THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS The Briefing Room
9:41 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: This afternoon at 3:30 p.m. administration officials, probably -- will brief on Russia.
MS. MYERS: Well, I was going to say who it was, and then I didn't want to get in trouble from you guys for putting that on the record.
Q That's a very big something.
MS. MYERS: Yes. It will be very senior people.
Q What about Russia?
MS. MYERS: It's still there; it's a large country --
Q What's will be the scope of the briefing?
MS. MYERS: It will be, again, senior people --
Q We usually find out who is going to brief.
MS. MYERS: Well, okay. It's Tony Lake and Strobe Talbott. So they'll be able to -- "Tolbott," I'm sorry. Just for the record, Strobe did not say that to a United States senator, he said it jokingly to a staff person and he was mortified that it got reported the way it did.
Q What is the scope of the briefing?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think they'll be able to give an overview and talk some -- they will not talk about the specifics of the aid package.
Q? That's the answer I was looking for -- thank you.
MS. MYERS: But they will be able to talk generally about what the topics of discussion will be, what the situation is, what's happening sort of multilaterally and bilaterally. It will be fairly comprehensive.
Q Will there be another briefing to discuss the specifics of the aid package?
MS. MYERS: We're working on the details of that.
Q Well, you were talking about a briefing in Portland Friday.
MS. MYERS: Yes, we're still trying to work that out. I'm hopeful that we'll still be able to do something that's more specific later on.
Q Do you have a departure time? Can you give us any kind of rundown on times for tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Yes, as a matter of fact. The pool will leave from the Northwest Gate at 9:45 a.m. Bag call for people who are covering --
Q Wait -- for what?
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry -- this is tomorrow morning --9:45 a.m. the pool will leave to go to Annapolis to cover the ANSE speech.
Q Is that by helicopter -- Pentagon pad, that kind of thing?
MS. MYERS: No, this is ground transport. The pool will leave and go by ground to catch up with the President at Annapolis. He will fly. The rest -- there will be a bag call -- this is where it gets tricky -- a bag call for those who are covering the speech and then going on to Portland. You can drop your bags at the White House at 11:15 a.m. -- or by 11:15 a.m., I should say. And then the rest of the press will leave from the Northwest Gate at 11:15 a.m.
Then the press will come back here to file. It is unclear whether the President will leave directly from Annapolis or not. But at any rate, the press will come back here and file and the press plane will leave from Andrews at 6:00 p.m.
Q Will a bus for the people who are not going and want to file from there, is there going to be facilities there and a bus that's going to hang back for people with filing immediately on the speech?
MS. MYERS: No. Will there be any time built in at the end of the speech?
Q We'll come straight back here, no filing.
MS. MYERS: The answer was no, the bus is coming straight back.
Q Is Air Force One going then will leave either from Annapolis or Washington and it will leave before the press plane leaves, right?
MS. MYERS: It's unclear if the President will fly directly from Annapolis to Andrews and leave, or whether he will come back to the White House and then leave later.
Q Well, if he does, how does the pool get from Annapolis to Andrews?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to have two separate pools. And we'll know that by this afternoon.
Q The Air Force One pool, where do they go and when?
MS. MYERS: We don't know yet. They'll either not be able to cover the speech and go straight to Andrews to meet the plane; or if the President comes back here, then they come back here and leave from here to go out to Andrews ahead of time.
Q What are the two tentative departure -- Air Force One departure times if he were to leave Annapolis and go to Andrews?
MS. MYERS: We don't have them. He would leave immediately after the speech, so whatever time that is. He has, I think, a reception or something before the speech. There's nothing on the schedule at this point at Annapolis after the speech.
Q What time would the speech end?
MS. MYERS: The speech starts at 1:00 p.m., so it ends roughly 2:00 p.m.; may do a little schmoozing the crowd.
Q Is there anything he wants to do in Portland tomorrow night that he has to get there for?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's anything on at this point. I wouldn't rule out that he might do something -- not a public event -- a meeting or something.
Q The pool will come back by ground transportation also?
MS. MYERS: That's the current plan is that the pool will come -- everybody's traveling by ground transportation.
Q Getting back to Annapolis, Dee Dee, are there any filing facilities there? Are you guys laying in any phones or anything there for us?
MS. MYERS: Nothing, no.
Q Is your 6:00 p.m. Andrews press time a check-in time or a departure, a lift-off time?
MS. MYERS: Departure.
Q So the check-in is what, 5:00 p.m.?
MR. GAINES: At 4:30 p.m.
MS. MYERS: At 4:30 p.m.
Q What time is baggage?
MS. MYERS: Baggage is 11:15 a.m. here.
Q All baggage or just people who are going to Annapolis?
MR. GAINES: Just people who going to the speech.
Q Check-in is at 4:30 p.m. for a 6:00 p.m. departure?
MS. MYERS: That when check-in starts. I mean, there's normally a fairly long grace period on these things. Some people like to get there early.
Q At 5:59 p.m. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Right. Then there's the Spencer one-minute crowd.
