Press Briefing by Chief of Staff John Podesta to Internet Press Organizations (9/29/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

For  Immediate Release                                        September 29,

                              PRESS BRIEFING
                        CHIEF OF STAFF JOHN PODESTA

                          Chief of Staff's Office

11:14 A.M. EDT

     MR. PODESTA:  Let me start and just say a couple of things, and then
take your questions.  We thought this would be a good time to get everybody
in here and get together and let you ask some questions.  This week has
been -- we've had a couple of remarkable announcements that the President
has participated in.  On Tuesday the Census numbers came out showing that
the poverty rate had fallen to the lowest level in 20 years.  The poverty
rate for African Americans had fallen to the lowest level on record.  We
had income growth amongst all quintiles, reversing a trend we saw in the

     With very strong income growth since 1993, adjusted for inflation,
American median -- families -- for Americans, income have grown by more
than $6,000.  The poverty rate for elderly Americans has fallen below 10
percent for the first time in history.  Then on Wednesday, the President
announced that our budget surplus for the year -- fiscal year 2000 would be
at least $230 billion, so that we will -- by the end of this fiscal year,
which ends on Saturday, we will have paid off $360 billion worth of debt
over the past three years.

     I think what that says is that we're clearly on the right path.  We're
on the right path economically and we're on the right path from the
perspective of social policy in this country.  And then the question is,
can we maintain that, can we keep that momentum going in the waning days of
this Congress?

     During the course of this year, we've been speaking about a lot of
different issues and a lot of different initiatives that the President put
on the table in his State of the Union.  We met with the bipartisan
leadership early in September to try to wrap the work up, given that so
precious little had been done.  And yet, we exit the fiscal year with 11 of
the 13 appropriations bills still unfinished, with nothing being done to
raise the minimum wage, nothing being done to pass a real patient's bill of
rights, nothing being done to provide a prescription drug benefit for

     So we're frustrated, but we're still hard at work, and I think the
next couple of weeks will tell whether the American people will see some
results of this session of Congress.  We're committed to staying on the
fiscal path that brought the good news that I mentioned at the beginning,
and we're committed to trying to put aside partisanship and try to work
with Congress to see if we can get some of these things done.  But the next
two weeks will tell for the American people, so we thought this was a good
time to get together.

     I'll open it up.

     Q    Can I ask you about minimum wage?  Are you guys actively talking
to the leadership about a bill that would tie together minimum wage and
small business tax relief?

     MR. PODESTA:  As you know, since August we've been talking to the
Speaker's office about that.  They've put on the table three things.  One,
finally agreeing to raise the minimum wage by a dollar, which has been
resisted by the Republican leadership, but they wanted to couple that with
some small business tax relief and changes in the overtime laws, which we
thought were unnecessary and would undermine important projections of
overtime for American workers.

     So we've been discussing that package through the course of the month.
I think we think that the package they originally proposed is too big and
they've directed it towards relief for businesses who might be impacted by
a rise in the minimum wage, but in fact, a chunk of that has very little to
do with that.  So, we're in discussions with them.  I think we can work out
something with them to provide small business tax relief, that we could
couple a package of tax relief that's aimed at those businesses with a
dollar increase in the minimum wage, if they're willing to drop the changes
in the Fair Labor Standards Act, which protects workers with regard to

     Q    John, what's the administration's opinion of the language worked
out on Cuba sanctions, on the Cuba trade and ag approps bill?

     MR. PODESTA:  At least as of this morning, the only people who have
seen it are the Republican members of that conference committee, so we have
not actually seen the language, at least of a basically an hour ago, the
last time I checked.

     So we're anxious to see it, and as you know, the President has been in
favor of increasing people to people contacts, and increasing ways in which
we can have -- which can support the Cuban people without supporting the
Cuban government.  But we haven't seen the final language, so hopefully
that's something that we could find some common ground on.

     Q    How about on the drug reimportation language that the Senate
seems to be rapidly increasing its interest in?

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, obviously that issue has kind of taken off this
week.  We're interested in pursuing that.  We think the Senate language
that passed which permits the Federal Food and Drug Administration to
insure the safety and quality of drugs is the right way to go.  We are,
based on the discussions between the Republican leaders in the House and
the President and the letters that went back and forth between the
leadership, we're optimistic that we can work something out.

