Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
12:34 A.M. EST
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Nothing new yet on the President's schedule. He would like to return tonight if possible but it's entirely dependent on Mr. Rodham's condition. And we have no change yet. When we do, we'll let you know.
Q: Talk to us a little bit about how this unexpected trip has affected his summit planning? I realize that this week was supposed to be devoted largely to preparing for the summit. How have these two days thrown him off schedule?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, so far it hasn't affected it at all. He received a long memo from Tony Lake and the national security team yesterday which he took with him, which he read and commented on and has been in phone contact with Mr. Lake and Mack McLarty and others over the last day.
Q: How long is long -- several dozen pages?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: A few dozen. (Laughter.)
Q: Could we have a copy of it. (Laughter.)
Q: Comment on the report that the President is considering a billion dollars in aid for Russia. Is that bilaterally?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I can't comment on the amounts of the aid at this time. The President will announce that at the summit. But we are working on the package right now. As he said, he would have an innovative package and it would be largely -- he wants to both -- work with the G-7 nations on a broader multilateral package and also be able to announce a package of assistance, bilateral assistance for Russia.
Q: There is $700 million in the budget. Now, would this be a billion dollars including the $700 million?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just can't comment on the numbers.
Q: George, you announced from this podium that you wouldn't go beyond what was in your budget number for bilateral aid about two-and-a-half weeks ago. Is that now inoperative?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't remember saying that. I'm not saying that I didn't. I don't remember saying it. I would not necessarily say that that's the limit.
Q: George, Clinton indicated last Friday that he would deliver more in aid than Bush did to Russia, not necessarily committing to a higher number. But would we expect to offer more in agricultural credit guarantees than we're offering --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just can't comment on the specifics of the package. We will announce it later in the week.
Q: In the hypothetical fashion, the notion of a supplemental -- an additional supplemental to cover additional aid to Russia. Is that something that the administration would think would be a prudent investment in global stability?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President believes that investing in Russian reform is a prudent investment for the United States, for Russia, and for the rest of the world. If we can help democracy and market economics succeed in Russia, we'll help ourselves. But I cannot comment on supplementals or anything like that.
Q: What did he say this morning in Little Rock? He said something about Russian aid, didn't he?
Q: didn't know about this. He commented --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: My last report had that he didn't say anything, but I'll try --
Q: He was -- outside the barbershop apparently and asked about --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I haven't seen it. I can get back to you.
Q: Is he likely to make any sort of national address on this subject prior to the summit or right after the summit, either one?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's not out of the question. There's nothing planned at this time. I'm certain he will be, as he has for the past several weeks -- in fact, as he has for the past year -- continue to talk to the American people about the important of Russian aid.
Q: Does he feel that the argument is sufficiently difficult that it would be helpful for him to do it in person as opposed to having Warren Christopher go around to various groups and talk --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he has been doing it in person. In fact, on 48 hours last week, he talked about Russian aid and how important it is.
Q: There's a new poll, a Newsweek poll -- I believe it shows that 75 percent of Americans think that we're giving enough aid to Russia already. Just how difficult do you see the political problem of persuading people that this is an appropriate expense?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think historically it's always difficult to point out the benefits of foreign aid. The President has, though, for the last year talked about how important it is for us to invest in Russia, to invest in the process of reform, and to invest in democracy. That's what he's committed to doing. That's what leadership demands.
Q: Does it make it more difficult now that Yeltsin is in such tough shape politically because of concerns that this might be pouring more good money after that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President's determined to make sure that the aid that we send to Russia is aid that will have a practical effect for the Russian people, that will have a practical effect on the market reforms.
Q: The President talked at length about supporting Boris Yeltsin's call for elections. Now the elections have been turned into a referendum on the economic policies of Yeltsin. Is that still something that you support?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it's my understanding, the latest report I saw was that the referendum would actually have four parts -- one on confidence in Yeltsin, one on the economic reforms, and two on presidential and parliamentary elections. As we've said for the past 10 days, we're not going to comment on every new development on the Russian domestic scene. But the President does generally support the proposal of President Yeltsin to move forward with the plebiscite. And we look forward to the summit in Vancouver.
