Press Briefing by Jake Siewert (10/23/00)

                         Office of the Press Secretary

                                                                  For Immediate
Release                          October 23, 2000

                                 PRESS BRIEFING
                                  JAKE SIEWERT

                        The James S. Brady Briefing Room

12:10 P.M. EDT

     MR. SIEWERT:  I have nothing to start with, so I'll take your questions.

     Q    Jake, what is the latest on the immigration legislation?  Have the
Republicans sent a proposal that's much different from yours?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We've been sharing some ideas on how to get that done.  We
think that's important to get done, on the Commerce-State-Justice bill.  They
have made some sort of counter proposal that is not acceptable to us; it
wouldn't help many of the immigrants that should get relief under the bill we
proposed, and would perpetuate the current patchwork of unfair and often
contradictory immigration policies that we have today.

     So we're still talking to them.  In the end, we think that the President
has made pretty clear that he'll veto the Commerce appropriations bill unless
this language is included that remedies a situation that penalizes unfairly a
lot of Latino immigrants who are here.

     Q    Jake, a GAO report says that despite a prohibition by the White House
there are 13 government agencies that are still using the cookies to check in on
people on the Internet.  So what is the White House reaction?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We don't -- obviously, we don't have concerns about the
ongoing use of these and we've instructed all the agencies to give us an update
on their efforts to end this practice.  There is some distinction as they
recognize -- in the report, between one-time use of these, that allows people
just to help govern the use of a site while someone is checking it.

     But the use of cookies to collect personal information and to track
people's habits on the Internet is unacceptable and we've made pretty clear that
they need to come into compliance with our policy on this.

     What we've done concretely is to ask them when they submit their budget
request in December to give us an update on exactly where they are in the
process and how they're correcting their policy, if it's out of compliance with
our regulations.

     Q    Jake, has the President received any update from Secretary Albright on
her trip to North Korea?  Or what does the White House Hear?

     MR. SIEWERT:  She had substantive and useful discussions with the Chairman
in Pyongyang, and we expect her to be back at the end of the week and we'll get
a full update from her at that point.  But at this point, we've simply heard
that she had a good three-hour meeting with Chairman Kim and we expect that
we'll get a full report when she returns.

     Those discussions began earlier than we had expected.  They were not
expected to meet until tomorrow.  But she is expected to have more meetings
tomorrow and then we'll hear back from her.  She's due back in Washington on
Thursday and I expect we'll get a report sometime after she returns to

     Q    How soon will you decide whether to travel there?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We haven't set a time line for making that decision.  We will
make a judgment on the merits, whether we think it's useful in advancing the
concerns we have about what's going on in North Korea, whether it would further
the sunshine policy that President Kim Dae Jung initiated and we'll wait to hear
back from her and make a decision after we've had a chance to look at what the
substance of the discussions were over there.

     Q    Jake, the Vietnamese are indicating that they want compensation for
Agent Orange damage from the war.  How will the President approach that when he
goes there?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I haven't seen that report.  We're still in the process of
planning that trip.  I expect if they want to talk about it, it will probably
come up in our bilateral meetings.  But I'll let you know, I'll check on that.

     Q    In the meeting that's going to take place tomorrow between the King of
Jordan and the President, with the trade agreement to be signed, how significant
is this for the U.S. and Jordan in dollar terms, economically?  And also

     MR. SIEWERT:  There is a relatively small amount of trade that's at stake.
But we think that given -- that it should be obviously much more help to Jordan
than to the United States.  It's a relatively minor amount of trade for the
United States and its huge economy, but it should be able to help Jordan build a
more diversified economy.

     And at the same time, it's very significant for the United States because
it's the first agreement we've had that incorporates so much of the
environmental and labor standards that the President has said are so important
to future trade agreements.

     Q    Why is that so important that you have the unions on board, in terms
of the environmental labor --

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, it makes ratification a lot easier on Congress.  But it
also -- it fits the vision of trade that the President has laid out in some of
his speeches, at Davos and the speech in Geneva last year, where he explained
the importance of trying to create -- to make sure that as we move forward on
trade agreements that the trade agreements do not create a race to the bottom in
labor and environmental standards.  And we were able to agree with the Jordanian
government on really a ground breaking pact here, that it actually incorporates
the labor and environmental standards into the agreement, unlike NAFTA, where
they were side agreements to the agreement, itself.

     Q    Just one more follow up.  Can you give me any dollar figures on impact
to the U.S. economy, impact on Jordan?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I'll check.  I expect we may have Charlene come in tomorrow
to give us a fuller briefing on some of that.  I don't have them right with me

     Q    The cookies thing again.  Is the White House dismayed or angered by
this GAO report that indicates that in spite of a White House directive, it's
not being obeyed?

