Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
12:46 P.M. EST
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary of State Warren Christopher met this morning with Russian Foreign Minister Andre Kozyrev in Geneva. It was a very positive meeting which helped lay the foundation for a good working relationship between our two nations. It is important to the President that President Yeltsin's reform efforts succeed. That goal and a genuine U.S.-Russian partnership is of the highest priority for the President and his administration.
This morning, Secretary Christopher and Minister Kozyrev announced a summit between the two Presidents on April 4th at a place to be mutually determined. They also announced that they will extending invitations to the ninth round of the bilateral ArabIsraeli peace negotiations, to be held in Washington during the month of April.
In the capitals he visited, Secretary Christopher found the parties committed to the peace process and that they consider the negotiations a priority for them and believe the negotiations should begin soon. We are hopeful that the parties will accept our joint invitation.
The two also discussed Bosnia. Minister Kozyrev saw the plan as a good one and spoke positively of it at the press conference. I should add that the White House will be issuing an announcement later this afternoon on Bosnia and the Pentagon will be briefing.
Q: What time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not exactly sure yet, but a little later this afternoon.
Q: On the airdrops, too?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's going to be a piece of paper. I'm not fully sure yet.
Q: On the airdrops?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: You're just basically telling us that you're proceeding with what we had expected you would be proceeding.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Probably.
Q: Let me ask you, how is the President going to persuade people who are already trying to absorb the impact of his economic program that they should also have to pay possibly cigarette taxes to pay for health care?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he hasn't said that yet. He said that he hasn't made any decisions on that at all, he hasn't picked any taxes up. And he simply hasn't done that yet. Right now, we're focusing on the economic package. As you know, the health care task force is in the process of reviewing a number of options and looking at the entire health care package. But the President has not made any decisions yet.
Q: But he did say that he thought an exception should be made for a cigarette tax because of the amount that we spend in the health care system because of the effects of cigarettes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They were saying if we would rule them out, and that's when he said -- he didn't say he was ruling them out, but he didn't rule them in necessarily either. And he just had a discussion of -- well, that's exactly what it was. "Does that rule out sin taxes then?" "I think health related taxes are different. I think cigarette taxes, for example, are different." So it was a specific question. And then it was a discussion of the --
Q: Well, he raised the issue of cigarette taxes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He said they were different. And he explained why he thought they were different from other sorts of taxes, but he didn't rule them in.
Q: Excise taxes on alcohol would fall under the same category of being different?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I can't comment on any tax proposals now.
Q: You're saying it's not focused on the cigarette tax at all?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I didn't say that. I said that the President hasn't made any decisions yet on any taxes.
Q: Where is the summit meeting going to meet?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to work on that. It hasn't been determined yet, but we're going to try and come up with something we can agree on.
Q: Someplace warm.
Q: George, Senator Dole on the floor this morning had some remarks apparently directed at you in response to your observations about him yesterday and the other Republicans. "A word of advice to the communications department at the White House," said Senator Dole, "you know, they ought to calm down, go off for a weekend, have a Diet Coke. The campaigns over. You won. Now comes the hard part leading America. It's a lot easier and a lot more fun playing the campaign game." (Laughter.) And so on.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if I would agree with that, but it's very thoughtful advice. (Laughter.)
Q: George, Senator Gramm said this morning that he would like to see the spending cuts implemented that were not implemented in the 1990 budget deal, and he thinks that if that was done, he said it might even negate the need for a tax increase except for corporate taxes. What's your response to that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it sounds like more of the same. I would point out that according to the Democrats who have analyzed the Gramm-Armey economic plan on the Hill, it would likely call for a 33-percent cut across the board in every government program except, according to their calculations, Social Security. So that means a 33-percent cut in Medicare, a 33-percent cut in agriculture benefits, a 33-percent cut in veterans benefits, a 33- percent across-the-board meat cleaver with no thought to what we can do to help this economy grow and to create jobs and no investments in education and training. And it's just simply the same old thing from the Republicans. And I don't think the American people elected Bill Clinton to pass the Bush 1990 economic plan.
Q: Do you rule out changing the White House strategy to meld a health care proposal into the large budget package that you've already proposed for a --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't rule out anything but I don't know that that was necessarily the White House strategy. We're looking right now at the reconciliation package. We are also in the process of developing a health care plan, and we're going to work on both those.
