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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 9, 2006

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Briefing Room

Press Briefing

1:05 P.M. EST

MR. MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to begin with one brief announcement. Our new Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, Ed Lazear, is holding a press briefing at 2:00 p.m. today, down at our offices at 1800 G Street, to talk about the economy. As you all are aware, the economy is growing strong. It grew at 3.5 percent just last year, faster than any other major industrialized nation. The unemployment rate is down to 4.7 percent. We've seen more than 4.7 million new jobs created in the last couple of years, and real, after-tax income is up more than 8 percent, productivity is high, and home ownership is at record levels.

And so I know that Ed looks forward to talking more about where we are in terms of the economy. As you all are aware, job numbers are coming out. The employment report is coming out tomorrow, as well.

And with that, I'm glad to go -- jump straight to your questions.

Q What was the time on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's at 2:00 p.m. Is that it? No.

Q Leaders -- Republican leaders from the House and the Senate say they're prepared to block the Dubai Ports deal. With that information, does the President still intend to veto any legislation such as that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I've been talking to you all about over the last couple of days, our emphasis is on working together to try to find a way forward. And that's what we've been discussing with members. There have been a lot of conversations going on. The lines of communication remain open.

There have been conversations going on between the company and Congress, between the administration and Congress, and we continue to work to try to find a way forward. One part of moving forward is to move ahead on reform of the Committee on Foreign Investment process. And that's something we are committed to. It's something we support. I think there's a desire on the part of a lot of people to improve and update that process.

Q But when the congressional leaders say, we are going to pass legislation to block this, does the President still say, I'm going to veto that legislation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President had a good discussion earlier today with Republican leaders who were over here for one of the regularly scheduled meetings. And the meeting was really to discuss ways we can work together on important priorities.

And they talked about a range of issues. They talked about moving forward on the budget in a fiscally responsible way and building upon the record we've put in place. They talked about the encouraging signs on the Hill about the President's line-item veto act. They talked about moving ahead on the emergency supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan and the ongoing efforts along the Gulf Coast and supporting the people there with additional resources. They talked about the President's State of the Union initiatives. They talked about energy and -- his energy initiatives, his economic competitiveness initiatives, and his health care initiatives. So they talked about a range of issues.

And the President brought up the issue of the ports, as well, and they had a good discussion about it. This was a very -- the whole meeting was a positive discussion. It was an open exchange of ideas about how we can work together on --

Q He asked you a direct question.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- on shared priorities. So our emphasis is on not trying to draw lines or issue veto threats, it's on how we can work together and move forward.

Q But, Scott, I'm sorry, are you watching something different than we are? Because as far as we can tell, the congressional leadership has said, it's dead. The President has issued a veto threat heretofore, and yet it's our understanding that he did not repeat that during today's meeting, so --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.

Q So why not? Why didn't he repeat it during the meeting?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, because we're focused on how we can move ahead together, and how we can resolve this matter. And that's what I was just stressing to you. And maybe everybody didn't hear that clearly, but it doesn't mean the President's position has changed. It means our emphasis is on how we can work together to move forward. And so to suggest that we're sitting there drawing lines or issuing veto threats takes things out of context of where things are. Where things are is that we're working together and trying to move forward.

Q Is the President convinced that the deal is not dead?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, David, I think that what we're focused on is continuing the discussions. The discussions are ongoing with members of Congress. Both chambers are at different points in the legislative process in terms of this issue that you bring up, so the discussions are ongoing. The process is ongoing, and we're going to continue to have those discussions with leaders as we move forward.

Q Where is the way out here? Does the President have an idea about how to keep this --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are discussions we're having with leaders.

Q But --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I'd describe it that way about the way forward.

Q Is he hopeful? Or does he think this is dead?

MR. McCLELLAN: He thinks that it's important to continue to work with members on a way forward, and that's what we're doing. And that's why I said that the lines of communication are open. As you know, the company requested an additional 45-day investigation. That will be a rigorous and thorough investigation. That process is just getting underway and heading toward the investigation. But again, I know there's a tendency sometimes in this room to want to try to point out lines being drawn or veto threats being issued. And that's not where it is. So I'm trying to tell you where things are right now. Where things are is that we're talking about how we can move ahead together.

Q All we want to know is, where are you?

Q But what does this say about --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, you can have your questions in a minute. David has got the floor right now.

