For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 3, 2007
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Briefing Room
9:22 A.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good morning. The President had his normal briefings this morning at 8:00 a.m. At 10:00 a.m. he is going to leave for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he will have an event and deliver remarks on the budget to the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and industry. It's being held at the Jay Group, which is a business right there. We arrive back at 2:05 p.m.
I have one comment on the Mukasey nomination. The Senate Judiciary Committee has now received all of Judge Mukasey's documents in preparation for a confirmation hearing. He has now met or spoken with every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and many other members of both the House and the Senate. It is vitally important that the Judiciary Committee move swiftly to confirm our new attorney general. Members of the committee have been outspoken about the vacancies at DOJ, and they have an opportunity to do something about it by confirming him swiftly.
There has been a history of attorneys general nominations moving quickly through the Senate, and for obvious reasons; we need that leadership. It's a critically important department and we are a nation that needs the Justice Department to be led ably, especially at a time of war. And we hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee will schedule a hearing soon and get the AG confirmed as soon as possible.
Q You have no indication of a date for that?
MS. PERINO: I have heard -- I don't know if we've heard anything directly. I've read press reports that there could be something coming the week of the 15th for a hearing, but we don't have confirmation on that yet. We'd like to have that scheduled by them as soon as possible.
Q Do you feel like they're dragging their feet?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think now that they have all the information and now that he's met with all of the members of the Senate, I think there's no reason to delay scheduling a hearing.
Q S-CHIP veto?
MS. PERINO: Not yet. I was hoping I'd be able to come out here and tell you that he had already vetoed it. He has not yet --
Q He's changing his mind?
MS. PERINO: He's not going to change his mind. I do anticipate that he will do it before leaving. And we'll figure out a way to let you know that. We can either do an overhead announcement --
MS. PERINO: You like the overhead announcement idea?
MS. PERINO: Okay, good, I can do that. And if it happens to be while I'm en route, I can let the pool know, as well. And between --
Q Or call me and I'll let everybody know. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q Does the President pay for his own health care, around-the-clock doctors and nurses here?
MS. PERINO: I believe as Commander-in-Chief and as President, any President is taken care of. But I'd have to look back at it and make sure -- look at that financial disclosure and make sure.
Q You'll get back to me on that?
MS. PERINO: Yes -- actually I'm going to have Emily Lawrimore do it, since I'm going to travel today.
Q Dana, the Kurds in Iraq have signed four more oil deals that the Maliki government opposes and criticized as being outside the --
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, who sent them?
Q The Kurds have signed four more oil deals, what some people are calling unilateral oil deals, since there's no national legislation on them. Does the White House have any concerns at all about this -- this follows, obviously, the Hunt oil --
MS. PERINO: Well, we obviously want the oil law to be passed, as we've said many times. And I explained yesterday that oil revenues are being distributed throughout the country, but we believe the law does need to be passed. I don't know anything about those other deals -- I actually don't know anything about those deals. I would want to check out -- I believe that the central government still has to approve final contracts before they can be made final.
Q Well, the central government certainly thinks so; the Kurds don't seem to see it quite that way and --
MS. PERINO: I don't know -- I would encourage you to check on that, and I can talk to you about it later.
Q Okay. And then yesterday at the hearing on Blackwater it came out that the State Department may have helped a Blackwater employee who shot dead a bodyguard of the Iraqi Vice President leave the country. Is that an appropriate task for the State Department?
MS. PERINO: I don't know anything about that. I'd refer you to the State Department. And as you know, there's a joint inquiry that's currently being done.
Q Do you see any obstacles to Mukasey? I mean, there have been allegations that he abused staff and so forth, used them as servants and so forth.
MS. PERINO: No. No, and I disagree with that characterization and I think that's actually a little bit even more stronger than the allegations that were made against him by the U.S. Marshal Service. He was a --
Q So they're not --
MS. PERINO: I don't think so. I think that Judge Mukasey has proven to be somebody who America would be very proud of to have as their Attorney General. As the judge who oversaw the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the trial of the Blind Sheikh and the other people involved in that, he was -- it was determined that he needed protection, and he was granted that protection. But he -- I think that -- I don't think anyone in America would disagree with a fair judge such as Judge Mukasey being granted that protection. We can get you more information about those allegations; we've refuted them.
Q Yes. Back on S-CHIP, has there been any activity from the President in terms of a post-veto strategy? Has he reached out to Pelosi or Reid about trying to --
MS. PERINO: Well, we've made public comments -- we've made public comments in which we've told the leaders and all the members of Congress that the President is going to veto the bill that they sent him. The knew he was going to. They made their political point, and what the President said is, look, send me the bill, I will veto it, and then we will get about the business of trying to find some common ground and reach an agreement on a way forward.
