Bill Clinton photo

Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

August 02, 1995

The Briefing Room

1:20 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome here to the White House Briefing Room for our daily briefing. It's a pleasure for me to be here with all of you -- sort of. (Laughter.) Okay, let me start with a couple of items. You will recall about a week and a half, two weeks ago, I stood up here and labored intensively to arouse a certain amount of interest in all that the Clinton administration is doing to reform regulations and the work that we've been doing to get regulations off the book. Some of you expressed mild interest. Therefore, I am going to do it again to you today. (Laughter.)

Q: The return of --

MR. MCCURRY: That's right. We are eventually -- two weeks ago we gave you the first agencies that are today announcing their further efforts, kind of the follow-on effort at regulatory reform. There are five more agencies today that are putting out their new efforts at regulatory reform: EPA, the Energy Department, the Interior Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And all of those agencies have got their own separate releases.

They are going to put out today a new approach on regulatory reform that in total will save American businesses, consumers, and the government itself -- which means the taxpayers of America -- more than $18 billion, according to the cumulative estimate.

Q: Over what period?

MR. MCCURRY: That's a total -- it's not over, some of these things are just one time. Some of them are just one-time savings that are then going to accrue.

They are also announcing cumulatively the elimination of 3,300 pages of regulations. And that's, I think, good news.

Now, let me make a point about this, because there's a point to this story. We've been saying all along that there's a right way and a wrong way to reform the regulation of the private sector done by the federal government, and we've been demonstrating, I think, consistently through the effort that the President has launched, administered by the Vice President through the reinventing government initiative, that we know how to do it the right way. We see lots of examples up on Capitol Hill about the wrong way to do it.

Now, the Congress is interested in this subject. The Speaker has started something called corrections day. You all saw corrections day. They kind of flopped on the first one because the first one was about -- it was a waiver for San Diego involving waste water treatment standards from the EPA. That is, in fact, a problem that was placed upon San Diego during the Reagan and Bush years and something that we had already identified and we had started to fix. So the President I think can take some credit for the first of the corrections that the House wanted to address.

But I would make the following point that at the rate of one photo opportunity per day it would take the Republicans at least 16,000 correction days to catch up with the pace that this President has set. That's roughly 43 years worth of correction days. So our advice to the Speaker is to get his track shoes on because he's going to have to run pretty fast to catch up with this President. On the other hand we probably would prefer if you not run at all. That's a separate question for another day. (Laughter.)

Now, moving on. The news that was not made that we didn't have to report -- the bad news that we didn't have to report -- sometimes the good news is the bad news we don't have to report -- and that's Hurricane Erin, which a lot of you are covering and a lot of you know that this storm has sort of pelted the central Florida --

Q: How does the President take credit --

Q: He knows how to run a hurricane.

MR. MCCURRY: The President will take credit for the following. I'm doing this for CBS's benefit because they have a franchise on hurricane coverage as you all know. (Laughter.)

Q: And don't think we don't appreciate it.

MR. MCCURRY: The President has been following this closely and there was a lot of preparation work done by FEMA. This is a success story for FEMA. I want to run through a little bit about what happened --

Q: What, FEMA scared off the hurricane?

MR. MCCURRY: They stood out there and faced down Hurricane Erin. FEMA had 45 officials including communications technicians, emergency personnel on the ground to assist with any efforts. They activated the 24 emergency response team at their headquarters here to coordinate and assist any disaster assistance efforts that were needed. Director James Lee Witt had deployed the regional response recovery chief from the Atlanta office over to Florida to oversee any recovery efforts that were needed.

They had very good contact with the Governor's Office. Governor Chiles was very directly involved in discussions with FEMA officials to assess any hurricane damage. And all of this happened and it probably would never have gotten noticed unless the hurricane itself had ended up causing much greater damage than it did. But I think sometimes pointing attention to the fact that the federal government does move swiftly -- and FEMA, as you know, is an agency that sometimes was criticized for not moving swiftly -- this reflects good efforts to make sure that you anticipate problems and deal with them and are prepared.

So that's good news. Moving on. You didn't like that one, I'll try another one.

