|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 3, 2003
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:30 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President began his day with a breakfast with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. They had a good discussion. The Prime Minister and the Netherlands are a strong ally in the war on terrorism, and they discussed a number of important priorities when it comes to foreign policy. And the President, following that, had his usual briefings.
Then the President met with the Secretary of Defense. This afternoon, the President will be participating in a signing ceremony for the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, and the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and Implementation Act. And the President will talk about the importance of expanding trade, and the importance of free trade to America's prosperity and to our economic security.
The President, later this afternoon, will have some congressional meetings. He will meet with the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader, and following that meeting, he will meet with House and Senate Republican leaders to talk about legislative priorities and our legislative agenda moving forward, now that Congress has returned from their recess. I expect that they will talk about some of the issues I mentioned yesterday, from moving forward on a comprehensive national energy plan that will reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and update our electricity delivery systems so that we have a modernized electricity delivery system. I also expect they will talk about the importance of moving forward as quickly as possible to get seniors more benefits and more choices under Medicare, including prescription drug coverage, so that seniors can have the same kind of choices and benefits that members of Congress currently receive.
MR. McCLELLAN: I also expect -- well, I expect that the members will -- you're interrupting my opening remarks -- I expect the members will go to the stakeout, though. I also expect they'll talk about the appropriations process and moving forward on our important priorities and making sure that we're exercising fiscal discipline or spending restraint at the same time. And I imagine Iraq and a number of other issues will come up in those conversations, as well. So -- and I do expect members will go to the stakeout.
Now, with that, I will be glad to take your questions.
Q Scott, does the administration envision withdrawing a majority of U.S. troops in Iraq within 18 months to two years?
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw those reports from various anonymous sources. The administration, as always, and I would say the Central Command and the Pentagon is always assessing what our needs are in terms of troop levels in Iraq, and they believe that the current troop levels are where they need to be. Obviously, we have a lot of international participation in Iraq, as well, as I've talked about. But we will continue to assess our needs moving forward. We will continue to rely on the commanders in the field in terms of what is needed to address security and stability in Iraq. And we will also work closely with Congress as we move forward. But we will make sure that all the necessary resources are provided to our troops as we move forward.
Q Does that 18 to 24 month time --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into the position of talking about troop deployments or troop levels. I think that's best addressed by the Central Command or best addressed by the Pentagon. But we do listen closely to our commanders in the field in terms of what is needed, and then we will make sure that they have all the resources that they need to carry out their mission.
Q Have they said -- excuse me, one more. Have they said, suggested that might be the time frame?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I saw the anonymous reports. I don't know where those are coming from. You're welcome to talk with some of the military leaders about those issues.
Q Why does the administration reverse course and decide to seek a new U.N. resolution on Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Bill, first of all, I disagree with the premise there. I think that this is a continuation of what we have been doing. First of all, the coalition and coalition provisional authority and the United Nations have been working very closely together in Iraq on reconstruction and on humanitarian assistance and humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people.
The U.N., as the President has said repeatedly, has a vital role to play in the postwar Iraq, in helping the Iraqi people build a better future. And so they've been working very closely, coordinating with the coalition provisional authority on these efforts. And they will continue to play a vital role.
Q Would the kind of resolution that the administration seeks give the U.N. more authority in Iraq than it now has?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the resolution that is being discussed, Secretary Powell has already begun some consultation with members of the Security Council to talk about ways that we can encourage additional participation of countries. As I mentioned earlier today, there are some countries -- well, a number of countries are already participating in efforts. There are more than 30 countries that are already participating in Iraq and providing troops, some 23,000 troops. So there is a lot of global participation in what we are doing --
Q Is there going to be --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- in what we're doing in Iraq. Well, let me -- I'm walking through -- I'm walking through this, Bill. And so, Secretary Powell has been consulting with some countries already. He's talked with Secretary General Annan. I think he's talked with his counterparts in Britain and Germany and France and Russia, as well, and I'm sure he will continue talking with others. But what we want to do is take Resolution 1483 and build upon that, expand upon Resolution 1483. So what we are doing is complementary to that resolution that has already passed the Security Council.
And I would just refer back to that resolution. In that resolution it said, and I quote: "It's resolved that the United Nations should play a vital role in humanitarian relief, the reconstruction of Iraq, and the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions of representative government.
