time to work ourselves out of a very big hole that I found when I came here.
Thank you all.
Q. Welcome to Florida, Mr. President.
The President. Glad to be back.
NOTE: The exchange began at approximately 3:30 p.m. at Miami International Airport. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.
William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters in Miami, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218382