Bill Clinton photo

Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

May 18, 1995

The Briefing Room

1:45 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to have you here at the White House in this teeming, bubbling cauldron of journalistic wit.

Any questions?

Q: Mike, do you have any indication that there are negotiations underway now between Democrats and Republicans to find a compromise on the rescission that would allow it to go through and be acceptable to the President?

MR. MCCURRY: That's really a question involving discussions between members on the Hill. The Chief of Staff to the President was on the Hill today and certainly indicated our willingness to move ahead exactly along the lines of the bill that the President offered up yesterday. That is a very good outline for a compromise. They can pass that this afternoon.

I don't have any way of knowing whether Democrats and Republicans on the Hill are talking to each other about moving forward on something. I certainly hope they are, and the President hopes they are because there are things in that bill we need to get done, not the least of which is the aid to Oklahoma City and the disaster relief for California; also the debt relief provisions that are necessary for the Middle East peace process. They need to move on those right away, but there's absolutely no impediment to Congress passing those measures and doing them as quickly as possible. The cuts are identified to pay for those measures, and they could separate those issues and pass those as a substitute for the conference report now pending. Or they could go back and address the problems that the President has raised in the overall bill and make the adjustments in the $1.5 billion worth of spending out of this overall $16.4 billion.

Q: Is something cooking, is what we're asking. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Is something cooking? I don't know. Talk to the chefs on the Hill. We've added our ingredients and our spice.

Q: Do you get any feel for what's happening?

MR. MCCURRY: If you'll allow me, the best way for me to answer that question would be to check with the Chief of Staff when he returns from the Hill, and he's now up there.

Q: Will you do that and let us know so we don't --

MR. MCCURRY: He may have spoken to some of your colleagues up on the Hill even as we speak here.

Q: Is that a no?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'll be happy to -- happy to.

Q: Let me ask you this. Of the $16.5 billion, you basically agree with the Republicans on $15 billion.

MR. MCCURRY: That's right -- 90 percent.

Q: It's only a billion and a half. If there is -- is there an attitude that you can work this out, that it's not that big of a number, given the scheme of things, that the differences aren't that great?

MR. MCCURRY: Certainly as -- exactly as the President indicated yesterday. I mean, it would be relatively simple to fix this bill and to do it quickly.

Q: Is it really relatively simple to fix a bill that's already been in the form of a conference report? Isn't all --doesn't all history of the way the legislation works indicate that the later it is in the game, the farther down the road you are to the finished product, the more difficult it becomes to change it?

MR. MCCURRY: I think everyone in this room is aware of how Congress very often at the last minute can do miraculous things legislatively, and it is possible for them to either set aside a conference report, take up a substitute, and either House could pass a new version of legislation, they could just lay aside the existing conference report. There are a number of ways, legislatively, procedurally, that Congress could deal with this and get on with the business.

Q: Is the President willing to risk $15 billion worth of savings to protect $1.5 billion worth of spending?

MR. MCCURRY: Because the cuts that they've made jeopardize the future of kids in this country, jeopardizes programs that will help us build a stronger economy for the 21st century, and they do it in the name of preserving a bunch of court houses and roads and buildings. And the question is priority. We live in times where we have to reduce the deficit, cut spending, and why won't they cut the spending for infrastructure and buildings instead of cutting the programs that help people?

Q: But, Mike, if he vetoes the bill and the veto stands, the spending on the courthouses, the roads and all the objectionable things goes forward, correct?

MR. MCCURRY: It is already going forward --

Q: Exactly, so how do you stop it by vetoing the bill?

MR. MCCURRY: -- already going forward, and the President suggests cut back spending, cut the spending for the infrastructure and the roads and the highways before you cut the programs that help people.

Q: I understand that. But the alleged pork is already on trail and his veto will not stop it -- is that not correct?

MR. MCCURRY: That is what a rescissions bill is by definition; of course, Brit.

Q: That's a yes, isn't it?