So we will continue to look at ways that we can encourage broader participation from the international community, broader participation from the United Nations, and broader participation from the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people continue to assume more responsibility.
Q Can I please try once more? It is clear that more troops are needed in Iraq. It is clear that India and Pakistan, among others, have declined to send more troops unless the U.N. has a greater degree of control. Is it not correct to say that you are doing this in order to persuade India, Pakistan, Turkey to send more troops and, therefore, must give up some additional control to the United Nations?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think what -- I think the way I would address that is to say that we are working to address some of the concerns that those countries you mentioned expressed, such as India. India expressed some concerns that they felt they needed some additional authority from the United Nations to be able to participate in the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq.
But I would remind you that this is about the Iraqi people. This is about building a better future for the Iraqi people. A free -- a secure, free, and democratic Iraq will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East. A free and democratic Iraq will help bring about peace and stability in the Middle East. And when we have a safer Middle East, we will have a safer world. So the world has a stake in what is going on in Iraq, and we welcome the participation of those countries that are already participating. And we want to look at additional ways to maximize that participation so others can participate.
Q Can I just challenge your claim that this doesn't represent the President changing his mind? This proposal for a multinational force under a blue flag -- the United Nations flag with an American commander -- has been out there. It was out there since May. The U.N. taking a more political role in the supervising of elections and the standing up of a constitution in sovereign authority was also out there. The administration, specifically Secretary Rumsfeld on the multinational component under a U.N. flag rejected that. Now we're proposing it. Isn't that changing --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about a Blue Helmet peacekeeping force?
Q Not Blue Helmet peacekeeping force, multinational.
MR. McCLELLAN: He's mentioned a Blue Helmet force. Well, multinational -- a multinational force was authorized under Resolution 1483. And what we want to do in respect to a new resolution is focus on working within the Security Council and the United Nations on ways to build upon existing structures and how the international community works within those existing structures.
Q Is this -- is the reason the administration -- why is the administration doing this now? Why not have gone this route six weeks ago, two months ago, three months ago?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've been in discussions with countries about -- countries that have wanted to participate in Iraq. And, as I mentioned, we've walked through this before, Resolution 1483 provided authority for countries to participate in Iraq. Resolution 1483 -- let me just refer back to it again -- provided -- it said, "Noting further that other states that are not the occupying powers are working now or in the future may work under the Authority; welcoming further the willingness of member states to contribute to stability and security in Iraq by contributing personnel, equipment, and other resources under the Authority."
And it goes on to say that it appeals to member states and concerned organizations to assist the people of Iraq in their efforts to reform their institutions and rebuild their country and to contribute to conditions of stability and security in Iraq in accordance with this resolution.
Now, there are some countries -- I can mention -- India was one that was mentioned earlier -- that felt like they needed some additional authority. So we're working --
Q But they wanted that back then.
MR. McCLELLAN: And we said -- and we said we want to listen to their concerns.
Q Well, President Musharraf said --
MR. McCLELLAN: They began to express those concerns. We said, we want to listen to your concerns, we want to work with you. This is an international issue, and it's important to have an international response to this issue.
Q President Musharraf said back then that he foresaw Pakistani troops participating in the securing and reconstructing of Iraq under U.N. auspices. And the administration wouldn't go for that. Is this a sign that the administration sees Iraq as out of control, or getting to the point where we need more help and are willing to pay a higher price to get it?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, remember that you have a coalition provisional authority there, and you have a number of nations that are helping with our efforts there. You have the U.N., the United Nations that is working closely with the coalition provisional authority in Iraq. And they're working so closely with us in helping the Iraqi people build a better future that some of the remnants of the former regime or foreign terrorists, whoever it was, decided to attack the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. They were simply there to provide humanitarian assistance and provide assistance with reconstruction. That shows you the type of people that we are up against. These are cold-blooded killers. They're enemies of the Iraqi people. They're enemies of the international community, and they're enemies of a better future for the Iraq.
Q Scott, how would this broader multinational force differ from the force that is there now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, that's why I said that we're -- that we want to build upon existing structures, build upon Resolutions 1483 and expand upon it.
