Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
12:47 P.M. EDT
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good afternoon. As you know, the President is in lunch now with Prime Minister Miyazawa. And I have two announcements.
Number one, the President this morning is sending a letter to Majority Leader Mitchell and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee Robert Byrd outlining a proposed -- an amendment -- suggestions for an amendment that he would have to the jobs package on Tuesday.
The President's approach would leave in place the proposed funding levels for a number of essential programs to create jobs and to meet human needs, including highway constructions, summer jobs for young people, childhood immunization, the Ryan White program for AIDS victims, construction of waste water treatment facilities, hiring meat inspectors, and assisting small business. Of course, the $4 billion in extended unemployment benefits would also be left in place. It would also reduce proportionately the other programs in the bill to bring the budget authority in the bill down from $16.2 billion to $12 billion. Then he would target $200 million for grants to local governments to hire police as a means of helping to fight crime and to offset layoffs in local governments, as he said yesterday.
This approach would reduce the budget authority in the bill by approximately 25 percent, but it would require only 18 percent fewer job -- less job creation than before. And I quote from the letter: The President said, "I make this recommendation reluctantly and regret the unwillingness of the minority to let the Senate act on the original legislation. But our mandate is to achieve change and to move the country forward and to end business as usual in Washington. By taking the initiative in the face of an unrelenting filibuster, I believe we can respond to that mandate and achieve a significant portion of our original goals."
Secondly, Secretary of State Warren Christopher just completed a conversation with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Georgiy Mamedov. He expressed American outrage and distress over the events in Srebrenica. He also told Mr. Mamedov, as he expressed to Foreign Minister Kozyrev in their initial discussions of the U.N. sanctions resolution, that, in effect, all bets were off on the sanctions resolution if Srebrenica were to fall or to surrender. He expressed the American view that it would be intolerable for us to stand aside if this were to happen. And he also told Mr. Mamedov, as he knew that the U.N. Security Council would be meeting this afternoon for some consultations, that there would be likely be a great deal of sentiment to press forward with the sanctions resolution immediately if Srebrenica were to fall or to surrender, and that the U.S. would support that resolutions in that event.
Q: What do you mean by intolerable to stand aside?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It means that we cannot go with our current course. And I think as the Secretary said, the U.S. would be prepared to support a sanctions resolution immediately if Srebrenica were to fall or surrender.
Q: talking about?
Q: sanctions resolution?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're going to continue, as the President said this morning to review other matters and other possibilities. But this would be an immediate --
Q: What, additional sanctions? And what would they be?
Q: What about the possibility of air strikes? A senior Defense official is quoted on the wires as saying, that if the allies would agree, that the United States would consider air -- is considering air strikes against Serbian artillery positions.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President was given that question this morning and he reiterated the American position that we are contemplating ground troops only as part of enforcing an agreement that is already reached, but we are reviewing a number of other matters.
Q: He was not asked about air --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but he was asked about force in general, and that's the answer he gave.
Q: Is the Secretary saying that the administration, in a burst of outrage and distress over Srebrenica, is now on the verge of huffing and puffing and considering further sanctions?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're considering immediate passage of the sanctions, and reviewing other options, absolutely.
Q: Even if the sanctions would take effect in two weeks, right?
Q: What was the Russian response?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The U.N. Security Council is meeting this afternoon. They are meeting to discuss the possibility of moving forward more quickly. This is something that we would support.
Q: What was his response to this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He said he would talk it back to the Foreign Minister and to his superiors.
Q: Why not do something to prevent the fall of Srebrenica? Why wait until after?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, this is clearly -- I mean, by talking to the Russians and continuing to press the Serbians we hope to prevent the fall. We are continuing to do what we can to stop the aggression.
Q: Do you feel that this delay in going -- enabling Yeltsin to have his referendum April 25th, that that emboldened the Serbs to go on the offensive and try to clean out Srebrenica?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so. I think you've seen a consistent pattern on the part of the Serbs, a consistent pattern of aggression. It is something we oppose. It is something we will continue to oppose. We will look at all our options for response, and right now we are prepared to go forward with the sanctions, as Secretary Christopher said.
Q: What makes us think that sanctions would have any impact on Serbian behavior? While we've been told the sanctions have had an impact on the Serbian economy, it has not lessened the fighting, the fighting has increased since talk of tougher sanctions.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are pressing on a number of different fronts to try and stop the Serbian aggression, to try and convince the Serbians to come to the table. Our message is that there will be a price for continued aggression. We're prepared to press forward to make that price happen.