Q Just one more. What does this say about the President's relationship with his own party?

MR. McCLELLAN: What does what say?

Q The fact that there's a rebellion among Republicans who are saying we're not going to support you on --

MR. McCLELLAN: That sometimes there's a disagreement on an issue here or there. We are a party that is united and moving forward on a record of accomplishment, a record of results. We are leading the charge when it comes to advancing the fight in the war on terrorism. We're leading the charge when it comes to strengthening our economy and creating an environment for strong job growth. I just talked to you about how healthy our economy is.

So if you look at the reality of things, we have achieved many things for the American people, and we need to continue to work together to build upon that record. And that's exactly what we're doing. They had a very good discussion earlier this morning -- the President did with Republican leaders. And we're moving forward to advance in the war on terrorism. We're moving forward to continue to strengthen our economy. We're moving forward on implementing substantial prescription drug savings for our seniors. And today, the President is signing the renewal of the Patriot Act into law. So it's interesting you would bring that question up on the very day that he is meeting with congressional leaders and talking about ways we can move ahead on important priorities.

This afternoon he's meeting with bipartisan leaders in the House on energy legislation, and how we can build upon the comprehensive energy legislation we passed last year to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Q Scott --


Q That's a very nice filibuster. You've been asked very simple questions. Is he going to veto it, or is he speaking some sort of real compromise?

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, let's talk about a really simple question. I don't think you can simplify it that way.

Q Why?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because it takes things out of process of where things are. And I know you might want to simplify --

Q All right, then where are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: But I want to give you an accurate reflection of where things are.

Q Do you have a proposal to compromise with all the opposition?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm trying to tell you and you keep wanting to jump in.

Q No, you jump to 10 other subjects. It's very -- it's on the table.

MR. McCLELLAN: Because they talked about those other subjects, as well.

Q I didn't -- we didn't ask you that.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know, but I think it's important to put it in context.

Q No --

MR. McCLELLAN: So the American people have an accurate reflection --

Q Now we know -- what would he do? In view of the overwhelming opposition --


Q -- does he have a plan to --

MR. McCLELLAN: You've asked your question, let me try to respond to you.

Q Okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the approach we're taking is working with members of Congress to move forward, and that's exactly where we are. That's where things are.

Q But does he have an idea of how it can be compromised?

MR. McCLELLAN: How what can be --

Q This whole business of the ports.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why those discussions are ongoing.

Q Well, what's being discussed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I mean, one area where we're talking about moving ahead is on CFIUS reform. That means improving and reforming --

Q It shouldn't be retroactive.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the process that's underway.

Q Scott, just back to the veto. You said that this doesn't mean the President is changing his position. His position before was that he would veto it. Why can't you say whether or not you still -- he has that position?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's talk about --

Q Are you backing off?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's talk about that -- no, what we're doing is trying to work together with Congress to move forward and to find a resolution to this issue. And there were very good discussions earlier today with Republican leaders who were over here for a regularly scheduled meeting. The President, when he was asked that -- he was asked that question. He was asked that question I guess a week or two -- a couple weeks ago, and he responded to that question. But where we are in the process right now is working together with members to resolve this matter and to move forward.

Q I understand that you want to move forward and you want to resolve this process. But by saying it doesn't mean the President is changing his position, that means he would still veto it.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think it's an accurate reflection to try to suggest that lines are being drawn or that veto threats are being issued, because what we're doing is emphasizing -- focusing on ways we can work together.

Q So you're backing off that, or you're not backing off it?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just said that --

Q He would still veto it?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, see, you're trying to draw lines. We're trying to work --

Q The President drew the lines, I didn't draw the lines.

MR. McCLELLAN: He was asked a specific question a couple weeks ago, so let's put it in context.

Q And we're asking you a specific question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me put it in context. What the President is doing is reaching out to congressional leaders. We're reaching out to congressional leaders and we're talking about how we can move ahead together. I don't know how I can be more accurate in terms of the way I reflect where things are than I am right now, because that's where they are.

Q Does the veto threat extend to the amendment that passed in the House committee last night?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you're talking about attaching things to emergency spending legislation, I think we've always had a very clear principle about emergency spending legislation, how we believe that legislation ought to be clean. I mean, this is legislation that will provide vital resources to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and provide vital funds to the people along the Gulf Coast who are rebuilding their communities -- the President had a very good visit yesterday. And what we don't want to see happen is anything that would slow that legislation down from going forward.