Q I'm not talking about 1483. I'm talking about the force that is there on the ground, how would the new force envisioned and authorized under this U.N. resolution that you're about to put forward, how would it be different than the current force?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think some of the ideas that are being discussed there -- and again, I think that this is something that is going to be addressed in consultation with other countries, so we need to let those consultations take place -- but some of the ideas that have been discussed there, you're talking about multinational force being still under the unified command which is called for in Resolution 1483. So those are ideas that are being discussed with other countries.
Q So you're saying, in other words, a multinational force, but still under U.S. command?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let's let the consultations -- let's let the consultations take place. But, yes, we want to build upon the existing structures to encourage more people to participate.
Q But U.S. command is not on the table as an issue, as I understand it. The administration is not suggesting that it would ever have anyone other than the U.S. in command, right? So that's not an issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: Right.
Q Okay. But the other point of this is it is clear that you will not be able to get the broader support and this additional resolution without giving the U.N. some sort of broader role. What kind of broader role are you contemplating?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I go back to --
Q -- on the political side or the military side?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- let me go back to -- the U.N. has been playing a vital role in close coordination with coalition provisional authority. The United Nations will continue to play a vital role. But --
Q So you don't plan to give the U.N. any bigger role --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- but our focus here is on working with the United Nations, working with the Security Council to maximize participation by the international community in Iraq, to get as many nations as possible helping with -- helping the Iraqi people build a better future for themselves.
Q Yes, but we're clearly seeking a change --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- let me go back to, when you're talking about expanding their role, what we want to do is expand the role of the Iraqi people. Let's talk about where that stands. The Governing Council was created to begin moving toward a free and democratic Iraq. That was an important step. Now, they -- earlier this week they also announced the cabinet ministers. That's another important step that will take us closer to a free and democratic Iraq. And they are working on the constitutional process.
So as time goes on, and as Iraqis assume more responsibility, then more authority can be shifted to the people of Iraq from the coalition provisional authority. And that's what's important. And that's a shared goal of the United Nations, of the international community and the United States. And so we're all working, in that respect, together to get to that point.
Q I understand. But are you saying that the U.S. is not contemplating a wider, larger, more vital role for the United Nations in this effort that it is now putting forward --
MR. McCLELLAN: We want to the United Nations to continue to play a vital role within the existing structures. They will continue to play a vital role in these discussions we're going to have with the members of the Security Council, listen to their concerns and move forward on this resolution.
Q But I'm just asking a simple thing --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're trying to ask to get into some of the negotiations, and I'd love to negotiate from the podium.
Q No, no, no, I'm just asking you, do you anticipate, are you willing to accept a broader U.N. role, or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: I said that what we're working on is to encourage broader participation from the international community, broader participation from the United Nations and broader participation from the Iraqi people.
Q Just to follow on that, you just made clear that the U.S. wants to maintain military control of this operation. On the political side, will you also concede that the U.S. going to these negotiations wants to maintain control --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a lot of people participating in the security and stabilization of -- and including the people of Iraq, some 50,000 Iraqis that are now participating in the security and defense of Iraq.
In regards to Ambassador Bremer, yes, Ambassador Bremer will continue to be in his current role as head of the coalition provisional authority. And we hope to continue working closely with the international community, with the United Nations to shift more and more responsibility to the people of Iraq as we move closer and closer to a more free and democratic Iraq.
Q So how do you -- if I can just follow on Jim. Can you just at all articulate a little bit how you envision specifically the U.N. role to change -- I mean, you're talking about continued U.S. involvement --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the United Nations -- and I read from Resolution 1483, which talked about the vital role that they have to play and some of the areas that they can help. They will continue to help in those areas. So we want to expand on those existing structures to encourage broader participation. The United Nations can play an important role in offering resources that are necessary for free elections. They can provide an important role in the humanitarian assistance and reconstruction -- and they have been, and they will continue to.
Q Just to close the loop on this entirely. The coalition provisional authority would remain the chief governing body, interim governing body in Iraq, even with an expanded U.N. role; is that the administration's position?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me clarify a couple of things there. You have the Governing Council that's in place, that's beginning to assume more responsibility in take over more responsibility. So what we're trying to work towards is shifting more and more responsibility to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible. But this is an effort that requires the participation of the international community, and the international community is participating. It's important the world has a stake in a free and democratic Iraq, the world has a stake in helping the Iraqi people build a better future.
