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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 31, 2004

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

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1:13 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President, this morning, called President-elect Saca of El Salvador, to congratulate him on his electoral victory. The two leaders discussed their mutual interest in continuing the strong, cooperative relationship the United States and El Salvador have enjoyed.

I'd like to make some brief comments, also, on today's OPEC decision. The President is disappointed in today's decision. Producers should not take steps that harm American consumers and our economy. We continue to be actively engaged in discussions with OPEC and non-OPEC producers from around the world to let them know our views. Today's decision underscores the importance of Congress acting to pass a comprehensive national energy policy that will reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. The President outlined a comprehensive national energy policy three years ago that would promote domestic exploration and production, increase energy efficiency, and expand conservation. It is time for Congress to act and for Senate Democrats to stop holding up action on this important legislation.

And with that, I will be glad to take your questions.

Q On the energy bill, even if it were passed, it's not going to reap any benefits for years. So what can the President do immediately on the price of gas?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, first of all, you hit on a very good point. We continue -- we continue to go from crisis to crisis when it comes to -- whether it's electricity, or whether it's gas prices. We need comprehensive solutions, not patchwork crisis management. We wouldn't be in this situation today if Senate Democrats were not holding up the national energy plan that the President proposed back in May of 2001.

In terms of the current gas price situation, the President, like most Americans, is concerned about rising gas prices. And we will continue to act to make sure that there is no price gouging going on. We'll continue to work with state and local officials and consumers to look at possible regional spikes in gas prices. So those are things we can do, as well. The President remains firmly opposed to increasing gas taxes, and he will fight any attempt to increase gas taxes.

Q Is he still against any release from the SPRO to --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind that you're talking about a national security concern. It became even more important after the September the 11th attacks, to make sure that we had the resources needed in the event of a national emergency.

Q When he was running for President, the President said that President Clinton should get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, we expect you to open up your spigots. But it doesn't appear that he's doing that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that's wrong. No, this -- go ahead.

Q Well, excuse me, I was just going to ask, could you tell us what calls the President has made?

MR. McCLELLAN: This administration remains actively engaged with our friends in OPEC, as well as non-OPEC producers from around the world. Secretary Abraham, Secretary Powell, the White House, we are in constant discussions with producers from around the world. Condi Rice has certainly been in touch with individuals in OPEC, and we will continue working for America's consumers to make our views known to our friends in OPEC, as well as other producers around the world.

Q But he's not making calls, himself?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q He's not making calls, himself? MR. McCLELLAN: The President makes his views known on a regular basis to leaders, and this administration remains actively engaged in discussions -- over the last few days, today, we remain actively engaged in discussions with our friends in OPEC, as well as others.

Q Scott, our friends in OPEC don't seem to be paying any attention. It seems as if the President has been unpersuasive with our friends in OPEC. Is it fair to conclude that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I disagree with your characterization.

Q Well, they're jacking the price on us. Is it fair to conclude that he's not -- what he's doing isn't working?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I emphasized that we stay in close discussion with our friends in OPEC. We stay in close discussion with non-OPEC nations, as well. And we will continue to do so. We will continue to work for American consumers to make our views known around the world, to producers, whether they're in OPEC or not in OPEC. This is a very important issue and we will continue to stay in close contact with them.

Q But so far, nothing he's done or the administration has done has had any effect.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me repeat, Terry. We need a comprehensive national energy policy so that we don't keep going from one crisis to the next. We had a unique opportunity last year after the blackouts in the Northeast and Midwest to pass a comprehensive energy plan that would take us out of these annual situations that we're now in. And that's why we're going to continue urging Congress to act, and that will help address rising gas prices.

Q Just one thing. You just said, we would not be in this situation if Senate Democrats had not blocked the energy policy in May, 2001. Prove that.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Senate Democrats are the ones that had been holding up, through their procedural moves, holding up the Senate moving forward. The House moved forward, and they moved forward quickly --

Q But how would that --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and so the Senate Democrats are the ones who are holding this up through procedural moves. You know that there's a very close balance in the Senate. You're very aware of that. And there are procedural moves that they can use. Some Senate Democrats didn't even show up to vote on this energy policy last summer, I might point out.