But again, let's talk about where things are in terms of our discussions. Those discussions are ongoing. The process is ongoing, and we've had good discussions.

Q Well, you'd rather somehow get that stripped out of the language, so you wouldn't have to veto it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, Steve, I think that the lines of communication remain very much open. The exchange between members and the administration is ongoing, and we're talking about how we can move ahead together.

Q Scott, does the President regret -- given what's happened with these discussions with Congress, does the President regret calling reporters to the front of Air Force One to issue the veto threat, stepping off the helicopter and coming over to us and reiterating the veto threat? Would this all -- this conversation have unfolded differently if the veto threat was never made?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President called reporters up to the front to talk about his trip and to talk about important priorities that we were focused on.

Q Which happens every time, happens every trip?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's done it on a number of times, a number of occasions. I can go back and pull those transcripts for you.

Q It was kind of an uncommon thing, though, to then step off and repeat it. He had a point he wanted to make.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, let's put it in context, too, though. He was asked a specific question, and he was expressing what his position is and what his views are.

Go ahead, John.

Q Thank you, Scott. You mentioned the prescription drug bill earlier in your remarks. Now when I asked you about if it would be delayed or changes were made, on at least one occasion last year you said it would not, there would be no changes or no delay, correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of implementing the prescription drug and the other health care benefits that we're providing seniors?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's moving ahead right now.

Q Now, on February 28th The Washington Post reported, "The Bush administration has taken a first step toward simplifying the program by circulating a memo last week among benefit providers that seeks idea for possible changes to the plan." Now, if you're soliciting a memo or circulating a memo that solicits changes to the plan, doesn't that --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think they're talking about, as we move forward in future years, because this is a major modernization of Medicare, the most significant improvements in Medicare in some 40 years. And what this will do is provide seniors with not only more choices, but better benefits. It will provide them modern health care, it will provide seniors with substantial savings on their prescription drug costs, and many seniors are already seeing their payments for prescription drugs come down significantly. And the Center for Medicare Services can -- Medicare and Medicaid Services can provide you with that information.

But I think the article you're referring to, if I recall correctly, while we were traveling in South Asia, was talking about looking at things that we may need to do in the future as we move forward on these important benefits for America's seniors.

Q Well, no, they said it is acknowledged glitches, and they are holding town hall meetings to educate seniors about the benefits.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's important, because the enrollment period is still ongoing. It started back in November. The prescription drug benefit just went into effect in January. And that enrollment period continues. And there are millions of seniors that are currently enrolled in the program, and we'll continue to reach out to educate seniors, so that they can make the best possible choices.

Q So the changes that are being solicited by this memo, which I assume --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you're talking -- and I'm not sure exactly what article you're talking about, but, yes, Secretary Leavitt and Administrator McClellan have been working to move forward to make improvements and to work on any glitches. But for the vast majority of seniors, this program is working very well, and they're realizing significant savings. And they're getting the kind of health care that they need.

Q Now will Administrator McClellan make public this memo?

MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to talk to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Q You're not your brother's keeper, then?

Q Scott, there's a perception by some that the opposition to the Dubai Ports deal, the concessions forced on oversight of NSA eavesdropping and some compromised language in the Patriot Act, not to mention resistance by some Republicans to some of President's spending priorities, or spending cuts, if you will, of Medicare, expansion of health savings accounts, are all indications that the reelection this year is pushing some Republicans to, as one person put it, head for the tall grass. Is the President concerned that '06 is interfering with his priorities?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, let me back up, because you brought up the ports issue again. I mean, the President recognizes there are strong views and there are concerns that members have on this issue. That's why we've been reaching out to members. That's why we have been having discussions about how we can move forward. And so let's put that in perspective.

But to go to your second question, or the issue that you're getting into, I think that there's a tendency in this town to try to selectively pick snapshots when the broader reality is that we have a record of results and that we're getting things done for the American people. We are on the offensive in the war on terrorism. We are prevailing in the war on terrorism. It's a long war and much continues to be done. But we are now on the offensive in taking the fight to the enemy, because of the President's leadership and because of the leadership of members of Congress.