MR. MCCURRY: It is, of course, because that's what a rescissions bill is, is cutting spending that's already been appropriated by Congress. And what we're saying is, look, you've got to have some priorities now, you know. Everyone agrees we're in an environment where we're cutting spending, we're taking the scarce resources available and spending them the right way, and that requires tough choices.

But a few Congress can deal with court houses that don't have their names on them in the name of giving assistance to people who are going to be contributing parts of our economy in the 21st century. That's what this is about. You have to have some priority. That's what the President suggested yesterday.

Q: What are the major differences between the version that the President said he would sign at Dallas and what the conferees came up with now? What forced the President to reverse his earlier decision?

MR. MCCURRY: Because the President indicated in Dallas that he found much more acceptable, even though he had concerns, much more acceptable the Senate-passed version. What they did was they had a House version and a Senate version, and the conference report that ended up much closer to the House version. If the had ended up much closer to the Senate version, we might be in a different position. So, specifically go back to the Senate version and it can start from there, if they want to.

Q: Was Ron Brown here for the Cabinet meeting today, and did he meet with the President and has he met with the President personally since --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. They were planning -- the President planned to talk to him yesterday. He's talked to Ron a couple of times and they were planning to talk yesterday. I don't know if they had a chance to.

Q: Can you get back to us with that?

MR. MCCURRY: Find out whether he was here? Well, why don't you just, while we're in session here, find out whether he was here earlier.

There was a -- a Cabinet briefing meeting last night. See what you can find out --

Q: What is the difference, policy-wise, between the budget and the rescissions package and the way you're approaching it, if the President has suddenly gotten religion on reducing the deficit in terms of rescissions, why are you staying out of the idea of proposing a new budget?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we haven't. We've proposed an FY'96 budget that contains additional deficit reduction, as you know.

Q: On the rescissions bill, Mike --

Q: Do you have a follow-up? Can he have his follow- up?

MR. MCCURRY: Follow-up -- go ahead.

Q: I know you don't want to answer these questions, but your budget deficit -- your budget for FY '96 proposes that the budget deficit actually rise. So if all of a sudden now you're interested in closing --

MR. MCCURRY: FY '96. That's just not true in the case of FY '96.

Q: Well, in FY '97 and thereafter. If you're interested -- if you're so interested in reducing the deficit now that the President would take a stand and propose his own rescissions package, why not do something similar in terms of a budget?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be a lot of discussion on the budget as we go ahead, a lot more work left to do on the budget.

Q: Are you, therefore, saying you're going to propose something?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I'm not commenting on that one way or another. There will be a lot of work ahead on the budget. The President will be fully engaged with the Congress. You've now seen as a result of the President's veto of this rescissions bill that we can engage the Congress very effectively in getting -- driving home our points, and I suspect we will do so as we go ahead here.

Q: Hey, Mike. Mike, I thought you recognized me.


Q: Thank you. On the rescission bill, is the veto equation strictly related to spending priorities or does the timber sales provision become an important fact. In other words, if you are able to reconcile a compromise to dollars, would the President still veto because of the difference?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, timber sales were among, as are materials indicated yesterday, among the provisions that caused the President great concern, and we'll have to see how that comes out. If they do an adjusted measure or revised measure, we'll comment on that accordingly as they move through. But clearly our concerns as we've expressed them on the timber sales provision remain.

Q: Do you attach equal importance?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean -- look, we made it real clear yesterday what our substantive problems were with this rescissions bill. This was a rescissions bill that did not cut the spending where they could have cut the spending for courthouses and roads and highways, and instead cut the spending for programs that are going to help people. That was the President's principal concern, but there were a bunch of objectionable provisions in the bill, as our statements to the Congress indicated.

And by the way, there's been some complaint in Congress that, gee, we didn't tell them what we were thinking about this bill. We have communicated over and over again with Congress and given them statement after statement of administration policy, all of which made very clear that the President would intend to veto this legislation if it wasn't fixed. And so what we're saying now is fix this bill, pass it, send it back to the President so we can get on.