There's been no changes in his schedule today. He will have a Cabinet meeting at 10:00 a.m. There will be a pool spray at the top of that. So the pool will be gathering here in just a few minutes. And the rest of his day will be consumed by meetings, briefings, catching up.
Q How about the -- is it true, the western lands story?
MS. MYERS: What is the truth? No, it's not -- here's the situation on the western lands. There were three components to it: grazing, mining and below-cost timber sales. There's been no change in the grazing component. There are still $82 million from increasing the cost of grazing on public lands that is in the budget resolution, that has not changed. Secretary Babbitt will work out the details administratively, but we still expect to increase fees for grazing on public lands.
In terms of mining, we still expect comprehensive mining reform. We believe that that can be achieved more comprehensively outside of the budget process. We're moving forward with that. We expect that to happen this year. That will require separate legislative action, but we expect -- we have the commitment of the western senators to work with us on that. And it's unclear how much they will raise additional revenue which will go into the Treasury that is outside of the budget resolution.
The below-cost timber sales --
Q But those fees will be going up later in the year?
MS. MYERS: There will absolutely be mining reform that will include royalties on hard rock mined on federal land.
And the third component is below-cost timber sales, which were never included in the budget package. But we do expect to reform the below-cost timber sale process and increase revenues as a result of that as well.
Q Did you decide to break the mining component out of the budget because there were threats that it could threaten the overall budget resolution?
MS. MYERS: We thought that it -- obviously, there was some opposition to that, and strong opposition among particularly western senators. But we also thought that we could achieve the end goal, which is comprehensive mining reform legislatively outside the budget process more effectively. And we will working with the western senators to do that.
Q Why was it put in the budget in the first place? Why was this ever considered? If it's more effective to do it the way you're doing it, why didn't you do it that way --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that we were persuaded to take it outside by some of the western senators who had concerns about it. You can do it a number of ways. If it you do it the reconciliation, you're limited to talking about budget issues. If you do it outside the reconciliation process you can talk about reclamation and other things. And so we've decided to pursue a more comprehensive program outside of the budget process.
Q So the thrust of the story is basically wrong?
MS. MYERS: The thrust of the story --
Q and that he has not been convinced or persuaded by the western senators not to go for the higher fees?
MS. MYERS: That that's -- absolutely. He has not been persuaded -- we're still going to push forward with reform, with comprehensive reform on mining and grazing issues and we're going to work with the western senators to achieve that. This is not a change in policy, it's a change in process.
Q Are you committed to getting as much revenue in the final reform package as you were asking for in the part of the budget that included this?
MS. MYERS: There's been some downward revision in the OMB budget reestimate. I don't know what the final numbers will be. That's something that will have to be worked out through a hearing process and a number of other -- through the legislative process, effectively.
Q Is that no?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the final numbers will be for mining, but there is still $82 million in increased grazing fees that are in the budget resolution now.
Q That's what originally was there, that's not been changed?
MS. MYERS: Correct, that has not been changed. It may have been --
Q Will he accept a change in that?
MS. MYERS: We'll see what comes out of conference. I don't think that that's -- I'm not sure what level -- if that's being discussed or not. Greg Simon from Senator Gore's staff is here and can answer any specific details afterwards.
Q Where do you think these stories came from, I mean, if you're so --
MS. MYERS: I think there was something of a rush to judgement yesterday. It was a story that broke sort of late in the day.
Q What do you say to argument that this is very tough to get through in any case and if you put it actually in reconciliation, then it has the momentum of the whole package; whereas if you take it out and try to make these reforms, it's subject to all the lobbyists that usually kill stuff like this and that's what will happen this time? I mean, why is this a better way to proceed?
MS. MYERS: Because you can achieve a more comprehensive reform that includes things that aren't just increases in fees --land reclamation after it's been mined, things like that. And I think that, through conversations, that the western senators are committed to moving forward with this reform. They just wanted a change in policy. We agreed with changing -- not policy, in process. And I think a lot of the environmental groups agree that there needs to be a more comprehensive approach to dealing with these issues.
Q Dee Dee, why doesn't this send a message that this is the start of the lobby of special interests of one sort or another picking a part the President's proposal?
MS. MYERS: Again, there has been no change in the administration's goals here. We're still pushing for and expect to achieve this year comprehensive mining and grazing reform.
Q I understand there is no change in the administration's goals. The President urged everyone not -- to start picking apart the package piece by piece for special interest groups, but isn't that exactly what you just said has been done? The senators did convince you all to --
MS. MYERS: It was a change in process, not in policy. We need to continue to work with members of Congress to get the package through. I mean, clearly, that is our primary objective and I think we can do both things. We can maintain the integrity of the budget package and achieve policy reform by doing it this way.
Q Would you be willing to consider changes in the process for other groups?
MS. MYERS: I don't want to get into -- I mean, I don't think -- we're willing to do it here and we're moving forward with the budget package. As you know, we're about to get -- the budget package is in conference. We expect to have it out by Friday. The stimulus package is moving through the Senate and we hope -- we're optimistic that that will pass. So I don't think that that's an issue.
