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Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

March 16, 1995

The Briefing Room

1:32 P.M. EST

Q: Elaine alerted us that there will be a series of these events, perhaps monthly. Can you give us a couple of days notice so we can adjust our schedules accordingly?

MR. MCCURRY: You mean, announce the news a couple of days ahead of time, and then make the news?

Q: Tell us when these things are coming so that we can check into our schedules and all of that.

MR. MCCURRY: If you would allow me to do it from time to time for planning purposes with the understanding that we will want to make some news on a given time, I'll be happy to do that.

I want to thank Dr. Kamarck -- they've already left, but thank Dr. Kamarck and the other participants, especially Carol Browner. The President is very satisfied that she has been acting fully within her responsibility; indeed, one of her responsibilities includes informing the American people and the Congress about the impact of proposed legislation. And that is not only true in her case, but true in the case of most Cabinet agencies that they need to be able to present that type of information to the American public when people are judging the potential impact of proposed changes in laws. So the President is fully satisfied that Carol Browner is operating within her purview at EPA.

Q: Carol Browner seems to have kind of buried the lead and she rushed off after she said this -- you're saying that the moratorium would prevent -- would freeze every rule in place. And even if you wanted to reduce a rule or eliminate it, the moratorium would not allow that to happen?

MR. MCCURRY: That is our -- our understanding -- I can't explain -- you just had the people who could tell you how it would work in particular, but our understanding is that's one of the problems with the proposed moratorium, is that it really does prevent your ability not only to change existing regulations, but then to go in and to -- it stops in place some of those rule-making procedures that are already underway to implement things that have already been passed.

We're dealing with one -- apparently, the parental leave legislation passed last year is still going through some regulatory aspects, and it would prevent the adoption and promulgation of those rules in some cases.

Q: What she was saying is it would also prevent reducing regulations; that's what I mean.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, yes. Oh, you mean if you were --yes, that's correct, that if you were actually, in some cases, if you are actually, in some cases, withdrawing or modifying existing rules.

MS. TERZANO: Do you want Carol?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Do you want to come back? We'll bring her back and deal with that.

Q: Have you had a reaction to the passage of the rescission in the House?

MR. MCCURRY: No, the President will be doing that in just -- well -- the question that's been put is that the moratorium also prohibits the reduction of regulatory burden. Right?

ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: There is some language that was included in the House-passed moratorium which they have suggested would exempt any rules that are designed to reduce regulatory burdens. It is not clear, however, that language actually accomplishes that fact. And what you need to understand, in many regulations, an example would be in the community right-to-know rule, which I adopted in December, which would be covered by the moratorium, I simultaneously expanded the number of chemicals that the public will have the right to know about and streamlined the reporting requirements, the forms that small businesses use. So in one rule, I've done two things. It's not clear what the moratorium would do to that. Our lawyers are telling us it would prevent us from giving communities access to information about chemicals being released in their communities for another year.

Q: Mike, you said the President is going to comment on the rescission package -- in what forum or format ?

MR. MCCURRY: Is going to be the NCSL remarks that he's got scheduled for 2:00 p.m.

Q: Does the President think Congressman McIntosh is trying to silence and intimidate Administrator Browner?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they're -- the President and the White House itself believes that there's an attempt here to place a chilling effect on high officials in this administration who are carrying out their legitimate duties; telling the American people what the impact of a proposed legislation will be. There is an attempt here to intimidate, and we won't stand for it.

Q: Mike, is the President going to talk to Major sometime later today and will we get a readout on that phone call?

MR. MCCURRY: I doubt that it will be later today. My understanding from 10 Downing is that they are looking at trying to schedule a call over the weekend. That would fit with the President's schedule as well. They have informally agreed that they would talk in the next couple of days about a range of things.

By the way, I think it's important -- I know there's a lot of interest in the peace process in Northern Ireland, but remember that the Prime Minister has just concluded a trip to the Middle East. The President is anxious to compare notes with the Prime Minister, to tell the Prime Minister more about Secretary Christopher's just-completed, successful trip to the Middle East and also to probably review the President's bilateral meeting that he's just held with the King. So we've got a number of subjects that they want to review. I wouldn't rule out the notion that they would also talk about the relationships that exist between the U.K. and Russia and the United States and Russia. But I'm fairly certain that call won't take place until sometime into the weekend.