Q: Is that available for general release now?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. These are all statements -- all this stuff is right in the Congressional Record. Any member of Congress can read it -- statements of the administration policy, letters to the chairs of the committees --

Q: Threatening veto?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- well, threatening -- in each of these cases they say that the substantive Cabinet officer with responsibility in various areas would recommend vetoes. And we said here that we found certainly the House-passed provision, version, we said was unacceptable, and we said we had concerns about the Senate- passed version as well.

Q: But it's 90 percent okay -- the measure is 90 percent fine, right?

MR. MCCURRY: Of the funding that's in the bill, 90 percent of it is agreed.

Q: There's no funding in the bill, it's defunding, isn't it?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, the defunding, which is the rescission.

Q: What you said here -- everybody said here yesterday and you today it's 90 percent agreeable?

MR. MCCURRY: Ninety percent of the additions to spending and compensating cuts contained in the bill -- actually, 90 percent of the overall reductions in Fiscal Year 1995 spending the Congress and the President agree upon.

Q: And all the additional spending attached to it is also okay?

MR. MCCURRY: The additional spending -- the overall, the bottom line is $16.5 billion in total reductions, but within that there is additional new spending for things we need -- Oklahoma City, disaster relief-California, the Jordan debt relief package. And that's offset by corresponding cuts in other areas.

Q: Affirmative action -- that was put off for Oklahoma City, it was put off for the Russia trip. Now the President is back. What about it?

MR. MCCURRY: What's the question? When are we going to do --

Q: When are you going to do affirmative action?

MR. MCCURRY: I would imagine fairly soon.

Q: Wait, wait. (Laughter.) I mean, this week, next week, this month?

Q: This year?

Q: This summer?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll let you know.

You had a question, Helen?

Q: Is Dr. Foster in trouble?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q: After the latest --

MR. MCCURRY: If you knew the friendly notes I get from my fan club over here -- (laughter.) Dr. Foster -- no, Dr. Foster has made a lot of progress. We feel very good about where his nomination now stands, because he's made a very good impression. He took the step -- some of you probably saw it today -- took the step of providing additional information to Senator Ashcroft to address some of his concerns. We feel very good about the progress he's making, and arguing his case, and we look forward to his confirmation.

Q: How soon is this affirmative action and in what form?

MR. MCCURRY: I could -- I'll need to check back with George and get an exact read. They are narrowing down a lot of the elements of that review, and I suspect they will be in a position to complete it relatively soon. But the President does have a fairly active schedule between now and mid-June when we depart for the G-7 meeting, and whether it's possible to do it in that time frame is not clear.

Q: How active is his travel schedule?

MR. MCCURRY: Active. We'll have someone tell you about that later.

Q: While we are staying strictly on all these big picture items, could I just ask, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Shuster, says the Chief of Staff greatly misstated the -- highway demonstration projects in his single district, and that it's only something like $6 million worth of two projects. Do you have any -- (laughter) --

MR. MCCURRY: You guys are giving me like a note a minute here. (Laughter.)

Q: I'd like to see everybody at the side bar. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Secretary Brown did attend a meeting that George and some others had on affirmative action at 11:00 a.m. The President spoke to Secretary Brown last night, as I indicated yesterday that they intended to, and it was just for the President to reaffirm the substance of the statement that we issued on his behalf yesterday. Obviously, the President expressed confidence that Secretary Brown would come through this fine.

Now, Congressman Shuster, yes.

Q: Well, do you have any information about whether -- do you withdraw that charge that he had nine --

MR. MCCURRY: No, no. In fact -- but we do need, in fairness to Congressman Shuster we do need to correct the record. We said that there were, within his district, nine projects that could conceivably be affected by the President's proposal yesterday totalling $130 million. That was in error, and the White House does apologize for that, in fact it's 10, and the total -- volume is $218 million. There are 10 potential demonstration projects that could be affected, and I believe the list is available.

Q: Do you want to enumerate those?


Q: What are the potential demonstration projects?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've got -- let's see US 220, fourlane limited access road, borough of Water Street, construct two-line bypass and US 22, Holidaysburg -- relocate US 22 around Holidaysburg. Lewistown, relocate US 22 north of Lewistown. Reedsville, construct four-lane highway between Reedsville and Seven Mountains. Rearing Springs, add center turning lane on PA 36 from US 222. (Laughter.) Shall I continue, or do you get the point?

