Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
12:15 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: One quick scheduling change. At 5:30 p.m. the President will sign the NIH reauthorization bill. It will be in the Roosevelt Room. It will be pooled.
Q: What time?
MS. MYERS: At 5:30 p.m.
Q: What is that bill?
Q: Is that the one that bars HIV positive people from coming into the United States?
MS. MYERS: It does. It also allows fetal tissue research and other things. So it's a pretty comprehensive bill.
Q: Does it bar them from coming in altogether or just to come in as immigrants, residents?
MS. MYERS: It bars immigration. It doesn't deal with travel visas, I don't think.
Q: Could we possibly get a fact sheet on that bill?
MS. MYERS: Sure, we can put something together.
Q: Can you give us a readout on the Domestic Policy Council meeting?
MS. MYERS: It was a good meeting, frank and productive conversation.
Q: No advocacy. Just facts, ma'am. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Just the facts. (Laughter.) It lasted a little over an hour. They talked a great deal about empowerment zones, about Education 2000, about --
Q: That was a Bush program.
MS. MYERS: Education 2000 -- that's our education bill.
Q: America 2000 was --
Q: Excuse me. How could I get --
MS. MYERS: Yes. Please, Susan, get your facts straight or Helen will jump on you. (Laughter.) But it was a good meeting. It was the first full meeting of the Domestic Policy Council.
Susan. Nice shoes.
Q: Thank you. (Laughter.) What is the President doing to mend the fences with the Black Caucus?
MS. MYERS: Well, he's spoken to a number of members on the phone including Congressman Mfume. He's had good discussions with them. The Caucus members signed a letter which they sent to the President outlining some of their concerns, including the empowerment zones, the earned income tax credit, food stamp programs and other things. The President shares those concerns and looks forward to working with members of the Black Caucus and others to protect those programs, which he said he's very committed to.
Q: He spoke with Mfume today?
MS. MYERS: Last night.
Q: Why won't he give them an ironclad commitment that he's not going to allow the cuts to come out of the programs that they're talking about?
MS. MYERS: I think he's given a very strong commitment to his investments including the earned income tax credit and the empowerment zones. And he said clearly, and I think Director Panetta reaffirmed last night that we're committed to those and we're going to push very hard to make sure that those are in any final package.
Q: Now senior groups are calling him a senior basher this morning for some of the negotiations which are going on over Medicare.
MS. MYERS: The Senate is negotiating over Medicare. The President has made very clear that he wants to make sure this package is fair, that it does not hit unnecessarily at any particular group, particularly those most vulnerable, including seniors. I think he's made it abundantly clear that he's going to look at this, he's concerned about progressivity, he's concerned about fairness. It was one of the things he raised as the Senate was going through it's deliberations yesterday and it's something he's going to continue to press.
Q: Dee Dee, what's the word on a summit with Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: There's no schedule for a summit with Yeltsin.
Q: Christopher seemed to think --
MS. MYERS: Well, what he's said --
Q: Well, the Secretary of State seemed to have announced one.
MS. MYERS: No, he didn't. And I'd talked with his folks in Athens and he announced that we would have by the end of the year a summit with the heads of state from the NATO countries and that at some point he expected we would have a meeting with Yeltsin in Moscow. But he didn't mean to announce one or imply that there had been one scheduled. There just simply hasn't been.
Q: When is the NATO meeting?
MS. MYERS: It is sometime before the end the year. THere's no firm plans, but I think --
Q: There were direct quotes from the NATO meeting now that the NATO dates were set to conform -- to come right after the meeting in Moscow.
MS. MYERS: No, that's just simply -- that is not -- simply not true. There has been no --
Q: So the reporting is wrong on this?
MS. MYERS: That's correct. There has been no meeting scheduled in Moscow. Although the Secretary of State said he expected that there would be at some point be a summit meeting with Yeltsin, there is none scheduled.
Q: Dee Dee, what about --
MS. MYERS: I think what he said was in Moscow.
Q: what can you tell us about the Supreme Court?
Q: Yes, but are you talking about this year?
MS. MYERS: No, not necessarily. There's no date for a meeting with -- I mean, the President will meet with President Yeltsin in Tokyo. But there is no plans, specific or unspecific, for a summit with Yeltsin in Moscow at this point.
Q: Will the President be going to Brussels in December for the NATO summit?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. We don't have the dates worked out. Yes, at some point, he'll be going for a NATO heads of state meeting, yes. The Secretary of State --
Q: About that time of year?
MS. MYERS: Probably toward the end of the year. The Secretary of State announced that today.
Q: Can you explain the President's comment yesterday I believe in answer to a question at the Roundtable about now he would consider entitlement caps? I thought the President has argued strenuously against entitlement caps because it would shift costs unfairly.
MS. MYERS: Yes, but I think the President's been very clear -- I don't know what comment you're referring to.
Q: In answer to -- during the Q&A yesterday.