QQ: Is it possible that you would try to have one big package that would include more health care reforms, more health care measures than are included in this --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wouldn't rule it in or out as this time. I wouldn't say that it's impossible.
Q: George, Dole also said that it's unfair to ask them to pass a Senate budget resolution without actually seeing the budget. And that there are so many numbers without the details that they're going to have to wait until you submit the budget.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to be able to come forward with full details very, very soon.
Q: Wait a second, George.
Q: Would it be before April 6?
Q: You announced yesterday -- you announced yesterday April 6th --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the final -- I think the actual final submission will be in April, but we will be able to get almost all -- virtually all the details well before then to all the committees.
Q: You mean you're going to give them what amounts to the budget before you ask them to vote on the Senate -- on the resolution?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to give them full details in plenty of time.
Q: Well, if you have the full details, why not put it in the budget, put it out there.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a technical matter with the OMB but we're working through it --
Q: A technical matter.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- and we will certainly have all the details there.
Q: Have the U.S. and Russia been ruled out -- Moscow and Washington -- for the summit?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wouldn't say it's ruled out. I mean, if -- but I think that we're trying to look at this time for a neutral third country and --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's whatever both sides can agree to.
Q: Do you plan on a one-day summit or will --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It will probably be relatively short, yes.
Q: And could you tell us a little more about the objectives of the summit besides just talking about reform and so forth?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the President and Mr. Yeltsin have spoken several times since the election. The President is supportive of the reforms that President Yeltsin is trying to put forward in Russia and I think they're going to talk about that.
Q: George, Castro yesterday praised President Clinton for the first time, calling he is a man of peace and guided by ethics. Does the President think that this marks the beginning of a new kind of a relationship between Cuba and the U.S., or what's his opinion?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's position is very clear. He supports the Torricelli policy as exemplified in that bill and he thinks we must first tighten up on the sanctions until we have real change in Cuba.
Q: George, given all the tensions in Russia, does the President attach particular urgency to the summit, given all the problems that are going on there?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President thinks the summit is important. He wants to show his support for President Yeltsin's reforms, for the reforms he's trying to institute. And they have a lot to talk about. It's important to get together soon.
Q: In terms of showing his support, how does he plan to do that? Is he bringing money?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know about specific amounts right now. As you know, there were funds contemplated in the President's budget which he presented in the message to Congress last week.
Q: But the Russians have put, in the past, great store on the impact at home of their leader meeting with a foreign leader. Are you designing it that way? Is the President bringing over any kind of announcement to help --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know about that. We just announced the meeting today and we'll have further details as we get closer. But the President thinks it's important to get together with Yeltsin soon.
Q: On Bosnia, have the Russians been asked to participate in the airlift?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. The consultations, as you know, continue this morning, but they're not quite completed yet.
Q: How many countries do you think will participate in the operation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have -- we'll have the announcement later today.
Q: Will there be more than one?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not certain.
Q: Will the Turks be permitted to participate?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, we'll have the announcement later today.
Q: What is the political message that the administration is trying to deliver with the airdrops?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the message we're trying to deliver is to show the world that we care about the plight of the Bosnians and others who right now don't have enough food and medicine to live, and that we want an agreement, we are committed to try to help the parties reach and agreement, and we're committed to enforcing one once it's reached.
Q: All you have to do is look at the video tapes of the air drops to the Kurds in northern Iraq two years ago to see that this is a pretty inefficient way of delivering supplies. Why not press for access by the truck convoys, which everybody says is a much more efficient way to do it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think, as Prime Minister Major said yesterday, they are also continuing trying to deliver food and humanitarian supplies on the ground, and we are supportive of that as well. But we feel that we can do this in an efficient manner.
Q: To follow up on that, Mr. Clinton promised during the campaign a more active policy on Bosnia. To what extent is this designed not to appear to be backing away from one more promise, one more commitment, play a part in the decision to drop the food into eastern Bosnia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's committed to doing what he can to get a real peace in Bosnia. The President's committed to doing what he can to get an agreement. He's committed to doing what he can in the short-term to make sure humanitarian supplies get through. And that's what's motivating his policy.
Q: But he criticized Mr. Bush very harshly during the campaign, saying he wasn't doing enough in Bosnia. So is it a factor in his decision? Did it play a part to show that he's not backing away once more from the promise, from the commitment?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is moving forward in Bosnia because he thinks it's the right thing to do and because he thinks we need an agreement.
