THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release October 30, 2000
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:42 P.M. EST
MR. SIEWERT: I guess I started a travel announcement in the gaggle,
I'll finish it here. The President will spend Monday and Tuesday evening
of next week in New York with his wife, who is running for Senate there.
So we expect he'll overnight both Monday and Tuesday in New York State.
Q Will he vote in New York, as well, on Tuesday?
MR. SIEWERT: Yes. Yes, he has not voted yet by absentee ballot. So
since he's there Tuesday morning, I expect he'll cast his vote in
Chappaqua. He did last month, too, as well.
Q How about Sunday night and Saturday night? Where would he spend
the night -- since we're looking ahead?
MR. SIEWERT: We have not yet made decisions on our travel plans for
this weekend, but we'll continue to consult with the Gore campaign, with
other Democrats, and I expect you'll see the President out and about around
the country. But we haven't yet made a firm plan on where he'll be.
Q Will he return to --
Q Is he going to come back here on Wednesday?
MR. SIEWERT: He'll probably be back here some time Wednesday, but
that's a little ways off in the future, I think. We haven't absolutely
decided, but that's my best guess.
Q We have events in town Wednesday, right? The schedule?
MR. SIEWERT: This Wednesday or next Wednesday? You're talking about
the Wednesday after the election? Yes, I expect he'll be back then.
Q He goes out Thursday and Friday, do you expect him to come back?
MR. SIEWERT: I don't know yet. But we'll let you know as soon as we
have clearer travel plans.
Q Jake, at the State Department today they said that the President
spoke with the leader of Yemen, Salih. Can you tell us about that call?
MR. SIEWERT: He did. He spoke with him on Saturday. As you know,
the President had written a letter to the leader of Yemen, thanking him for
the cooperation on the first phase of the investigation, and asking for
their continued cooperation as we go into the next phase of the
We got a return call on Saturday, and they spoke for about 25 minutes
on Saturday. They pledged their full cooperation in the next phase of the
investigation; and we made clear that as part of that investigation we're
going to need to see some access to witnesses and access to primary
Q Did they agree to that?
MR. SIEWERT: They've pledged full cooperation, and I'm not going to
get into the modalities of the investigation, but they pledged that they
would continue to cooperate. And we've received excellent cooperation from
them in the first phase, and we expect that that will continue.
Q So they agreed to give us access?
MR. SIEWERT: They've said that they would cooperate fully in the next
phase of the investigation.
Q Have there been problems, though? Apparently with the certain
people that the Yemense -- Yemen authorities have detained, and they
haven't allowed U.S. officials to question?
MR. SIEWERT: I'd check with the Department of Justice and the other
investigation agencies about how each phase of it's going. But generally
in the first phase of the investigation we are very satisfied with the
cooperation we've gotten. As you know, a lot of the investigators have
returned now. We have a smaller group that's focusing on the next round.
The President called President Salih to let him know that we need more
cooperation in the second round, continued cooperation. They made clear
that they would provide that cooperation, and we made clear in the call
that we're going to need access to suspects and information that we'll need
to continue that investigation.
In terms of the day-to-day particulars of this, I think there are
better places to get that information than here.
Q Is it your understanding that this latest pledge of cooperation
means that Yemen will give our FBI investigators access to the witnesses,
suspects and evidence?
MR. SIEWERT: You should check with the FBI on how that is actually
playing out in practice, but we've made clear that that's something that we
Q Salih says that he's going to continue to cooperate. That is how
the White House interprets it. The White House brings up specific concerns
in his phone conversations --
MR. SIEWERT: That's what he said. That's all I'm saying. That's
what he said; and we made clear, as part of that cooperation, we'll need
access to information and to suspects.
Q Can you give any information on the meeting today on North Korea?
MR. SIEWERT: It was a good meeting. It lasted about 30 minutes or
so. Secretary Albright gave the President a more detailed account of her
trip than she gave to those of you who watched "Good Morning America." She
reviewed all the issues that they had covered, from nuclear proliferation
to human rights to lessening tensions in the Peninsula.