     But I would add two things to that.  One is, there has to be adequate
funding at the Food and Drug Administration to insure that the system that
is set up, which would permit the importation of drugs, can be monitored so
that the drugs are safe and effective.  And secondly, quite frankly, this
isn't a substitute for real insurance for people who need a drug benefit.

     So, we haven't given up on trying to pursue a drug benefit through
Medicare.  We're going to continue to press the case.  While this could
give some modest relief on pricing for all Americans -- and we think that's
a good thing, if set up right, and the safety of jobs in insured -- in the
long run, what we really need is protection under Medicare for our senior
citizens for their drug costs.

     Q    But if the bill meets your satisfaction on funding and other
regulatory language, you'll accept it without a full drug benefit, through

     MR. PODESTA:  The President's indicated, in his letter to the Speaker
and Senator Lott that he would accept it, but as I said, it's not a
substitute for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, but it would provide
some modest price relief, and we think that's a good thing.

     Q    Is there any other common ground?

     MR. PODESTA:  You know, there are other Medicare issues that we're
working on as well, like picking up the Vice President's suggestion of
having a real Medicare lockbox that takes Medicare off budget, and uses
Medicare receipts only for the Medicare program.  So we'd like to see that
done.  There's obviously some interest in that on a bipartisan basis on the
Hill, as I say.

     So these things can be broken up, and we can pursue them individually,
but quite frankly, it's good to see that the iron grip of the
pharmaceutical industry might be finally breaking on Capitol Hill, and at
least the heat is on, and the Republican leaders have now indicated their
support for this reimportation provision.

     Q    Are there going to be H1-B visa legislation on the omnibus
legislation, and would it be the --

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, I don't know whether it will be -- first of all, I
don't know whether there will be any omnibus legislation, although everyone
assumes that there will be.  Secondly, I don't know whether H1-B visas will
be included in that.  It's possible that H1-B visas will move separately.
The bill that is, I think, just about to pass the Senate, is in shape that
if it went over to the House, we would still like to see some additional
improvements in that bill.

     We think, again, there's sort of bipartisan agreement on this.  We
think the fee ought to be raised, and those monies ought to be used for
training workers in the United States, and with those improvements, I think
that bill could be sent down here separately for the President to sign, and
that will be a good thing.

     We have, obviously, also been pressing hard to have Congress consider
and enact the Hispanic immigration fairness package, and we're going to
continue to press on that.  We will press that in the context of the
Commerce/State/Justice appropriations bill, rather than on the H1-B visa
bill.  So whether all this stuff gets lumped together at the end or not,
time will tell.  But I think we will be able to make progress and get an
H1-B Visa cap rise done this Congress, and hopefully we'll do it with other
improvements that I mentioned.

     Q    Without the fee hike, though, will it be an acceptable piece of
legislation for the President?

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, I think that we would -- we are going to continue
to press for the fee hike.  I think, as I said, there's bipartisan
agreement on that.  So I think we can get that done, and I think the reason
the Senate -- my understanding is the reason the Senate couldn't consider
that is it's a revenue measure, it has to originate in the House.  So when
the bill goes back to the House, I think there's been agreement to do that
by the leading supporters in the House, like Congressman Dreier and
Congresswoman Lofgren.

     So we ought to get that done.  We ought to probably do it on the H1-B
bill.  There are obviously alternative structures to that.  We could put it
into one of the appropriations bills or something like that.  But I think
that there doesn't seem to be opposition to that, so I think we'll be able
to get that done this year.

     Q    On the New Markets legislation, there seems to be trouble in the
Senate with them loading up.  This has been a really big priority for the
President.  Tell me your assessment of that, and what it will mean if we
don't get this?

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, it remains a critical priority of ours.
Obviously, it was the -- in a Congress, I think, noted for partisanship,
the two exceptions were this New Markets legislation, and obviously
permanent normal trade relations with China, which just did pass the
Senate, and will be headed down to the White House for signature.