Q: In response to Andrea's earlier question, you talked about ground troops when the question was, is the United States considering with its allies air strikes on Serbian gun positions, or will it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What I said is that the President is reviewing all of his options.
Q: George, the allies have been opposed to any sort of interjection of military force, even air strikes against artillery positions. What kind of discussions, negotiations are underway now between the U.S. and the allies to take that next step?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't know the substance of discussions right now. Right now, as I said, Secretary Christopher has talked to the Russians about the possibility of a sanctions resolution. I believe those contacts are also being made with our allies. I don't know the state of consideration of the air strikes. Obviously, it is something that is under review both internally and, I expect, as we complete an internal view, it is something that may come under discussion with our allies. But I can't go into details.
Q: Did Secretary Christopher raise any other issues such as lifting the arms embargo or the possibility of air strikes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in this conversation.
Q: And has he or has the President had any other conversations with foreign leaders or foreign ministers to see if there is movement?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not this morning.
Q: Or yesterday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge.
Q: George, during the Gulf War Clinton made a point during the campaign of saying he favored the use of force in the context of the Gulf War as opposed to sanctions. What is it about this conflict that makes him believe that sanctions, not the use of force, will be effective in dealing with Milosovic and the Serbs when he was convinced that sanctions as opposed to the use of force wouldn't be effective in dealing with Saddam Hussein in Iraq?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't know that I can get into a long comparison of the two situations at this time. I mean, obviously, they are very different situations, very different circumstances; it's a different time and a different place. The President believes that it's important right now with the situation in the former Yugoslavia to move forward with our allies on sanctions, to tighten the screws on Serbia. He has also spoken about the possibility of lifting the arms embargo, and it is something we have said is under active consideration, as are a number of other measures. That's what he believes is appropriate right now for Bosnia.
Q: Did he ask the Russians to intervene and try to prevent the fall of Srebrenica or the surrender?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge. I mean, he has informed him of our position.
Q: Just let me follow up on that. Was he told that this would jeopardize Yeltsin's position regarding the referendum, because the whole reason for waiting two weeks was to wait until after --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that the substance of Mr. Mamedov's response was simply to say he would report back to his superiors.
Q: nonpermanent members of the Security Council were prepared to do this anyway today, with or without the U.S.? They were prepared to put this on the table and push for these stronger sanctions. So isn't, in effect, the President simply following the nonperm members of the Security Council's lead on this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know what the positions of each member of the -- each nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council. What I can say is that the Secretary has told the Russians that we were prepared to move forward in the event that Srebrenica fell or there was some sort of surrender there. And that's all I can say.
Q: outrage a pretty strong thing to express to the Russians about what the ethnic Serbs are doing in Bosnia? How much influence do you think they have over there? And why haven't you usee this card before?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we've been in constant contact with the Russians over the issue of Bosnia, as you well know. We are outraged over the continued Serbian aggression in Bosnia and Srebrenica. This is something that is of serious --
Q: Well, why express that to the Russians?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're also expressing it to all of our allies. But clearly, this is something we care deeply about we're going to move forward on.
Q: Are you outraged at the Russians for allowing this to happen?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, the Secretary was expressing the outrage of America over the events in Srebrenica.
Q: Has Bartholomew or anyone else expressed this outrage to Milosevic or Karadzic or anyone in Bosnia or Serbia? Have you given them any direct warning? Have you had any direct contact with them on that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that Mr. Bartholomew met with Milosevic a couple of days ago, I believe. And he expressed -- clearly expressed our position. I don't know that there's been any contact this morning, no.
Q: New subject, George?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Any more on Bosnia?
Q: I have one more question on Bosnia. To follow up on Susan's question because I didn't understand the answer, you were arguing from the podium a couple of days ago that it didn't matter on the issue of delay because the sanctions had a two week --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Under the original resolution.
Q: You're saying now that they would take effect immediately?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know the substance of the resolution that will be discussed this afternoon and the U.N. Security Council is going to meet and consult, but I would expect it would be for quicker action.
Q: George, just to get this outrage -- outrage is a really strong term. And usually when you're outraged, you take whatever steps are necessary to stop that outrage. Are you convinced that just tightening the sanctions --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You take more forceful steps, and that's what we're doing.