The President was pleased to get that update. As I said this morning,
we'll need a fuller account -- a fuller understanding of what's involved in
this offer that the North Koreans have made on missiles. We expect that
the discussions in Kuala Lumpur at the end of this week will be helpful in
achieving a fuller understanding of what the North Koreans have put on the
Those begin, I believe, on November 1st, run for a couple days. And
after those meetings, we'll be in a better position to assess what the next
Q Did she say anything about a possible presidential visit or --
MR. SIEWERT: Well, obviously that was discussed; that's something
we've told you publicly that we're considering. But we're not going to be
in a position to assess whether or not such a trip would advance our
interests in the region until we have a little fuller understanding of the
offer that the North Koreans have made on missiles.
Q Did she make a recommendation, though, at this point, on whether
or not he should go?
MR. SIEWERT: I think it was a unanimous decision at this point to not
make that decision, but to explore further with the North Koreans what
exactly is on the table, in terms of their offer to cut back on their
missiles program. And that's what will be the subject of discussions later
this week in the region.
Q Jake, is the President looking for some specific action from
North Korea between now and the time that decision is made?
MR. SIEWERT: We'll make an overall judgment based on whether we think
a trip would advance our interests -- our interest in nonproliferation, our
interest in lessening tension on the Peninsula, our interest in reducing
the threat that that missile program poses to our allies in the region and
to the United States.
We'll make an overall judgment based on the talks later this week and
any follow-up talks about whether or not such a trip would advance our
overall agenda in North Korea.
Q And the outcome of the American election would have no impact on
the decision as to whether to go?
MR. SIEWERT: No, absolutely not.
Q Has there been any movement on any of the tax spending bills
since this morning?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, we had made some progress last night on the
education budget, the Labor-HHS bill. And our negotiators, as I said, met
for three or four hours last night, into the early morning, with the Senate
appropriators and House appropriators. We had made a lot of progress in
terms of what could be an historic education budget. Some would strengthen
class size, strengthen our initiative on after-school and strengthen our
efforts to modernize America's schools.
Now, I think the leadership of the Republican Party has thrown that
education budget, that education agreement into some doubt because of some
other concerns they may have about that bill. But we had worked something
out. But as they've gone through the day, apparently there has been some
reconsideration on the part of the Republican leadership. So we'll wait to
here whether they want to move forward with what we had hammered out last
night, or whether they want to step back and continue on the path that they
had this weekend of not compromising.
Q Could you be a little more specific, Jake, about what you're
talking about when you say Republican leadership has thrown this into doubt
with other concerns? Are you talking about ergonomics, are you talking
about other --
MR. SIEWERT: I think there are a couple different special interest
provisions that were attached to that bill that we had tried to resolve
last evening. We thought we had resolved them, but apparently in the light
of day, Republicans -- I'm not going to get into specifics, because they're
literally talking about these as we speak.
But we had worked out some of the funding matters, but there were some
policy matters that now appear to be holding up that bill.
Q Are the policy matters -- Davis-Bacon restrictions on the
spending of the tax credit bond money?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I think the agreement we were discussing -- I
don't want to get into a lot of detail, but the agreement we were
discussing was not so much on the tax credit, itself, but on the
appropriations funds that would go to modernizing America's schools.
Q What --
MR. SIEWERT: In other words, the tax piece is more part of the
discussion on tax measures. This is on the appropriations bill, itself.
Q -- says that the President would support a portion of the tax
bill that would overturn the Oregon assisted suicide law. Is that the
case? And what's the bargaining position on that?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, we've made clear that on that tax bill we want to
judge the entire tax bill on its own, and we didn't think that it was
necessary to put a lot of extra special interests -- additional measures on
that. We've made clear that we have some concerns about the Oregon law,
but we think those ought to be discussed separately and that that those
ought to be discussed in some other context; and that it's important not to
try to rush through a debate on an enormously complex issue in the heat of
a last-minute tax --
Q Is that a --
MR. SIEWERT: As I said, we're still trying to resolve a lot of
different problems with that bill. And I don't want to create a
hypothetical situation where that's the only objectionable provision on
that bill. I have a feeling that right now we have a lot of other
objectionable provisions on that bill, a lot of other reasons why the
President has vowed to veto it. I'm not going to negotiate here from the
But we think that that could be dealt with separately, and should be
dealt with separately.