Let me just give you a quick readout. The President, I mentioned to some of you, the President was having a meeting with his foreign policy team today. They had had a notion of addressing many subjects. They ended up in a 90-minute meeting mostly looking at the situation on the ground now in Bosnia and our concerns about the conflict and particularly about the situation in Western Bosnia. The discussion of most of the -- the focus of most of the discussion was, in fact, the fighting in and around Bihac and the situation in Western Bosnia.

We reviewed for the President -- or the President's advisers reviewed for him some of the meetings that have occurred in Zagreb and here in Washington with officials from the government of Croatia. And we made the point that while we have welcomed the cooperation that now exists between Bosnian Muslims and Croats as a result of their federation agreement achieved in March of 1994, and the confederation agreement between that federation and the government of Croatia, in the context of their arrangements we expressed our understanding about the joint efforts that have been underway to relieve the pressure on Bihac itself and some of the efforts that jointly they have been undertaking to deal with Serb aggression on the Bihac pocket in recent weeks.

The point of the discussion was really to emphasize to the President that in the meetings with Croatian officials we have urged that their forces exercise the utmost restraint, that they seek to minimize civilian casualties as they conduct their operations, currently, that they respect the human rights of the civilian population and ensure the safety of United Nations personnel in the area. In these meetings with these officials from the government of Croatia they've also cautioned against the danger that might exist from a wider Balkan conflict and expressed concerns in those areas as well.

That was the focus of much of the discussion. They did some long-range discussions about how we address the need for reinvigorated diplomacy to address the long-term solution to the conflict in Bosnia as we look ahead in coming weeks. We reviewed the status of the current decisions by the North Atlantic Council concerning safe areas. And as you know, we welcome last night the decision of the North Atlantic Council to extend some of the arrangements that had been in place for Gorazde that we've talked about here before to the other safe areas of Tuzla, Sarajevo, and Bihac.

Q: Speaking of reinvigorating diplomacy, what's the President's understanding of what is now on the table now that the Serbs have redrawn the map on the ground? Is the old Contact Group proposal now moot? Is there something else on the table? What is the --

MR. MCCURRY: It remains the United States' view that the Contact Group proposal is the basis for further discussions between the parties on a political settlement of the conflict.

Q: Following up on the Western Bosnia situation, as you're aware, they're supposed to have the peace talks tomorrow, but nonetheless there's a reporting of massive buildup on both sides. What's the U.S. concern about this massive buildup?

MR. MCCURRY: The one I just expressed to you.

Q: Senator Daschle expressed doubts this morning that he -- he is more doubtful than he was before about the ability to sustain the President's veto on the Bosnia resolution. What is your reaction?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, Senator Daschle is very attuned to the preferences of senators and has got probably a very good feel for where things are. We've never claimed other than that the veto override effort would be difficult to beat back. The President acknowledges it would be difficult, but we have some level of confidence that as our argument gains greater impact in Congress and people see what the consequences of unilaterally lifting the arms embargo at this time would be, that we would gain support for that position.

Indeed, you saw yesterday at least several members of the House who met with the President, heard the argumentation, had been looking at the issue who had previously supported unilaterally lifting the arms embargo come to the conclusion that it was much wiser at this juncture to wait and see whether a reinvigorated U.N. presence, backed up by NATO air power, might make a difference, and that there should be some time to reflect on that as we look and see what happens on the ground in this conflict in the coming weeks. So our assessment still is that given time, and given what we certainly hope will be improvements in the situation on the ground as the Serbs honor the threat that's now been placed before them by the North Atlantic Council, that that situation would lead to more desire on the part of our Congress to see if we can let the President's current policy have its effect.

Q: And if your effort does fail?

MR. MCCURRY: Then we would certainly acknowledge that there will be unavoidable pressures in our Congress for lifting the arms embargo and we would understand the importance of going to our allies at that point to address a question that's always been on the table, which is the issue of multilaterally lifting the arms embargo. But the differences between multilaterally lifting the arms embargo in concert with our allies and other members of the U.N. Security Council are -- the preference for that policy is exactly the one that I've described often to you because it doesn't carry with it many of the dangers associated with the United States acting unilaterally to lift that arms embargo.