Q: Mike, are you indicating that a decision has been made on the May 8th visit to --

MR. MCCURRY: No. No change in that. When there's a decision, we'll let you know. I've got one other -- before we go on to questions, some additional real news.

The President has now responded to Governor Wilson's request on a disaster declaration for nine additional counties in California. They have been added to the 38 already declared disaster areas by the President -- 39. So there are now a total of 48. Those counties include El Dorado, Mariposa, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity and Tuolumne counties.

Q: You'll have some paper on that?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll have some paper on that coming out shortly. They've been designated to receive both individual and public assistance. At present, there are about 1,000 people still in shelters across Northern California and damages estimates are still unclear because the water has not entirely receded at this point. But FEMA officials are working out there, subject to the review that Chief of Staff Panetta did over the last several days. They're working with the state to determine if other areas will warrant federal assistance. But the President responded quickly to the request from the Governor.

Q: Mike, obviously, tomorrow's events here go beyond the usual, the traditional presentation of a bowl of shamrocks. What does the President hope to accomplish by bringing all these people together?

MR. MCCURRY: The President's goal is the one shared by Prime Minister Major, shared by Prime Minister Bruton to advance a peace process that can bring reconciliation to the peoples of Northern Ireland. We believe that's best done when the parties themselves are at the table and are talking about the issues that have divided them and where they are actually talking about making progress towards the goal of a safe and peaceful Northern Ireland.

But that process is defined in the Declaration of Principles that they've reached and the discussions that have been underway and are satisfied that the United States can lend its encouragement to a process that we support by having the type of discussions that we've been having and, in a sense, celebrating them on the occasion of St. Patrick's Day, as we will tomorrow.

Q: And there will there be coverage of the reception, which is out of the norm?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be the normal coverage of the toasts at the reception by pool. Is that correct? Yes.

Q: Mike, to follow up on --

Q: Other than support, Mike, does the administration have anything to contribute to the process?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have contributed a great deal to the process as some of the parties indicate, that we have helped them reach moments of dialogue, we've helped them, in a sense, deepen their understanding of the process that they've now undertaken. We admire the courage that the parties have shown, including Prime Minister Major and Prime Minister Bruton, and we hope that the process, as we say, will deepen as they begin to address the issues that are difficult for them to address, but they've never indicated a willingness to address.

Q: Mike, is the President satisfied that there will be a good accounting of the money raised by Gerry Adams in the U.S.?

MR. MCCURRY: That was one of our preconditions for allowing him to so raise, as it has been indicated before.

Q: On the affirmative action study, what's been the impact of these calls by people who favor continuation of affirmative action -- women's groups, minority groups and so on?

MR. MCCURRY: They are among the many points of view that are being collected and assembled and evaluated as part of the review. And they are influential, I think, in the case of women and some of the groups that were speaking yesterday. We've had dramatic evidence of the case they were making and the Class Ceiling Commission Report, which is now public as of today that makes a very persuasive case that there is a pattern of injustice here that we need to address and that many of these programs have been effective in doing. That is all fed into and part of the review that the President has underway.

Q: Has their concern sort of slowed the process here in terms of coming to a conclusion on that review?

MR. MCCURRY: No. No, we're proceeding carefully, deliberately in order to get it right in due time.

Q: What's going to be the result of this review? Are you going to actually come out with a set of specific recommendations on programs?

MR. MCCURRY: It's too hard to say yet. I mean, in general, there's a public articulation of some central premises that the President will do, and there will probably be some follow-up, too. But it's too early to say exactly substantively how that will look when the review is concluded.

Q: Prime Minister Bruton has suggested that President Clinton could take even more steps toward the Protestant Unionists. It's similar to things that he's done for Gerry Adams. Is there anything other than inviting them to that reception tomorrow night?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there have been considerable things beyond just having them on the guest list for the reception tomorrow. We've had active and productive dialogue with them through the National Security Advisor. They've been in contact as well with high officials at the State Department. As we seek to nurture and encourage the peace process, we, of course, take steps ourselves to learn more about the positions of the parties who are in dialogue now. And we will continue to do that, continue to play any type of facilitating role that the parties themselves deem appropriate.