Q: George, on the economic stimulus bill, you talked about it in general terms about the areas that will be retained. Can you give us a list of dollar amounts comparable to the dollar amounts --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, this is a general -- as I said, we listed the programs that will be fully funded and then the other ones will be an across-the-board cut.
Q: You don't have the dollar amounts on the ones that are going to be reduced and how much they're going to be reduced by?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's easy to figure out. I think in the letter it points out it will be about a 44-percent reduction in the other programs.
Q: One more question here. The $200 million -- the way you described it in your -- you sounded like you were saying on top of the $12 billion, or is that included in the $12 billion?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's on top of the $12 billion, so I think the final is $12.2 billion, but I'd have to double-check.
Q: George, do you have any indication from any Republicans, the moderate Republicans, that they will go along with what the President is now proposing?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we certainly hope that Republicans and Democrats alike will support this package in the interest of creating the jobs and getting this bill off the dime. We've been in discussions with a number of Republicans, and this is the proposal the President is ready to make.
Q: Is Dole aware of it?
Q: Some of the Republicans are saying that, in fact, the effect of the recess has been to diminish the support for the overall package among the Democrats and that their negotiating hand is now stronger because some of your votes are soft and that as one of them was quoted as saying this morning, you don't get it, you can't negotiate on the situation when you're playing a weak hand. Are you concerned that that may be the case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. I think what we're concerned about is getting jobs created right away, and that's what the President is intent on doing. That's why he's gone the extra mile and offered this reduction. He believes it's important to get kids summer jobs this summer. He believes it's important to get kids immunized. He believes it's important to make the investments in highways, mass transit, and other infrastructure. He thinks we have to do something, we have to do something now. That's what he was elected for, and that's why he's willing to go the extra mile.
Q: I'm sure it's true. Are you still confident you have your Democratic votes in line on this track?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that we're going to have support of the Democrats, yes.
Q: How do you expect to influence Senator Specter tomorrow when Senator Specter is in Nigeria and his office hasn't been able to reach him for three days?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think you'd have to ask Senator Specter. But we expect to do to -- I think he probably will read any reports. But that's not necessarily the only effect. Right in western Pennsylvania this bill will make a big difference. It will make a difference for the airport in western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh. It's important.
Q: influence Senator Specter --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're trying to influence every member of the Senate to vote in their constituents' interest, which is for this bill.
Q: Can you clear up something about air strikes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll try.
Q: When I asked you about air strikes, you answered with what the President said about ground troops.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President was asked about force in general, which would cover both ground troops and air strikes.
Q: And later you were asked about it and you said I believe that it's under consideration.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I said that it's being reviewed, as are a number of options.
Q: Is there discussion with the allies to see if, in the event of Srebrenica falling, whether air strikes --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if the discussion is tied to that kind of a cause and effect.
Q: But are they discussions with the allies to see --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know the substance of the discussions. I know we've had general discussions with the allies about a number of possible options. I don't want to give any impression that this has moved to the top of the list.
Q: Are they discussions today with the allies?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There will be discussions today with the allies most specifically and first, obviously, about the sanctions and about other issues. As the President has said, he wants to move forward with the sanctions. He is willing to consider and has been discussing the possibility of lifting the arms embargo. Something more than that is obviously further down the road.
Q: To clarify, though, before you move off this, could you clarify -- you said that air strikes were -- you described it as an option that's being considered and reviewed. Are you talking in the context of unilateral action or are you only talking in the context --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: With these we've always been talking about multilateral action, working with our allies.
Q: And that still holds?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely. Again, that's the context we've been discussing our actions in Bosnia all along.
Q: George, on the stimulus package, let me understand. You're getting rid of maybe about $4 billion -- of the block grant money. You're not paying for any more of it, right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We pay for the program. This program comes in under the '93 caps --
Q: Still emergency --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And, again, it's paid for over five years.
Q: Why does the President think that Minority Leader Dole or any of the Republicans will be satisfied with this when this does not touch the two primary things that they were concerned about?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's interested in satisfying the American people and getting this package passed in the best way possible. That's what this proposal is all about.
Q: Why does he believe that this will do it, this will get it through?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He believes that this is his best offer. He believes that we should go forward at this time.