Q: How much?

MR. MCCURRY: Our count -- when they did the review, the budget folks who looked at this yesterday had missed one that's actually in the adjacent district, but it is also in Congressman Shuster's district. That would bring the total to 10, and the total dollar value of the projects affected is $218 million. Now, I'll say this on the Congressman's behalf -- he was making the point there were only two of these projects that had been identified in the Senate rescissions bill, and that is accurate. But in our proposal, the President's proposal, we say -- they're going to take the pool in, by the way, just to see the top of this DLC meeting, which is what that's about, for anyone who is affected by that.

Q: What's the President want to talk about?

MR. MCCURRY: The rescissions bill -- he'll say a little bit more on the rescissions bill.

Q: How much was affected by the bill, if any?

MR. MCCURRY: What we have done, we suggested -- the President suggested to Congress, who said, I want this dollar amount to come out of the -- I want this dollar amount to come out of the highway demonstration funding -- $450 million. Now, of all of those projects in the pipeline now, Congress could designate any number of them to constitute that $450 million. So they're a total, conceivably, of 10 different projects in the Congressman's district that could be affected. Now, there have been two --

Q: That could be affected by the President's proposal?

MR. MCCURRY: By the President's proposal. We don't say, cut these specific projects, we say this is a budget category, and we say draw down $450 million of spending out of this, it could conceivably come from any of those projects that are currently in the pipeline.

Q: So when he says that there are two affected by the Senate bill --

MR. MCCURRY: There are two affected by the Senate rescissions bill, and that is correct. But under -- in fairness, under our proposal, any one of those 10 projects in his district could conceivably be cut.

Q: And those two in the Senate bill were restored by the conference?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, because they did not -- the House did not accede to the Senate provisions, so that left those two fully funded.

Q: So the conference report that will be vetoed protected only two of his projects?

MR. MCCURRY: No, no. The two -- my understanding is the conference committee report that was passed did not have any provisions cutting funding for any of those projects. So in other words, he had two that were available.


Q: Jill has the floor. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I like this custom. You can yield to your colleague.

Q: Well, at least I got recognized.

MR. MCCURRY: How are you doing? What's on your mind? (Laughter.)

Q: Yes. On our mind is Kerrey and Simpson have a new proposal on Social Security --

MR. MCCURRY: I saw they were having a press conference, but I haven't seen a report on it.

Q: Well, it's on retirement age 70, some COLA adjustments and IRAs.

MR. MCCURRY: Sounds very interesting. The White House will be glad to look at that proposal.

Q: What, if any, kind of response do you all plan to the Christian Coalition contract?

MR. MCCURRY: Some of you asked me about it earlier and I didn't -- I don't know that there was a lot to respond to. I mean, there are some areas within their proposed contract where I think we have some clear differences. But in general, the tone that Mr. Reed had yesterday as he discussed the impetus for the contract that he proposed was things that I think the President would agree with -- much of what he said the President would agree with. The quality of --

Q: Like what?

MR. MCCURRY: Where are my notes from that yesterday? I had some specific quotes in here that -- come on. He said, to quote Ralph Reed, that the fraying of the social fabric, the coarsening of the culture, the breakdown of the family, and a decline in civility are problems that America faces today. I believe everyone here has heard Bill Clinton say much the same. Mr. Reed said that the purpose of his contract is not to legislate family values, it is to ensure that Washington values families. Good quote. I think the President agrees with that 100 percent.

Q: How about his prescriptions? Do you agree with his --

MR. MCCURRY: In general -- look, his point in the presentation we saw yesterday is that they don't intend -- they don't make a litmus test, they're not talking about making this a presidential issue. They do want to make them legislative issues. So if you look at them, point by point, as legislative issues, there are some points where there are some disagreements. And chief among them are the issue of choice. The President I don't think would agree with the contract presented by Mr. Reed yesterday when it comes to denying women the freedom of choice that they currently enjoy. And I don't think that we would agree with some of the proposed measures that would, in effect, tamper with the Bill of Rights. But beyond that, I think the language and tone of his presentation were pretty good.