     I think on New Markets, to go back, when the Speaker came out to
Chicago and joined the President, I think we had great hope that we could
get that, move it along quickly.  I think we'll still get that done.  It's
an important priority of the President's.  It will help -- I mentioned that
raft of good economic news, but clearly still more needs to be done in
places that have been left behind by this great economy:  in urban America
and rural America, on Indian reservations, and we think that the ideas that
were combined and passed overwhelmingly -- there were more than 400 votes,
I think, in the House for this bill -- ought to get done.  So it would be a
priority of ours.  And again, if there is an omnibus at the end of the day,
I would think this would be a big candidate for it.

     I think there's also actually bipartisan support for it in the Senate,
and I think Chairman Roth, in the Finance Committee, is trying to steer a
package through, but this is the time of the year where those baubles and
special interest ornaments seem to get added, especially in the Finance
Committee, especially on tax legislation.

     And I think that this bill is slowing down through the normal process
of the Finance Committee and the Senate, but I think there are others ways
that we can come together and see if we can get this thing wrapped up, find
agreement between -- obviously, the Senate has some additional ideas that
they want to -- they're not going to take the House bill lock, stock and
barrel, but I think we would be happy if they did.  But I don't think that
we can really expect that.

     But I think we can get the two bodies together with the White House
and work out a very strong package which would mean an enormous amount for
those communities, and we're committed to getting that done.

     Q    There's a broadband measure on that New Markets bill that -- it's
Moynihan, I think, legislation.  Would the White House support that
particular measure staying on there?

     MR. PODESTA:  I think that there's -- you're a little beyond me,
because I haven't really set any details, but my understanding is that
that's a provision that our people would find acceptable.  But again, this
depends on what the overall package is.  But I think that's something that
we have supported in the committee.

     Q    -- today, it started out as, I think, a $17 billion bill, and now
it's up -- you say --

     MR. PODESTA:  Thirty Eight and growing --

     Q    Exactly.  I mean, you say you think you'll get it done, but will
it get done without certain taxpayers snickering, well, everyone's thrown
in their little piece of pork, and it started out as a great simple idea
with the President going around the country and going to these Indian
Reservations, but is it going to survive the Congressional process?

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, as I said, the way it ought to get it done is with
a bill that is clearly aimed at the issue and the problem that moves
through the Finance Committee.  If it can't get done that way, then I think
we have to find a way to get a package that really is -- that includes the
best ideas of both parties, that's directed at this New Markets initiative,
put it together, and find a vehicle to get it done.  That's happened in the
past, and I think we can agree to do that at the end of this session.

     Q    Do you think that you'll get the drug benefit on Medicare?

     MR. PODESTA:  The letter that the Speaker and Senator Lott sent to the
White House on Monday basically said that they thought that there was no
chance of doing that this year.  We, I think, rejected that analysis.  We
still think there is time to do it.  We think there's -- if there's a will
to do it, there's certainly a way to do it, and we're going to keep
pressing for it.  We refuse to give up on it.  It's an important
legislative priority.  It's the right thing to do, and it's the right way
to use resources from the surplus that has built up, to provide people who
are in serious need of getting it done. If you're asking me to handicap the
question, I think it's a stretch.

     But I think that we're going to keep -- if we keep it before the
public, I think we have a chance of getting it done.  I think, this summer,
when the Republicans decided to put together their bill that was incentives
to the insurance industry to provide an insurance-based benefit for senior
citizens, and the insurance industry said it wouldn't work -- I think no
one really thought it would work, but their campaign consultants came in
and said, you've just got to be for some plan, any plan, it doesn't matter
what plan, just get behind the plan, and they ramrodded that thing through
the House of Representatives.

     I think those members went home and they found out that the people in
their districts were a little more sophisticated than maybe their
consultants were, and they got pressed back pretty hard on it, I think.
And so, really, it's going to take the public pressure of the American
people saying we want a benefit, we want a reasonable, decent benefit
that's going to be affordable and voluntary, and we want it through
Medicare, to get this thing over the finish line.

     With a strong opposition to the pharmaceutical industry, it is clear
that we're not going to be able to break that logjam unless the public
really puts the heat on those members.  Now, they're facing an election
here in just, I guess, five weeks, and maybe with a couple of weeks left to
go in this congressional session, we can change that dynamic.

