THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE VICE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH BIPARTISAN LEADERSHIP The Cabinet Room
11:16 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, first of all, I'm delighted to have the congressional leadership here today. And we're going to begin our conversations by talking about the reinventing government initiative. The Vice President's going to give the leadership a briefing. And I'm very much looking forward to this phase new phase of the congressional session and to -- of a bipartisan effort on a lot of issues. And I hope we will center it on this, because I think this effort can do as much as anything else to build the trust of the American people and what we're doing on a whole range of other issues.
Q Mr. President, on health care, some of the people who have briefed, Democrats and Republicans, believe that the Medicaid and Medicare cuts are too large, too politically difficult and too nonspecific. Can you reassure them?
THE PRESIDENT: At the appropriate time.
Q There is some concern, sir --
Q What about the chance that the health care, though -- do you think that you can handle all of these things -- reinvent government, trade?
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I don't think we have an option because I think the country can't walk away from this problem. But I think we should begin with this because this is something that will unify Americans and will unify the Congress and will prove that we can spend the money we have in appropriate ways and stop wasting so much of it.
Q What will be the chances of bipartisanship on some of these issues, like health care?
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q Why so, given the experience you had in the first part of this administration?
THE PRESIDENT: These are different issues with different constituencies and a different -- and they can be presented in a different way. I think the chances are really good.
Q Have you changed your way of working with Congress?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Could I have a brief word, Mr. President? I'd like to say in the presence of the bipartisan leadership that the response from Republicans as well as Democrats to the National Performance Review has been extremely positive. And we very much look forward to a bipartisan effort to make the changes that are included in this report.
Q Can you tell us something about these products you have here, just so we can explain --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We talked about it a little bit this morning. These are just examples of one -- yesterday we released the overall report. Today we focused in on the number one -- the first target, which is procurement reform. And these are all examples of it.
This is a designer bug spray that is bought by the federal government according to detailed specifications that are prepared at taxpayer expense. Then we pay people to go in and inspect the plant, to test the product. They don't test it to see if it repels bugs, but they do test it to see if it complies with the regulation. (Laughter.) When, in fact, federal employees ought to be able to go out and buy a can of bug spray like they can get in the store and not waste all the money with the rest of this stuff.
These are small-order procurement forms. Federal employees filled out 11 million of these forms last year -- 11 million. Each of them cost $50 each to process. Virtually all of them are totally unnecessary and will be eliminated in the recommendations included in the report.
This is an illustration of how the federal government buys aspirin. The order for the aspirin went out, and the low bidder is a reputable company, knows what it's doing, had the low bid, and complied with all the requirements, but because it was low bidder, could not afford to fill out all of the paperwork certifying to the bureaucracy that it had complied with all of the little details and the 900 separate laws that govern procurement and so they were disqualified. The next low bidder got it, and the taxpayers ended up paying an extra $107,000 for aspirin.
This is just a -- well, this example is -- these are computer discs. And a federal employee on his own initiative went out and bought these at a discount store. He bought a packet of 10 for $10.99 and got a coupon giving a $2 discount for the next order of 10. In the centralized procurement system, the same exact package costs $11.37 without the coupon.
And then the final example is file folders. These cost at a regular retail outlet $3.89 for a package. In the procurement system they cost $6.43, the exact same folders.
Now, the point is -- and I'll close and finish with this -- we spend $200 billion per year on goods and services, and we have 4,500 pages of regulations that cause the extra expense that the taxpayers pay in this system, compared to what we could get if federal employees were allowed to use their common sense and management had the flexibility.
Q Mr. President, do you think you can talk George Mitchell into a liquor tax?
SENATOR FORD: Not today. (Laughter.)
Q Do you think you're going to have your own party's support on NAFTA, or are you going to have to rely totally on Republicans?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END11:15 A.M. EDT