Q: Which are those?

Q: for those minor little details -- (laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's a lot in it.

Q: Mike, what is the meeting with the DLC leaders, the senators -- what is that all about?

MR. MCCURRY: A good opportunity for the President with close friends of his in the United States Senate and those who share a philosophy of reinvigorating the Democratic Party, are looking for new ways in which to address some of the traditional concerns of the Democratic Party, a good opportunity to review where we are and have a discussion about issues that will be on their mind and on the President's mind. The President, obviously, is interested in their thinking on the budget and where we go from here. They'll probably talk about -- probably mention a range of other issues as well.

But the President will probably be telling some of you right now what he's doing.

Q: Speaking of Ralph Reed's comments, where is the President now on the question of an amendment for school prayer? I remember last year he seemed to endorse that, seemed to withdraw it. Where is he today?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has never seen -- or has not seen an amendment in the area of school prayer that doesn't threaten coercion of individuals against conscience, and tampering with the First Amendment, at this point, is not what our country needs and not what the American people want, in the President's view.

Q: Mike, has the NRA, by any chance, sent an apology to the Treasury Department or FBI?

MR. MCCURRY: No. I've heard that they were doing some backtracking over there, but I don't believe they have extended a formal apology. I see that one of their officials said some things today, but the best form of apology the NRA could offer would be to join with the President in seeking immediate passage of our antiterrorism legislation. I think that would be a fairly apt testimonial for the law enforcement officials that the NRA has maligned, and would be a good tribute to the memory of those law enforcement officials who died.

Q: Are they for that?

MR. MCCURRY: They should be, and they should not only be for it, they should be encouraging the Congress to pass it right now.

Q: Do you happen to know the answer whether --

MR. MCCURRY: I think they've expressed some concern with some of the provisions of the President's legislation, if I'm not mistaken, but I'd obviously let them speak for themselves on it.

Q: A different topic. The allegations in the press today on Senator Gramm that are 15 years old, and Senator Packwood that go back 25 years. And given the White House's repeated complaints about some of the age of the Whitewater complaints, I was wondering if you had any words of sympathy for -- (laughter.)

Q: For the "Porno Queen." (Laughter.)

Q: Make it good.

MR. MCCURRY: No. I don't think I'll dabble in that one. Resist the strong temptation that I feel right now.

Q: Has the President seen "Truckstop Women"? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I thought it was called "Beauty Queens."

Q: Well, but then, the "Truckstop Women" supposedly what set him off and encouraged him to invest in it. "Beauty Queens" was never made.

MR. MCCURRY: You are far more familiar with Senator Gramm's viewing habits. You must have been down at Blockbuster Video.

Q: They both do the same drive-in.

MR. MCCURRY: You go down to Blockbuster Video together.

Q: Mike, more broadly -- (laughter) -- what concerns do you have and what kinds of efforts are being made in the Counsel's Office or elsewhere to kind of just generally cope with the summer of hearings into this, the notion that they could drag on until February?

MR. MCCURRY: You know, we expressed some concern. I mean, we have a lot of work to do this summer with the Congress on issues related to the budget and the concerns of the American people, and they now have an inquiry that is defined as you saw it defined yesterday that will raise any manner of issues that they want to raise. We will cooperate and continue to work with them on that. We've been talking this morning about priorities, and we hope that the priority will be placed in Congress on getting the nation's work done, that the nation expects the Congress and the President to address: specifically, the budget, spending priorities, addressing the concerns of working families in the country. That will be, first and foremost, on the President's mind, mindful, of course, they need to cooperate with the duly -- inquiry that's now been placed on the agenda by the Senate.

Q: Do you have anything new on Taiwan? We were told yesterday the staff meeting they would discuss on this issue. Were you surprised that -- might be able to join the --

MR. MCCURRY: Nothing new to offer on that subject, sorry.