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, they have made some progress.  There are fewer agencies
using these today than there were.  Some of them are trying to remodel their
policies as we speak, and we're going to keep on top of it and ensure that they
do more to come into compliance with this directive, yes.

     There has been some progress.  Fewer of the agencies now -- I think it's
down from 11 -- down to nine, from 11 agencies that were using these.  And we're
following up with the agencies now to ensure that they don't do this.

     The problem is, in some instances there may be reasons why they've
contracted with a third party.  For instance, in the case of recruiting at the
Department of Defense.  There may be some reasons why they need to know what
people are thinking about, as they decide whether or not to join the armed

     There may be some cases in which it may be useful to have a little bit more
information about the people who are using the web sites.  But, generally, we
have a very strict policy that makes clear that we don't think the government
should be in the business of collecting information from people, particularly
without their consent.

     Now, also, of the nine agencies that are using them, I think the report
itself makes clear that there are several that are providing notice to people
and trying to at least ensure that they have some sort of consent before they
gather information.

     Q    The former intelligence chief of Peru is back in his country and as a
consequence, the vice president of Peru announced his resignation.  Do you have
any reaction to that or any comments?

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, we've seen those reports and we're concerned about this
development and we continue to expect that President Fujimori will abide by the
commitment that he made to step down and hold elections and that the OAS process

     We don't know exactly why he's returning and we're not clear what his
motivations are.  It's probably a little too early to speculate on that.  But
the military said it will respect the constitutional order and we've made clear
that any move to disrupt the constitutional order would lead to Peru's

     Q    Jake, would the President like to campaign for the Vice President, if
only to help better make the administration's case for its own record?

     MR. SIEWERT:  The President will do essentially whatever the Vice President
and his campaign team decide is most effective.  They are in the best position
to judge what will help bring them across the finish line.  The President is
confident that, in the end, the Vice President will prevail in this election.
But we are going to look to them for guidance about how the President uses his
time between now and Tuesday, the election day.

     Q    But don't you think he'd like to be out there, particularly in a
battleground state like Michigan?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I think he'd like the Vice President to win.  I know he would
like the Vice President to win.  That's something where I can speculate.

     No, I know he would like the Vice President to win and he'll do whatever he
thinks is most effective.  But, ultimately, the campaign that the Vice President
is running, they are keeping on top of where they are and what they need to do
between now and the election day and it's going to be their judgment about how
the President can play a most effective role.

     Q    Has he been wistful?

     MR. SIEWERT:  No.  In fact, we've been out and about the country, as you've
seen, over the last couple days, making the case for Democrats, Democratic
candidates, including Mrs. Clinton, but other candidates, as well.  And I think
the President has already gotten a pretty good taste of the campaign trail this

     I told people on Friday that he's done over 200 events this year for the
Democratic National Committee, for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, for
the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 42 different members of
Congress or challengers who are running for the House, more than a dozen events
for Democratic Senators, and people who are running for the Democratic Senate,
another dozen events for Democratic Governors who are running.  So he's had a
fair taste of the campaign trail, and I expect you'll see him out and about a
little bit more between now and election day.

     Q    Yes, but what about this guy who has been so close to him for eight

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, the Vice President is running for President, and he's
going to make his own case to the American people about how he can lead the
country forward, and why his policies are preferable to those of the man who
he's trying to beat.

     Q    The Republicans are saying they wish the President would go out and
campaign for Gore.  Do you think the Republicans really mean that or is this
some sort of mind --

     MR. SIEWERT:  It's very hard to take that at face value.  I can't imagine
that they -- we've never -- I'm sure they don't take much of the advice that we
give them on how to campaign, and I expect we won't take any of their advice, no
matter how well intentioned.

     Q    Has the Gore campaign given you a list of the states in which they
would like the President to appear?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We've been talking to them about how best to use the
President's time.  We've discussed, obviously, some specific states.  But when
we have something to announce, we'll let you know.

     Q    The California trip, is that expected at the end of the week?

     MR. SIEWERT:  There was an actually an event in California that was not
strictly -- it wasn't Gore related, that I think we've been considering.  But
I'm not sure that we'll end up there at the end of the week.  We'll let you know
if we do decide that.

     Q    Jake, on the Transportation Bill the President just signed, you got
the .08 blood alcohol content provision, but the bill is $8 billion over the
year 2000 spending, it doesn't have the funding for FAA air traffic controller
salaries.  Why didn't the President express concerns about the high level of
spending and provisions that you didn't get?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I think we expressed -- he may not have in the statement, but
I know that it in some of the paper that we put out about this we've expressed a
general concern -- the President talked about in the radio address about the
level of pork that's on these bills.  Without the line item veto, we have a
limited ability to excise pork when we see it.

