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Press Briefing By Press Secretary Jake Siewert

Office of the Press Secretary (Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam)

November 15, 2000

Press Briefing By Press Secretary Jake Siewert

National Stadium Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam

8:25 P.M. (L)

MR. SIEWERT: I'm not sure there's anything else to say, but we are prepared to take any questions about the domestic front or other areas of the world.

Q When is the meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister? It's not in the schedule.

MR. SIEWERT: Tomorrow afternoon.*

Q Do you know when?

MR. SIEWERT: I don't have an exact time, but we'll let you know. I think we'll probably just -- it's going to take place at the Polo area where the APEC Summit is taking place.

Q Coverage?

MR. SIEWERT: Probably be stills only, or we may try to arrange some opportunity to have some footage of it. But I don't think you can expect that there will be a pool spray.

Q Jake, has there been any decision on sanctions or moving in the direction of sanctions regarding Japanese whaling, and is that going to -- that will come up, I would imagine, but has there been any --

MR. SIEWERT: I expect the President will raise that issue. As you know, the President directed on September 13th his agencies to take a look at potential measures in this area. It's something that we take very seriously, and the Japanese have indicated that they're proceeding with their plan to hunt whales. That's something that we're preparing, but I don't think we'll have a decision before the meeting. But it is something that we're getting word back from the agencies on now, and preparing to send a report to Congress on.

Q When you say you won't have a decision before the meeting, will there be one in the meeting?

MR. SIEWERT: No. I expect that we'll raise it in the meeting, continue to state our concern about the plans that the Japanese have stated to hunt whales. But we will actually identify specific measures sometime after that meeting takes place.

Q Jake, there are reports coming from Tokyo that the U.S. and Japan have already agreed to set up a panel of experts on the subject. Is that correct?

MR. SIEWERT: I don't know, I'll check on that. I don't think that we've resolved this issue to our satisfaction yet.

Q Jake, in the President's speech this morning to the business leaders, he suggested that the reason for the one-day delay to his trip was, in fact, the election controversy in Florida. Was that what he intended to suggest? It seemed to be a slight revision of what -- the official statement on the subject.

MR. SIEWERT: I think -- the primary reason for the delay was the meeting that we had with Prime Minister Barak on Sunday. That's the main reason why we were delayed in coming. He obviously spent the time there following developments on the election, but that's not the reason we delayed the trip.

Q Jake, has he talked to the Vice President or to Chairman Daley or anyone affiliated based on the results -- I know the time difference, but based on --

MR. SIEWERT: He has not talked to the Vice President as far as I know since the last call that we outlined for you, I think which was late last week. But he's been provided updates pretty regularly from his staff on the road here. He's obviously interested, as all of you are, in what's transpiring there. But I don't -- I think he's been pretty careful to avoid a running commentary on this. He has told you all that he thinks we'll be able to work this out, and work it out in a way that's fair. He hasn't really received much in the way of comment on this from other leaders, contrary to what you might have heard from some people back in the United States.

This has come up, but really only around the margins, and in a mostly good-humored way. It doesn't seem that there's any real anxiety among the leaders here about this problem. I think they recognize that this can be worked out.

Q Jake, you answered the question about talking to the Vice President. I'm not sure I heard the answer.

MR. SIEWERT: Daley, I don't believe he has spoken to Chairman Daley. We have been trying to provide him updates through the traveling chief of staff on the road and through Mr. Ricchetti, who is back at home. And they have been in contact -- the White House staff has been in contact with Chairman Daley. I don't believe the President has. I'll double-check, though.

Q Can we presume that he has not talked to Governor Bush?

MR. SIEWERT: Governor Bush? Which Governor Bush? No, I don't believe he has spoken to either Governor Bush on this matter.

Q Do you have any reaction to Chairman Arafat's call to Palestinians to stop firing on Israelis?

MR. SIEWERT: As I told the pool earlier, the President spoke with Chairman Arafat late last night when he arrived here, and that conversation was focused on ways to end the violence. We believe that it's very important that both parties take immediate steps to reduce tension and lower the level of violence in the area. We obviously welcome any public assertions that -- public declarations that are aimed at ending the violence. But what is going to be important is that they take the concrete steps that were envisioned at Sharm to provide a more secure environment for people in the region.

Q What's the latest on the budget? Is there a continuing resolution on its way to Brunei?

MR. SIEWERT: Yes. The President spoke to both Majority Leader Lott and the Speaker before he left, and they agreed that, given Congress's diminished appetite for finishing up its work this week, that we would sign a CR that would extend the government through December 5th, I believe. And that CR has been passed by both Houses and is on its way to Brunei. I expect the President will sign it sometime tomorrow, local time, which should be sometime today in the United States. And I will let you know exactly when it gets here. That's all contingent upon commercial flight travel, so we will hopefully get it in time and have it signed.

Q Jake, how did the administration go from the position where the President wasn't willing to sign any CR of greater than 24 hours in length to what is now I guess a two-and-a-half week CR?

MR. SIEWERT: We had said for a long time now that we thought Congress had ample time and opportunity to finish its work before the election and that there was no reason why we needed a lame duck session. Congress just didn't get the job done; they left a lot of unfinished business on the plate. And, as a result, we are into a new session and a set of new realities.

That essentially means that we're going to have to work with them in finding the best time and place for them to do that work. We had thought we could get that work done before Thanksgiving. Turns out they are not interested in coming back to town now and doing that. So just recognizing that reality, we've agreed to postpone the session until December 5th. But we were trying to use the pressure of an election, the pressure of Congress presenting itself to the voters as an opportunity to see them do some work.

And I don't think there's any question that particularly the Senate, which blocked progress on a lot of important measures that even the House had taken seriously -- the Senate stifled the debate on a patients' bill of rights; they stifled the debate on a number of different issues that were very important. And I think the leadership there played a pretty heavy price in the elections for not completing its work on time.

But that's all over now and we want to see what we can do to get back to business when they return, and finish up the education budget, finish up some of the minimum wage work and some of the other differences that we have.

Q What are the changes that, when December 5th rolls around, the President might be asked to go along with a CR through the end of his term in office?

MR. SIEWERT: We don't think that's necessary at all. We think that Congress could easily finish up the work on education that we had agreed to before they left town for the election. We had an honorable compromise on education funding that would be pretty easy to put back together in fairly short order. We need to resolve differences on immigration and a couple other matters. But they could also raise the minimum wage pretty easily. That would not require a great deal of heavy lifting.

So, ultimately, we will make a decision when they get back to town on how much work we want to get accomplished. But there is no reason why they couldn't come back together, and they've indicated an interest in coming back and getting some of that work done, so we take that at face value.

Q Hey, Jake, how does the CR physically get here? Does a White House staffer courier it here and then back?

MR. SIEWERT: Essentially, yes. That's the long and short of it. Someone will --

Q Which staff person?

MR. SIEWERT: Well, I don't know that we want to make him famous. Someone who is young enough to handle a lot of air travel in a very short period of time. But, no, there is someone in the Staff Secretary's office who will actually fly out here commercially and then return directly after it's been signed.

All right, thank you.

END 8:33 P.M. (L)

© Scoop Media

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