Press Briefing by Jake Siewert (10/23/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

                                                                  For
Immediate Release                          October 23, 2000


                              PRESS BRIEFING
                                    BY
                               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
Washington.

     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 politically?

     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 today.

     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 forces.

     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 continues.

     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 isolation.

     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 year.

     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 years?

     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 time?

     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 so.

     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 in.

     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 region.

     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 there.

     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


President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement

Help

Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E