Q: meeting with Bosnian officials this weekend? Is the President meeting with Bosnian officials?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think anything's scheduled at this point, no.
Q: What about Gore?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that we're in the process of discussions, but I don't think it's set yet.
Q: With Gore or with the President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think it's scheduled. I know that there have been discussions and we're going to see -- we may have an announcement on that later.
Q: With the President of Bosnia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: George, one final point, I hope, of clarification about the Harold Ford case. You said yesterday you received inquiries. Did those inquiries come from the Congressman himself or who were they from, and who were they directed to in the White House before they went public?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not exactly sure on the nature of the inquiries. I know that they were received by the Counsel's office, and the Counsel's office simply turned them over to Justice.
Q: You don't know who they were from?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know who specifically, no.
Q: George, back on Bosnia, if I could. What's the White House stand on the Russian peace plan for the Balkans?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I simply don't know. I'll have to get back to you.
Q: George, maybe this question has been asked, but I couldn't hear all the questions up here. Do you anticipate that this trip to this neutral country is going to expand into other stops for the President in Europe?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wouldn't expect so. I wouldn't want to rule it out at this time, but it's not contemplated.
Q: So this would probably be just simply an over and back for one day of meetings or two days?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what I would expect, yes.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the speech the President's going to make tomorrow at American University?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, the President's going to be speaking tomorrow at American University. The remarks will focus on the global economy, the contribution that the U.S. has to make to a strong global economy, the effects of the President's economic plan on global growth. And it will also touch on some trade matters as well. But the focus will be the overall global economy.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in any considerable degree, no. I mean, it will be discussed, but it's not the focus of the speech.
Q: What time is this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. I think it's in the morning. I'm not sure exactly what time.
Q: Who is he speaking to, George?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: American University students, other invited guests.
Q: The General Accounting Office yesterday said it had found serious scheduling cost problems with the super collider. Has the administration rethought its support for that project?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President spoke to that this morning. We'll certainly be reviewing the GAO report but he does believe that the superconducting super collider, if properly managed, can provide benefits but we'll look at the reports.
Q: George, on the peace process invitations, is the fact that they're going out an indication that the U.S. believes the issue of the deportees is a closed one now and that it's time for the Arab countries to either put up or shut up?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the U.S. has always believed that we need to restart the negotiations. And that's why Secretary Christopher is encouraged by his trip and he's also encouraged that along with the Russians they will be issuing the invitations. We just haven't heard any responses yet.
Q: Did he get any indication from them that they are willing to accept the U.S.-Israeli plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't -- we're just going to issue the invitations today. Let's see what we hear.
Q: Can you explain what the President meant when he was talking to the Boeing workers about the agreement on Airbus? How, in any fashion, was that agreement violated in the President's view?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's something we're going to closely monitor. I know that Ambassador Kantor will be issuing a statement later today. We're going to continue in consultations on the Airbus matter. There has been some discrepancies over the amount of subsidies that have gone to Airbus and how you count the direct and indirect subsidies, and a lot of people make a very strong case that some of the subsidies may in some way be improper. This is something that we're going to keep an eye on.
Q: You heard Prime Minister Major on that subject yesterday. He clearly said that he thought that there was no violation of the agreement. Was the President saying, when he was talking to the Boeing workers, that he has concluded that there were violations of that agreement?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have his exact words in front of me right now. He is concerned about making sure that the agreement is met, and we're going to continue to monitor it.
Q: Tomorrow is he going to speak to the schedule on GATT and what type of extension he wants?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it will come up. I don't know if we'll have any specific timetables.
Q: What is it exactly that the President was concerned about on Airbus? The Bush administration objected to the subsidies as well. That was what led to the talks that lead to the agreement. The President suggested that we've sat idly by while our competitors did things we were unwilling to do, suggesting at least to some ears that he was thinking about those kinds of subsidies himself. It's not at all clear what he thinks is wrong now.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, one of the things he wants to make sure of is that we don't allow these things to happen -- allow things like this to happen again where our competitors may be having huge subsidies for specific industries or airlines and we're left unprotected.
Q: Well, what do we do? Is he talking about countersubsidies?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, again, we try to get into as many agreements as we can and make sure we stick by them. The President does support some Ex-Im Bank financing for the airline industry.