Q: Why did the President decide to review affirmative action -- it's simply one more reactive step to what's going on the Hill -- and cut them off at the pass?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, very simply put, these programs are now under attack. It's very clear they're under attack by the Republican majority in the Congress, and if you believe in the use of government to try to correct injustice, you have to ensure that government is doing that job well, and you have to be able to defend the proper use of government to address past injustices and discrimination if you want to protect these programs from those who would abolish these programs altogether

So, in a sense, you're right. I'd have to acknowledge that it is a reaction to a very extreme effort by those who would just abolish all these efforts altogether and go back to saying, look, the America we lived in the 1950s is fine. You know, we don't have to worry about the fact that people are denied opportunity or that they don't the right to have a little helping hand when they try to make their own way forward.

Q: Mike, are you saying that the President doesn't think that here have been abuses within the system of affirmative action and that he thinks there needs to be some modification of affirmative action?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has indicated that you can't defend that which is not defendable. And that clearly acknowledges that sometimes you have to improve the instrument of government if you want to use it effectively in the name of the American people. So whatever -- if any of these programs, as part of this review are found to need fine-tuning, of course, that's something you'd expect the Chief Executive to put his attention to.

Q: So what is it? Is it to protect it from the Republicans or to review it to see if it should be amended? Which one is it?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is to -- the best way to protect these programs from those who would seek to abolish them altogether is to ensure that they do the job they're intended to do. What the President wants to make sure is that we can make the best case in defense of programs he believes in based on his past record and his experience as a governor in a Southern state, and, you know, make sure that we can follow through on the commitments that we have to the American people to provide a measure of equal opportunity and justice when there are instances of discrimination and injustice.

Q: Well, he doesn't think there's equal opportunity in this country, does he?

MR. MCCURRY: He does not think that we have reached the point at which you can just declare, "job done," and roll back all these programs as some on Capitol Hill clearly do. And that is a big point of contention that we have with those who say we should just sort of, at this point, say, we've solved all our problems. We don't need a role for government. Let's get government out of the picture altogether.

Q: Is the job that these programs were intended to do to increase the participation of minorities in federal contracting and hiring, or is it, as you seem to suggest, to redress past wrongs because that relates to specific court cases where -- those are two different things.

MR. MCCURRY: They -- in each case that there's been an executive order or something promulgated specifically on it, they've been contained in the documentation, and for each action accordingly, there has been adjudication of some of those points, and I'm not going to try to get into all of those now. I'm not enough of an expert on it to do that.

Q: Mike, do you expect a presidential decision on the Moscow trip before or after the Christopher meeting with Mr. Kozyrev?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want -- there's been a lot of dialogue. There will be a very important meeting between the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister. There's been a lot of dialogue back and forth with the Russian Federation in advance of both the summit and the Christopher-Kozyrev meeting. I don't want to predict when we might have any announcement on the dates scheduled for the summit, that we clearly will have some time by the end of June.

Q: Who else has invited the President to visit?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, say again.

Q: Who else has invited, in Europe --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have the full -- you could check. There are a variety -- I don't know that there have been specific invitations. There are a variety of events taking place all across Europe in connection with V-E celebrations.

Q: Has there been any indication that the Krajina Serbs are moving closer to accepting a scaled-down or a changed U.N. mandate in Croatia? And as a follow-up, how many NATO, or how many U.S. military communications troops are going in to assist the NATO --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's been no -- to review a little bit, to my knowledge, there's been no, on the Krajina Serbs, there have been no effort yet to include them in a specific promulgation of a mandate which would cover a U.N. mission. There's been some discussion, as you know, with President Tudjman about how you would structure a new mandate for U.N. presence in Croatia. They've got to define how that would look. There's some contingency planning underway in NATO that would address that and structure that accordingly, but I don't want to speculate on what role any U.S. personnel might participate. Certainly, there's been no decision firmly on what that would look like until we know further what the contingency planning would be.

Q: Francisco Duran's trial comes up next week, I believe. And I'm wondering if the President is satisfied with any security changes that might have been made at the White House in light of that incident, the shooting incident?

MR. MCCURRY: I have to check. Someone asked me earlier today on the status of that security review, and I forgot to do it. I apologize. But I'll take that and do something with that tomorrow in advance of that trial opening.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END1:49 P.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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