Q This could have happened since you came out, but apparently
congressional Democrats are now passing the word that Labor-HHS
negotiations have fallen apart and they expect to have an event with the
President at 4:30 p.m.
MR. SIEWERT: It's very possible you'll hear from the President later
today. As I said, we had been making some progress on the bill and,
frankly, the Republicans seem to have stepped back from some of the
agreements we had made last night, when we thought we were negotiating with
people who had the authority to negotiate on behalf of the Republican
Q What's the status of the Postal-Treasury bill? You have until
midnight to sign it, but if the negotiations are falling apart you said
you'd review it and the big picture --
MR. SIEWERT: We'll make a judgement on whether or not to veto that
bill, based on overall progress that we make over the course of the day.
The progress on the tax bill was virtually nil because Republicans refused
to reopen some of the issues. They want to do it their way or no way at
all. So we haven't had a good discussion with them about how to balance
that bill out and provide a minimum wage increase.
They made no -- little or no serious effort over the weekend to figure
out the Medicare and managed care provisions, teaching hospital provisions,
disabled provisions on the balanced budget reconciliation act that we had
had some concerns about. And while there were some negotiations over the
education bill, they appear to be backing away from some of the commitments
they made to us.
Q -- judge that bill on its own merits, the --
Q Yes, what does that have to do with Treasury-Postal?
MR. SIEWERT: The Treasury bill included some extraneous measures,
including a tax provision that's fairly expensive, $55 billion I believe,
and that is not a -- that's not typically something you would see on an
appropriations bill. So we said we're going to treat that a little
differently than we do a normal appropriations bill, because it was tucked
We've asked for a lot of tax provisions, they haven't put them on
bills, but they decide to put one that they cared a lot about and put it on
an appropriations bill. That's not a -- it's a rider, it's a special
We actually think it's not -- you know, on the face of it, it's not an
objectionable measure, but the problem is that there is just a skewed sense
of priorities up on the Hill. When they want to pass certain tax measures
that they care a lot about they put them on an appropriations bill;
something the President cares about they say sorry, we can't make any
progress on that.
So we've always said we've been very clear that we would base our
decision whether to sign that bill or not sign that bill on an overall
assessment of progress that we've made. And there has been very little
progress over the weekend.
Q Anything on the Latino Immigration Fairness act? Any movement on
MR. SIEWERT: I don't think there's been any meaningful discussion of
that, as of this morning. I can check and see whether we've made any
progress. We outlined our concerns with the bill on a letter that John
Podesta sent to the Hill last week. And we think that there's a middle
ground there. It should be relatively easy to reach. But most of the
Republican senators over the weekend were just saying that there was no way
that they were willing to reconsider their position on this.
Q Overall, it sounds like there is much more deadlock than
agreement in this budget debate at this point. I mean, you're not making
any progress on Commerce-State-Justice; Treasury-Postal is held up, there
is no progress on --
MR. SIEWERT: As I said, we had -- I don't think Jack Lew and Sylvia
Mathews stayed up until 2:00 a.m. in the morning last night because they
thought they were spinning their wheels. They were up there trying to get
some hard work done. They made a lot of progress on working through some
of the differences we had over some of the education initiatives. We
thought we had some agreements from the Republicans on those education
initiatives, on after-school, on school modernization, on teacher quality
and other matters.
But if the Republicans didn't mean what they said, then we'll have to
reassess and see where we are at the end of the day today.
Q What was the Vieques legislation that Governor Rossello was at
the White House for?
MR. SIEWERT: I believe there are some minor, but important, changes
that were made in a Department of Defense bill that's before the President
now, that otherwise is a pretty good bill. And the President has pledged
to work with Governor Rossello to address some of the problems that they've
raised in Puerto Rico. Something about the management of some of the
wildlife land there. I'll check and get a little more on that. But it's
something that the President wanted to meet with the Governor to discuss.