Q: George, is there a chance that the U.S. could refuse to renew this agreement in July when it expires, agreement on Airbus? Is it a possibility under consideration?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I would refer you to the USTR.
Q: How do you differentiate, George, between what the President announced earlier in the week, in terms of supporting American -- long-term investment in American industry or whatever -- in the speech with Aerospace and with the automakers there, versus what he's criticizing in Airbus?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President believes we have to invest in American industries and in our education and training and in making sure that we have a strong manufacturing sector. There is no question about that. What we're trying to make sure is that is all consistent with the agreements we sign and I think there have been some who've raised questions about the subsidies that have gone to Airbus and we want to make sure that any agreement that we've signed in monitored and agreed to.
Q: George, The Washington Post said this morning that the President misspoke on the Bicentennial Commission; that it, in fact, had been shut down at a profit and money was returned, and that when the President made those comments in Santa Monica he didn't know what he was talking about.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're looking into that right now. I do believe that the Bicentennial Commission has been closed last June.
Q: So he was misinformed?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He was ill-staffed. (Laughter.)
Q: Ill-staffed -- that's a good one.
Q: George, did the President get a chance to talk to Prime Minister about Northern Ireland and what's the status of that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think they did discuss it for a while last night, and the President is going to continue to review this, as we said.
Q: What was that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Northern Ireland. As we said yesterday, we're going to continue to look at this situation and we have no further announcement right now.
Q: Major said this morning that he did not specify -- let me start over. Major said that Clinton did not put it into terms of special envoy. Is that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I was not in the discussions but I believe -- we're looking at the possibility of a representative of some sort, but no decisions have been made. And we want to make sure we do something that is agreeable to all parties.
Q: On health care today, the President said that the government would have to raise revenues to cover people who are currently not covered by health insurance. Does that absolutely require a tax increase of some sort? And, if not, where do you get the money?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The health care task force is looking at all these issues right now and they will continue to study them and review them. And when we have an announcement to make, we will.
Q: Related to that. Panetta has said on the Hill last week and privately to business leaders that sin taxes almost assuredly will have to be part of paying for the health care package. Why would anything that Clinton said this morning not be an endorsement on this issue?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, again, the President said that he has not made any decisions yet -- "I haven't picked any tax up, so how could I drop something that I haven't picked up."
Q: That was on the benefits --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: On taxing benefits. But then he was if he ruled out sin taxes, and he said they were different. That is not the same as ruling them in. (Laughter.) This is the same situation we're going to get back to from the last six weeks. The President has not made any decisions. When we have decisions we will --
Q: He didn't say that taxing health benefits were different. He could have also.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, and he did express a very informed view on that issue. But he has not made any decisions.
Q: But why would he just spontaneously mention cigarette taxes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn't spontaneously mention them. He was --
Q: Yes he did. He said cigarette taxes, he raised it himself.
Q: He was asked about sin taxes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He was asked about sin taxes and he came back with health-related taxes. How do you define sin taxes?
Q: It could be alcohol.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Taxes in plural -- how would you generally define them?
Q: Sin taxes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: Alcohol or cigarettes.
Q: But he was the one who raised --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He was answering a question. He was answering a question in an informed manner. He has not made any decisions.
Q: If he believes, George, if he believes that cigarette smoking is such a drag on the health system, no pun intended -- (laughter) -- why would he not impose a tax?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things the President has said is nobody likes taxes, but he hasn't made any decisions yet.
Q: Is it his belief, George, that these sin taxes, whether cigarettes or alcohol --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How many different ways can you ask this question? (Laughter.)
Q: The argument that they make is that this is a very regressive tax, that it hits the middle class obviously a lot harder than the wealthier people. How do you respond to that argument that these cigarette and alcohol taxes, on beer and alcohol, wine, cigarettes, that the middle class and the poorer people are going to be hit a lot harder if there is an increase on these taxes than the wealthier people?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I haven't seen any tables, but I don't think I'm going to make a policy of commenting on any taxes the President hasn't proposed.
Q: George, let me ask you a related question. How does the President feel about tobacco subsidies?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a good question. I'll have to look it up.
Q: On Secretary Aspin, has the President and Aspin spoken at all since his illness?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They have spoken since the illness. I believe he called Aspin a day or two ago. And as you know, the Secretary was released from the hospital this morning.