Q: Do you think the allies would be receptive then?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I do not know the answer to that. I know that the are not currently receptive to that idea because they believe that keeping the U.N. in place there is a way of curbing the conflict between the parties and keeping people alive through the humanitarian effort that's underway. And lifting the arms embargo, multilaterally or unilaterally, would require withdrawal of the U.N. presence in Bosnia.

Q: Are you saying you would ignore Congress' vote, though? You're saying if you failed to override you'd go for a multilateral lift -- does that mean you'd ignore --

MR. MCCURRY: No, no, no. The question was about what happens if there's a failure of the U.N. mission in Bosnia. And that's a different issue.

Q: That was my question exactly.

Q: -- ability to sustain the veto.

Q: No, no -- fail to sustain the veto you're saying you'll go for a multilateral lift. That means you'll ignore Congress' --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, if we -- if it is then the law of the land that we have to take steps to unilaterally lift the arms embargo, consistent with the resolution itself which has got different triggers, different timing and different possibilities for extension of national security waivers on the part of the President, we'd look at all those issues if, and only if, there was a veto that was then overridden.

Q: There's a chance you could live with this, isn't there?

MR. MCCURRY: The only -- the President will veto the measure that's now been passed by the Senate and the House. The issue is, looking down the road, what happens if we get to a point where the U.N. effort is failing and if the Congress of the United States has voted that we should pursue unilateral lift.

Q: Can we put the question just without -- let's assume the effort hasn't completely failed, the President still has hope for it and this measure goes through and the veto override fails, do the triggers and the other small print in this thing offer you the possibility that you can live with it at least for a time?

MR. MCCURRY: I doubt that because I think the reaction from our allies would be fairly swift and fairly certain -- they would withdraw.

Q: Why would -- this is puzzling. Why would the allies react to something that does not amount to concrete action by the United States government? In other words, if the President could continue present policy by virtue of waivers and other small print in the bill, why would the allies feel called upon to react, or do you know?

MR. MCCURRY: Because they represent to us -- you should really ask them directly, but their representation to us is that would indicate the direction that U.S. policy is going to take despite the opposition of the President, and they also believe that that signal by the United States Congress would reverberate elsewhere in the world, particularly in the Islamic world, and there are other countries that would then move their own to unilaterally abrogate the treaty. In short, they feel their forces, the British, the French and other forces on the ground in Bosnia, one way or another, would be much -- in much greater peril as a result of the certain prospect of a much wider conflict.

Q: How big a factor in this equation is the suspicion that many of them harbor that the United States is at least assenting in the massive supply of arms already?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have set the record straight in our diplomatic meetings with them on that point. How they regard our presentation is up to them to say.

Q: I know, but you must be able to sense from that that that is either contributing significantly to the problem, or it's not.

MR. MCCURRY: We sense different assessments of our presentations in different parts of different governments.

Q: Couldn't you propose at that point a multilateral lift? Let's say the veto is overridden --

MR. MCCURRY: No, we would move to seek a multilateral lift of the arms embargo if, in fact, as we've always said with our Contact Group partners, we see that as an unavoidable last resort that's been reached. At the moment, we've got a strengthened U.N. presence as the result of the President's leadership at NATO. We've got a strengthened U.N. presence, backed up by the threat of air power from NATO. And that seems to be having the desired result around Gorazde. We've now extended it as of last night to other safe areas, and we'll see how that develops in coming days at a point in which, very frankly, the concentration of much of the work that's being done is on the fighting in and around the Bihac pocket in Western Bosnia.

Q: If Congress is overriding the veto and -- if they have overridden the veto and you are then required to lift the embargo unilaterally, why not at that point then propose a multilateral lift?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, because it might be for all -- for many of the same reasons that a unilateral lift is a bad idea, it might be at that point to be a bad idea. It might not be that last resort that has proven to be unavoidable because we have got a U.N. mission that is proving to be more effective on the ground, that's helping keep people alive, that's curbing the conflict between the warring parties and that's making it more possible to seek a political settlement.