MS. MYERS: I'd have to go back and look at the transcript, but I think his position has been consistent on that, that he doesn't support entitlement caps, he does think that that would end up shifting costs to the private sector for health care. He believes that health care cost reductions has to be achieved through comprehensive health care reform. There's been no change in that.
Q: He did say specifically that he would be open to entitlement caps as part of health care reform. He talked about his concerns about cost shifting and imposing entitlement caps in the budget process, but the quote was, "I would be open to that."
MS. MYERS: But as part of health care reform and not part of the budget or reconciliation process.
Q: Right. Can you explain how that fits into his previous comments?
MS. MYERS: The point that he's tried to make throughout is that if you cap entitlement costs now, without doing anything about health care reform, with the cost of health care rising, with absolutely no controls on it, as is the current system, all you'll do is you shift the cost to the private sector. People who are currently insured and employers who pay insurance for their employees will go up. I think we're looking at a number of options, and I obviously can't speak to the specifics on health care reform. But if you have a health care reform program that controls costs, you can have a much more effective handle on controlling the costs -- particularly the costs and growth of entitlement programs.
I don't think he meant to imply any particular program, other than to say that the only way to control the growth in the cost of entitlements is to control the growth in health costs. And the only way to do that is through comprehensive reform.
Q: Dee Dee, is there anything in this program at all that is non-negotiable in the budget reconciliation? Is there anything specifically that he has said you can't touch this at all, don't modify it?
MS. MYERS: The President is committed to his principles on this.
Q: What might those be? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I didn't bring my flash cards today.
Q: I'm asking about specifics. Is there anything specifically in this program that is non-negotiable? I think we all understand the principles.
MS. MYERS: I think there's a lot of things that are non-negotiable.
Q: Such as what?
MS. MYERS: Such as progressivity is non-negotiable. He's going to make sure that this program is progressive, that's it's fair.
Q: Those are principles.
MS. MYERS: I don't think he's going to let -- at this point, what we want to do is make sure that the process goes forward. The President's committed to seeing it go forward in the Senate, through the Senate Finance Committee, to the full Senate, back to conference. I think what he's most concerned about is that he gets a budget that meets those broad principles. I don't think we're going to -- and there are many things in there that he's very committed to. He's very committed to an earned income tax credit; he thinks that's been a successful program. Any compromise that comes out of a conference will contain some form of an earned income tax credit.
Q: But it can be less than what you're asking for, now that the energy tax will probably be less?
MS. MYERS: We'll see what gets worked out. I think that there's clearly going to be some changes and adjustments on a number of programs. But the President is committed to his investments; he's committed to $500 billion in deficit reduction; he's committed to fairness; and he's committed to a broad-based energy tax. And all those things will be contained.
Q: Dee Dee, if the Senate bill does not meet those principles, is he prepared to accept a Senate bill that doesn't meet it in order to fight for them in conference, or will he impose --
MS. MYERS: I think we want to see the process go forward. And the Senate bill -- it's something that the Senate's going to have to work out. We'll continue to make very clear what the President wants to see. But the thing we're most concerned about is the final product.
Q: Is that a yes then, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: We don't have a vote in the Senate, and we can't control the final product in the Senate.
Q: So he doesn't care about the Senate then?
MS. MYERS: Well, no. He would like to see the Senate's final package meet the principles that he's outlined. But again, he's not a member of the Senate, he can't vote, he can't make specific changes in that package. He does want to see the process go forward, and what he's most concerned about and what he's going to fight for is to make sure that what comes out of the conference committee meets those principles.
Q: That's where the fight on principles will be, then, is in conference, not so much in the Senate?
MS. MYERS: We'll continue to make it very clear what our principles are. As you know, Secretary Bentsen is talking with Moynihan, Mitchell and others in the Senate Finance Committee and eventually in the full Senate to make sure that they know what the President's goals are here. But, again, we don't have a vote.
Q: tax meet those principles, now that you've had a day to study it?
MS. MYERS: We'll see what proposal the Senate Finance Committee comes back with.
Q: As he outlined it, does it now?
MS. MYERS: We're not going to make a judgment on any particular proposal.
Q: You seem to have a different phrase that the President used today, and I don't know if it was deliberate, if you can help me on that -- when he was talking about the principles during the photo op. He said an energy tax as broad-based as possible, rather than a broad-based energy tax.
MS. MYERS: No, I think --
Q: And a transportation tax, for instance, is less broad-based. Was that deliberate new phrasing?
MS. MYERS: The point is, he's still committed to a broad-based energy tax and --
Q: He as not trying to signal that a gasoline tax would be acceptable?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Or a fuel tax?
MS. MYERS: Again, we'll see what proposal the Senate Finance Committee actually comes up with. They still have a lot of work to do there. I think they're meeting right now. But he wants to see a broad-based energy tax.
Q: Is there any administration person meeting with them? The Democrats, I mean.
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so. Not now. I don't believe there's anybody up there.
Q: On General Campbell, you said by the middle of June. It's the 10th of June today. Will we have a reaction by next week?