Q: This is it? He's not going to bargain after this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He believes the ball is in the Republicans' court right now to respond. He believes that this is the best program for creating jobs. It's an appropriate reduction; he's gone the extra mile to reduce the program while protecting the programs that he thinks are most important.
Q: George, Senator Dole's office says that Dole was not apprised in advance of the contents of this revised package. If the President wants to compromise and go the extra mile, why not discuss it with Dole?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think he had a general discussion with Senator Dole about the outlines of this package. I think that's right --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, nothing today. The last time they spoke they had a general conceptual discussion; it wasn't necessarily the specifics in this package, but I don't think that it's that far off.
Q: not say that he's negotiating with Senator Dole, he's just discussing?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We've had discussions with Senator Dole. I know that Senator Mitchell has had discussions with Senator Dole. The President has put forward this suggestion to Senators Mitchell and Byrd, and he believes it's appropriate.
Q: Would you characterize it as a negotiation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We hope that the Republicans will examine this proposal and see that it meets the needs that we're trying to meet and see that it's a responsible effort at trying to break the gridlock and support it.
Q: Are you aware or concerned about Democrats like Herb Kohl who are now saying they won't support the stimulus unless there are immediate corresponding program cuts?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think Senator Kohl has had that position for sometime. I mean, his position has been plenty clear. But we hope that he'll read this letter. We hope that we'll be able to convince all Democrats and all Republicans to support this package.
Q: Despite the value of any of these programs, what do immunization, Ryan White funding and meat inspection have to do with stimulus?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They're important investments. They're going to meet needs that aren't being met right now. They will create a small amount of jobs, but they're also going to meet important needs that have to be met right away.
Q: But don't they fail the test that Senator Dole and others have made concerning the fact they only want a bare-bones package that addresses job creation only? That's the only thing they want to support.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If they have proposals, we'll certainly take a look at them. The President believes this is the right program to move forward on.
Q: Doesn't it hurt the President's credibility to be loading up what is supposedly an emergency economic measure with a bunch of social measures, however worthy they may be in their own right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: These are meeting needs that are very pressing at this time. They will also create jobs and important to go forward on.
Q: But they're essentially noneconomic is the word that's normally used, are they not?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't buy that anything of this magnitude is not economic. They all are investments now that will save money in the future. That affects the economy.
Q: If you use that definition, the word economic has no meaning. I mean, anything that remotely performs any worthy service can therefore be defined as economic. And when the President talked about economic emergency, economic plan, it becomes impossible to know what it the world he's talking about.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, for 12 years we've underinvesting in the needs of the people of this country. We've been underinvesting in immunization, we've been underinvesting in AIDS; that is costing this economy money, that is costing this country money. We need to turn that around. That's what the President's doing.
Q: George, two questions: One, will you release the text of the letter to Senator Mitchell?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: And two, is this an all-or-nothing proposal, or is it --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that we have to get into that kind of terminology. The President believes this is the right proposal to make.
Q: What do you see the timetable as that? Is that Monday, Tuesday in terms of when do you expect the President to have it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the votes are scheduled for Tuesday. We hope that the senators will take a look at this over the weekend and that we can break the gridlock on Tuesday.
Q: Does the President plan on making any other trips to the country to drum up support for this, such as the one to Pennsylvania tomorrow?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's going to Pennsylvania tomorrow. After that, I think he'll be back in Washington. (Laughter.)
Q: That's a no, isn't it?
Q: The United States is taking a very active role in trying to support Boris Yeltsin in the G-7 meeting. Warren Christopher just quotes the Russian foreign minister -- is the U.S. asking the other countries of the G-7 to also call Russia and ask for their help in stopping the fall of Srebrenica?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know. We're certainly talking to our allies about the situation in Srebrenica. But I don't know about that kind of a sequence.
Q: George, do you have any reaction to the Palestinians said they prefer a postponement in the peace talks?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We believe it's important to get the talks moving as quickly as possible. We hope to go forward on the 20th.
Q: Have they formally requested a postponement?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know about a formal request, but I know that we've seen the reports. But we hope that this goes forward as quickly as possible -- we want to stick to the 20th.
Q: George, can you tell us a little about the meeting at 3:00 with the gay rights leaders?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's 3:30, isn't it?
Q: Okay. Who is going to be at the meeting? What does the President hope to accomplish? Is he going to give them any kind of particular positions that they want to hear about?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have the names of the individuals, but I think there will be a group of about five or six, maybe seven representatives of gay and lesbian rights groups. I think they'll be talking about the general items on their agenda, as the President has done with a number of different groups, including discrimination including AIDS, other issues.