They have some concerns about this legislation, we need to see what we can
do to address them.
Q Jake, this morning you said, about this Labor-HHS negotiation,
we've begun to make some progress. Now you're reporting saying there were
substantial agreements. Are you ratcheting up the rhetoric here to suggest
there was more than was agreed to --
MR. SIEWERT: I told you this morning that nothing is agreed to until
everything is agreed to. We can't make anyone agree to finalize anything.
But we had made a lot of progress over the evening and we had essentially
come up with a fair amount of detail on the education funding initiatives
and reached some middle ground on some other issues, but we're waiting to
see from Republicans whether they are willing to abide by what they put on
the table last night and what we hammered out last night.
Q What you're saying here is you thought you had a deal, an
MR. SIEWERT: Well, no, I said this morning that obviously, nothing,
no agreement is ever final until everyone says it's final. I didn't tell
you it was final this morning. But there were some commitments that were
on the table and that now are apparently of concern to the leadership.
There were different people in the room last night than there were today.
And, obviously, the people who are speaking today have the ability and
authority to undo anything that was agreed to last night. And that's their
prerogative. That's the way things work.
Q Does the administration feel that the latest OPEC increase of
500,000 barrels a day -- which I believe went into effect today -- is that
enough to get through the winter, or will the U.S. want another increase
when OPEC meets in Vienna?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, we've said all year that we think increased
production is important to meet the demands of both a growing world economy
and reduced inventories. I haven't seen a final analysis of what they've
done, but we welcome any measure that would help us move towards a more
steady supply and prices that are more in line with our historical
Q So in Vienna do you want another increase?
MR. SIEWERT: We would welcome any increase in production that would
take us towards a more historical cost average.
Q Has the President begun taping any more of the "Get Out The Vote"
commercials, and when will they start running?
MR. SIEWERT: I would assume that some of them are up and running now.
We don't make that decision here. We have taped a number of radio
actualities, radio scripts and radio ads that campaigns asked us to do,
coordinated campaigns, individual members of Congress who wanted the
President to do those. So I would imagine we've done several dozen at the
least. But we then hand those over to the campaigns and let them use them
as they wish. So it's probably better to check with individual candidates.
I can provide you with some of the names afterwards of people who have
requested those, who have gotten them, and ultimately they decide how to
Q Is Mrs. Clinton one of them? Did she request a radio ad?
MR. SIEWERT: I'll check. I think there was something that was done
for the New York Coordinated Campaign, but I'll check and see.
Q What was it, a get out the vote for the black vote
MR. SIEWERT: I'll check. I mean, many of these were targeted at
Democratic voters. But in the end, the President is happy to do this to
help people out, but the campaigns make decisions about how to use these
scripts, where to target them, and that's really not a decision that we
oversee here as the White House.
Q But does he use the name of the candidate in the --
MR. SIEWERT: It varies a great deal. It depends whether it's done
for a coordinated campaign where it might be for the entire ticket, or
whether it's done for an individual candidate. I can check. I mean,
there's literally, as I said, several dozen of them. I haven't looked at
Q Can you give us a list?
Q And is it all for the congressional candidates?
MR. SIEWERT: No, I don't think -- I mean, some are for the
coordinated campaigns that would be for the entire ticket in a particular
state to get the vote across the board for everything from the presidential
to any Senate or House races that are on the ticket.
Q The name Al Gore does escape his lips on some of these?
MR. SIEWERT: I would assume that in some of the ads that he mentions
his support for the Vice President, urges others to vote for the Vice
President. But I would be surprised if there was one that was -- I would
imagine they are mostly for the entire ticket.
Q Could you give us a list?
MR. SIEWERT: I'll see. I'll check. Some of them might be secret.
Q What if Dan Burton asks for one? (Laughter.)
Q Jake, on Peru, the President said last week he will be watching
closely the situation, and there is now a small number of military leaders
who are asking President Fujimori to resign and form a new government.