Q: Another clarification on Russian aid. Right now there are some $386 million in -- credits that are not yet operational, that have already been pledged but not operational because of defaults by Russia. Will we lowering our credit standards in order to continue offering aid to them?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I can't comment on the specifics of the package. We will have the announcement later this week.
Q: George, how much priority has been given in formulated in this package to this problem with the ruble and its continued devaluation and the runaway inflation? Is any effort being made in formulating --? Now, I remember there was a ruble stabilization fund that was talked about for a long time -- huge sum of money.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And I think that that's something the U.S. and the G-7 nations will continue to discuss. It's critically important.
Q: Is there anything about this package that will attempt in any way to address that problem or it simply with those --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're in discussions right now with all of our allies on that particular problem, but I can't comment on the package.
Q: George, when do you plan to get the budget up to Congress?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that there's been a bit of a delay, but we hope it will be up by mid-next week, mid to end next week.
Q: Can you say by the end of next week for certain?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that that's certainly our intention.
Q: What was the cause for the delay, please?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd have to double-check with OMB. I know that they some problems getting all the numbers together, but we hope by the end of the week.
Q: Is there a leadership G-7 in May on Russian aid?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The only meeting that I know that's planned at this time is the meeting of the foreign and finance ministers in mid-April.
Q: George, what is the holdup on sending Tom Pickering's name up to the Hill to be ambassador?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're still in discussions.
Q: What are you -- because last week you told us that you were still in discussions.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They haven't finished.
Q: That's a lot of discussing for one guy. I mean, what is --
Q: What has got, a nanny problem?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: All I know is that there was some report relative to his time at the U.N. that is under review.
Q: Can you elaborate on that? I mean, because the report -- he was already investigated for this by the State Department and cleared. So you are reinvestigating?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not -- we're just in discussions with members of the Senate on the report. And that's really all I know. I can get back to you with more detail later. That's all I have right now.
Q: Is his nomination in trouble?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so.
Q: What are the logistics, George, for the announcement of the aid? Will it be at a news conference with Yeltsin? Will it be in a speech format or be after a news conference with Yeltsin? How is he going to exactly make that announcement?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll have that later in the week. There will be announcements in Vancouver, but I don't have the specific time or date or place yet.
Q: Subject of the speech in Annapolis on Thursday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're working on that right now. We'll get it to you tomorrow.
Q: Do you think it will be aid to Russia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's not out of the question.
Q: Is this going to be a major policy address, George, in Annapolis, or is this -- how would you
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, I think it will be a major address.
Q: About the stimulus package, have there been any senators here today, are they coming here today to talk with the Chief of Staff or anyone else about cutting a deal on this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know about any here at the White House, but there are discussions going on in the Senate right now. And we're confident they're going to reach a good conclusion.
Q: Can you find out if there are any members coming here today?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think there are but we can find out.
Q: Is it the administration's intention to take money, foreign aid from other accounts to make up for the money that does go to Russia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I can't comment on that right now, but when we have the package we will certainly show the funding.
Q: Is the funding -- just philosophically, should the funding come from other countries, perhaps from Central America?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it depends on the scope of the package, but I'm simply not going to comment on the package until we're ready.
Q: Does the position that the Vice President, I think he spoke of this weekend, will not come from Israel or Egypt?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has said several times that he expects Israel and Egypt funding levels will be maintained.
Q: When you come out with this package, will this package include elements of what the G-7 plans to do or will that have to await the ministerial meeting in April?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's more likely that the actual G-7 package wait for the ministerial meeting.
Q: So, the President will be dealing with bilateral aid?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Largely.
Q: Have you had confirmation from Yeltsin since yesterday's votes that he still intends to go to Vancouver, or is there some chance that they may reconsider that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're planning on going to Vancouver; the Russians are planning on going to Vancouver. We're looking forward to it.