Q But how would passing the President's energy bill in May of 2001, have changed OPEC's mind in March of 2004?

MR. McCLELLAN: It would of -- what it would have done, it would have helped reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy; it would have increased domestic exploration and production; it would have expanded conservation; it would have increased energy efficiency. We need to take all those steps. That's why I said, we need a comprehensive plan. It would have also provided us a modern electric grid, as well, to address the electricity crisis that we faced last year.

Q You said earlier that market conditions set the price. Does that still hold? And is OPEC abiding by market conditions?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's very much our view, and that's very much what we continue to emphasize to our friends in OPEC, as well as other non-OPEC producers.

Q Scott, just to follow up on what Terry was saying. Given the fact that these discussions, quiet diplomacies, as it's been called, is not working, and it's different from -- you trying to approach this in a different way than, for example, you said the Clinton administration approached it, what else can you do? I mean, is it your message that's not getting across? Is it the tactics that aren't working? Why do think --

MR. McCLELLAN: What else can happen is that Senate Democrats can get on board with the rest of members of Congress and pass a comprehensive energy plan --

Q I'm talking about the way you're dealing with OPEC.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but the issue here is about rising gas prices. And it's something that is of great concern to the President of the United States. And that's why we're going to continue urging Congress to act on a national energy policy. That's why we're going to continue to act to make sure Congress doesn't raise the gas taxes. If some had their way, the gas prices would be much higher right now.

Q How about my question about OPEC?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q How about my question about OPEC?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we remain in close discussion with our friends in OPEC and others around the world, and we will continue to stay in close contact with them. We have been in contact with some of our friends in OPEC as recently as today.

Q From the White House perspective, why haven't -- I mean, in assessing the situation, why haven't your discussions been productive?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we are going to continue to -- you do need to look at other, non-OPEC nations, as well. We stay in close contact with non-OPEC producers, as well. We stay in touch with major producers around the world. But what is most important is that we need to look at the situation that we're in now and realize that this is something that keeps occurring. That's why we need to take a comprehensive approach to addressing it and reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy. That's the way we're going to address this for the future.

Q There are a lot of things that affect the price of gasoline, from refinery fires to -- gasoline, plus supply. All of the policies that both President Bush and Senator Kerry talk about are long-term, let's increase the supply, get more from the U.S., and that sort of thing. But over the short-term, how much control does any White House, does any administration have over the price of gasoline?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in right now if Congress had acted on the President's proposal. Let me just continue to emphasize that point, because I think it's very important. Because that --

Q Do you mean because the supply --

MR. McCLELLAN: The comprehensive national energy plan would have reduced our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Our dependence has continued to grow over the years. And that's why we need to continue to press Congress to act on a comprehensive national energy plan.

Now, in terms of -- looking at the current situation, I pointed out that, obviously, price gouging would be something that we simply will not tolerate. And the Secretary of Energy and the FTC will stay on top of any potential price gouging that would be going on. We will also, obviously, continue to work with state and local governments and consumers and others to look at other ways we can address these issues now. But we wouldn't be in this situation if Congress had acted and passed a comprehensive national energy policy. And it's largely Senate Democrats that have been responsible for holding that legislation up.

Q You might have more supply had the Senate approved your energy policy three years ago, but as you've acknowledged, the prices are set by the market, and unless you were able to overwhelm the supply reduction by OPEC, it wouldn't have any impact on the price of gasoline.

MR. McCLELLAN: You're right, we need adequate and affordable supplies of energy, and that's why we need to act at home to reduce our dependency.

Q But over the short-term, I'm asking you how much control does any administration have over the price of gasoline?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are steps we can take to address this issue. I just mentioned several of them --

Q Two or three years down the road.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- both on the long-term, and I mentioned what we can do in the short-term, as well. This President is concerned about rising gas prices, and we will continue to stay on top of this matter. I just mentioned specific steps that we can look at now, as well as continue to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive national energy policy.

But there are some that have sought to raise gas taxes over the years, and that has led to higher -- that has increased the prices beyond where they would be today. And there are some that would advocate even higher gas taxes. The President will remain firmly opposed to that.