     Q    There's a couple privacy initiatives that seem to have an outside
chance of passing this year.  Does the administration support any of those?
I'm talking now to the Penn Register -- adjustment of the Penn Register
legislation and any other consumer --

     MR. PODESTA:  As you may or may not know, I went out and put out a
package that the administration supports in July of this year, made a
speech at the Press Club, encouraging a balanced package that enhances the
privacy of American citizens, and at the same time deals with the needs of
law enforcement.

     A bill just passed the House Judiciary Committee.  We still would like
to see some improvements in that bill.  I understand that Senators Hatch
and Schumer and Leahy are discussing that this week.  We would like to see
legislation move forward on that basis that would actually give better
protection and more harmonized protection to the privacy of American
citizens, especially with regard to electronic communications, e-mail, et
cetera; and at the same time, deal with the legitimate needs of law
enforcement.  And I think we could work that package out in good faith, and
I think there is probably still time to do it.

     So I, personally, in part because I used to be a staff person on the
Senate Judiciary Committee and worked for Senator Leahy, I've spent more
time talking to the senators about this than I have talking with House
members.  But I think they're interested in doing it.  There are different
views about where the balance lays, but I think the administration is
committed to trying to work out a package with Congress on that --

     Q    It seems like they're pretty keyed up on getting something done
on privacy this year, at least in the House; I assume the Senate.  But I
mean, even this idea of creating a privacy commission -- has the
administration weighed in at all on that?

     MR. PODESTA:  I think we're open to that, but I think that legislation
feels more stalled to me.  I haven't followed it as closely.  There's also
legislation to give better protection of Social Security numbers, which
Vice President Gore initially proposed last spring.  And that bill looks
like it may move forward, and hopefully we can get some progress on that.

     The other major privacy initiative that obviously the administration
is engaged in is doing -- working on our final rule on protecting medical
privacy.  And we proposed that last October after the Congress failed to
enact comprehensive medical privacy rules; in the Kennedy-Kassebaum
legislation they gave themselves a three-year deadline to enact
comprehensive legislation.  And if they fail to act, they give the
President the authority to move forward with regulation at least in the
context of electronic transmission of medical records.  And we've made a
proposal on that and we've received obviously a lot of comment on it. We're
in the final throes of that, and we're committed to putting in place final
rules this year.

     Q    What's the status of patients' bill of rights negotiations, which
appear to have stalled in the last couple of weeks?

     MR. PODESTA:  We continue to talk and discuss the matter.  I think
that Senator Kennedy and Congressman Norwood, the lead House sponsor, have
been talking to a variety of senators about a package that could break a
filibuster over there.  We've shown willingness to try to be flexible on
some of the issues, but we're going to demand a real patients' bill of
rights, not one that leaves out 100 million Americans, like the Senate
version of the bill did, not one that doesn't guarantee the right to see a
specialist, the right to go to the nearest emergency room, the right to
have continuity of care, the right to participate in clinical trials, and
some adequate enforcement mechanisms.

     I thought one of the moments that was most disappointing in the
bipartisan leadership meeting we had in early September, was when we
discussed the patients' bill of rights, and it was noted that the Senate
now had 50 votes in favor of a strong Norwood-Dingell-style patients' bill
of rights, and Senator Nickles had 58 -- enough -- a majority isn't enough,
with the Vice President to break the tie.  But a majority isn't enough;
we've got to break a filibuster over there, so we're trying to see whether
we could put together a package that would get the necessary 60 votes to
push something through.

     Q    Would you put --

     MR. PODESTA:  I think that's a kind of sad commentary on the state of
where this Congress is, but it appears to be the political reality.  So if
we -- and again, we're talking to a number of Republican senators about
whether there's a package that could meet the test that Senator Nickles
obviously laid out for us.

     Q    When you handicapped the drug benefit, you said you thought it
was a stretch; an even longer stretch on patients' bill of rights, or a
shorter one?

     MR. PODESTA:  No.  I think patients' bill of rights -- clearly, we now
have more than a majority; clearly there are discussions going on.  I think
that there are a number of vulnerable senators who are facing tough
reelection on the Republican side.  I think they're pretty nervous about
this issue.  I think abandoning their constituents to making -- having
medical decisions being made by HMO bureaucrats as opposed to doctors and
nurses is something that they are having a hard time selling in their
reelection campaign, so I think there is substantial energy behind this,
and I think that -- I will give credit to Congressman Norwood and Ganske.
They keep pressing ahead, they keep pushing their leadership, and they keep
pressing even on the Senate side to break this logjam.