We are also working to put in place pro-growth policies to keep our economy strong. It's because of the policies we put in place that our economy is growing strong and jobs are being created on a large-scale basis over the last two-and-a-half years. And as I pointed out, look at the modernization efforts underway for Medicare. We are implementing important reforms that are saving seniors significant amounts of money on their health care, and providing them with the kind of benefits that best meet their individual health care needs.

Q Are you telling me that you look at the opposition to the Dubai Ports deal in a different way than some of the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's look at what's happening today. The President is signing into law the renewal of the Patriot Act, a vital tool in the war on terrorism, a vital tool that helps us to prevent attacks from happening. The President is meeting with a bipartisan group of House leaders, after having previously met with a bipartisan group of senators, to talk about how we can move forward on the Advanced Energy Initiative that he has outlined that will help us transform the way we power our cars and power our homes and businesses.

Q You said the President recognizes that Republicans have strong views and concerns. Does he think those strong views and concerns are politically motivated?

MR. McCLELLAN: Keith, you'd have to ask people their own reasons about why --

Q Does the President believe those are the reasons?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- they feel a certain way about this issue. The President has expressed his views and talked about what his position is. And what we're doing now is continuing to engage in ongoing discussions with members of Congress about how to move forward. Yes, you've seen that there are some strong opinions that members have, there are concerns that members have. And that's why we are reaching out, that's why we're engaging in ongoing discussions and talking about how we can move ahead together.

Q But you're not telling me that he thinks they are based on policy, you won't comment, actually.

MR. McCLELLAN: You have to ask that -- I mean, I think people have different reasons about where they stand on this particular issue.

Q Okay. Did he ask the leaders to strip this tradition from the appropriations bill?

MR. McCLELLAN: This morning?

Q I mean, from the supplemental?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I'm expressing what our views are, but again, the tone of this discussion was one about how we can work together on a number of shared priorities and how we can move forward on key priorities that we both share.

Q Well, you didn't just discuss tone, you discussed specifics. So I'm asking, on that specific --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of that. I'm just not aware of that.

Q Considering what the President heard this morning from congressional leaders about the opposition on Capitol Hill, is the White House considering pulling --

MR. McCLELLAN: What are you talking about, what the President heard?

Q On the ports deal, on the ports deal. What they discussed in the meeting --

MR. McCLELLAN: As I said, the President brought up this issue to talk about it, and talk about how we can move ahead together --

Q Exactly, and you said that the congressional leaders shared their opinions. But in any case, because of what they shared with him about its lack of a future, in their opinion, on the Hill, is the White House considering pulling or tabling the Dubai Ports deal on a temporary or permanent basis as a possible solution?

MR. McCLELLAN: The new transaction that was put before the committee, the review process that is for that is moving forward and it's headed toward the 45-day investigation. Again, I don't want to jump ahead of where things are, and I don't want to jump ahead of where the discussions are with members of Congress. Those discussions continue. But I think you need to step back and look at the nature of the discussions that took place today. The discussions were very positive. They had a good discussion about a range of issues, and even on this issue they had a good discussion. It was very much an open exchange of ideas about how we can move ahead.

So I've seen some reports out there that seem to be based on secondhand accounts that don't reflect the nature of the discussions that took place earlier today.

Q But is that, or is that not something the White House would consider, tabling it perhaps temporarily as a possible solution --

MR. McCLELLAN: I know you want to draw me into discussions with members of Congress. We're going to continue to have discussions with members of Congress. I'm not going to try to speculate about things, or rule things in or rule things out. Let's let those discussions --

Q You're not ruling it out?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not ruling anything in, either. Don't try to take it further than what I've said. I'll leave it where it is. But the 45-day investigation that the company requested, that is something that is before the committee right now, and the committee is headed in that direction, moving ahead on that review process and then, eventually, the 45-day investigation.

Q When does that 45 days start?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with Treasury in terms of where they are in terms of the latest.

Q At the end of that period, though, would the White House consider it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q At the end of that period though, would the White House consider it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q At the end of that period.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know in terms of when the transaction is put before the committee that there's anything we can do at this point. It has to go through that process. So I think you have to look at where the process is. That was a congressionally mandated process, and when someone puts that transaction forward, it goes through that process. And there's a -- there's procedures --

Q You can't -- pull it until that's over?