Q: That's also something the President has always said he wanted to do, though, isn't it?

MR. MCCURRY: He's always said that, look, it's been manifestly unfair -- we've gone over and over and over this -- it's manifestly unfair to have left the Bosnian government in the position of having this disparity of arms, especially at a time when they have accepted as a basis for a settlement the Contact Group proposal and the aggressors in this conflict, the Bosnian Serbs, have not. We've acknowledged that. But, on the other hand, we know what some of the consequences of lifting the arms embargo would be. It would be -- it's hard to deny what some of our European friends, what the Foreign Minister of Russia said in recent days, that it's like pouring gasoline on the fire. That's exactly what it is.

Q: How much is this veto about preserving presidential authority and prerogative as it is about maintaining --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's about some of that but, frankly, some of that has been lost when the United States Congress makes it own decision to serve as chief foreign policymaker, chief of defense, chief diplomat, and take on the consequences of a course of action that we think is just wrong. I mean, they've set across that bridge already by both Houses voting overwhelming margins for a resolution that's bad foreign policy.

Q: Following up on what Mick said, would the President comply even to the point of issuing the waivers?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the waivers give the President a way not to comply with the thrust of the resolution which is lifting the arms embargo.

Q: It would also imply that he accepts the congressional authority in this area.

MR. MCCURRY: That's a constitutional argument beyond my limited capacities to deal with the law.

Q: Do you believe the Congress has --

MR. MCCURRY: It's a legal question. I would have to look up the -- if we took advantage of the national security waiver provision in the resolution that would somehow or other mean that the Executive Branch was acknowledging the Legislative Branch's authority to make foreign policy in this particular matter -- that's a question that we could split a lot of hairs on; I won't do it now.

Q: Mike, wait a minute. In the War Powers Act you ignore -- you semi-comply with the War Powers Act, and all presidents have. In the larger sense, is the President going to comply with anything Congress does in this area?

MR. MCCURRY: The President, in the broadest possible sense without addressing specifically the question you're asking, will obey the law, yes.

Q: You've been talking most of the time about the success of the U.N. mission in stopping Serb aggression. But as you've pointed out, the real problem in Bosnia is on the western border between the Croats and the Serbs there. What is the U.S. and its allies doing to stop that, to prevent that from escalating into a massive --

MR. MCCURRY: I ran through at the beginning of this discussion the concerns that we have expressed and the restraint that we've urged, the concern for civilian casualties.

Q: New topic?

MR. MCCURRY: -- asked and answered. Yes.

Q: I don't have one, I just wanted -- (laughter.)

Q: Other than just urging restraint, is the U.S. and its allies doing anything further to stop that situation from escalating?

Q: Just asked again.

MR. MCCURRY: Just as I outlined very precisely at the beginning, the steps that we've taken in these meetings that have occurred both here, in Zagreb and in Washington.

Q: Did the President, with his principals, get into China at all? And can you give us an update on what's happening --

MR. MCCURRY: They did not -- I understand that there's not much more to report than what I indicated to some of you earlier today. We will await an opportunity when the two American officers are released as expected to seek further information from them.

Q: Do you know where they are being held?

MR. MCCURRY: I do not know that.

Q: Who attended that meeting this morning?

Q: Can you run through what you said earlier --

MR. MCCURRY: I just recounted the facts as we know them -- that two American officers were detained by the government of China. The government of China has indicated they intend to release them, and we certainly hope that they do and do so promptly. And then we'll have further conversations with them. Beyond that I don't have any other --

Q: Do you think they'll hold any of the women who go over there for this upcoming meeting in September?

MR. MCCURRY: I am not aware -- I'll have to find out about that, Sarah. I wasn't aware that they had American --

Q: This international meeting of women --

MR. MCCURRY: I know the conference coming up in Beijing. They're holding American nongovernmental organization representatives in custody -- I was not aware of that.

Q: She's asking if you're worried that they might.

MR. MCCURRY: Are they going to? No, we would expect as the host government to a very important international conference, the government of China, to live up to its obligations as a host. And we see no reason to indicate that they won't.

Q: Can you flatly deny these two men were spying in China?

