Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
9:21 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Good morning. Okay, today's schedule. At 1:00 p.m. the President speaks to the National League of Cities Legislative Conference. At 3:00 p.m., he'll meet with the House Budget Committee here at the White House in the Cabinet Room. At 5:00 p.m. he'll meet with the Congressional Black Caucus.
Also on the agenda today at 3:00 p.m., Thomas Niles, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs will give a background briefing on the upcoming visit with President Mitterrand tomorrow.
Q: Where --
MS. MYERS: That will be here.
Q: When will Nixon be here?
MS. MYERS: Don't have any final details.
Q: Is he coming in today?
MS. MYERS: No, it's not on the schedule today.
Q: As long as we have it in advance here, and we can maybe do this peacefully, may I ask why Mr. Niles has to be on background?
MS. MYERS: It is our policy that most of these briefings are background.
Q: You've never had one before, have you?
MS. MYERS: We've had a number of background briefings on a variety of issues.
Q: Why are they background?
MS. MYERS: Because we believe that's the most effective way to do it, sometimes preferable for the members, the people who are doing them.
Q: Have they told you that?
MS. MYERS: Often they have told us that. Yes, that's correct.
Q: They prefer -- reporters in this room have told you they want --
MS. MYERS: No, the people who are giving the briefings.
Q: They are public officials, are they not?
MS. MYERS: They are. It's a longstanding tradition, one that I believe has been used by administrations going back for years and years.
Q: loves challenge longstanding traditions.
MS. MYERS: We've challenged many, and we will continue to do that.
Q: I'm just wondering what the rationale for it is. Is there something you're afraid that they will say that --
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not. It's on the record; they're just on background. We've found, and other administrations have found, that's an effective way to communicate background information about things like upcoming visits with heads of states, developing policy on a number of issues, ranging from health care to campaign finance reform; and we will continue to use both background and on the record briefings as a matter of policy.
Q: Do you expect Nixon to be here this week?
MS. MYERS: It's possible.
Q: What's the House budget meeting for?
MS. MYERS: To continue to talk about the economic plan and the legislative strategy to get it passed.
Q: Are things moving faster than they were before, or slower?
MS. MYERS: Well, things are moving along very quickly, and we're pleased by that. As you know, it is our goal to get the budget resolution passed before the Easter recess, and we're moving toward that goal.
Q: Did they request this meeting, or --
MS. MYERS: We're hopeful. They did request this meeting as part of an ongoing consultation process.
Q: Are they bringing anything along, anymore proposals for cuts or anything like that?
MS. MYERS: That, we'll have to wait and see what comes out of the meeting. But it is part of an ongoing consultation process with members of Congress about the economic plan.
Q: Do you want and expect a decision by tonight, as The Post suggests, on the spending levels and to have a package ready to go this evening?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that there will be any final decisions today.
Q: Is that what the administration wanted?
MS. MYERS: We're moving toward that, but I don't think we have a hard timetable in terms of when the actual numbers will get locked in. I mean, we're continuing to consult with Congress. The President has additional meetings with both House and Senate members this week, and we'll continue to discuss it.
Q: That story indicates that members on the Hill are moving towards using the stimulus package as an area to achieve more spending cuts. Is the President willing to compromise on that? Is he willing to start looking at that?
MS. MYERS: As you know, he believes that the stimulus package is still necessary, that we haven't had the kind of job growth that normally accompanies a recovery, and he'll continue to push for the stimulus package.
At the same time, we'll continue to work with Congress to reach some kind of a budget resolution that can be passed hopefully by the Easter recess.
Q: What is the Black Caucus meeting about?
MS. MYERS: The same thing. It's about the economic plan, as well as other issues. But primarily the economic plan.
Q: What's the League of Cities speech going to be about?
MS. MYERS: It's going to be about the need for further investment, continuing on that theme that we need to change our spending and investment priorities, that we've been spending on the wrong things for the last 12 years. We need more investments in things like education and training.
Q: Senator Lott says he's given the President his list of 231 cuts. May we have a copy, please?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to check and see where that is.
Q: It's supposedly only one page.
MS. MYERS: Two hundred and thirty-one cuts on one page? Does that sound credible?