Q: Does the President anticipate Aspin will be able to continue to serve as Defense Secretary?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, absolutely.
Q: So there's no discussions of a fallback on it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: None at all.
Q: In making a distinction between sin taxes and other forms of taxes, isn't he at least indicating that it's justifiable to have an alcohol or tobacco tax and that that's defensible even if it --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I would just stick with what the President has said, which is we are just spending a lot of money on private insurance to deal with health care problems occasioned by these habits. And I just have nothing to add to that.
Q: But he seemed to be relating this to a burden on --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, he was asked a specific question that was relating it.
Q: Can you elaborate on this announcement that Kantor is going to make, that you touched on a moment ago?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's just a release on the Airbus, on talking about the consultations and coordination and following the agreement.
Q: Are you trying to put the fire out with the European officials who objected strenuously to what the President said at Boeing?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he was trying to clarify his position.
Q: On that point, has the President responded to Kohl's invitation to talk to him instead of about him? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that the President will be meeting with Chancellor Kohl sometime in the near future, as they said they wanted to, right after the election. But no date has been set.
Q: He didn't call him or anything?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of.
Q: On Somalia, do you think the deterioration of the situation in Mogadishu will affect the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, we don't. We're going to stick to the timetable we have right now, and we hope that it will get out soon.
Q: Is the President going to be doing anything today on Bosnia? Will he have any statement or anything personally?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of, no.
Q: What is the timetable?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Later this afternoon.
Q: No, on Somalia.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I would refer you to the State Department. I believe it's supposed to happen sometime in April we're supposed to be moving toward the transition.
Q: The last time the President floated a tax or discussed a tax that he wasn't proposing currently, you all went to great pains to put out the fire and say that he wasn't floating a trial balloon, that it was something to be considered that was well down the road. Will you say the same thing about the cigarette tax?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: All I can say about the cigarette tax is what I've already said.
Q: But is it something -- I mean, was he speaking, was that something the staff discussed he might bring up? Is that something you knew he might bring up?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think that we're going to talk about staff discussions with the President.
Q: Oh, come on. (Laughter.)
Q: How did you feel when you said it? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Exactly. (Laughter.)
Q: you won't make any of the same statements that you made about the tax he discussed in Ohio.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't think that's necessarily indicative of the President's state of mind. The President's words speak for themselves. He said that he hasn't made any decisions yet, that the health care task force is looking at a number of options and we'll have an announcement soon.
Q: George, speaking of the health care task force, a coalition of scientific medical groups filed suit to open up the meetings, the formal meetings which, of course, have never taken place. What's your reaction to the efforts to try to open up this task force to some sort of public scrutiny or some input from outside groups at the table?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We stand by the position of our legal counsel, which is that we don't believe that we were required to open up these meetings. I expect that there will be a number of meetings that will be open to the public, a number of hearings that will be open to the public, but we don't think that it's a legal requirement.
Q: Has the task force met?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The task force? I don't believe so. The working groups have met.
Q: Is there a list available of the members of the working groups?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. I can check.
Q: Are they signing ethics statements?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think anybody on staff is certainly signing ethics statements.
Q: But there are a lot of consultants --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure of the requirements for the consultants, exactly.
Q: Why hasn't there been a formal meeting yet? And when will it be?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure.
Q: The argument over a requirement notwithstanding, can you explain again why you have chosen not to open this up to the public?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we think is a task force that has administration officials along with the First Lady and they have to have the ability to do their deliberations in private and to work these things through. But we also expect to have public meetings.
Q: George, can you tell us who works at the White House and what they make?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have a list of the salaries in front of me, no.
Q: Can you get me a list of who works here full-time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can try and find that. I don't know if we have a specific -- every name, but we can try and work on that.
Q: You must have a payroll, George.
Q: Why can't you give us the list of the salaries? OPM says you're being paid.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thankfully we are being paid.
Q: They have a list of who works here and what the salaries are.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We will release -- consistent with past practices.
Q: Why does it have to be consistent --
Q: I thought you ran it differently than past practices.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We are different in a lot of things. We have a much different economic plan from our predecessors.
Q: We're your friend, not your enemy, George. (Laughter.)
Q: Are you ashamed of them?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in the least.
Q: What is the problem? You're public employees
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just don't have the list.