Q: Have you talked to someone from there?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know there's just been diplomatic contact, but I mean there's no change.
Q: This is just a mechanical problem. Are we going to Oregon on Thursday now?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Probably.
Q: So we won't be able to cover a major -- you understand the problems involved here if you give a foreign policy address and the Russia announcement on Thursday and then leave for the West Coast, right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I certainly do. I didn't say that we were giving a foreign policy address on Thursday.
Q: I thought I heard you suggest --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I said we are giving a major policy address. I said it wasn't clear yet exactly what the subject was.
Q: We're leaving Thursday.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I certainly understand your concern.
Q: Coming back is when?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not exactly sure yet. It's either Sunday night or Monday morning.
Q: What about the ball game?
Q: Is the President going to overnight in Portland?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- the ball game.
Q: Is the President going to overnight in Portland?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's one possible plan. Obviously, we have a little bit of uncertainty with the President's schedule right now, so I don't want anything to get set in stone.
Q: Right now he's planning to spend Friday in Portland at the Forest Conference?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: And does that mean he would start the conference? He would be there from the beginning of the conference rather than joining it in progress?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, probably. I think the conference schedule is something like 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or so on Friday. He'll probably be there for most of it if not all.
Q: Does he have other events out of town on Thursday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at this point.
Q: Could the illness of Mr. Rodham push back the deadline of getting the health care plan in?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so. The meetings continued most of last week. The President had several health care meetings, and, as you know, the public meeting of the task force is continuing today. So, we're still planning on staying on track.
Q: Mrs. Clinton is not there today, and I assume is not being able to put the kind of work she wanted --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know we have a lot of good people working on this and we're making progress. And we would hope to be able to stay on schedule.
Q: George, what is the extent of Mrs. Clinton's involvement with what the task force is doing now? She's getting briefings.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I assume she's getting briefings. I mean, the bulk of her time is spent at the hospital with her father. But I assume she's getting briefings, yes.
Q: Do you know whether she's providing any kind of guidance or any input at all into what --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I really don't know and haven't asked. But I believe the bulk of her time is now spent attending to her father.
Q: On gays in the military, Senator Nunn --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I thought you'd never ask. (Laughter.)
Q: Senator Nunn said today the process may have gone as far as it can by simply asking or dropping the question of whether or not a person is gay.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He also said that he would continue the hearings and continue the review.
Q: But he also said that he thought it was unlikely that he would change his mind, that the hearings would change his mind. Does the President agree that this is about as far as it could go?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is looking forward to the continuation of the hearings, to the review by the Pentagon and to the Pentagon report which he'll receive on July 15th.
Q: But could he sign -- would he sign off on that if that's what the recommendation is?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's looking forward to seeing the recommendations and we're not going to comment on any hypotheticals until then.
Q: Has the President made peace with the gay community?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think that there is any war.
Q: Well, you had a bunch of people in here the other day, I guess, demanding some kind of satisfaction over what was at least a misunderstanding, if not the sense that they had been betrayed by President Clinton. Why was that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That meeting, first of all, was planned for some time; but secondly, the President has made clear his commitment to end discrimination in the military. He had made clear his commitment to increase funding for AIDS research. He's made clear his commitment to appoint an AIDS czar to direct government efforts on AIDS. And we intend to continue to go forward with those plans.
Q: Well, you say he's made clear, but there was at least a misunderstanding if nothing else, right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there was probably a lot of misunderstandings last week.
Q: Does not asking the question about sexual orientation at the time of recruitment meet the President's test of ending discrimination based on status?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm simply not going to get into commenting on this until we see the report in July.
Q: Is the AIDS czar going to be announced this week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure about this week but I hope relatively soon.
Q: And secondly, what do you expect out of the timber summit apart from people sitting around all day talking about it? Is there going to be any sort of policy announcement made at this event? Or what's the purpose of --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's the first step in the development of a coordinated government policy that we'll have later in the spring or summer.