Q I think we've all gotten that message. The other question is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Is it against the law to reduce oil from the Reserve in order to reduce prices?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is there for a national emergency, which would be the severe disruption in supply. That's why it's there. And in the aftermath of September 11th, that became an even higher national security concern, given the way world events can occur. And so our views are very well-known on that. I don't know all the legal aspects of it.

Q Can I take one more stab at what Jim was, I think, trying to ask? Is there -- are the American people expecting too much if they think that this President or any candidate for President can really impact the price at the pump?

MR. McCLELLAN: He asked this very question. I think I went through the steps that we take, as well as the steps that need to be taken by Congress.

Q Yes, Scott, what happened in Iraq today, in one incident, five Marines were killed; another one --

Q Can we finish up this first? I have another question on this --

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you yield?

Q I'll yield --

Q All right, thanks. I just want to, again, zero in on the short-term --

MR. McCLELLAN: And, John, I'm going to walk out on your newscast tonight. (Laughter.)

Q On the short-term, it seems -- possibility of keeping gas prices from going even higher -- and we know they're now about $2.00 a gallon in many areas for regular -- would be the usage of fuel from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. You said the President is reluctant to do that. But is there a formula that he's agreed on, a benchmark, that if gas prices reach a certain point, he will tap that? Because it then becomes -- is it not a national emergency?

MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, I don't want to get into speculation. We -- things are where they are, and our views are very well-known in terms of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the national security concerns that are involved when it comes to the Reserve. Independent analysts have addressed this issue, and said that, look, even doing that has a negligible impact. Some people have made some comments in the past that are now changing their views on that subject. But just look to independent analysts.

Q I'm back.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you. Okay, I'll watch you tonight.

Go ahead.

Q Most of the analysts, independent analysts who have taken a look at the energy bill say that its impact on total energy supply would be at the margin and long-term, not immediate. Given that, even if the energy bill passes the Senate tomorrow and is signed by the President that same day, aren't we going to have a long-term institutional problem of OPEC continuing to dominate the worldwide oil markets?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why we're going to continue to remain actively engaged in discussions not only with our friends in OPEC, but with other producers from around the world. We stay in contact with producers around the world on a regular and constant basis, and we will continue to do so.

Q If that's true, then it leads back to Terry's question, which is, whatever the President and the administration seem to be saying to OPEC at the moment isn't working. So what do we do about that? What's the strategy?

MR. McCLELLAN: We stay in discussions with them, like we are, actively engaged in discussing our views with producers around the world -- not just our friends in OPEC, but other producers around the world, as well. You have to look at this as the whole. And we will continue to make our views known about the importance of letting the market set prices. And we will continue to stay in close discussions with those producers around the world, and about our views that action should not be taken that would harm American consumers or harm our economy.

Q What expectations can we have that those conversations will produce a different result than they have up to now?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we will continue to discuss it with them and we will continue to make our views known. And you need to look not just at OPEC, but at other producers from around the world in the actions that are taken.

Q The incidents in Iraq today -- five Marines killed in one incident, four civilians killed in another -- first of all, has it been confirmed that an American was killed in the civilian incident?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the coalition and the military in Iraq can give you that information. In terms of these attacks, these are horrific, despicable attacks. We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms. The stakes are high in Iraq, and this is a time of testing. The enemies of freedom, the enemies of the Iraqi people are trying to shake our will, but they cannot. We will not be intimidated. Our will and our resolve are firm. Democracy is taking root and there's no turning back. And the Iraqi people want us to stay and finish the job, and we will.

Q Now, getting back to the oil problem, gasoline problem. Even if you were to use the Strategic Reserve, would this not be a short-term fix?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I just pointed out, the independent analysts have looked at this and they talked about how it would have a negligible effect. And, in fact, if you go back to some recent action that was taken, it showed that it had a negligible effect on gas prices.

Q Scott, did anyone at the White House approve the Treasury's decision to analyze Kerry's tax plan --

MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Did they think that's proper for civil servants to be doing that kind of work?

MR. McCLELLAN: For the Treasury Department to do analysis of --

Q For civil servants to be --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- tax proposals?