MS. MYERS: Again, that's what the Air Force said. The Air Force is reviewing this, and they have said that they'll have a report by mid-June.
Q: Is the President going to meet with the Black Caucus soon, or how was it left last night?
MS. MYERS: The President has met with the Black Caucus periodically. We offered to meet with them this week; they said they didn't think that would be necessary. (Laughter.) That happens to be true. Just the facts, as Helen has asked. I would hold open the possibility that we'll meet with them when they think it is appropriate.
Q: On that nuclear question I asked the other day, have you decided -- have nuclear relations a deterrent to full relations with another country? And is the White House prepared to talk to the New Zealand Prime Minister about his proposals?
MS. MYERS: I don't have an answer for you. In terms of nuclear relations, they're always an issue in our relationships with other countries. We're committed to nonproliferation and so nuclear issues are always a concern.
Q: Will you contact him in response to his statement asking President Clinton to thaw relations because --
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take that question.
Q: What is Greenspan doing here?
MS. MYERS: He met with the President last night at the Residence --
MS. MYERS: Chairman Greenspan.
Q: Babbitt? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Judge Bork. (Laughter.) They had a good meeting. It lasted about an hour. (Laughter.)
Q: He was on the list. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Won't rule it in, won't rule it out. (Laughter.)
Q: What's it about?
MS. MYERS: They talked, among other things, about the reconciliation plan. And I believe Chairman Greenspan thought that the deficit reduction would help keep interest rates down.
Q: Are you ready to make the Mondale nomination?
MS. MYERS: We hopefully -- there are still diplomatic procedures that have to be completed. We hope to have something on that maybe tomorrow. It won't happen today.
Q: Are you still waiting for the Japanese response?
MS. MYERS: The official response, yes.
Q: And the Court -- tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: It is unclear. As soon as I know I'll let you guys know. The President has not made a decision.
Q: What's that?
MS. MYERS: This is the Supreme Court, timing on Supreme Court. It could come as early as tomorrow. It could come later.
Q: That's pretty well --
Q: Has he met with anyone on the subject yet?
MS. MYERS: Not to my knowledge.
Q: Does he have any meetings today?
MS. MYERS: Not to my knowledge.
Q: Did he read the Goldwater article in The Washington Post today?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if he read it. I have not talked to him about that.
Q: Do you have a timetable for submitting your NAFTA package to Congress?
MS. MYERS: We had hoped to have it wrapped by the end of the year.
Q: No, submitting it to Congress with your amendment.
MS. MYERS: Do we have a timetable for submitting our NAFTA package to Congress? And my response was simply we had hoped to have it wrapped up by the end of the year. I don't know if there's a specific time line -- not that I know of, but I can take that and get back to you.
Q: Dee Dee, when you said that it might be tomorrow, does that mean the President has made up his mind on who the nominee will be?
MS. MYERS: No, the President has not made up his mind.
Q: So if he hasn't made up his mind, how can it be so quick as tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: It doesn't take long to arrange a press conference, once you make a decision.
Q: It doesn't take long to make up your mind. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: He's going to pick the best person possible.
Q: Back on the Greenspan meeting. It's been widely expected that the Fed was waiting to see the latest round of inflation figures before considering an increase in the discount rate. Did the President get any commitments from Greenspan?
MS. MYERS: No. The Fed is an independent agency and we don't presume to control their decisions. However, I think most of the people here, the economic advisors believe that there is no real inflationary pressure in the economy. Although there's been some uptick, we remain optimistic about inflation.
Q: On the Greenspan meeting --
Q: Has the President expressed those views to Greenspan?
MS. MYERS: I think they had a wide range of conversations. I wasn't there, I don't know the exact nature. But they did talk about deficit reduction and a variety of other things, and I think, again, Chairman Greenspan said he thought deficit reduction would help keep interest rates low.
Q: On the Greenspan meeting, though, in addition to reconciliation, did they discuss the possible -- or the substantial revision in the deficit as a result of low interest rates?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll have to take that.
Q: Dee Dee, on NAFTA. Mr. Perot has asked Mr. Kantor if they want to have a debate, he's willing to put up the time.
MS. MYERS: I would refer you to the USTR on that.
Q: Do you have an answer to my question from yesterday about all-male clubs?
MS. MYERS: I have a sort of slightly related announcement, actually. In keeping with White House tradition, Mr. Gergen is going to resign from a variety of -- wait a second --
Q: Ooooh. (Laughter.)
Q: What other clubs --
MS. MYERS: Here it is -- with -- (laughter) -- now, don't be jumping to any conclusions here. From nonprofit boards, public policy and social organizations, commissions and study group including: the American Committee for Aid to Poland, the American Assembly, the Aspen Institute --
Q: Can you slow down please?
Q: Can we have a list?
MS. MYERS: Certainly. Yes, I can give you a list.