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on -- there are procedures in place for that process. So I don't think you should try to jump to broader conclusions from it at this point.

Q But you cannot pull it or table it until the 45-day process is over?

MR. McCLELLAN: Talk to the Treasury Department about the specifics about the process. I don't -- you're trying to draw me into this. I'm saying I don't know of any discussion like that.

Q Scott, to pursue what Martha was asking -- you've left me a little confused. On the one hand, you say the position has not changed. On the other hand, both in this morning's gaggle and today, you have not used the word "veto" again, even though the President is the one who brought it up, and you have not even repeated an administration rationale for why the plan -- why the deal should go forward or what harm it would do to our relationship with the UAE if it didn't go forward.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've expressed our views very clearly on this issue. And the President has spoken about why he --

Q You've left us, though, with the impression now --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- has the views he has.

Q Yes, but you've left us with the impression of while he has the views he has, he is, at this point, in some different kind of mode -- you might call it salvage mode -- to see if there is any piece of this that he can still save. Is that an accurate characterization?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think so. Those are your words. I think an accurate characterization is the way I described it.

Q Scott, on Iran, is the United States and the world really backing themselves into a corner with these threats about possible military action against Iran? Is the world really prepared to use military action?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what you're talking about, because what we've said is that we are pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue when it comes to Iran. And the international community has sent a very clear message to Iran, the regime in Iran, that we are not going to allow you to develop nuclear weapons. The international community is concerned about the regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program.

And now the report that the Director General put before the International Atomic Energy Agency board has been reviewed. Now the process is moving to a new phase, it's a new diplomatic phase before the United Nations Security Council. And there will be active discussions going on, probably beginning early next week, within the Security Council. There are already initial discussions that are occurring in New York between diplomats representing the various countries involved in the Security Council process.

But we have also said -- Secretary Rice has said this -- that the first step in the Security Council would not be looking at sanctions. It would be looking at the possibility that a strong presidential statement laying out very clearly for the regime what it needs to do, and calling on the regime to take certain steps. And so that's where thing are.

But this is about Iran and the regime's behavior. The regime may want to try to change the subject; what they ought to do is change their behavior.

Q But what if they don't? I mean, the rhetoric has become very heated all around --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why it's been reported to the Security Council, so it can be discussed. And there are a number of diplomatic options that are available and at our disposal. Again, that's why I pointed out where we are in terms of the first step of expectations.

Q Senate Budget Committee Chairman Gregg yesterday proposed a spending plan that would set a ceiling of $90 billion on emergency funding in the war in Iraq. His argument is that going outside the budget process, as the administration has been doing, is tantamount to shadow budgeting. And so I'm wondering if the administration is willing to consider this approach.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're going to continue to work with Congress to move forward and make sure that our troops have what they need in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think we've expressed our views in terms of why this is put into the emergency supplemental funding legislation. And you want to make sure you know exactly what the needs are before moving forward on that funding.

Again, there's a difference between the annual budgeting for priorities that are ongoing and needs during a time of war. And I think we spelled out the distinctions there.

Q And also, Senator Grassley has sidetracked tax reconciliation bill and put pension reform on the front burner because there's just this major disagreement on the alternative minimum tax and capital gains, dividends tax cuts. I just wondered if the administration agrees with this approach, and if not, what is the great urgency for getting investment tax breaks through this year when they don't expire for a couple of --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of how they move forward on the legislative process, it's ultimately up to Congress. So what we're focused on is how we move forward on these important priorities and how we continue to move forward on making the tax relief permanent. The tax relief has helped us get our economy growing in a very strong way and led to very strong job creation. And we need to continue to build upon that. We need to continue to move and act on controlling wasteful spending and reining in that spending.

We have a record of changing the growth in our non-security discretionary spending and slowing that, actually cutting non-security discretionary spending and slowing the growth of overall discretionary spending below the rate of inflation. We also need to continue to act on the mandatory spending side. So there are a number of areas where we need to continue to act to keep our economy growing and competitive. Tax relief is an important part of that. The competitiveness initiative is another important part of that. The energy initiative and the health care initiatives are, as well.

Q Scott, can you talk a little -- back to the ports again -- can you talk a little bit about what kinds of talks the White House is having with the company, either directly or through intermediate --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I said that I think that the company is continuing to have discussions with congressional leaders, and the administration and Congress are continuing to have discussions --

Q What about the White House talking to the company?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the matter is before the Committee on Foreign Investment. I don't have any other updates for you beyond that. There are a lot of conversations going on, Roger.