Q If I was to try to summarize what it is you've told us now earlier this morning and today, it would basically come down to, the President is sending Secretary Powell to get more contributions from a wider number of countries, but has expressed absolutely no willingness to give greater authority, political control or military control to any of those countries. Is that right? Is that where we are right now? You haven't described one thing yet that I've heard today that he's willing to offer in return.
MR. McCLELLAN: There is broad authority under existing resolutions. We want to expand on that because some countries expressed concerns about that resolution -- about the authority that was necessary.
Q So name one or two things, just an example of things that we may be willing to talk about that would help satisfy their concerns.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are some countries that would like to participate in Iraq and provide more troop support to the -- that would like to provide --
Q We want them to provide more troops --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- that would like to provide more stability -- to provide help with the stability and security of Iraq. I think that this is about the Iraqi people. That's what this is about. Let me keep coming back to that.
Q This is also about answering their concerns that the U.N. does not have enough authority --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right. We want to encourage as broad participation as possible from the international community. So that's what we're working to do, is to address some of the concerns that have been expressed through a new resolution that would expand upon existing resolutions, that would -- that would continue to work within the existing structures, but expand the participation.
Q -- not give the U.N. greater authority over either political or military --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the U.N. has been involved. They have been in close coordination with --
Q Tell me what it did, tell me where you're going.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me continue, let me finish. They've been playing an important role in the reconstruction efforts and the humanitarian relief, and they will continue to play an important role. I mentioned that they -- that under the existing resolution, it also calls for them to help with moving Iraq towards own-self governance, towards a democratic and free Iraq. The United Nations -- there's a lot of ways that they can provide help. And the United Nations remains committed to working closely with the coalition provisional authority on our shared goal of moving as quickly as possible to a government in Iraq that is ruled of, by and for the Iraqi people.
Q Scott, let me try it from a different direction because we're all trying to ask the same question. You said before that the Indian government would like to help, but it needs some changes made before it can. What changes does the Indian government need?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can talk to the Indian government about what they desire.
Q What are we proposing --
MR. McCLELLAN: They felt like that they --
Q The current situation doesn't work for them. What are we proposing to change?
MR. McCLELLAN: We've always felt like 1483 provided the authority for nations to participate in helping Iraq. In fact, a number of countries are participating in Iraq under Security Council Resolution 1483. And there are others that we've been in discussions with that will probably provide more support soon, too. But there are some countries that felt like they needed some additional authority from the United Nations. So that's what this is about. This is about building upon Security Council Resolution 1483 and expanding upon Security Council Resolution 1483. So this effort complements the resolutions that have already passed the Security Council, and it works towards maximizing international participation.
Q You say some additional authority for the United Nations. Can you elaborate what you mean by that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q You just said now that some of them feel they need some additional authority from the United Nations. What is it specifically that they're talking about?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are discussion that we are beginning to have with countries. We've put forward some ideas. I know that you all would like to get into the discussion about those ideas here in this room. I think those are best held through the diplomatic channels, though. And that's what we will continue to do. But those consultations are still in the early phases.
Q Under the resolution that the administration envisioned, can you rule out any diminution in the role of Ambassador Bremer?
MR. McCLELLAN: I made it very clear that Ambassador Bremer will continue to lead the coalition provisional authority. And the coalition provisional authority is overseeing these efforts, in close coordination with the United Nations, who -- the United Nations, remember -- a special representative was appointed who was tragically killed in the recent attack on the U.N. headquarters. And the United Nations also, under Resolution 1500, established a mission, as well.
So the idea that the United Nations has not been playing a vital role, it's just not there. The U.N. has been playing a vital role. We want them to continue to play a vital role, but there are some other countries that feel like they just need more authority from the United Nations to go in there and participate. And so that's -- we're trying to address some of those concerns in this process.
But when you talk about Ambassador Bremer's role, we want that role to diminish over time as the Iraqi people take over responsibility for their future. And the Iraqi people are doing more and more of that, both in terms of security and in terms of moving towards a democratic society.
Q So can I say that you ruled out any diminution of Ambassador Bremer's role under the resolution?