Q: Can you tell us about the Mugabe visit?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I can do a little readout on that. We will do a written readout? Okay. We'll have a written readout. I spoke with a couple of you earlier today on the very good meeting that President Clinton had today with President Mugabe. It lasted well over two and a half hours. It did serve to strengthen the already excellent bilateral relationship that exists between the United States and Zimbabwe.

Most of the discussion was taken up with economic issues and regional security issues, particularly peace-keeping, the subject of Mozambique and Angola; first and foremost on the mind of the two Presidents. But a lot of the conversation dwelt on bilateral investment issues and trade issues. President Mugabe encouraged the President to help find avenues for investment in the economy of Zimbabwe. The President, in turn, stressed that we would be seeking opportunities for our companies to participate in bidding on contracts and other issues while we were there.

They talked a lot about some of the concrete efforts the United States has made related to humanitarian and health-related concerns; and on the Zimbabwe side, there were expressions of concern about everything from the International Convention for Protection of Endangered Species to the Nonproliferation Treaty, consistent with some of the views that we have exchanged before on those issues.

So, in all, it was an excellent meeting. The President was satisfied that the overall meeting nurtured the already strong relationship that exists with Zimbabwe.

Q: Would you say that it also broadened and deepened that bilateral relationship? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. I'll say that at even greater length if you like.

Q: You know that on June 13, '93, the most democratic election will occur in Nigeria and was annulled by the military. A year later -- went there and is arrested. He's becoming -- if the United States -- democratization only in public? What happened with the situation -- and the people in Nigeria?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the strong feelings that the United States shares about the condition of the democratic election in Nigeria has been reflected in the steps that we have taken, both to suspend some of our assistance programs and to register, formally, our protest. And we can follow that up with some additional steps that we are taking to express our concern that a democratic government needs to flourish there as it is so many other places in Africa.

Q: Is there anything new on Fred Cuny?

MR. MCCURRY: No -- nothing new. And they're continuing to work to examine evidence related to the body that was discovered, but there is no confirmation that is, indeed, the body of Mr. Cuny.

Q: the Russians saying it wasn't?

MR. MCCURRY: We just can't confirm that at this point. They're looking to try to nail that down in a way that will satisfy everyone's very urgent desire to know the absolute truth.

Q: You said you'd have some travel information you could give us.

MR. MCCURRY: I want to do that off camera for guidance purposes only.

Q: What about Iraq, Mike? Any movement or discussion over --

MR. MCCURRY: No. Right where we left it yesterday.

Q: Back on Cuny for a moment. If it turns out that he was actually killed by Russian soldiers, what would the American --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to even speculate on that, because there is, as you know, a report that this may not be the body of Mr. Cuny that's been discovered. So let's not speculate.

Q: Chechnya -- the same question. Now that the President is back, the fighting apparently is back to normal. And doesn't this confirm that some of the charges by people who said that stopping fighting was just a temporary sap to the U.S. and other governments?

MR. MCCURRY: It confirms the very strong feelings expressed by the President while he was in Moscow on that subject, and the distressed world community feels that the fighting continues and that innocent civilians have been affected, and that there had been no effort to resolve this through peaceful discussion and reconciliation, as the international community has called for.

Q: Have you taken a position on the line-item vetoes that are going through Congress -- which one you prefer?

MR. MCCURRY: We have -- I think we've said we want the strongest one we can get, and I'm looking for a letter -- we sent a letter up last week to both Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich, which I, for some reason, didn't bring with me. But it, essentially said, I want you to make progress -- issue of appointing conferees and getting on with the work. And the President was saying, let's get going with this, because this is something -- the thing about this rescissions bill, if ever there was an example of how the line-item veto would work, this rescissions bill is a perfect case, because it would be an opportunity for the President to strike those funding provisions that don't make a lot of sense in the President's view, and go ahead and approve those things that we need to get done, like Oklahoma City, like Oklahoma City, like California assistance. So that would have been a perfect opportunity to have it.