Q So he has not yet talked to Pelosi or Reid or the finance people about what a compromise might be?
MS. PERINO: Well, I don't think that -- there's a two-way street. You've been on -- out on Pennsylvania Avenue and I don't think we've seen anything from them either. They've only sent a bill that they knew the President couldn't sign, and then used a lot of different ways to demagogue the issue against the President. So the President remains somebody who's committed to expanding S-CHIP. He wants to make sure that the neediest children are covered first. He's going to veto this bill, but he does want to work with members of Congress to see if we can find common ground.
Q What do you mean by that?
MS. PERINO: Well, there's a -- I think that there's different ways that you ca get to it. I think that we would like to see Congress look at a bill that would make sure that the neediest children are taken care of first. I've said before that the provision that ensures that the children who are under 200 percent of poverty level should be the ones who are covered under S-CHIP and that they should be taken care of first. Right now there are 750,000 of them who don't even have that coverage. We'd like to make sure that they're taken care of first before expanding the program beyond 200 percent of the poverty.
Q Could you talk about the significance of the six-party talks deal and how intimately the U.S. will be involved in dismantling Yongbyon?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I -- also, the other thing I wanted to be able to have for the gaggle that I didn't -- I believe we'll have a statement by the President soon, and then we'll call Knoller and get it out to you through that channel. (Laughter.)
Q You mean a paper statement?
MS. PERINO: A paper statement, yes, sir.
Just a quick update on process. Yesterday morning, the President had breakfast with the Vice President, Secretary Rice, Ambassador Chris Hill, Under Secretary Edelman from the Defense Department, representing Secretary Gates who is traveling in Latin America at the moment, and Josh Bolten and Steve Hadley. The President was given an update by Ambassador Hill on the discussions that he'd had on the six-party talks recently. And all those ambassadors had gone back to their capitals to see if the leaders of their country could agree to it.
The President instructed Ambassador Hill that he could tell the other parties of the six-party talks that President Bush had signed off on the agreement. And as I said, we welcome the agreement. We believe this is another step forward in the action-for-action implementation strategy that we've had with the North Koreans. And so as soon as we have that statement, I can release it to you.
Q Can you characterize the significance of it? It seems to be the biggest deal yet.
MS. PERINO: Well, what is encouraging about it is that in the past you've seen that the North Koreans had shut down the Yongbyon facility. But what they've started to do now is to start dismantling it, and they have agreed to dismantle it by the end of the year. We are going to hold them to it. We are going to see if they're going to be able to make that deadline.
Part of the strategy was to have commitment for commitment, and then action for action. And I think as you saw last week -- on Friday, actually -- the President announced that we would be providing $25 million to help pay for fuel oil that we had -- that was part of our commitment to the process. And Ambassador Chris Hill -- we're checking to see if there's going to be a briefing later today by the -- at the State Department, where everyone can get a lot more of the nitty-gritty detail from his conversations.
Q Does the President have a full report now on the transport of nuclear weapons across this country?
MS. PERINO: No, I think that's still under investigation at the Defense Department.
Q You mentioned trying to find common ground on S-CHIP. And Senator Lott, when he came out yesterday, mentioned he was proposing several months -- I don't know if it's 16, 18 -- on the S-CHIP program while you try to find common ground on how much additional funding you would need to cover not only those that are currently enrolled, but those who are eligible that you're trying to find. Would you be willing to talk about Senator Lott's -- is that a reasonable common ground?
MS. PERINO: I think that there -- I think that there are members of Congress who are going to come forward with ideas. And the President is willing to listen to ideas, and I think that would be one of them. And there are other members who are coming forward with their ideas, as well. I'm not going to rule anything in or out. I think the President is willing to talk to anybody about how we continue to move forward on this program, with the focus being on how do you get back to the original intent, making sure that the neediest children get taken care of first.
Q Wouldn't that do that?
MS. PERINO: I don't know the details, and I think that we'd have to look at Senator -- what Senator Lott has to say, and working with his colleagues, both across the aisle and across the street at the House.
Q Dana, you're totally confident the veto will be sustained?
MS. PERINO: Well, I would refer you to Roy Blunt's office for that. I think that he is -- I'm sorry, Congressman Blunt's office. He said yesterday that he was confident, and I don't have any reason to believe that that's changed overnight.
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q Isn't it odd, though, to veto and then seek a compromise?
MS. PERINO: No, that's what we did on the supplemental.
END 9:33 A.M. EDT