MR. McCLELLAN: What I said was that we will continue to move as quickly as possible to shift authority over to the people of Iraq. We want that role to continue to diminish over time as Iraqis assume more responsibility.
Q So you're not ruling out the possibility that this process would --
MR. McCLELLAN: The focus of this is on encouraging more international participation within existing structures. I'm very clear about that.
Q Scott, could you explain the philosophy, the driving force, if you will, behind all the rule changes that the administration has enacted over the past couple of weeks, the latest dealing with the emergency rooms; prior to that, a number of actions that have been taken in the last couple of weeks by the EPA?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know if you want to address specific issues. First of all, let me see if I can finish on the United Nations here and this idea of a second resolution. I promise I'll come back to you. But I think we probably have some more on this topic. Let's try to finish on this.
Q Scott, to what extent was the President's inability or unwillingness to build a larger coalition before starting the war now a hindrance on having a broader coalition to go in to the reconstruction phase?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that we've always reminded people, no matter where you stood on the decision to confront the threat and remove this threat, that we now all have a stake in helping the Iraqi people, in helping the Iraqi people build a future. We all have a stake in a free and democratic Iraq, because of the importance it will be to the rest of the Middle East, which will help bring about a safer world, as well. So, regardless of where you stood on that issue, we all can provide help to the Iraqi people in building a better future.
Q So this larger attempt at outreach you're saying is not different from the prewar approach?
MR. McCLELLAN: If you go back to the approach beforehand, we made a concerted effort to reach out to the international community. We worked through the United Nations and passed -- what was it -- the 17th or 18th resolution in regards to Iraq.
Yes. Wait, is this U.N.? Go ahead.
Q Yes, sir. Tell me, if the policy that has taken place and now isn't working as was expected, what's so wrong with changing course or modifying course and admitting it? What's the problem with admitting that you're making some changes to the policy because you -- shouldn't the policy always be analyzed and could be changed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we continue to build upon the work that is going on in Iraq to help the Iraqi people. It's what -- that's what -- this is continuation of our efforts to help the Iraqi people realize a more free and a democratic society.
Q But you know a lot of the countries in Europe would ask as a price or political concession to be given more of a leeway in the political and economic sense. Since they are going to retain the head of the military --
MR. McCLELLAN: We want and we welcome the participation of other countries. Other countries are participating. They're participating in the reconstruction efforts, they're participating in stabilization efforts, and they will continue to help -- participate in other ways.
Q They'll probably ask for a more political role than they are being given -- keep the military, keep the temporary authority.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we want to build on those existing structures. There are already Security Council resolutions that provide for authority for the United Nations to play a vital role, and they have them playing a vital role, and for countries to participate in the reconstruction and stabilization efforts.
Q Scott, is the President going to get personally involved in the effort to get a new resolution, or is it going to be mostly up to Secretary Powell?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, right now where things stand, we're just beginning the consultation phase, so take one step at a time. But Secretary Powell, as I mentioned, has already been reaching out to -- remember, we've been discussing this with countries for some time now. This is kind of the formal consultation process about some proposed ideas as we move forward on a new resolution.
Q Can we do a new topic?
Q U.N.? Scott, last week --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're first and you're second, after this topic.
Q -- India's role in the U.N. Scott, last week the President made a phone call to India's Prime Minister in reaction to the bombings in Bombay. Two things. One, what sort of help President offered India in fighting this terrorism? And if there was a discussion on India authority in the U.N., what sort of help President seek from --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we continue to work closely with India and many other countries in fighting this global war on terrorism. There is a tragic -- those were tragic attacks in India recently, and the President called to express his condolences, and expressed that we stand with you in our fight against terrorism, and that we will continue working together in those efforts.
Q On a U.N. role, was there any discussion as far as India's role in the U.N. --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those -- we've been having discussions with India about ways that they can participate. And as I mentioned, they were
a country that expressed some concerns about wanting some additional authority. So we're working to address some of those concerns as we move forward.