Q: Where is it now, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they've been -- I'd have to check. I think within the last day or so they were getting ready to appoint conferees to -- the House was insisting on its own version. They took a parliamentary step yesterday and insisted on their own version -- conferees, which is what the President's letter to the Majority Leader and the Speaker on May 8th encouraged them to move ahead by appointing conferees so that we could get the strongest-possible version of that passed -- so we're glad that they're at least beginning to move in that direction.

Q: Back to the rescissions bill. Today Speaker Gingrich said that the White House had told the House and the Senate that the only thing that would bring a veto of the rescissions bill was if the striker replacement provision --

MR. MCCURRY: That's just not -- I mean, look, I did this already, I'll do it again. Line by line, over and over again, we pointed out the provisions that we said were unacceptable. We pointed out numerous cases where we've had problems with legislation. And we suggested on several occasions that -- and thunder strikes me down -- (laughter) --

Q: Clear the room! (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: For those of you in our C-SPAN audience, there's a wicked -- (laughter) -- a wicked thunderstorm going on outside right now.

So anyhow, we identified in the various statements of administration policy on the legislation as it moved through exactly those areas where we had concerns and exactly those provisions that we said were quote, unquote unacceptable. And they were not just striker replacement. Now, Mr. Panetta, as he indicated to all of you yesterday, had additional discussions with the chairs of the budget committees. I think we made abundantly clear exactly what our concerns were and Congress should have responded those and should have known that the President meant it.

Q: Can you establish through those documents that, in fact, something besides striker replacement was in the White House to the Chairman discussions cited as absolute veto bait or not? I mean, everybody objects along the way. That's part of what negotiations are about. Words like "unacceptable" fly all over the place.

MR. MCCURRY: Strongly opposes both of these bills in their present form, and then he goes on for page and page and concludes by saying that based on this that -- the President's advisers would recommend veto.

Q: Wait a minute, excuse me. If you wrote that you strongly opposed both the bills in the present form, you also said about the Senate bill that it was basically acceptable. So, I mean, that isn't -- that language by itself plainly does not imply a veto.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we -- no, we said on the House bill, we pointed out the unacceptable provisions. On the Senate bill we said this is an improvement, and here are the concerns we have remaining on the Senate-passed legislation as it moved through the Senate. Now, I'll check -- Leon yesterday indicated that he went well beyond that in his telephone conversations with the chairs and indicated what the problems were.

Q: Because even Mark Hatfield was saying yesterday that it had not been --

MR. MCCURRY: Look, I --

Q: if it had been, what would the --

MR. MCCURRY: It may have -- I will let the members of Congress say maybe they -- maybe they did not believe that the President strongly registered objections to these provisions would stand up as he gave final consideration to the conference report. But clearly they have.

Q: The Zimbabwe meeting follow-up. Did they talk about the Ebola virus situation? And do you have anything to add to the State Department --

MR. MCCURRY: I can't add anything to that. The only health-related matter that I know they discussed was AIDS and some of -- we did on AIDS.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Wait, wait!

MR. MCCURRY: Back on the line-item veto issue just --of the two that are currently pending the House, we want the House version.

Q: The other one is veto bait.

Q: Can we have the scheduling information now?

Q: Is there any update on the security report from the Treasury Secretary to the President? And is there anything that the President automatically would rule out in terms of White House security, like the closing off of Pennsylvania Avenue?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to get into any specifics on that. (Clap of thunder.) (Laughter.) The President --

Q: I think you better not. I think that's wise, Mike. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Before the lightning comes jumping out of this microphone at me.

The President has had a good preliminary conversation with Secretary Rubin, has asked some follow-up questions. And Secretary Rubin and the President plan to talk sometime soon -- further on this. I wouldn't want to discuss any of the elements of the security review while they're meeting. I believe they met --

Q: When did they meet? Sunday?

MR. MCCURRY: I believe they met yesterday. I believe it was yesterday.

Q: Can we all go outside for the briefing?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it's a great day for a Rose Garden ceremony, huh?

Okay, thank you. Bye-bye. See you tomorrow.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:20 P.M. EDT

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

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