Q: He writes small. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Very small.
Q: When you talk about the need for investment in the League of Cities, is that intended to counter the arguments of Republicans and some others that all you really need to do is your deficit reduction and not your increased spending in some areas?
MS. MYERS: Certainly there are people who would argue that. The President believes that in order to have long-term economic growth, we need to invest in the things that will make us richer in the long-term -- things like education and job training, infrastructure, other things that have been neglected over the past 10 or 12 years. That's certainly part of his objective.
Q: Dee Dee, Diane Feinstein has said she's approached the President personally on the inordinate number of closings of California defense institutions. Has that happened? And what's his reaction?
MS. MYERS: Well, she did speak to the President once about a number of issues dealing with the California economy. I don't believe she's spoken with him specifically in the last several days. But as you know, Secretary Aspin will make a recommendation on base closings by March 15th. And the President won't see that final list of recommendations until July 1st.
Q: But the Senator has not contacted the President personally on --
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. I'll double-check, but I don't believe that she's spoken to him.
Q: Why won't he see it until July 1st?
MS. MYERS: That's just the way the process is structured. The commission will travel around the country and take -- hold a number of hearings, I believe, in local communities to discuss it and submit a final list of recommendations July 1st.
Q: What's the travel outlook for this week?
MS. MYERS: Travel on Friday. It'll be a one-day trip. We're still working out the final details. We should have some announcement on that by tomorrow or perhaps Wednesday.
Q: It's now a one-day trip.
MS. MYERS: It's now a one-day trip.
Q: No Saturday travel?
MS. MYERS: No Saturday travel. We'll have details on the trip probably tomorrow.
Q: In general, where's it going to be, the south?
MS. MYERS: Yes. We'll also have an announcement --some kind of an announcement on the credit crunch issue on Wednesday.
Q: Is the President coming up with any more spending cuts in particular to close the gap the CBO estimated between what Mr. Clinton says deficit reduction will be and what the CBO --deficit reduction will be, or does he -- obligated to do that?
MS. MYERS: The CBO estimate was one of a number of reestimates that will occur. It uses several different assumptions than our budget, including a different baseline. The bottom line with that was that the overall deficit number in the outyear, 1997, is only about a billion dollars different than our projection. We expect a number of reestimates throughout this process. It's just something that happens. But we're not going to make any shifts based on that. However, as you know, the President's continuing to consider spending cuts if people are specific and put forward specific new cuts.
Q: In advance of the Reno hearings tomorrow, has President Clinton spoken with her or met with her in recent weeks, and will he before the hearings tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if he's met with her. Obviously there's an ongoing process with the administration working with --
Q: Has he spoken to her or will he speak to her before the hearings?
MS. MYERS: I don't know when the last time he spoke to her was. So I don't know -- there's no specific plan to meet with her today.
Q: Who is it that's been working with her?
MS. MYERS: It's a number of people, including Counsel's office and other people. As you know, we've had a team that's prepared all of the Cabinet designees for their congressional hearings.
Q: Have there been any additional interviews seeking more information from her?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Does this preparing -- does this include formal rehearsals in, say, OEOB or somewhere like that to get comfortable with the setting and that sort of thing?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's been anything formal in terms of trying to create the setting, but they've certainly talked about the kinds of questions that she can expect to answer and tried to make sure she's prepared for the format.
Q: Has the administration had any indication that Justice White is going to step down?
MS. MYERS: No. I don't believe Justice White has made his intentions clear.
Q: Reaction, first of all, to Boutros-Ghali's suggestion that ground troops might be necessary in Yugoslavia and Bosnia? And also, is there any further update on the tightening or position of new sanctions that was talked about on Friday?
MS. MYERS: The answer to the second question is no. The answer to the first question is that our policy remains the same; that if all the parties agree to the third part of the Vance-Owen plan, that we would consider a number of measures to enforce that. But beyond that we haven't made any plans for any kind of troop involvement.
Q: Let me ask you a semantical question. When you say enforce that, does that fall under the category of peacekeeping only or does peacemaking come into it? Boutros-Ghali was specifically talking about using force to move Serbs out of territory to comply with the map.