Q: We've been asking for this list since the day you announced the 25 percent cutback. Why should people believe those figures if you won't give us the documentation to support them?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We will certainly be releasing all the documentation we can, consistent with past practice.
Q: What do you mean by that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, we will check into the traditional practices on releasing --
Q: The way Bush did it and Reagan did it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily, but we'll look and see; we'll review the past practice, and we'll release as much as we can when we can.
Q: Well, we don't think that's acceptable. This is a public -- public information. And we don't know why you keep it a secret.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll release whatever we can, when we can.
Q: Well, is the lack of release a problem with the difficulty in finding it, or -- you've got too many other things? I thought this was a major initiative, cutting back the White House staff.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It is a major initiative, and we are cutting back the White House staff.
Q: Well, how can we tell?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You can look at the figures we presented. We will release everything we can.
Q: Can you tell us who, please?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll check.
Q: Pick a date -- next week. Pick a date.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't pick a date right now.
Q: Why not?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Because I don't have one.
Q: Well, George --
Q: There's never been an administration before that claimed it had cut 25 percent. If you want us -- if you want people to believe you --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't know that that's necessarily true. I mean, maybe not 25 percent. There have been administrations that have claimed to be paying lower salaries, that have claimed to be cutting back the staff.
Q: No, said when you announced the cutbacks that nobody else had done it before. So we presumed that that's the case.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But nobody else has done 25 percent, I don't believe.
Q: How are we to know that that is, in fact, the case unless you provide some documentation to prove it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We will provide as much documentation as we can.
Q: I mean, how do we know that the President hasn't been ill-staffed on this as well? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe he has.
Q: George, by providing the numbers in the budget, obviously you're going to have to give an aggregate number for people and money to this committee that oversees the budgets.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, and we will. I'm certain that we'll do that.
Q: Well, that presumably will occur in the next couple of weeks. Are you saying you don't have that money now?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not saying we don't have that money now. I'm not certain that we should necessarily release it to the public before we give it to the Congressional committees who are going to be determining this.
Q: What do you mean?
Q: We know what the President makes; why can't we know what you make?
Q: You've got to put it out at some point. Why don't you just say you'll put it out? It's all public record.
Q: But there's all these qualifiers about when and how. I mean, why don't you just say we'll do it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I did say we'll put it out and we'll put it out when we can. But I don't know when we can put it out or when we can put it out.
Q: the first term or second term?
Q: George, can you tell us --
Q: And we all can get on with our lives, then.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- get on with your lives.
Q: George, can you tell us who pays for Democratic National Committees consultants to fly on Air Force One and their housing when they're on the road?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll check. I assume it's the Democratic National Committee, but I'll have to check.
Q: I just saw Paul outside; he said the government pays. Is there -- wrong in that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll check. I don't know the details.
Q: Because when you take congressmen or senators, don't you bill their offices?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe so. I just don't have the details on the billing for Air Force One.
Q: Can you get back to us on that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: And hotels and other expenses?
Q: And all their other expenses.
Q: Consistent with past practices?
Q: Better not be.
Q: Call Marlin.
Q: I'm sorry to change the subject, but the other day --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Me too. (Laughter.)
Q: the other day Secretary Bentsen said something about he wants to see a stronger yen. Going into the G-7 meetings this weekend in London, is that something the United States is going to be pursuing?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I have no comment on exchange rates.
Q: Back on the budget, one question. The President told the Chamber of Commerce that more spending cuts were coming. This morning, however, his response seemed to be, well, tell me where to cut.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's always been part of his response. I mean, his critics have not come forward with specific cuts.
Q: I'm not talking about his critics. My question is simply will there be more spending cuts?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President answered that question as well. He said he's going to look every day for more cuts.
Q: How about the F-16, which is called for more money on, and the Pentagon has said they don't need?
Q: Did he find any today? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: When we have some, we'll announce them.
Q: Can you find out who decided that the F-16 needed more money? It happens to have some relationship to Texas, of course, where there's --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know the specific details of what you're referring to but we've put out a defense budget and the President contemplates a defense budget consistent with what he said in the campaign.
Q: With increased funding for the F-16 beyond what the Pentagon apparently had recommended.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily beyond what the President had called for, though.
Q: I was wondering how the President reached that judgment.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END1:15 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269198