Q: You're not out of the A's yet. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I know. I know. This is a long list. (Laughter.) He's a busy guy. Duke University School of Public Policy, International Media Fund, National Committee for U.S.-China Relations, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Smithsonian Council, the University of Maryland Board of Visitors, Very Special Arts Foundation, the Washington Campus, the Bohemian Grove Council. (Laughter.) Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission. (Laughter.) The Aspen Institute, the Commission on Strengthening of America, the Nunn-Domenici Commission, and the Johnson Foundation Committee on Higher Education.
Q: And he won't eat at Denny's either. (Laughter.)
Q: What is this administration's policy? Was he suddenly apprised of it, or was he apprised of it because of Ruth's question?
MS. MYERS: The President -- Mr. Gergen never discussed this with the President. We have no formal policy, but I think that we take actions consistent with the President's commitment to an inclusive and diverse administration, one that reflects America. And I think we'll act consistent with those views.
Q: Dee Dee, he said he wasn't going to resign from the Bohemian Grove.
MS. MYERS: I think, though, that in the broader context, I think a lot of people, when they come in, just as sort of -- it's not a policy, but it is a tradition that they resign from a lot of boards and commissions and other organizations in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in the future. And I think Mr. Gergen is acting with that tradition.
Q: But having worked here in three previous administrations, did he not know that?
Q: Why is the Bohemian Grove on that list?
MS. MYERS: Because he resigned from a variety of social and professional organizations. All of them -- all of the ones of which he was a member.
Q: Why did he believe it was appropriate to resign from the Bohemian Grove?
MS. MYERS: Because he resigned from all of his social and professional organizations, and in order to be consistent --
Q: They don't make policy.
Q: He doesn't belong to any other -- he belongs to zero clubs?
MS. MYERS: These are all the organizations of which he's a member, yes. Social, professional -- these are mostly nonprofit organizations. But he resigned from all of them.
Q: Dee Dee, on the contrary -- I really want to follow up on this. There is no White House tradition that I'm aware of for people to resign from country clubs, private organizations, all sorts of clubs. And for you to try to link this to resignations from things like the U.S. China thing or the Aspen Institute is really not an honest way of answering the question.
MS. MYERS: It is an honest way of answering the question. It is the framework in which David Gergen has made this decision.
Q: Can you name another White House official who has resigned from a club as opposed to a professional organization?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a list in front of me, but I think there are some, yes.
Q: Can you come up with some examples of people who have resigned from clubs --
MS. MYERS: I will certainly check.
Q: Do any White House officials belong to the Little Rock Country Club?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so.
Q: Did anyone resign from that?
MS. MYERS: Mack McLarty did.
Q: Do you know if he has any expectation of rejoining any of these groups after he leaves?
MS. MYERS: I have no idea, and that's a question I don't feel I have any -- is appropriate for me to ask.
Q: When you're talking White House tradition you're talking about Clinton White House tradition?
MS. MYERS: I think Dave Gergen is a pretty good judge of White House -- much better judge of White House tradition than I am, and I think this is what he feels is consistent with previous White Houses.
Q: Why did that change from Monday to now?
MS. MYERS: I think that he considered his memberships in a broader context and decided that it was in the best interest of -- in his interest and in the White House's interest for him to do that. It was not a decision made specifically in reference to any particular organization.
Q: Do you have an answer to my question from yesterday, which was what the President's view is of members of this administration being members of all male clubs?
MS. MYERS: And what I said was that there was no administration policy on it. The President expects members of his administration to act consistent with his view that this is going to be a broad and inclusive administration. And beyond that, I have nothing to say.
Q: If the decision was made based on Mr. Gergen's understanding of White House policy going back several administrations, why was it not made until Ruth brought out the membership?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that given that he had only started on Monday that sometimes it takes a few -- this was a decision that was done quickly and I think that this is consistent.
Q: Are you suggesting that he intended to resign?
MS. MYERS: I think that he always intended to review his membership and to make a decision about that, yes.
Q: So are you indicating that there is no relationship between the all-male membership aspects of the Bohemian Grove and his resignation, is that what you're --
MS. MYERS: That's correct.
Q: So it has nothing to do with that issue?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the nature of all these -- I can't answer that.
Q: So there's no relationship, his resignation has nothing to do with --
MS. MYERS: That's correct.
Q: this all male --
MS. MYERS: That's correct.
Q: So the President's policy is that people --
MS. MYERS: The President doesn't have a policy, a stated policy.
Q: Well, you talked about the inclusive nature of the administration. Yet the fact of the Bohemian Groves all-male membership was irrelevant in Mr. Gergen's mind.
MS. MYERS: Two separate questions. The President expects members of this administration to act consistent with his views. I think that that has been done. I think when Mr. Gergen came here he reviewed his membership in a variety of non-profit organizations and social clubs, professional organization and made a determination about how best to deal with that collectively and decided to resign across-the-board and he's done so.
Q: Has the President resigned from groups of which he was a member?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe the President is a member of many groups. He resigned as Governor of Arkansas.
Q: How is the Bohemian Grove inconsistent with his views, Dee Dee?