     But we do continue to raise concerns about the overall level of spending,
particularly when Congress hasn't found the time and will to fund priority
programs that we think work -- programs like school construction, programs like
class size, programs like accountability, educational initiatives, that are
proven to have success.

     So we can't veto every bill because there is pork in it.  We would like to
see bills that are better targeted toward initiatives that work and we're going
to continue to work with Congress to make that clear.

     But, unfortunately, Congress is now several weeks behind schedule, they're
rushing to get home for election day and they're filling up a lot of these bills
with unnecessary spending.  The taxpayers are the victims here.  And we're going
to try to do everything we can to minimize the overall level of spending and to
focus what investments we are making in programs that we think are effective.

     Q    Jake, how does the White House think this end game with Congress is
going to play out?  And do you think there could be a lame duck session?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We don't think that's necessary, at all.  We think we can get
the work done this week, really.  There are only three major contentious bills
left and they know exactly where we stand on them.  We're discussing them now
with them and they're all solvable problems.  So there is no reason why Congress
couldn't finish their work up even this week.  The President said he'll give
them another extension for a day on Wednesday, if they haven't finished their
work up by then; and then another one after that if they haven't finished it up
by then.  But we're going to try to keep the pressure on and step up the pace of
the work that they're doing.

     Q    Jake, have you received any assurances that Congress will go along
with one-day extensions?  And if, say, by the end of the week they are not
wrapped up, will the President veto any CRs that are more than one day at a

     MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know.  We're not there yet.  They have said they want
to finish their work up this week and there is no reason to think they can't do

     Q    What are the three major things awaiting?

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, we have the Labor-HHS bill, which includes -- which
should include, but doesn't yet, the educational initiatives that we've outlined
-- class size, accountability, school construction and several other measures
that we think are worth funding.

     We don't see any reason -- since they've attached some tax provisions to
the Treasury-Postal bill, the telephone tax, we don't see any reason why they
can't include the school construction tax credits on that, as well.

     On Commerce-State-Justice, their initial bill had no money for the COPS
program, and we'd like to see that funded.  We'd also like to see on that bill
some of the riders removed.  There is a rider there that undermines community
low-power radio and we think that's unnecessary.  There are some other riders
there that we think are important.

     We'd also like to see the hate crimes legislation included there, as well
as the provisions that we discussed earlier on immigration.  On the final bills,
foreign ops, which we've made some progress on foreign debt relief that we think
is important.  The President met with Pat Robertson and Bono and all these
democratic and congressional members on, but we still have some concerns about
the Mexico City language on that.

     Q    You have Barak calling a time-out on the peace process, you have
Arafat telling Barak he can go to hell.  Where does that leave Sharm el-Sheikh
and there is continuing violence as well?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We understand that there is a lot of frustration that is
built up on both sides now.  Our priority, our focus now, is on ending the
bloodshed.  We think it's important for both sides to implement the security
provisions of Sharm el-Sheikh.  That's the only real way to end the violence
there.  That's the point the President made in his phone calls over the weekend
to Chairman Arafat, to Prime Minister Barak, and that's the message we will
continue to deliver as we consult with parties in the region over the next
couple days.

     In the end, it's important that they find a pathway back to the political
process and to the peace process.  That's what they agreed to at Sharm.  And
finally, the only solution is going to be one that's reached at the negotiating
table, through a political process and not through violence.

     Q    Jake, on Treasury-Postal and the education funding, on the HHS bill,
does this come down to a quid pro quo, that if you don't get your school
modernization tax credits, you're not going to sign Treasury-Postal?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I think we're going to look at that Treasury-Postal bill in
the context of everything that we see happen at the end of the session.  There
are a lot of different tax provisions that are being floated around and we want
to see whether the package that they come up with is a balanced one.

     We'd like to see, obviously, the New Markets tax credit.  We'd like to see
some of the educational tax credits, like school construction, pass; and we'll
make a judgment.  We don't have a strict litmus test for what we're going to
decide, but we want to see a balanced, fair package at the end of the session,
before we make any decision on signing that one tax provision that they tucked

     Q    Is the President going to sign legislation that would give the
families of victims of terrorists money out of the Treasury Department?  Then it
would force the U.S. government
to --

     MR. SIEWERT:  I saw the news reports about that legislation, and I think --
we'll check and look at the latest language.  I think we've generally supported
the goal, but had some concerns about the language.  I think we'll probably need
to take a look at the final language.

     Q    If that happens, do you think you could get the money, say, from Iran,
even though those assets --

     MR. SIEWERT:  Let me check on it and get back to you.

     Q    Jake, following up on Bob's Mideast question, you say that the only
hope is a return to the peace table, but do you see any hope for that happening
any time soon, given what's happening there now?