Q I missed a little bit, I'm still unclear. I know there's been so many answers on this -- maybe it's just my fault. Why wasn't the consultation process, the formal consultation process that's starting now, why wasn't it started several months ago, since these discussions have been ongoing? And, secondly, is the President disappointed that his Treasury Secretary was basically rebuffed when we went to China?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, remember that Resolution 1483 was passed in May, and that provided authority. So when you're talking about months, I mean, that's just a short time ago, which provided authority for nations to participate and help with the stabilization and reconstruction efforts. Over the course of time, there was some -- a number of countries began participating under that resolution, but there were some others that expressed some concerns. We had some discussions with them, had some initial discussions. There have been a number of ideas that have been discussed. Now we're looking at moving forward in a more formal way on a new resolution that would build upon our efforts and provide for broader participation from the international community.
So I don't know -- when you say "months," I mean, it's, what, 120 days or so since the end of the major combat operations.
Q Something happened on September 2nd; what?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Something happened on September 2nd --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Secretary Powell went and visited with Secretary General Annan a couple weeks ago and talked about some of these issues. The Secretary General has made known his views and what role he sees for the United Nations in helping Iraq move forward and helping the Iraqi people. And so those discussions have been ongoing. And now we're at a point where we want to talk in a more formal way about how we can move forward.
Q And also, on the China question, was the President disappointed that his Treasury Secretary was rebuffed when he went to Beijing?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said yesterday, I think it was important that -- just in and of itself, that we're bringing this issue up and that we're raising the issue, and that's progress, in of itself.
Q Can I follow on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Do we have anything else -- do we have anything else on U.N. first, and then I'll -- Ken.
Q Given the position that you've sketched out this morning and again here this afternoon, which involves no real change in the military command structure in Iraq and apparently no real change in the political structure, as well, why would this be satisfactory or of any interest --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me say, it builds on existing structures and provides for ways for broader international participation within those existing structures.
Q How would this meet the objections of countries like the French and the Germans --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why we have consultations. That's why we talk with them -- okay, you've expressed your concerns. You know how this process works at the Security Council. We've been through this a number of times, and we will consult. That's what's beginning now, is the consultation process, so that we can maximize that participation, build upon the broad coalition that has already participated in Iraq.
Did you have anything else?
Q You're suggesting that there is some maneuvering room in the American position.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're going to consult closely with these -- with the Security Council members about how we move forward. But our shared goal remains the same, to return to the Iraqi people their country as quickly as possible, so that they can have a self-governing -- a self-governance.
All right, now are we through with U.N.?
Q Scott, what is the -- getting back to the question I was trying to ask earlier, a domestic issue -- what is the President's philosophy or the administration's driving force between the recent series of rules changes on a number of issues -- the environment, the latest thing dealing with the emergency room issue -- why this seeming thrust --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President's driving force behind the President is results; what is the best way to approach these issues that achieves the best results for the American people. That's what's behind the President's -- the driving force.
Q I mean, is there some philosophy --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President focuses on results, and is this working the way it's intended to work. If you go back to the -- you want to talk about the emergency care issue, those regulations, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act regulations were established in the 1980s to ensure that low-income individuals who did not have insurance would receive emergency medical care, just as if they had insurance. The rules require hospitals to treat and stabilize and admit patients who have emergency needs.
And under the rule issued by HHS, those low-income individuals will retain all of the protections of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. The regulations were proposed nearly a year-and-a-half ago, and they were established following a thorough review by Secretary Thompson's task force on regulatory reform. In addition, the department held extensive public hearings and several months of -- and received several months of public comment so that they could devise regulations that protected patients, but cut down on the unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.
Q Is it just a matter on all of these issues that it's easier to do it this way rather than going some legislative route?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we want this -- in this instance, we want it to do what it was established and to work the way it was supposed to work. And so that's why we've taken this way. The new rules continue to provide protections to patients and will, indeed, improve the ability of patients to receive appropriate emergency care.
Q Scott --
Q Scott, wait, wait, wait.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll answer. I promised Keith.
Q Just to follow on what, the question that Corbett snuck in about the Treasury Secretary --
MR. McCLELLAN: Very creative, very creative.
Q It was. The President sent his Treasury Secretary to Beijing to try to get some results for manufacturers who are suffering now in the short-term. He effectively got nothing for the short-term. The President's not at all disappointed about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: There is -- first of all, there is a lot we have done to act and to improve our economic situation.