Q The White House is not talking about some way out of this, talking with the company about some way out of this --

MR. McCLELLAN: You're trying to get me to draw -- trying to draw me into discussions that are ongoing between the administration and Congress, and between the company and Congress, and I'm just not going to do that.

Q Thank you, Scott. The United States and North Korea are meeting in New York to resolve the counterfeit issue. How do you think it will affect the future of six party talks?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it is just a briefing that was being provided. I think the State Department talked about it. So it's a separate issue from the six-party talks. We are going to continue to take steps to stop North Korea's engagement in illicit activities. And we've made that very clear. And I think the meeting you're referring to is simply a briefing on this matter. It wasn't to talk about the six-party talks.

But where we are in terms of that is that all parties to the six-party talks are ready to come back to the discussions -- with the exception of North Korea. North Korea has not said that they are ready to come back without precondition.

We have said, we're ready to continue the discussions without any precondition, and other countries have said that, as well. And we're waiting on North Korea to make that commitment. There are some good principles that were agreed to, and we want to continue to move forward on those.

Q Scott --

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you. Go ahead.

Q Scott, can I just review what the President said? You keep talking about this context. What do you say to those in Congress who plan to take legislative action? This is February 21st in Air Force One, President Bush said, "They ought to listen to what I have to say about this. They ought to look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto." I don't understand why you're saying you're not drawing lines in the sand? That's a line in the sand.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you where the emphasis is right now, and where things are in terms of the process and the discussions. Again, that was a question he was specifically asked a couple weeks ago.

Q If he was asked it again today, what would he say?

MR. McCLELLAN: Martha, he would say what I'm saying right now, so I think I've expressed our views.

Q That you're moving forward. He would not say again, I would veto it?

MR. McCLELLAN: It doesn't change what I just said. Again, look at the meeting that took place earlier today, and let me again describe for you the nature of that meeting. The nature of that meeting was to talk about how we can continue to work together on important priorities and how we can move forward on other issues. And one of the issues the President brought up was this very issue.

But to try to suggest we're trying to continue to get into drawing lines or issuing veto threats is not --

Q But you are backing --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- is not --

Q You are backing --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- is not where things are.

Hang on, let me finish.

No, I didn't say that. I said that our position hasn't changed, but our -- where we are right now in the process is, working with Congress to try to find a way forward. I know that there's sometimes a tendency to simplify things, but it takes it out of context when you do that. And that's why I'm stressing to you where things --

Q Well, he put it pretty simply when he said he would veto it.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I'm trying to stress to you where things are right now.

Q All right, but did the President --

Q But the line in the sand was drawn. And if you're saying, no, no, no, we're not backing off, the position is just the same, the position isn't just the same if you're not drawing a line in the sand, because the President drew a line in the sand.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I gave you an accurate description of where things stand. I don't think anything changes in terms of what I just said earlier in this briefing.

Q Scott, but you're giving the impression that you're backing from the veto threat?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just answered that question earlier.

Q So you're not doing that?

Q You're not backing off?

Q The President is not backing off?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think people in this room are trying to get us into drawing lines with Congress. We're trying to work with Congress to move ahead.

Q You drew the line.

Q We didn't draw the line.

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's where we are.

Q You did it.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, actually, David, I didn't. What I'm saying is that we're all working together to try to find a way ahead. So I didn't do that.

Q The President drew the line. Martha just read it to you. I mean, he did it, and you are not willing to stand up there, --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q -- and say the President still has the view that he would veto it.

MR. McCLELLAN: He was asked a specific question. And as I said, his views and what he has expressed are what they are, and they remain the same. But where we are right now in the process, David, is trying to work together to move forward. And so I don't think anybody is trying to -- from our side it trying to get into drawing lines. We're trying to work together to move ahead. And I don't know how clearer I could be, but that's the accurate reflection of where things are. It's not an accurate reflection to suggest otherwise. And so what I'm trying to do is put this in context for you all in this room. And you can keep asking the same question, but I'm giving you an accurate reflection of where things stand in this process. And that's the best I can do.

Thank you.

END 1:31 P.M. EST


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