Q For civil servants to --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know if I agree with the characterization of your question. I think you ought to talk to the Treasury Department. I think they have addressed this matter.

Q Okay, the second question, on Richard Clarke. A lot has been made about Dr. Rice's testimony, whether she would testify. But not a lot has been made about the perjury charges that Bill Frist made on Friday, on the Senate floor. He said, basically, that Mr. Clarke had two different stories under oath. Isn't that perjury, and shouldn't he be prosecuted for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are decisions that others make, obviously. I think that this is a decision that was made by Senate leaders. They made a request of us, and our role is to look at those issues and see what could be declassified.

Q The question is about the declassification --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that was a decision --

Q -- if they should --

MR. McCLELLAN: Can I finish? That was a decision by congressional leaders.

Q But if he did have two different, contradictory statements under oath, shouldn't he be prosecuted for perjury?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into speculating about that. We've made our views very well-known. I think most Americans view Dick Clarke and his contradictions as yesterday's story. This is about the war on terrorism and the important role that the 9/11 Commission plays in helping us move forward in the war on terrorism. We have taken significant steps since September 11th to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent another attack from happening. And the work of the 9/11 Commission is very important, particularly if they can help provide us additional recommendations, beyond what we've already done, that would help prevent another attack from happening.

Q Can I stay on that subject -- we need to stay on that subject, briefly. Could you explain to us why the White House requested that the President and Vice President jointly answer questions, as opposed to separately?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we've said from the very beginning that it's important for the 9/11 Commission to have all the information they need to do their job. And we've worked very closely and cooperatively with the 9/11 Commission to make sure they have all that information. We have provided, as the Chairman and Vice Chairman have pointed out, unprecedented access to information from the administration to the 9/11 Commission, including our most sensitive national security documents. And that's the spirit in which we have worked.

Now, keep in mind that the 9/11 Commission already has more than 2.3 million pages of documents, there have been more than a hundred briefings, and that includes at the head-of-agency level, there have been more than 800 interviews and meetings with administration officials, some 900 audio cassette tapes of meetings and other materials that have been provided to them, and more than 60 compact discs of radar, flight and other information. So they already have a lot of information. And we want to work in a way that helps make sure that they have the information they need.

The commission very much welcomed the decision of the President and the Vice President to sit down together and meet with the entire commission and answer whatever questions they want to raise with the President and Vice President. This is a good way to make sure that they're getting the information that they need to do their job.

Q Why the specific insistence that they be together? I mean, they could --

MR. McCLELLAN: This is a good way to help them get the information they need and do so in a timely manner. Remember, they've already got a lot of the information, they've already conducted a lot of the interviews. And what they're trying to --

Q But they were separate interviews, right?

MR. McCLELLAN: What they're trying to do is get the information they need to complete their work and provide a full report to the American people. And we are helping every step of the way. And this is a way that will help them move forward in those efforts.

Q But why is the joint session better than separate sessions, which is what they --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, it will help make sure they get that information in a timely manner. They can talk to both of them and help better understand how to piece together all the information that they've already received.

Q Last Friday, Senator Tom Daschle vowed that all of the President's nominees -- that numbers about 45 -- will be held up, in retaliation for the recess appointments of Judges Pickering and Pryor. Is the President willing to give up his constitutional prerogative and bow to the will of the minority?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is unfortunate that a minority of Senate Democrats continue to play politics with our nation's judicial system and with the judicial nominees of the President of the United States. A majority of senators support these highly-qualified nominees that are being held up. And the President acted in a couple of instances to fill judicial emergencies, seats that needed judges in place so that they could rule on important matters for the American people. And it's just unfortunate that they continue playing politics with the nomination process, and not adhering to their constitutional responsibility to give these highly-qualified individuals an up or down vote.

Q Do you see a pattern emerging with the use of the filibuster, in terms of the President's nominee, the energy policy, and all of the other legislation that's --

MR. McCLELLAN: There are a lot of important vacancies that we're moving forward on quickly to fill -- not just in terms of judicial nominees, but others, as well, on behalf -- to make sure that we are doing what we're supposed to on behalf of the American people. And it's just unfortunate that Senate Democrats continue to play politics with these important nominations.