     The one thing I will say about this is, it's clear to me that on the
House side, even the House leaders, Republican leaders want to do it.
Speaker Hastert made that very clear at the beginning of this year to the
President, that the House had spoken, more than 60 Republican members
joined a unanimous Democratic caucus over there to pass a strong bill --
the Norwood-Dingell bill, and he said, look, my chamber has spoken, we
ought to -- we would like to see some accommodation on some things, but
we're willing to try to work on a strong bill.  And he reiterated that when
he met with the President when they went down to Colombia and were coming
back and had a very long conversation about what could be done for the rest
of the legislative session.

     But I've described it sometime as sort of like a pentagon or with five
sides; the White House, the House and Senate Democrats, and the House and
Senate Republicans, and four of the sides want to get it done, and one
side, the Senate Republican leadership, has really dug in against it.  And
we're just going to have to figure out a way that we can try to break
through that.

     But I think there's still vast public interest in this, and I think
there is a commitment to try to do everything we can to see if we can get
this through.  And I still think we have a reasonable chance of doing it.

     Q    John, what would be the adequate enforcement measures that you
spoke of?  What would have to be in it for it to be acceptable to them?

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, I think -- again, I think there is accountability,
both in terms of the internal review process as well as external review
process through an adequate mechanism -- to sue an HMO that's denied you an
essential right under the provision.

     Now, we've said we would try to be flexible about that.  There are
issues like, should that be in state court or federal court, et cetera.  We
said we've always been open to discussing that as long as ultimately, the
right is real because the enforcement mechanism is real.  We have not tried
to draw lines in the sand and say we can't step over it, but there's got to
be adequate enforcement, and we're willing to sit at a table and try to
negotiate that.

     Q    Do you have any sense of what give you're going to have to make
in order to get those 10 Republican senators?

     MR. PODESTA:  We're in discussions now to see where we go on that.

     Q    If there's an extension of the Internet tax bill -- that end up
alone in the appropriations bill -- you know, accepting the Internet
moratorium -- tax moratorium, would that be something the White House would
support -- was five years in the House that passed?

     MR. PODESTA:  Yes, I think at this point, there's obviously, I think,
a need to try to work out an accommodation between state and local
government and their legitimate needs and not interfere with Internet
commerce.  But I think there's got to be a fair and balanced package.  The
commission met, they could not ultimately resolve that matter, so more
discussions are taking place.

     Obviously, the administration has strongly supported a
no-discriminatory taxes on the Internet policy, and I think that at this
point, we're not going to resolve these issues in the next couple of weeks,
and an extension of the moratorium makes sense, I think.

     Q    Five-years, though?

     MR. PODESTA:  I think that we'll see what comes out of the Congress on

     Q    John, back on H-1B, as you are well aware, there's been this
raging debate about whether or not high-tech companies in fact need these
workers, or, in fact, they're just hiring less expensive ones who are
younger and require them to pay less in medical benefits and other things.
On what basis did the administration decide, what evidence did it look at
and sift through to come down on the side of the industry that it was a
real need, and that American workers, older ones or other, would not suffer
inordinately under an expansion of H-1B?

     MR. PODESTA:  I think that -- I think that if you look at the job
market and the skills need out there, I think you obviously see a very
tight job market and the need to have highly qualified people, and that's
why we have agreed to some increase in the number and in the quota.

     But we've always coupled that with trying to redirect the fee that
comes from that into job training so that we provide more U.S. workers in
those job categories and in those job frames.  I've talked to a lot of
people from industry who are trying to hire people in that regard, and I
think we've got -- Gene's analyzed it from an economic perspective -- Gene
Sperling, and our National Economic Council understands that there is still
a need to have more workers to fill the slots so that the economy can keep
going and we can keep the productivity up of this economy that's come in
large part, I think, from not just increased sales of high-technology
products, but the use of those high-technology products in more traditional

     We've got this unbelievable ramping up of productivity that we've seen
over the course of the last year in our economy that's kept inflation low,
that's kept the economy powering forward; it's obviously the envy of the
world.  And, you know, we think we had a little something to do with that
-- obviously, the federal government's fiscal house in order reversing the
$290-billion deficit, creating this surplus, put downward pressure on
interest rates.