     MR. SIEWERT:  It's obviously a very difficult situation, but both parties
did tell the President this week and they remain committed to the peace process.
And we just think it's important for both of them to take the concrete steps
that were agreed to at Sharm, to begin to implement the -- particularly the
security provisions there that could cool tensions, cool the violence in the

     Q    Does the administration have any vehicle in mind to stop what is
obviously escalating violence there today?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We'll use everything -- diplomatic initiative that we can.
The President spent a lot of time on the phone on this since he's left Sharm.
He's going to continue to consult with the parties, as will Dennis Ross and
Secretary Albright and others.

     Q    Did the Arab Summit turn out better than you expected?

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, I think the language of the communique was harsh and
unhelpful, but at the same time it did reaffirm the necessity for a peaceful
solution.  So I think I'll leave it at that.

     Q    Jake, you had a meeting on Friday about the Medicare adjustments.  Are
you any closer to getting an agreement with Republicans on that?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I wasn't invited to that meeting.  That meeting did not
produce a resolution to that at all.  We're still waiting to hear back from them
to see whether they're willing to readdress some of the concerns that we made
clear that we have, that that bill is overly focused on managed care and rewards
the managed care industry at a time when the Congress is unwilling to put some
provisions in place that would actually correct some abuses by managed care.

     They haven't taken up the patients' bill of rights, so it seems an odd time
to just give all the money from a Medicare bill from that give-back bill to the
managed care industry.

     Q    Jake, can we jump back to the Mideast for just a second, and can you
comment, maybe, on the President's role now?  I guess since he went over to
Egypt, it was such an active role, and I'm wondering if he's thinking that he is
a little bit more powerless in this situation, and it's very much depending on
what's going on over there.

     MR. SIEWERT:  I think the President's diplomacy did help bring together
what could provide the framework for a way to move forward the process.  The
agreement that was reached at Sharm el-Sheikh provides a way for both parties to
reduce tension and cool tensions.

     In the final analysis, the parties, themselves, need to take the action to
implement those agreements.  We've said that from the beginning.  We said that
before we went to Sharm, we said that since then, that they have the
responsibility for taking the steps, they have the authority, the influence to
carry out the actions that are necessary to reduce violence and reduce the level
of tension there.

     But the President has a great deal of persuasive ability, we have a great
deal of influence in the region; he's continued to consult with both parties and
with leaders in the region and we'll continue to do all the diplomatic work that
we can to try to get the parties to agree to move forward on the agreement we
reached in Egypt.

     Q    Can you tell us, please, just as a follow up to that question, what
exactly in that agreement do you feel that both sides are not doing?  I mean,
obviously, there's still unrest.

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, there are a lot of steps that were agreed to at Sharm
on security front, some of which have been taken, but not all of them.  I'm not
going to detail all of them right here, because I don't want to provide a
running commentary on each and every piece, but it's clear that they both have
the ability to undertake some of the work that was agreed to at Sharm and,
obviously, more needs to be done if we're going to begin to reduce violence

     Q    Rather than the specifics, can you give us one or two things that
haven't been done that you expected to be done
after --

     MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know that that would be helpful right now.

     Q    Well, let me supply that then.  Chairman Arafat has never issued the
clear call to end the violence.  I mean, what hope is there for a peace process

     MR. SIEWERT:  Sharm did call for the Palestinian Authority to issue a
statement that would decry the violence there, and the Palestinian Authority did
issue that statement.  We have said all along that it will be helpful for
Chairman Arafat, himself, to reiterate some of that, and we continue to be of
that view.

     Q    I mean, how can the peace process move forward if Chairman Arafat is
not even willing to say publicly that the violence should end?

     MR. SIEWERT:  They issued a statement that very clearly said that the
violence should end, and that this hostility was in no one's interest.

     Q    Is there any date for the President to sign the agricultural agreement
that includes the --

     MR. SIEWERT:  Let me see if we got it.  As of Friday we hadn't gotten it.
I know there isn't a date yet, but I think it's mostly because we haven't gotten
a bill yet.  Let me just check.  We have still not gotten the bill, so it's hard
for us to set a date.

     Q    Do you still expect the President to sign the
bill --

     MR. SIEWERT:  Yes.  That was a bill that was -- that provision was
something that we'd not seen when they first passed it, but we're now aware of
it and taking a look at it.

     Q    There are reports in one of the Israeli papers that President Clinton
and Chairman Arafat had spoken about a possible meeting following the elections.
Is that -- is there any possibility of that happening?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I have not heard that at all.

     Q    Any summit?

     MR. SIEWERT:  No, not that I'm aware of.

     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

     MR. SIEWERT:  Thank you.

                           END                 12:34 P.M. EDT

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