What is the position of the White House regarding the calls from the small
part of the military leaders to Fujimori?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, we're continuing to look at what happens in Peru
very closely and monitoring the situation there. From all reports,
President Fujimori remains in charge and commands the loyalty of the armed
forces. And he is committed, he has told us he is committed to the
OAS-backed reform process that could -- will lead to free and fair
We're going to continue to -- our main policy there is to try to do
everything we can, working with the OAS to move Peru quickly to free and
fair elections, and the OAS's Secretary General was in Peru last week. And
that's what we've made clear. And we've also said that it's very important
at this moment that all elements within Peru support a Democratic
Q Just quickly, do you think it will be better for the Peruvian
democracy to have a transitional government from now to the elections in
MR. SIEWERT: I don't know -- I think what we're mostly concerned
about is seeing a transition, a Democratic transition to another round of
elections, and that those elections be fair and free.
Q Jake, what's the latest reaction to the Israeli situation and the
greater defenses used by Israeli tanks and also discussions with the Barak
MR. SIEWERT: We haven't had any discussions today, I don't think.
The President spoke, as I said, this morning to Prime Minister Barak. But
we made clear that we remain convinced that the best way to get to a calmer
situation on the ground is through implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh
agreements. I'm not going to comment on what's happened on the ground.
I'm not sure exactly what your situation referred to.
But the Prime Minister told the President that he's made it very clear
that he wants to find a path back to peace and ultimately to the -- a
bargaining table, but we're focused right now on implementing the Sharm
el-Sheikh, and the first track of Sharm el-Sheikh is to implement security
arrangements that would provide more calm on the ground.
Q The Israeli military has said they're going to go into a greater
offensive posture, rather than just defensive.
MR. CROWLEY: I'm not sure that's a fair characterization.
Q How do you view it? I'll take your way.
Q Jake, we've heard about a couple conversations that he's had with
the Prime Minister. Has the President had any recent conversations with
Chairman Arafat, or are those conversations over with?
MR. SIEWERT: -- twice or so over the last week, but I don't know that
there has been anything since --
MR. CROWLEY: We have the ability to talk to both sides at various
levels on a continual basis.
Q I understand that. But the President spoke with the Prime
Minister yesterday and I think Thursday. Has he spoken with Chairman
MR. SIEWERT: He's certainly spoken to Chairman Arafat within the last
week, but I'm not aware of any calls over the weekend. There were no calls
over the weekend, but we can, as PJ said, communicate with them through him
and through others.
Q Also, back on the oil situation. Iraq has said that as of
November 1st, oil exports will only be denominated in Euros and the United
Nations, I believe, has said it needs more time to adjust its accounting
procedures. There's an implicit threat for the Iraqis to cut off oil
MR. SIEWERT: We don't oppose, in principle, any Iraqi oil trading
that's done in Euros, provided that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi
people are met under the terms of the U.N. oil for food program.
Ultimately, under the terms of that agreement, the U.N. has control
over all the funds in the oil for food account. The money is never in the
hands of the Iraqis, it's essentially in an escrow account. So whether the
money is in Euros, dollars or another denomination is nothing more than a
technical issue. What's important is that Iraq has a strong interest in
seeing this program continue, the U.N. program, and it's the way in which
they can ensure that they get the food and medicine they need; and they
have a strong interest in seeing supply continue at higher levels; and we
will do everything we can to ensure that supplies continue at high levels.
And if they take any measures to cut back, we will have the Strategic
Petroleum Reserve, the Europeans have reserves that could deal with such a
Q Would one solution be for the United Nations to accept the Euros
for the time being in the escrow account and adjust --
MR. SIEWERT: Check with the U.N. on the technicalities of that.
We're not terribly concerned about whether they're denominated in Euros or
dollars. As I said, the U.N. essentially controls the actual currency in
Q Jake, back on Yemen, did the President write the letter at the
urging of Janet Reno and Louis Freeh?
MR. SIEWERT: Not that I'm aware of. I think it was meant just to --
I'll check on that, but it was meant to just thank him for the cooperation
in the first phase, recognizing that we're moving into a new stage where we
were lessening the footprint that the investigators had in Yemen, but that
we needed to continue and do more over the next phase while there were
fewer people on the ground; the next phase of the investigation is very
END 2:08 P.M. EST