Q: Dee Dee, I appreciate you might not know, but I think the question is fair if you're going to cite a tradition that his Counselor is following, if he has belonged to anything and if he's resigned. I would --
MS. MYERS: I would be happy to -- I just don't know -- I don't know of any that he's resigned from, but I don't know of many -- he may be still a member of the DLC. He's not a member of many organizations.
Q: Doesn't he hold some kind of membership in a country club where he played the one afternoon --
MS. MYERS: He sure doesn't. He was never a --
Q: in west Little Rock? He was an honorary membership perhaps, but it was something on paper.
MS. MYERS: As Governor of Arkansas, I think he had an honorary membership out at Chenault. But that belongs to him as Governor of Arkansas, and I believe that Governor Tucker now is an honorary member of Chenault Country Club.
Q: That's his only membership, he has no other --
MS. MYERS: I will double-check. I don't know of any other memberships.
Q: So you're saying everyone in the White House is going to resign all memberships in all clubs? Or has already?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's -- certainly boards and commissions, organizations, different things that a lot of people have resigned, including starting perhaps with the First Lady, who resigned, as you know, from a number of boards and commissions during the campaign. I think that's something that people have done over the years and something that Mr. Gergen has chosen to do.
Q: What about clubs?
Q: Social clubs.
MS. MYERS: I think it's up to the individual people to judge. And Gergen made a decision that he would resign from all memberships, including social, professional organizations.
Q: I don't understand the link still between the social organization, which the Bohemian Grove is, and these various professional organizations and boards.
MS. MYERS: He made a decision to resign from all the organizations of which he's a member.
MS. MYERS: Period.
Q: The tradition that you cited that he do that does not apply as a rule informally or otherwise to all White House staff?
MS. MYERS: I think there's a tradition of resigning from organizations. I think a lot of people have done it, consistent with the advice of counsel, on a number of these different things. It's something that I think is very common.
Q: Well, then, in that case, let me ask you to find out please whether Mr. Gergen is a member of any Washington club such as the Metropolitan Club or the Cosmos Club. And if he is, is he contemplating resignation from those as well?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so, because I believe this is a comprehensive list of all the social and professional organizations of which he's a member. That was his intention.
Q: When did Mack resign --
Q: But you will take that question, please?
MS. MYERS: At the same time that -- yes, I'll take it. At the same time Webb Hubbell resigned.
Q: What other social clubs are on that list?
Q: And does Mack have other memberships?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: Is the Bohemian Grove the only social club on the list?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I believe so. I don't know what all these are.
Q: Is the Bohemian Grove consistent with President Clinton's views of inclusive organizations?
MS. MYERS: I don't know enough about the Bohemian Grove and I have not spoken to the President.
Q: Well, it's all male.
MS. MYERS: But I don't know, is a women's business council something that no one here should belong to? I'm not going to make --
Q: You said consistent with the views --
MS. MYERS: Well, maybe. If he was he would have resigned. I'm not going to make a judgment on a case-by-case basis from this podium. But I don't know enough about the Bohemian Grove to talk about. I haven't talked to the President about it. Mr. Gergen has not talked to the President about it.
Q: A moment ago you used the phrase, "on advice of counsel." Was the White House Counsel involved in Mr. Gergen's decision to quit these organizations?
MS. MYERS: I think he talked briefly to the Counsel about all of these boards and commissions and other organizations.
Q: Mr. Nussbaum's advice to Mr. Gergen to quit?
MS. MYERS: As most -- he did -- I'm not going to share with you what advice Bernie might have given to David. I think that's privileged. But I will say, as you know, a number of people here have resigned, it's very consistent, from organizations --
Q: But the question was, on Monday Gergen said he wasn't going to quit. Today you say he's talked to the Counsel and on advice of Counsel he's quit.
MS. MYERS: He said he wasn't going to quit. I think he reviewed all of his memberships and made a decision to resign broadly. I know this is a very interesting issue to all of you guys, but I --
Q: Well, why do you suppose it's interesting to us?
Q: But, Dee Dee, you're suggesting that Gergen had always intended to resign all along doesn't seem to jive with Mr. Gergen's --
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure that's exactly what I said. I said he intended to review his memberships. Upon doing that, he made a decision to resign. And I think that's all we have to say about it.
Q: what is -- between the day he appeared at the podium and said he had no intention of resigning --
MS. MYERS: I think he made a judgment that in the broader context it was advisable for him to withdraw, would resign from all the boards and commissions of which he's a member.
Q: What is the point? Nowhere in the world does such kind of a policy exists. It doesn't make any sense to force people out of social clubs because they are --
MS. MYERS: I think, again, it's a decision --
Q: He's going to get --
MS. MYERS: Yes. (Laughter.) The only problem with us not forcing people out of social clubs is that we might be forcing them out of social clubs. It's unbelievable.
Q: Dee Dee on another subject, the Oversight Commission on the Space Station apparently seems to be having a report. Do you know when that's going to be released, and it is up to the White House to decide in what form that would be?