MS. MYERS: We just haven't made any final decisions about that. The sides, as you know, have not agreed to the VanceOwen plan. We're moving closer to getting the Bosnian Muslims to agree to it and feel very good about the progress that was made last week at the U.N. However, no final agreement has been reached; and when it is, we'll work out the details of what needs to be done to enforce it. But until then, there's just no final decisions on it.
Q: So you're not ruling anything out.
MS. MYERS: And I'm not ruling anything in.
Q: Now, back to the sanctions. When you say no, that means nothing to announce or nothing's changed or -- what's the status --
MS. MYERS: Nothing's changed. Nothing to announce at this point. And I'll have to double-check to see what the status of that is today. I believe one of the groups came home this weekend, but I'm not sure which one.
Q: On Janet Reno, have any issues come up since her nomination that you think -- problems -- unexpected problems at the hearings?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Has Clinton ever met Nixon before personally? Is he seeking his advice?
MS. MYERS: They have spoken, as you know, on the phone. He believes that former President Nixon has insight into, particularly issues dealing with the former Soviet Union and Russia. He has certainly sought his advice on that issue and will probably continue to seek his advice or his input on that issue and perhaps others.
Q: He's invited him to come to the White House?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the status of that is. I'll have to get back to you.
Q: What makes you think that he may be coming this week?
MS. MYERS: There has been some discussion about it. I just don't know whether -- if the President invited him or when he might come.
Q: saying that he's coming today.
MS. MYERS: It's not on the schedule for today. But I'll double-check and get back to you, yes. But, as you know, the President praised the column that former President Nixon wrote in the New York Times last week and believes he's got tremendous insight into those issues.
Q: Dee Dee, he's talked to Nixon. Has he had any conversations with Bush at all on --
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so since the -- inaugural day.
Q: How about Reagan? Has he talked to Reagan?
MS. MYERS: No.
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q: But you don't know if he's ever met Nixon before?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll have to look into that -- if he's ever met him.
Q: Lincoln's ghost --
MS. MYERS: Many times. (Laughter.)
Q: How about the portraits? Has he talked to the portraits yet?
Q: in the White House today working in some capacity with the Council of Economic Advisors. Is he, as the New York Times reported, on that panel now or been chosen to work on that panel?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q: Dee Dee, will the President at some point give a speech or otherwise let the American people know why they should support Russia at this time of economic problems at home?
MS. MYERS: I think that he will certainly, as policy decisions are made in that area, communicate those to the American people and explain why he's made the decisions that he's made. As we walk up to the summit, I think we'll have more to say about it.
Q: If additional aid is to be given to Russia, will he ask for a specific tax to pay for it or further spending cuts to pay for it, or is he just going to borrow the money?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have to wait and see how that gets worked out. No final decisions have been made on anything like that.
Q: Any plans for stops going to Vancouver or coming from Vancouver on that weekend trip?
MS. MYERS: As you know, coming from Vancouver we'll stop in Baltimore for the opening day festivities.
Q: coming back here first, right, and then going to Baltimore, or are we going straight to Baltimore?
MS. MYERS: I guess since we're not coming from -- the details of these travel plans haven't been worked out. I wouldn't rule out a stop on the way to Vancouver. No final details on that yet.
Q: And coming back, you don't know whether he's coming back here -- traveling on Monday?
MS. MYERS: Correct. It depends if we leave and fly overnight on Sunday or fly back Sunday afternoon and spend the night here.
Q: Back on the budget consultations for a moment, how often -- do you have any tabulation of how many meetings the President has had with legislators. I mean we know there's -- on the HIll, but would it be fair to say he's met once or twice a day with members of Congress --
MS. MYERS: It's fair to say he meets with members of Congress almost every day or speaks to them. As you know, that's been going on; it went on throughout the process of developing the plan and it has gone on at a rapid clip since then. And I expect it will continue until that resolution is passed and beyond.
Q: Are there a lot -- personal phone calls as well as meetings?
MS. MYERS: There's been some personal phone calls. As you know, there have been a number of meetings both on the Hill and here, and we expect that to continue. As I said, he's meeting with several groups of congressmen today and again tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:35 A.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/272136