MR. MCCURRY: I won't get into that kind of thing here.

Q: When you say you have to wait until the two Americans are released in order to talk to them, are they being held incommunicado from American diplomats?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've not had contact with them. I'm not sure, frankly, where they've been -- where they were detained. I know that our contact with the government of China has been through the embassy in Beijing. But as far as I know, we have not had contact with the two Americans.

Q: Mike, the President's made a lot of arguments against the lifting of the arms embargo, but the one he hasn't made is that this is an encroachment on his authority to conduct foreign policy. Does he not believe it is, or why hasn't he made that argument?

MR. MCCURRY: I think I made that argument here and the President certainly makes that argument.

Q: Can you confirm that the First Lady will go now on the delegation?

MR. MCCURRY: Been no decision on that.

Q: Change the subject. You finished with China?

Q: Just one other question. The Senate is considering perhaps some measure that would withhold funds for the conference going. Nonetheless, Madeline Albright has announced she's still going to head it. Any reaction to this possible Senate action?

MR. MCCURRY: If my understanding is correct, that is included in the State Department authorization bill that is no longer in front of the Senate. We would hope that that measure is no longer in front of the Senate at least in part because many senators felt that it was an infringement on the President's foreign policymaking responsibilities.

Q: Mike, what factors is the First Lady going to consider, or the White House, in deciding in whether she participates in that delegation?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, many. But they go to the heart of the importance of this conference, the work that it's going to do to address a wide range of questions that are important to women all across the planet. It is a conference that I think, given the historic role of the Mexico City conference, has got a real opportunity to address some of the fundamental changes that are occurring at this time in this era. And given its importance as Ambassador Albright indicated today, the composition of the delegation is something that has been followed closely here. But a lot of factors will go in deciding whether or not Mrs. Clinton serves as the honorary chair of that delegation. As Ambassador Albright indicated today, she's the head of the delegation. The question is whether Mrs. Clinton in a capacity as an honorary chair.

Q: Is the state of Sino-American relations a consideration for the First Lady?

MR. MCCURRY: That is always a consideration in decisions we make. But, frankly, this is a conference that's being held in China; this is not a question about going to have bilateral meetings with the Chinese government. The forecast for meetings between the People's Republican of China and the United States was set forth very clearly by Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and Secretary of State Christopher, following their meeting yesterday in which they agreed to follow-up meetings at the under secretary of state level in Beijing to review the status of relations and the possibility of a further meeting between the Secretary of State and the Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister later this year, most likely in New York at the time of the U.N. General Assembly meetings. So that schedule and calendar of meetings is quite clear. And Mrs. Clinton, to my knowledge, is not a factor in that schedule of meetings.

Q: Do you have a reaction to Helms' threats over this foreign relations bill to put a hold on all treaties and ambassadors?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we would hope that he would not do that because of the importance of moving forward with our diplomacy is underscored by exactly this conversation we're having right now. We've got pending before the Chinese government a possible nominee for U.S. Ambassador for China, and the value of having that diplomatic representative in Beijing underscores the importance of moving swiftly on these nominations as they go to the Senate.

But we will wait and see how Chairman Helms addresses that issue in coming days. We certainly hope that there will be a way of accommodating the desires of those senators. Remember, it was those senators who expressed concern about the State Department authorization bill on the floor of the Senate and they are the ones that need to be accommodated. We're willing to work with the Legislative Branch to address some of those questions.

Q: Speaking of ambassadors, did you get any word when the Chinese ambassador will be coming back to Washington?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't recall anything in the report of the meeting or the briefings done afterwards that addressed that point.

Q: Mike, is there any concern that these two men have been held since Saturday and traveling on diplomatic passports by rights should have been released immediately.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're concerned about their status and anxious to talk to them, of course.

Q: A domestic issue. Haley Barbour keeps referring to the OMB numbers as phoney numbers and --

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, tell him to stop that. (Laughter.) Have you talked to him?

Q: No, but I've read some of his releases, which he repeatedly points out that the White House promised to use CBO numbers in '93. Just refresh our memory -- why has the White House decided to go back to OMB numbers when the President originally made a point of saying CBO numbers would be mixing apples and apples?