MS. MYERS: No. I think that we expect to get it either today or perhaps tomorrow. I think that the head of the commission is going to meet with the Vice President. I think we'll release the report and we'll get back to you as soon as we have details. I think we'll release it in whatever form they've prepared it. But I'll have to get back to you on that. We're still waiting for it.
Q: Can you explain the troops to Macedonia and helicopters to Somalia?
Q: Gunships, not helicopters.
MS. MYERS: Yes. They're fixed-wing aircraft. In terms of Macedonia, the President has agreed that we would send 300 peacekeepers there to join 700 or so mostly Nordic troops that are currently on the ground. It is consistent with our policy and part of the joint action program we enacted with the allies to try to contain the conflict and to make very clear that further aggression into Macedonia will not be tolerated.
Q: Dee Dee, when the President spoke with Congressman Mfume --
MS. MYERS: Somalia. I believe --
Q: Wait. You made it very clear -- but they don't participate in any combat. So what is the role?
MS. MYERS: They're in a peacekeeping role. I think it's --
Q: As part of the U.N. forces?
Q: What's the timing?
MS. MYERS: Correct. The next week or two, and DOD is working out the new details on it.
Q: If combat were to erupt in Macedonia for any reason, would these troops be withdrawn, or would they stand and fight?
MS. MYERS: The details of their mission is still being worked out, but they will be there as part of the peacekeeping troop currently on the ground.
Q: But they are there is a trip wire in case combat does break out there, which means that they --
MS. MYERS: They're to discourage any aggression or action along the border in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Q: Well, what if that doesn't work? What if they fail to discourage aggression and it happens?
MS. MYERS: The broader role of their mission is still being worked out, but they are there to discourage any kind of action and to reinforce our commitment to keep that conflict from spilling over.
Q: Don't they have the right of self-defense?
MS. MYERS: Again, rules of engagement are being worked out, and I would refer you to the DOD on it.
Q: Can you describe for us now, if at all possible, what, if any, policy the U.S. has in the former Yugoslavia?
MS. MYERS: I think it's fairly clear. We have a ninepoint joint action program, which we enacted with our allies. But the broad goals of that are to stop the bloodshed, or at least reduce the bloodshed in Bosnia, and to keep the conflict from spilling over into other parts of the region, and to prevent a broader Balkan war. That's been our goal all along, and I think we're moving forward on that -- Secretary Christopher had a press conference a while ago in Athens where he announced a broader agreement on three points: That air support for the UNPROFOR forces in Bosnia protecting the safe havens would include a NATO element. We would probably have French and British support. We will definitely have French and British support for that operation, that the U.S. airlift capabilities will be used to deploy additional UNPROFOR troops into the theater, and that we would deploy 300 additional peacekeepers into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Q: Would the President expect the deployment of troops in Macedonia to increase our influence among Europeans and overall --
MS. MYERS: I think it's a further demonstration of our commitment to keeping that from --
Q: As such?
MS. MYERS: -- well, I think we've led this process throughout; I think we're going to continue to lead it. I think the meeting in NATO was a good one, and I think the Secretary is going to continue to press forward.
Q: Dee Dee, now that American officials have determined that Iraq was behind the attack --
Q: Can we go to Somalia first?
Q: Can you come back?
MS. MYERS: Somalia. Yes. On Somalia, there are four C-130 attack, or whatever they are, aircraft that have been deployed to Somalia. Their exact nature and what they're there for is to enhance the ability of the quick response force that's currently there, and exactly how they'll be used is up to the forces on the ground.
Q: They're AC-130s?
MS. MYERS: ACC-130s.
Q: Is there supposed to be some action pending?
MS. MYERS: Obviously that's an option. We supported the U.N. resolution that passed on Sunday. We're still working to determine parties responsible for the attacks over the weekend and we'll react appropriately.
Q: But this is in response to the U.N. --
MS. MYERS: I think it enhances the capabilities of the quick response team that's there. But exactly how they'll be used will be determined on the ground.
Q: Can you tell us, do you know what U.S. resources are still in Somalia -- personnel?
MS. MYERS: There is about 1,100 or so members of the quick response force and there are 3,000 additional U.S. personnel there as part of the UNISOM II mission. So it's roughly 4,000, 4,200, something like that.
Q: What has been their role recently?
MS. MYERS: Assuring the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the ongoing delivery of humanitarian assistance, and protecting troops in that effort.
Q: How are they armed?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'd have to refer you to DOD for the specific details.
MS. MYERS: Now that the United States has determined, apparently, that Iraq was behind the assassination attempt in Kuwait, what is the President's view?
MS. MYERS: We are still waiting for the final report on that. We have not -- that has not been completed.
Q: Does he believe that state-sponsored terrorism in a case such as this needs to be dealt with, needs to be retaliated?
MS. MYERS: I mean, I think our position on statesponsored terrorism generally is clear. We don't tolerate it. But specifically with reference to this case, we'll wait for the results of the FBI investigation which is ongoing.
Q: And when do you expect to get --
MS. MYERS: Soon.