     We've made the right investments in science and technology and
education, and that's, I think, created a virtual cycle which has given the
ability of business to invest, to buy these new technology products, to
raise their own productivity, and that's a powerful engine, and we want to
see that continuing and moving forward.

     Part of that is having the people who have the skills to keep those --
keep that innovation going, to keep those new products coming.

     But that has to be balanced against the needs of people in our country
to have job opportunities and the right kind of training, et cetera.  I
think our view is that the way to strike that balance is to, again, put
more resources into higher education.  That's why the President proposed
making college tuition tax deductible this year.  That's why we had the
biggest expansion of -- in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, we had the biggest
expansion of aid to students in higher education since the G.I. Bill,
through the HOPE Scholarship and the lifelong learning tax credit.

     So I think these are a balanced set of policies that have paid
enormous dividends for the American public.

     Q    John, the Federal Communications Commission is looking at a
deadlock situation if Susan Ness** doesn't get through the Senate or
renominated.  Is there any progress on that, or are you looking at a recess
appointment there?

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, I think we're continuing to discuss that with the
Senate, and I think that Senator McCain has not moved the nomination
forward.  I don't know whether it's ultimately blocked.  We're continuous
-- you know, we're frustrated in general by the slow pace of nominations on
things like judges and Executive Branch nominees; but we're still in
discussions with the leadership on that, so I don't think I want to say
anything more about that while those discussions are ongoing.

     Q    If the current CR ends before the Congress and the White House
finish the appropriations process, will the President sign another
week-long one or would he ask for something shorter, to try to force them
to get the work done?

     MR. PODESTA:  I think we're going to start having to make a judgment
on that on almost a day-to-day basis.  But I think that the President has
said from the beginning of this month, when it was clear that they weren't
going to be able to meet both the statutory deadline of finishing their
work by the end of the fiscal year -- and something, frankly, that Speaker
Hastert and Senator Lott kind of stake their reputation on, which is that
they would get the appropriations business done.

     We said we would sign short-term Crs, and I think the we may have to
go into a week-to-week basis.  I don't think we want to play games with
them by making them do one every day or anything. But we're just going to
have to make judgments about that.

     What I would say is that we ought to get that work done and we ought
to do it before the election, so the American people can make a judgment
about the quality of that work.  I think that it is not in our game plan to
come back here after the election to finish up work that should have been
done last month.

     Q    On the H1-B legislation, you mentioned the Latino Fairness Act be
discussed in context of that.  A lot of people have -- several people in
the Latino community felt like the White House played some politics with it
by insisting that Latino fairness legislation be part of this -- debate.  I
just wondered what your reaction to this --

     MR. PODESTA:  We weren't playing politics.  It was a question of
trying to do something that was right and fair.  Other avenues were
blocked; obviously, we found a different avenue, which is to deal with this
in the context of the Congress/State/Justice appropriations bill.

     But many of these people who are at issue here came to this country
under extraordinary circumstances, in which their countries were at war;
they've lived here for more than a decade; their children are citizens and
they deserve a little fairness.  And we ought to, while we're paying
attention to the economy, while we're paying attention and making sure that
people have good jobs or maybe paying attention to making sure that the
economy keeps powering forward, we ought to pay attention to people who
have been here for a very long time, who do pay taxes, whose children are
here and who need a little fairness in the immigration system.

     And I think it's right and appropriate to insist on it, and we're
going to insist on it in a different context than this H1-B legislation.
And we're going to try to get that done this year.

     Q    For the second time the international finance meetings have been
interrupted at a major city, in Prague.  They've cut the meeting short by a
day.  Before those meetings, The Economist Magazine said there ought to be
a stronger defense from world leaders about globalization, that it can be a
force for good.

     Does this administration have any concern about the world opinion of
globalization as an economic theory, and that it may be increasingly
jeopardized by protestors and their opposition?