Q -- exchange rates --
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand. But we have urged the Chinese to take advantage of its strong growth and foreign exchange position to accelerate trade liberalization, to permit the free flow of capital, and to take steps to establish a market-determined, floating exchange rate. And we continue to emphasize and believe that the best system is one based on free trade, free capital flows and market-determined floating exchange rates.
So I think they've had some positive discussions. It was a good first step, and we will continue to encourage the Chinese authorities to move toward freer trade and capital flows in a market determined exchange rate. Remember, Secretary Snow said in Beijing that we remain encouraged by the Chinese government's reaffirmation of its longstanding goal to move toward greater flexibility in its exchange rate.
Q So what was achieved for manufacturers in the short-term?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think in terms of what was achieved from this trip, you need to talk more specifically to the Treasury Department about any further details. I've kind of given you a broad overview.
Q But in terms of exchange rates, nothing was done, essentially, correct? Nothing --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think it was a good first step and we felt that the discussions were positive.
Q On free trade in general, many countries, as you know, are pressing for a free trade zone, including Australia and New Zealand and others. How serious is the United States pressing for the other countries? Are they likely to get one this year?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think you should listen to the President's remarks this afternoon. He's going to talk more about how we're working to expand free trade that today's signing implementation ceremony serves as an example of what we're trying to do to expand trade and open markets to American producers and products, which would mean a brighter economic future for America.
Q Are other countries on the docket for this year?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a number of discussions that are ongoing with countries, other countries about some bilateral agreements, regional agreements and so forth.
Q On a different subject, on AmeriCorps -- you're probably aware there is a hearing going on, on Capitol Hill, a hundred hours straight of testimony by supporters of AmeriCorps. Their point is that they're underfunded, they say the programs have been cut. They say they need an infusion of emergency funding -- $100 million. What is the President's position on that $100 million request?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President remains very committed to AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps provides vital help to people across America, and the President is continuing to work closely with Congress and his fiscal year '04 budget calls for expanding Medicare -- expanding AmeriCorps significantly, and that's what we are continuing to do. We're now almost in the fiscal year '04 year, so we'll continue to work closely with Congress. It's a high priority for the President, and that's what we will continue to do.
Q But they argue that they need this money for the '03 fiscal year. Before you get to FY '04, they really need this $100 million because programs are being shut down.
MR. McCLELLAN: We are continuing to work. We took some steps to improve the accounting procedures within AmeriCorps so that we could address some of those issues that involved the past. Now we continue to work with Congress to build upon that and expand AmeriCorps. The President is very committed to expanding AmeriCorps and expanding the number of members within AmeriCorps, because of the vital role they play in helping people all across the country.
Q Just to be clear, he'd rather wait for the '04 budget to deal with some of --
MR. McCLELLAN: We continue working closely with Congress and move forward on the President's -- on the President's request to expand AmeriCorps.
Q Overnight it was reported that Yasser Arafat declared that the road map is dead and that Israel killed it. Would you comment on that, please?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, one, we remain fully engaged in our efforts to move toward the two state vision of Palestine and Israel living side-by-side in peace and security. And I think that the parties remain committed to that effort. We continue to work closely with them on our efforts.
What needs to happen is we need to continue to fight the terrorists, continue to dismantle the terrorist organizations; there needs to be a consolidation of the security forces within Palestine. This is about a better future for the Israeli people, about achieving the aspirations of the Palestinian people. And there is a commitment from the parties to move forward on that effort, and we are going to remain closely engaged with them in those efforts.
Q Scott, as former governor of Texas, the President knows all or most of those Texas Democrat state senators who have fled to Oklahoma and have now also fled to New Mexico in an attempt to stop the constitutional process of congressional redistricting. He knows these people, doesn't he? And I have one follow-up.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know the exact list of names of who those people are, but if they were there when the President was governor, I'm sure, yes.
Q If House Majority Leader DeLay and Speaker Hastert, who he's speaking with this afternoon, if they were to organize a House majority vote to expel all Texas Democrats from the House until their fellow Democrats in Texas stop their anti-constitutional fleeing, the President would have no objection to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Very nice try to try to draw us into a Texas state legislative matter. Very nice try. Very nice try. He's always concerned about Texas. It's his home. It's a matter for the state of Texas.
END 1:10 P.M. EDT