Q When we talked about President Bush testifying before the 9/11 Commission last week, with you, and the length of time, you never mentioned the possibility of the Vice President testifying with him at the same time. This does seem to be recent shift that they would testify together.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't get into discussions that we have on an ongoing basis with the Chairman and Vice Chairman. Our Counsel's Office stays in close contact with the Chairman and Vice Chairman and commission on an ongoing basis to make sure that we're doing everything we can to help them move forward on their important work. So they've been in discussion with the Chairman -- our Counsel's Office has been in discussion with the Chairman and Vice Chairman for quite sometime on these issues in terms of the President's and the Vice President's meetings. And we always work in a way to make sure we are helpful to the commission so that they can get their work done.

Q For the two of them to testify together?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's -- we came to an agreement and that's where the discussions ended up.

Q And in terms of getting the information to the commission in a timely fashion, as important as that is, it seems that if the President testifies for an hour or two, which is what we talked about, and if the Vice President were to testify for an hour or two, we're only talking about a difference of two or three hours in the commission getting its information. So what difference does that make?

MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about a sitting President and Vice President of the United States, as well. And this is -- this is a good way to help them get the information they need to do their job. And they -- and the commission, I might point out, unanimously welcomed the decision.

Q If they have different recollections, wouldn't it be more helpful to the commission to hear from them separately?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think this is a game of "gotcha." This is about making sure that they have the information they need to do their job. And that's the spirit in which we're working. They already have much of the information they need. This is a way for them to sit down with the President and Vice President and learn additional insights into how they go about piecing all this information together. And this is a good way to do it.

Q Scott, I understand that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. I'll come back in a minute. I was pointing at Finlay, but go ahead.

Q I'm sorry.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, go ahead.

Q When U.S. troops killed Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay, and displayed their body as proof to the world that they were, indeed, dead, it was condemned in the Muslim community as an affront to the Islamic and Muslim culture. Well, bodies are being dragged through Fallujah, American bodies, and being beaten and stabbed and hung from bridges. Does the White House feel the need to ask Islamic leaders to condemn that, the treatment of those bodies?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I hope everybody acts responsible -- responsibly in their coverage. This is a despicable attack. It is a horrific attack. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those victims. But we will not be intimidated. And the best way to honor those who have lost their lives is to continue to show resolve in the face of these cowardly, hateful acts, designed to intimidate and roll back the democratic progress and the freedom for the Iraqi people that we are achieving.

Q Does the White House not see hypocrisy when showing embalmed bodies as proof of death is condemned, but the dragging of American bodies through a street is -- goes on without a comment?

MR. McCLELLAN: It is offensive, it is despicable, the way that these individuals have been treated. And we hope everybody acts responsibly in their coverage of it. Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

Q One more question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I've got -- I've got Finlay.

Q What is the White House's view about sourcing? Desirable or undesirable?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our view is that trade and opening markets is very important to creating jobs here at home. The President is focused on creating jobs here at home in America. And one important way to continue to strengthen our economy even more is to continue opening markets and make sure that there is a level playing field for American producers and American farmers and others to compete. And that's what we will continue to do. Free trade is vital to continuing our economic growth.

Q Is that an endorsement of outsourcing?

MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm saying is that free trade -- and those that would support economic isolationism put us at a competitive disadvantage. And that harms our economy; that harms job creation here at home. Our views are very well-known that we need to continue working to open markets and make sure that America is the best place to do business in the world. That's why the President has put forward a six-point plan, to make sure that we have as strong an environment as possible for continued job creation.

Q One more thing about the 9/11 Commission. In that same paragraph of Mr. Gonzalez's letter saying the President and Vice President will be able to testify together, it also stipulates that only one staff member on the commission, itself, could actually take notes. Why that stipulation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's unusual. I think if you look back at all the meetings and interviews that have occurred with administration officials, I don't think there's anything unusual about that. All 10 members of the commission will be present, if they all show up, and be able to ask whatever questions they want. And the President and Vice President look forward to answering all of their questions.

Q To follow on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, go ahead.