Q Intact with your figures?
MS. MYERS: We're optimistic that we'll get it passed by the end of the week.
Q Dee Dee, you've made it clear that part of the reason for this was the western senators convinced you of the wisdom of doing reform separately. Was part of the calculus the decision that you would need their votes and would lose their votes if you didn't give in to them?
MS. MYERS: Well, clearly, we needed to work with them to get the budget package through. That's our primary objective here.
Q But was there an explicit understanding on their -- presented to you so you would lose some of their votes or all of their votes if you didn't change?
MS. MYERS: I think it was clear that we needed to work with them and they convinced us that we could achieve our policy objectives more effectively outside of the budget process.
Q Is that yes?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q On another subject. What's the status of the search for a new Supreme Court nominee? Is there a short list with Mario Cuomo on the top of it?
MS. MYERS: Number 46. I'm not going to comment on the process other than to say it's ongoing and as soon as we have a Supreme Court nominee you'll be the first to know.
Q Well, has there been a formal list --
Q Why does she get to know? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Because she's nice. There are a number -- I mean, I'm not going to comment on lists long or short. Obviously, through this process, there will be a number of people considered.
Q There's no formal list -- no formal list has gone to the President yet?
MS. MYERS: I can't comment on the status of any lists.
Q Does the White House intend to wait until after the court session ends before sending up a nominee?
MS. MYERS: I don't think that there's any particular timetable at this point. I think the President feels, given Justice White's early announcement, that the has a lot of flexibility in timing. But I don't think that there's any particular deadline.
Q What about the President's appearance on Cheers?
MS. MYERS: There's been no decision on that. I mean, there is -- I would say that there's been an invitation, but it's not clear exactly what form it would take.
Q It has to be taped this week. Doesn't he have to decide pretty soon?
MS. MYERS: Well, we can't do it this week. I think there may be ways to do it sometime --
Q So the report that he's doing it this afternoon is wrong?
MS. MYERS: Clearly -- no, he can't do it this afternoon.
Q And would that count as the President's turn on NBC? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Yes. I didn't want to break it to you this way, Mick. That is, in fact, true -- 30 seconds on NBC.
Q What is the condition of the father-in-law?
MS. MYERS: Unchanged.
Q Dee Dee, what about the story in the USA Today, that health care may be paid for with a national sales tax?
MS. MYERS: Number 41 -- we can't comment on the specific --
Q Well, but you commented in the past on the question of whether there would be --
MS. MYERS: Nothing's changed.
Q What about an AIDS czar, Dee Dee? Have you made a selection? There's a report that you have.
MS. MYERS: Not yet.
Q Back on the health care question.
Q Would Margaret Hamburg be a frontrunner?
MS. MYERS: I can't comment on personnel until we make announcements.
Q? Nothing's changed, meaning the people on the Hill who are still saying that they're being told by administration officials that a national sales tax or value-added tax is being considered by the administration are just wrong?
MS. MYERS: Yes, nothing has changed.
Q Does that mean that your answer, going back to Hyde Park, this would not be -- the whole idea of a value-added or national sale tax would be a long way off and presumably after the lifetime of at least this first term --
MS. MYERS: Yes. I think there are going to continue to be stories every single day about what's being considered. In terms of -- we're not going to get into commenting on the specifics every single day, and all I can say in reference to value-added tax is nothing has changed. I think we've been fairly clear about that.
Q Or any national sales tax, right? When you say value-added tax you mean any type of national sales tax?
MS. MYERS: There are just going to continue to be stories on this every single day, and I think we have to just get out of the business of commenting on it, other than to say nothing's changed.
Q Where will he spend Easter, the President?
MS. MYERS: There are no plans at this point, so we'll have to wait and see.
Q What was the question?
MS. MYERS: Where will the President spend Easter. Obviously, that will be partly determined by the condition of Mr. Rodham.
Q Mrs. Clinton is staying in Little Rock?
MS. MYERS: She's still in Little Rock, and she will be there indefinitely.
Q Yesterday on the Hill, Secretary Christopher said it was time to slap an oil embargo against Libya. Where is that? Can you give us some detail on what allies --
MS. MYERS: As Secretary Christopher said, this is the -- Christopher said that he would support that and we would consult with our allies. I would refer you to State for exactly where they are in that process. But clearly, that is the administration's position that they need to turn over the suspects it he Pan Am bombing, and if they aren't willing to do that, which they have not been willing to do, then we're prepared to slap an oil embargo on them.
Q You don't know when that would happen?
MS. MYERS: No, I have to refer you to State for the specific timing.
Q Could I go back again to this value-added tax? When you say nothing has changed, do you mean that the situation as of Hyde Park, where the President said, this is a long way off and this is thus off the table for now, remains in place?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q So we should ignore any story that suggests the value-added or a sales tax is being considered?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:59 A.M. EST