Q: Soon meaning -- does he have a meeting scheduled?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a -- there's nothing scheduled that -- I don't have a specific time line, but it is coming.
Q: Can I follow on the -- are you also waiting for the end of the trial in Kuwait?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: You're -- whatever conclusions the FBI draws and the CIA draws is what you will act upon?
MS. MYERS: We're waiting to see what those are.
Q: You're not disputing the published reports of what the conclusions are?
MS. MYERS: I'm not confirming or disputing that. I'm simply saying we're going to wait for the complete report of the FBI investigation.
Q: Dee Dee, is the United States trying to get Germany and Japan into the United States Security Council -- the United Nations?
MS. MYERS: We supported that position, yes.
Q: Is it proceeding anywhere? We hear that --
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the exact status of action in the U.N. on that is, but it is the position that we support, that we do support.
Q: On campaign finance reform, there's apparently a threat of filibuster in the Senate, there are some cloture votes scheduled. What has the administration been doing to support the legislation that it is now in the proposal -- that has been announced with some fanfare a couple of weeks ago, and do you think campaign finance reform is dead in the Senate?
MS. MYERS: Well, we obviously we hope that, I think the cloture vote is scheduled for tomorrow and we hope the that Senate Republicans won't filibuster it. They say they're committed to changing the way we do business in this country -- political business -- we certainly are; that's why we put forward this plan. We hope that they don't veto -- we've been working with members of Congress to try to get this thing through, to try to build support for it. We'll see what happens.
Q: Have you called any Senators personally?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if he's spoken to them specifically about this.
Q: Who else, other than Michael, who was here, who is responsible for trying to get that through the Senate? Give us some sense of what work the administration has been doing.
MS. MYERS: I'm going to defer this to Mike afterwards if you guys want to ask him about it.
Q: Dee Dee, the President yesterday spoke about a modified line-item veto and thought that was a good thing during the campaign. As a candidate he talked about a line-item veto. Which is the President think would do more to help control spending?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that he supports -- would support a line-item veto, I'm not sure that that's possible. I think that he thinks that a modified line-item veto, like the enhanced recision plan that's been proposed would give him the authority to line things out and force Congress to vote on specific pieces.
Q: Is it fair to say that he thinks a -- as he talked about during the campaign, would be more effective than controlling spending?
MS. MYERS: Sure. But --
Q: But he doesn't think it's possible to get, so he's going to compromise on it?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe that that's politically possible in this environment, so he thinks that, given that there is a possibility he could get an enhanced recision to the bill through, he'd support that.
Q: Dee Dee, can I get you to clarify something that you said earlier about Chairman Greenspan? He said that deficit reduction help keep interest rates low, but you talk about that in the context of a discussion of the reconciliation bill. Are you talking about deficit reduction in the framework of President Clinton's reconciliation bill?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: You are?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: As opposed to deficit reduction --
MS. MYERS: Deficit reduction generally would help keep interest rates low, but he was being specific. He thought that the President's plan contains a disciplined deficit reduction program and that, if passed, it would help keep interest rates low.
Q: Dee Dee, a follow on Mark. The President said if he had any kind of line-item veto authority he'd be able to cut a whole lot more money. Can you give us some examples of programs that he would single out in that way, or can you get us a list?
MS. MYERS: We'll see what Congress passes. I mean, I can't -- at this point I'm not going to without seeing what finally comes out of the Congressional process.
Q: Dee Dee, on the Supreme Court, is there still more than one candidate applying?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Q: Dee Dee, can I go back to the Mondale appointment? Q: Who are they? (Laughter.) Q: you said that's going through diplomatic
channels. What exactly is happening here?
MS. MYERS: We're waiting to hear back from Tokyo for an official acceptance of our Ambassador.
MS. MYERS: Agrement, to use the diplomatic term.
Q: Can I follow up?
Q: Will it happen, though, before the Tokyo summit -- if I can follow up -- will his appointment be -- will the Senate approve it before the Tokyo summit?
MS. MYERS: I think that's unlikely.
Q: There's no delay because of who you've chosen?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: If the President goes ahead and indicates his intention to nominate before the Tokyo summit, which you seem to suggest is on track, your agrement comes through, will Mr. Mondale make the trip?
MS. MYERS: The Ambassador-designate probably would not make the trip.
Q: Is it a protocol question?
MS. MYERS: I think that's just a confirmation process question and I don't believe that that person would make the trip.
Q: Does that mean he wouldn't have any consultative role in the G-7?
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule that out, but it would be in the context of what's permissible as a designee.
Q: Dee Dee, can I ask for a clarification on two unrelated issues? On the economy, since the House task version of the President's plan does appear to meet that what's described as 90 percent of his guidelines, is he assuring House members that he will push for that bill in Congress?
MS. MYERS: I think he will push for a bill that meets his -- neither version -- neither the House version or the Senate version is going to be the conference version, that's just not realistic. I think there are certain things in it that he wants. He's going to push for deficit reduction, his investments like the earned income tax credit, empowerment zones, immunization program. There's a lot of things --
Q: So it's no.