Q The commission said yesterday that there would be nothing to preclude the White House from making a transcript of that session. Does the White House intend to do that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll keep you posted as we get closer to that meeting. I think some of the specifics, in terms of timing and everything, are still being discussed. But I'll keep you posted, as we get closer.

Q Can you just clear up one thing on the gas prices? On the one hand, the administration is saying we have to have a comprehensive, long-term solution. But then you're also saying that there could be some short-term solutions, and maybe working with state and local governments. Can you --

MR. McCLELLAN: I talked about the role of the Secretary of Energy and the FTC in staying on top of any price gouging that may be going on --

Q What are you thinking --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that, one, we are always -- this is an important matter. It's something that is of real concern to us, the rising gas prices. So we always stay in close contact with states and local communities, and look at whether there may be regional spikes going on in certain areas. We stay in touch with consumers and people in the industry to see if there is additional action that we can take, as well. We need to continue to oppose any attempts to increase gas taxes, as well, during this period.

Q But is there anything specific, besides looking at price gouging?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just pointed out that staying in touch with the state and local officials, consumers and others in the industry, to look at possible regional spikes in gas prices, and consider other ways that we can address these issues. It is something that we stay on top of and monitor very closely.

Q Scott, the 9/11 Commission would like to complete Dr. Rice's testimony --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm glad you came back.

Q Thank you. I've reset my question clock.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll never invite you back again.

Q The 9/11 Commission would like to complete Dr. Rice's testimony, perhaps add that of the President and Vice President, before its next meeting on the 13th. Can you accommodate that schedule?

MR. McCLELLAN: With Dr. Rice?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: We would like to see that meeting occur as quickly as possible. We believe it's important for the American people to have all the facts, and Condi Rice very much looks forward to sitting down and testifying before the commission.

Q Do you know if you can complete that schedule by the 13th?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're working with the commission to move forward as quickly as possible. Obviously, I don't think they're meeting again this week, but they will be back next week. And so, hopefully, we can get it can done as quickly as possible.

Q Scott, in spite of warnings from the President and the White House, Congress continues to add money to various bills -- look at the welfare bill, look at the highway bill, which even in the House is quite a bit more than the President said he would accept. Are you losing control of even Republicans on spending issues?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think it's very early in the budget process and on a number of pieces of legislation. I think if you look at the direction the budget resolution is moving, certainly Congress has made a commitment to make sure we don't increase taxes this year, and that's very important. And they've made a commitment to making sure we show spending restraint. Obviously, there's a long process to go, as we move forward. And we'll continue working closely with Congress to make sure that taxes are not raised, and to make sure that we fund our priorities -- from winning the war on terrorism to protecting the homeland, to strengthening our economy -- and then show spending restraint elsewhere in the legislation.

And, Terry, you got the last --

Q Hold on. Aren't you swimming upstream on the highway bill, though? I mean, even Republicans in the House are talking about, about $30 billion more than the White House will accept, and the Senate is way beyond that.

MR. McCLELLAN: And our views are very well-known in terms of the President being prepared to veto legislation if it goes beyond his -- or if it does not meet his principles and goes beyond the resources that he outlined in the legislation. Remember, the President proposed a 21-percent increase over the last six-year period. We believe that what he proposed is sufficient to meet our needs in this area. And it's a responsible level of funding. And the President has outlined specific principles that he believes should be met in this legislation, as well, from, one, no gas tax or federal tax increase. And we were talking about that a little bit earlier when it came to gas prices. Two, no bonding or other mechanism to conceal the true cost to taxpayers. And three, highway spending must be financed from the highway trust fund, not the general revenue fund of the Treasury.

Go ahead, Terry.

Q Can you preview the President's appearance tonight, his remarks?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's a campaign speech. I think you've heard much of what he talks about in his remarks. Certainly, he will highlight some of the key priorities that we're working to address, and I think he'll talk about the choices that the American people have. But you might want to direct more specific questions to the campaign, and I'm sure they'll be glad to talk to you about it, as well.

Q You said there were contacts with OPEC as recently as today. Who called who?

MR. McCLELLAN: I can get you more information on that. I think there are some discussions that are still ongoing at this point. But I'll get you more on that.

Thank you.

END 1:45 P.M. EST