Q: Is he going to address in any way -- by telephone or in some way -- the march that occurs on the day he's out of town, on the 25th?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that's something that is likely to come up this afternoon. I think it will be discussed at the meeting.
Q: George, can we try again to clarify the ground troops issue? The President said, according to the transcript, "I don't want to rule in or out anything except that we've never considered the introduction of American ground forces, as you know." That's the opposite of what you said.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's exactly what I said.
Q: You said only ground forces.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not what I said. I mean, that is exactly what I said. If it's not, I stand by the President. (Laughter.)
Q: you said the opposite.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If I did, I misspoke and I meant --
Q: You said as part of the peacekeeping after --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, which is his position. That's his position.
Q: He has not ruled out air power? Q: The President wasn't talking about peacekeeping -- MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, he was talking about --exactly. Q: How many jobs would be created by this scaled-back
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know it's about an 18 percent reduction in the number of jobs. I don't have the number at the top of my head.
Q: There's some confusion on the point because the original stimulus package of $30 billion included -- half of that was tax initiatives. That was going to produce 500,000 jobs. The $16.3 billion was half of the $30 billion and I'm not sure what your claim would be the job creation off the $16.3 billion?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think this is 18 percent below what the spending portion would originally have created, which I think was about 250,000 or 200,000, but I just don't have the exact number.
Q: George, I have another Bosnia question on a parallel track, separate track from all the outrage in the U.N. and stuff like that. But in terms of the fall of Srebrenica there are something like 60,000 people there that are either going to be refugees or killed by the Serbians. Is the United States doing anything in terms of planning anything in terms of humanitarian relief or in terms of helping an evacuation? Anything at all along those lines?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, we've had airlifts for the last 44 days in Bosnia.
Q: It's not a question of --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And it's a terrible human tragedy and we'll, obviously, look at our options. I don't know of any specific plans at this time.
Q: Have we been asked to provide transport or anything like that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if there's been any requests like that. As you know, there have been several requests for food and other kinds of humanitarian aid, which we are doing our best to meet.
Q: This all seems so -- your outrage is so belated. And how come you're being stampeded now? Is it -- does it suddenly occur to you that this is the end of the road for Bosnia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Helen, I just don't agree. It's not belated. We've been talking about his issue every day. We've been working with our allies every day. As I said, it's a terrible tragedy that is very difficult and we're moving forward on it.
Q: But don't you think if you had cut them off at the pass earlier or tried to, that you would not be in this --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know what situation we would be in right now. What I do know is that the Serbians are continuing their aggression and we're going to continue to oppose it.
Q: That's not a surprise, is it, because they haven't disguised their intention?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, and we've been very active in our opposition.
Q: George, you said that the tougher sanctions would be the next first step or the first next step. How long will the U.S. give -- how much time will the U.S. give for these sanctions to work before you then you take that next step, which is to push even harder for --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't answer at this time. What we're doing now is moving forward with our allies on the sanctions. We'll have to see what happens on the ground.
Q: There's no time frame involved here?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No specific time frame.
qQ: How do you determine at what point --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We determine by assessing what the situation is on the ground and making your best judgement.
Q: But by all evidence, Srebrenica's going to fall within hours or days at the outside. So you adopt the sanctions -- even if you did that today Srebrenica falls. I mean, then do you start considering air strikes or do you wait until Sarajevo falls? I mean, there's got to be some logical timetable --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This is a constantly evolving situation. We are reviewing it every day. That's what we've done to day and we will continue to review it. Q: George, just on the daily VAT update. (Laughter.) MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, relief. Q: Part of your strategy -- was it part of the
strategy to have Vice President Gore go out this morning and say he didn't much prefer VAT and didn't think it was going to happen? Is that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think what he said was that he didn't think that it was something that had been presented to the President yet and was not something that --
Q: It was a little stronger than that.
Q: He said he didn't think it was likely and it was not something -- a concept that he had supported in the past. Can you tell us who's speaking for the administration on this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No decisions have been made, which is the authoritative word, and it continues to be the authoritative word, and nothing that Vice President Gore said contradicts that.