     MR. PODESTA:  Well, I think that the President, obviously, has spoken
to this I think more than any world leader has.  He did it when he went to
Geneva.  He did it in Seattle.  He did it at the ILO.  He did it at the
WTO.  And I think that he's pointed out to citizens in this country and
citizens around the world that open trade, more global trade is good for
the economy, it's good for development.  It is important to move not only
our own economy forward, but move the economies of the developing world

     But we have to listen to people who are concerned about it.  The
leaders of those governments and the leaders of those economic institutions
have to be concerned about the impact on workers, on the environment and
that they have important voices.  And, ultimately, it's not going to be an
old boys' club anymore, which is a process of working things out, finding
the right balance.

     That's why we've pursued, I think, a strategy of opening markets
abroad, but having due respect for people's rights.  That's why we've
pursued the child labor agreement that was passed and the United States was
the first country was to ratify.

     So I think there needs to be balance and I think that what is
important, though, I think that, quite frankly, is that the voices be
listened to; but on the other hand, that the rule of law prevail and that
people be able to carry out their work.  There's nobody probably doing more
important work, for example, than the World Bank and development, et cetera
-- some of the issues that the protestors, themselves, say they care about,
are critical.
So we can't permit protest and dissent and argument to interfere with the
functioning of those institutions.  I think when those meetings took place,
for example, in the spring in Washington, people protested, but the meeting
went on.  And we're going to have to find a way of dealing with it.

     I think that while they're raising important concerns, I think their
solutions are fundamentally misplaced and wrong.  We're just going to have
to have that debate and argue it out.  I think in the long run, 10 years
from now, I think the balance the President's laid out is going to be
perceived to be the one that's just about right.

     Q    Does he have any concern that there is not yet a solid global
consensus on this question?  I think these protests could, in fact, erode
support in Europe, could erode support elsewhere, and that this idea of
open and free trade could move back two or three steps in the coming year
if the protests continue.

     MR. PODESTA:  I think we just -- we need to keep fighting for our
ideas.  I think there is -- obviously, there is a -- and that's why I think
that he's engaged with his counterparts in Europe, especially in these
sessions that they've had in this Third Way movement with the progressive
government leaders in Europe to say that while we ought to take these
concerns under consideration, we ought to have -- our regulatory systems
ought to be science-based, we ought to have -- as opposed to based on
emotion, we ought to open trade benefits, not only people in the developed
world, but people in the developing world as well, that economies that have
embraced open trade have improved not only their overall economic
performance, but they've improved the per capita income, and people at the
lower levels of income, and that's why I think you see movements toward
opening economies, even in places that have traditionally resisted that --
like China and in India.

     Q    What do you think the odds on the omnibus bill are in the end?

     MR. PODESTA:  You mean, one big blunder bust -- spending and tax bill?
I think that if the congressional leaders set one goal for themselves at
the beginning of this year, it was not to get in a room the way Speaker
Gingrich did in 1998 with myself, my predecessor, Jack Lew, and so I think
that they're going to try to at least break these things up into component
parts to get some of the appropriations bills done maybe to move some of
the tax issues separately.

     But at the end of the day, I suspect that there are going to be some
things that just will have to get put together and passed as one package to
wrap up the work for this year.

     Q    John, over the next two weeks you're going to win some and lose
some.  Do you, in your more optimistic moments, thinking about a Democratic
president and a Democratic House next January, thinking back to '93 with
the honeymoon prevailing if you get Family and Medical Leave Act, if you
get AmeriCorps through?  Do you do any triage on what you want most seen
done in two weeks, and could you say what the top three or four things, if
you went into that weekend, saying we did a great job, this is what they
would be?

     MR. PODESTA:  You know what our agenda is, and I think we're looking
for opportunities to move forward on all of that.  Obviously, this is a
critical election.  And I think in that context -- for example, Al Gore
today laid out his economic vision, his economic strategy, building on the
success of this administration and how to power forward with the great
success that we've had.

     I think that a cornerstone of that is something that I think we'll end
up still achieving this year, which is:  fiscal discipline, keeping that
path, keeping us on the path to pay of the publicly-held debt by 2012.
That's been a tough struggle, but we've kept on that path, and I think that
remains an over-arching priority of ours.  We'd like to see a real Social
Security and Medicare lockbox enacted.  There's interest in that on both
sides of the aisle.  I hope we can get that done -- which would, I think,
do more than anything to ensure that we continue to use the surpluses that
are being generated to pay down the debt and move us in the path of being
debt-free by 2012.