MR. MCCURRY: During 12 years of Republican control of the White House, quite frankly, you couldn't always rely upon OMB numbers. And the President knew that when he took office in 1993. We've now had two years to demonstrate that the OMB numbers, if anything, are too conservative. You'll just recall --

Q: They're not as conservative as CBO --

MR. MCCURRY: One moment, Brit, let me finish this harangue. (Laughter.)

You'll recall earlier this week that we announced that, lo and behold, the federal budget deficit for FY '95 was $30 billion less than the OMB had indicated. So perhaps Chairman Barbour is suggesting to us that we've been too conservative in our estimates. If that's what he is suggesting, we'll certainly take that suggestion on board, but I don't think that's what he was suggesting. I think he was trying to score political points on something that's, frankly, a technical dispute involving very small fractional estimates about how the economy is going to perform 10 years down the road.

And the marginal difference, frankly, between the CBO and the OMB is much less than it used to be under Republican administrations, and doesn't really amount to great differences. In fact, the difference in our original budget proposal, the President's 10-year plan, whether you get to balance in 2005 and 2004, was small enough to be almost like an accounting margin of error question.

Q: Then why not use the CBO numbers?

Q: Right, exactly.

MR. MCCURRY: Because our estimates are better than theirs, flat out. We say they are better, and ours are more reliable. And that's what we use to build our budget, and that's what we use to write the budget proposals we send to the Congress. They can sit down and agree on the question of the baseline, what is the baseline they're going to use for evaluating various proposals. They could probably do that pretty quickly if there was any desire to do it.

Quite frankly, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee making great hay out of what is a technical budget issue indicates that they don't have any desire to sit down and get serious about the budget at this time. They're going to have to do it sooner or later, folks. Because, as the President told you here yesterday, we are headed into a crisis this fall if we don't start getting serious. Maybe one way we could get more serious is for the chairmen of the political parties to butt out when they're dealing with technical budget questions.

Q: Is the White House considering weighing into --

MR. MCCURRY: Of course, the White House Press Secretary is just free to then just have a field day. That's unfair, right?

Q: Is the White House considering getting into the tax reform debate with its own tax reform proposal, such as going to a value-added tax?

MR. MCCURRY: We have a very long and boring piece of guidance here that says no. (Laughter.) No, it says we have a serious look at these issues underway by the Council of Economic Advisors, by the Chair of the National Economic Council, and by the Treasury Secretary. THey're looking seriously at a whole range of issues. We're interested in fairness; we're interested in simplicity; and we're looking at tax equity. And how various proposals for reform, whether it's flat tax, whether it's value-added tax, whether it's consumption tax proposals, how they fit into a framework in which we make the tax code better for average working Americans is what the President is interested in. But they're a long ways away from having any final work product based on those reviews of various proposals. And most of the ideas that are out there for tax reform are longer-range questions, anyhow, because it doesn't look like Congress is taking up that issue anytime real soon.

Q: So you don't plan to have your own proposal?

MR. MCCURRY: We may -- I wouldn't rule that out. But I'm saying, we were right in our reviewing the different concepts that exist for tax reform under a very careful framework of what makes sense, and it's simplicity, fairness and equity.

Q: Would you say it's unlikely?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I wouldn't say that. I'm saying that they're looking at it.

Q: Mike, is the President's attendance at the Wilder fundraiser tonight a payback for him dropping out of the Senate race? And can you give us an update on Clinton-Gore fundraising for this quarter?

MR. MCCURRY: We will report Clinton-Gore fundraising duly to the FEC. I've heard that it's going well, consistent with the report that we just filed with the FEC recently. And on the question of the fundraiser tonight, Governor Wilder has indicated himself that he traveled the country in support of President Clinton in 1992, supported him vigorously, and was not shy about asking for the President's assistance.