Q: What's the question you're trying to answer?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How do come up with a policy on the endangered species act on timber that balances the very real need to protect any endangered species and the very real need to protect the jobs we need to protect in the upper Northwest.
Q: Is this geared to writing a piece of legislation? Is it geared -- forgive me for being so stupid about this subject, but I haven't yet figured out what it is this summit is going to do except fill a campaign promise that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It will also lead toward a -- it could lead to legislative recommendations -- it could lead to administrative recommendations. As you know, there are court cases coming down with decisions in the summer as well.
Q: It's not going to lead to anything Thursday or Friday or whatever?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no.
Q: George, what is the justification for providing -- if the New York Times story today is correct -- a more generous health package for poor Americans than one that might be provided under the President's plan for working class Americans?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The health care task force has not yet announced its policies; and again we're not going to comment on them until they do.
Q: George, did Governor Cuomo consult with the White House task force before -- out his health plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of. He may have had aides or others talk to members of the task force. I can't be sure of all levels of conduct. And I'm certain they were aware of what's happening in the states in general terms. But I don't know if there was any specific consultation or at what level.
Q: Do you want states to keep doing this? Do you want states to go out on their own and keep coming up with their own health care plan while you guys are doing it? Is it helpful?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President has always said that he's willing to let states experiment. I mean, that's clearly something that he supports as a governor, something he's been very supportive of.
Q: George, on the stimulus package. Is the White House still anticipating that Senators Breaux and Boren will propose their amendment this week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're in discussions -- I mean, the Senators are in discussions right now up on the Hill, and we expect that this will get worked out.
Q: Are you hopeful that they will not, that in fact you'll have an accord; you would give them some sort of letter or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm hopeful that the President's package will pass intact.
Q: Yes, but how will you get to that point? What are you talking about --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what we're discussing now.
Q: What specifically?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The discussions are going on right now and when we have -- when they're completed we'll have an announcement.
Q: Who's involved in those? Howard Paster, who else?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that basically Senators Byrd and Mitchell and Breaux and Boren.
Q: the water being carried by your -- by the leaders?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I assume -- yes.
Q: Are you still describing this as a stimulus package?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a stimulus package, it will help create jobs, it provides for important investments as well.
Q: Isn't that the new -- isn't investment package --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It is an investment package.
Q: Isn't that the new term of choice for this --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I've seen it described both ways but it is certainly an investment package.
Q: both ways a time or two yourself.
Q: you're describing it -- I mean, isn't part of the negotiations putting off some -- a chunk of the spending until much later?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There will be -- certainly be spending investment now.
Q: Summer jobs.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Certainly, sure and others.
Q: Time sensitive ones, right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There will be important investments that will go forward right away.
Q: Any fast track, GATT efforts underway or in the working, planned in the weeks, months to come?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge.
Q: Do you consider, by the way, those summer jobs to be an investment?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Certainly, they are.
Q: Well, doesn't this -- does an investment meet your definition of investment? Doesn't something have to have some enduring consequences rather than -- short term --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there -- there 's an awful lot of enduring consequences if a young person gets a summer job and learns about working in a responsible job; learns how to work in a business, and learns the importance of the reward for work.
Q: these people are going to actually work in businesses. There's not going to be any --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I expect so.
Q: But you understand the history of that summer job program is; there's been an awful lot of sitting around in recreation centers talking basketball.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to do better.
Q: George, can you tell us if there are going to be any background sessions between now and Thursday on the summit? If so, --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm certain there will be. They're not scheduled yet, but we'll get back to you.
Q: Those will be before you leave?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Probably.
Q: after the summit?
Q: We're running a few days late. (Laughter.)
Q: last week, to set up a commission to study the airline industry. How soon might the President sign that bill?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he'll sign it as soon as we get it.
Q: You haven't received it as yet?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll have to check with John Podesta.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:52 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/269293