     We have critical issues on education.  We want to move forward with
the program to put 100,000 teachers in the classroom to lower class size.
We want a commitment to school construction through both -- and
modernization through both the appropriations side of the -- we put forward
-- a program to provide money to states and local communities to modernize
their schools, and then we have a bond proposal on the tax side to
modernize and build new schoolrooms in this country.

     We have a commitment to science and technology, which I think that,
finally yesterday the appropriators have -- which they have rejected this
summer, have decided to put some of our resources into.  We want to raise
the minimum wage; I think we'll get that done.  We want to pass a patients'
bill of rights; I've already talked about our chances of getting that done.

     And, obviously, a priority of ours that we've been fighting for, for
the last two years is a prescription -- is a real, affordable, voluntary
prescription drug plan through Medicare.  I think that that's the most
difficult, that's the longer stretch, and that may have to end up being
decided by this election about whether you believe in Medicare, whether you
want to move forward with Medicare, whether you want to modernize Medicare
in a way.

     As the President is fond of saying, if medicine was practiced in 1965
the way it's practiced today, there's no question that prescriptions would
have been included in Medicare.  Or, whether you want to go off and try to
break apart and deconstruct Medicare and have a scheme that's going to give
more incentives to insurance companies.

     Then, I think if you go back and you look at the debate in the early
1960s, you will see that it was kind of a mirror of what's going on right
now on prescription drugs.

     Q    John, does it surprise you, given the public sentiment about the
prescription drugs, that there is not -- you very well may not have a
consensus -- bill passes in this session, given that it's an election year?

     MR. PODESTA:  Yes, it surprises me a little bit.  I mean, I think it
surprises me a little bit.  It's always been our view that we weren't going
to get handed anything for free in terms of our agenda that we laid out to
the American public.  I think there's been a lot of resistance to the ideas
the President's put forward by the Republican leaders.  We knew we were
going to have to go fight for it in public, create public sentiment in
favor of the issues I mentioned, like the patients' bill of rights or like
the school construction or the teachers in the classroom initiative that I
talked about.

     We always banked on the fact that we had to have public support for
this to try to move it through, break the grip of the special interests on
this Congress.  And I thought that we had a shot at doing it, and
obviously, their moving on the reimportation of drugs means that there is
pressure out there.  And they are nervous about this in the context of the

     Now, whether there's still enough steam in that to actually push
through a prescription drug plan, the next couple of weeks will tell.  I
mean, I think it's tough, but I think we're going to still try to fight to
do it.

     Q    What do you think is going to be the greatest technology-policy
challenge for the next administration, no matter who is president?

     MR. PODESTA:  Can I have two?  (Laughter.)  I think that one will be
dealing with climate change, and that broadly cuts across a number of
fronts, from foreign policy to how we're going to create -- we still
believe that you can create economic incentives to provide energy-efficient
cars and appliances to really invest in renewable resources, et cetera.
But I think that will be -- I still believe that the North Pole really did
melt for the first time in 50 million years, notwithstanding the fact that
no one can prove it.

     And I think that will be a critical issue for the next administration
to try to come to grips with that.  And it will -- as I said, affect just
numerous different issues and policies.  And then I think the other thing
is going to be coming to grips, both in a positive and in a negative way
with results of the Human Genome Project -- both in the great promise that
it has for improving health care, et cetera, and then great social policy
challenges that it has on privacy and genetic discrimination, et cetera.

     We've tried to point the way in that, but I think that those will be
kind of critical issues.

     Q    Not privacy?

     MR. PODESTA:  I think that privacy obviously is embedded in the second
answer that I gave you about dealing with our most fundamental issues.
Privacy with regard to who we are, kind of our financial records, our
medical records, et cetera, are things that I think can be worked out and
balances can be found.

     We've done important work in that area already on financial records,
et cetera; I mentioned medical records that we're trying to grapple with.
But I think that the political system can deal with those kinds of issues.
And I think that the human genome, the issues around genetic knowledge,
genetic discrimination, I think just are exponentially bigger and probably
in the long run maybe tougher to handle.

     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

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