MS. MYERS: Well, no. He's not going to push -- it is unrealistic to expect that the House version will pass conference. That's just not the way the process works. The President will push for --and I don't think any of the House members expect that -- what they want to know is that he's going to push for the principles that he enunciated throughout the process in the House, and he clearly will. And there are a lot of specifics, his investments and other things that he's committed to and he will fight for.
Q: On the other unrelated clarification that I had. Prime Minister Mulroney said that Europe would look more kindly upon U.S. influence in the Yugoslav situation if it had troops on the ground. Is the President's feeling of 300 soldiers sent to Macedonia satisfies that commitment?
MS. MYERS: I think, I'm not sure what Prime Minister Mulroney was specifically referring to, but our -- we have committed to keeping that conflict from spilling over. However, our position on ground troops in Bosnia itself has not changed.
Q: I understand that.
MS. MYERS: We would only use ground troops there --see, you have to ask Prime Minister Mulroney if he thinks that this meets his criteria.
Q: Dee Dee, when are those troops going? And will they be under new -- direct U.N. command, or will they be --
MS. MYERS: Yes, they will be part of the U.N. peacekeeping force -- UNPROFOR force in Macedonia. They will be going I believe in the next -- they think they can get it done fairly quickly in the next week or two.
Q: They would be under the command of a U.N. commander, not their own?
MS. MYERS: Blue Helmet Force.
Q: Is that NATO forces that go into Germany?
Q: policy, to put U.S. troops under the command of NATO Blue Helmets?
MS. MYERS: I believe there are peacekeepers in Somalia under other command are part of the Blue Helmet Force. I don't believe that's a shift.
Q: Clarify for me, will you, what your answer was on the Yeltsin summit. I know you said not this summer, not Moscow. Were you saying not this year? Is there a Yeltsin --
MS. MYERS: There is nothing scheduled. I'm saying that it is conceivable during his presidency that President Clinton will have a summit. I think that's obvious that, at some point he will have one. There are no plans to have one this year, next year; there are no firm plans at this point, period.
Q: The idea, I believe, when they left Vancouver was like home and away and that just dates to be settled. Have they backed away from that? Is there some problem?
MS. MYERS: What I'm saying is that there will, no doubt, sometime during his presidency, be a summit between Yeltsin and Clinton. But at this point, none is scheduled. None is scheduled this year. I'm not ruling out this year, I'm just trying to be very clear --
Q: The Secretary of State was much more specific than that.
Q: The Secretary of State says in the next several months.
MS. MYERS: The only point I'm trying to make is that there's nothing scheduled. There's nothing scheduled this year, there's nothing scheduled next year. There is a wire report that says that on the way to or from the NATO summit, there's going to be a Russian summit. I'm saying unequivocally that is not true.
Q: You use schedule in the meaning that when we announce it, it's real, but not until that time, but which does not really mean it's not in the works, usually --
MS. MYERS: It could be in the works. A lot of things are being planned. There's nothing imminent.
Q: The next several months sounds fairly imminent.
MS. MYERS: We're not about to announce something. We're not going to announce something in the next couple of days or the next week. It's not going to happen.
Q: On health care reform, on the timing.
Q: Dee Dee, another clarification. Yesterday when the President said that the transportation fuel tax has economic difficulties inherent in it, what was he referring to?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to get into the specifics of that.
Q: Today he said that the Btu tax is the best and fairest.
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Yesterday he said transportation fuels has economic difficulties. He got briefed on the Breaux plan yesterday. So what was he referring to?
MS. MYERS: I don't think he was briefed on the economic impacts, I think he figured -- he understands those implicitly. But the reason he thinks the Btu tax is the best is because it hits all regions of the country relatively equally, it taxes all different forms of energy. He believes it's fair that it raises the amount of revenue he thought was necessary. He believes the Btu tax was the best form of energy tax, but he's willing -- the Senate is not going to pass a Btu tax. So we'll look at what they propose. And we'll go back to conference where the Btu tax will be on the table along with whatever the Senate approves and we will fight it out.
Q: So the transportation fuel is certainly not the best or the fairest?
MS. MYERS: The Btu tax is the best.
Q: What's the foreign policy value of the Space Station?
MS. MYERS: It is something that we'll work on with the Russians. I think that's --
Q: I'm thinking of the international value -- the Europeans and the Russians.
MS. MYERS: I don't have a good answer on the foreign policy value of the Space Station, other than to say it's something we will work on jointly with Russian and perhaps others.
Q: Yesterday you said that your goal now is to have the health care plan unveiled by mid-July, sometime after the Tokyo summit, hopefully before the August recess. Are you saying that that's based on an optimism here that you will have the reconciliation package in conference at that point, and that you can handle the conference and unveiling of a controversial plan at the same time?
MS. MYERS: Basically, yes. We'll see what happens.
Q: So you're not anticipating a tough fight in conference?
MS. MYERS: No, I think we are.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MS. MYERS: Liberated.
END 12:59 P.M. EDT
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/269229