Q: Well, one day a member of the administration says the VAT has a lot to recommend it. The President --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but in a different context. I think Ms. Rivlin was asked about a VAT in the context of an overall change in tax policy, and she made the general observation that there are some positive arguments in favor of a VAT. The President will make this decision; the decision hasn't been made yet. There are several people who make strong arguments for it, several who make argument against it. But again, no decision has been made.
Q: Does he share the Vice President's assessment that it's unlikely that a VAT will be passed?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President will announce his views on the VAT when he's ready to announce his views on the VAT.
Q: To just go back to the gay and lesbian meeting for a second -- some of the activists who are going to be there said that they want to use the meeting to talk him into staying here and going to the march and suggesting he's afraid of having his picture taken with them. Two questions on that. Is that firm that he absolutely will not be here for the march? And, secondly, will you release a picture of the meeting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we'll release a picture of the meeting. The President has commitments in Jamestown and he has commitments at the newspaper publishers.
Q: Can we request a photo op?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You can, but the President has private meetings every single day. We don't make it common practice of doing a photo opportunity. We often do, and we're going to release a photo of the meeting.
Q: There's been quite a bit made about this being an historic occasion, the first time gays are invited into the Oval Office to sit down with the President.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's why we're releasing a picture.
Q: And I respectfully request a photo opportunity.
Q: Not do be discriminated against.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll look into it.
Q: George, when groups have come to the White House, Jeff Eller's office calls local media if it's an area, or specialty media if it's a subject to come to the White House to cover that event -- even on some private events like the black publishers White House to cover that event, even on some private events like the black publishers that were here. Did Eller's office call any of the gay media to come to --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge.
Q: When exactly is the publishers speech, George? I know it's on Sunday --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. I think it's midafternoon -- 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m., maybe 4:00 p.m.
Q: They're saying the meeting doesn't really get underway until the next day, and I'm wondering if there's an event being set up especially so the President can speak to --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: On the tax side of the stimulus package, are we in limbo in terms of the ITC and these other elements, or where do we stand?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President supports the package, and he wants it acted on as quickly as possible.
Q: Even though Senator Moynihan and other top Democrats have said they don't want an investment tax credit?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President believes it's important.
Q: George, would you say the President is unalterably opposed to coming up with immediate and contemporaneous funding for the programs that he wants the Senate to pass?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What I'd say is the President believes he's put forward a good-faith effort at breaking the gridlock and on creating as many jobs as we can right now. But I just must repeat, because it's important to note, his package comes in under the '93 caps. His package is paid for over time.
Q: But it's funded this year with deficit spending.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're still -- yes, but we're still under the '93 caps.
Q: But the objections from the Senate leadership, the Senate Republican leadership, is that you are doing it with deficit spending, and it's doesn't seem as though the compromise that you're offering addresses that objection.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it may not address that objection, but it's a good-faith effort in coming up with a compromise.
Q: George, the liberal Democrats on the House side had in part gone along with some of the tough votes on budget resolution, in part because of the stimulus package. Now that the President is scaling back the stimulus package by about $4 billion, would you anticipate some problems in the House when it comes back?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I certainly hope not. As the President said, he's very reluctant to agree to these reductions. This is not what he wants. This is not his preference. But we're facing a determined minority eager to block action. And we can't stand by while that's happening, and that's why he's going the extra mile.
Q: Is Vance-Owen or some negotiated variation of that the only acceptable negotiated peace? would you accept the Serbians stopping aggression after they have taken the territory?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't get into that kind of hypothetical. We want the Serbians to come to the table now.
Q: have lines somewhere of what they have to do?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're going to continue to press them to come to the table.
Q: George, is there any American effort to try to assist the U.N. in getting helicopter evacuations going? The reason being that they don't want to take the men out -- the wounded out by truck.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd have to take the question. I'm just not sure. You can check with the State Department.
Q: George, back on the stimulus package. Is the cut that the President is proposing acceptable to the House? Has that been discussed or vetted with the House leadership?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there have been some discussions. Howard Paster, I'm certain has had some discussions, as has the President of some sort over the last couple of days.
Q: With who and what's been the response?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know how deeply they've gone, but I'm certain that there's been some contact with the Speaker, the Majority Leader, and probably some others -- Mr. Natcher.
Q: And are they comfortable with --
I think that they're aware of what the President's proposal -- take a look at it -- and I don't think we'll have any significant problem.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:15 P.M. EDT
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/269303