Q: Is the President planning anything special in terms of sending a message to the Ross Perot convention which is coming up at the end of next week, or sending an emissary from the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: We've had some discussions here, Wolf. It's a -- an organization itself that's been active, has been advocating a lot of the type of political reform that the President feels is necessary. The Chairman and General Chairman of the Democratic Party will be there in attendance. My understanding is that the minority leaders of the House and the Senate will be there, as well, and the White House is considering sending former Chief of Staff Mack McLarty down there because he's someone who's had contact with Ross Perot in the past. He would go there not to make any presentations, but just go there to be available to some of the leadership of the organization, to talk about some of the President's commitments on issues like political reform and balanced budget, which are issues that are of, as you know, great concern to United We Stand.

Q: Can I just follow up there? Will the President send a message, or a letter, or communique, or some sort --

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. Certainly it would be a lot less formal than that.

Q: You said this morning that the President spoke with Congressman Waxman about the tobacco issue yesterday. Does the release of documents that Waxman and others have been doing play a role in the President's decision-making? And is he incorporating that into what he's considering from FDA?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I think he's been looking at specific policy issues that have arisen in the discussions he's had with his advisors. But I don't know how they relate to any of the documents that have been released publicly or have been made available.

Q: Do you know anything about the nature of the discussion that you can talk about from --

MR. MCCURRY: No, they just had a good -- I mean, they had a very short conversation at the end of a meeting on another subject and reviewed the issue. The President sought Congressman Waxman's views, as he has sought the views of a number of members of Congress and people outside who are concerned about this debate and who share his concern that the health effects of tobacco smoking among the young is something that needs to be addressed. The question is what's the best way to address it.

By the way, on that subject, I would advise you that I don't think there's going to be any news breaking on that this week.

Q: Congress is poised to leave in a couple of days on their month-long recess. Is the President wishing them well or does he have another message?

MR. MCCURRY: I think he had some apt commentary on that question here yesterday.

Q: Why won't he ask them to stay?

Q: He has.

MR. MCCURRY: We said that if they would stay here and get down to serious work we would do that. The problem is that they've already indicated that they are -- it's going to be like turkey time if not Christmastime before they get down to serious work.

Q: Why doesn't he ask them to stay?

MR. MCCURRY: He's said that he will stay here and work with them if they will work.

Q: No, order them --

MR. MCCURRY: Order them to stay here and twiddle thumbs? That's probably not a good idea. That's what they would do -- they come here and they twiddle thumbs because they show no willingness to get down to serious work. They're frittering away time as the clock runs down towards the approach of the debt ceiling limit, the end of the fiscal year. And they apparently are determined to use, they think, the looming crisis that's going to exist in the fall to blackmail the President into making certain decisions. And he made it very clear to you that ain't going to happen.

Q: Is that the point of his news conference next week -- to chide them as they go out of town?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we'll review where we are. If they have a sudden conversion and they start working on things, and we're in the midst of serious work that advances the interest of this country and gets down to the serious work of writing a budget, that would be very helpful. It would be a very optimistic --

Q: If they're not doing anything, they sure have generated a lot of veto threats, though, haven't they?

MR. MCCURRY: It would be an optimistic note. Well, they haven't sent us anything to veto. We can only threaten vetoes because they don't send us any bills to veto.

Q: On the government shut-down side of the issue, Jim Moran, Congressman Moran said after the House Democrats meeting he would be working on a bill that would, in effect, guarantee that federal government workers could go back to work and be able to work and the government would be able to function. So, in effect, there wouldn't be a government shut-down. Is the White House supportive of this idea?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we'd be interested in his ideas. Obviously, we would like to see minimum disruption in the necessary functioning of the government. But we don't see how that's going to happen, given the path that they're on, because across the board, they're taking actions that are going to result in vetoes, which are going to result in the incapacity of the federal government to meet its fundamental commitments to the American people. And the President keeps saying, don't do it.

Q: -- way of devising legislation to avert that?

MR. MCCURRY: I'd be hard-pressed to see how you'd do that. But we certainly do respect the Congressman's views. We'll look at whatever ideas he has.

Q: Is there going to be an appointment to the Federal Reserve Board anytime before the next --

MR. MCCURRY: Sometime this century, but I don't know when. (Laughter.) No, I don't know the answer to that; I'll have to check.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you.

END 2:02 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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