THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||October 5, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT,
SENATOR TOM DASCHLE, AND REPRESENTATIVE DICK GEPHARDT
ON LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
The South Lawn
3:17 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. From the beginning ofour efforts to create the economic renaissance America now enjoys,Congressman Gephardt and Senator Daschle have been tireless inworking for that change. Especially in these last few weeks as thecongressional session has entered its crucial final stage and thepolitical season has intensified, these two leaders have stood abovethe crowd in their constant efforts to elevate progress overpartisanship.
I realize that the calendar says the election is just amonth away. The calendar also says it is now eight months since Isent the Congress a budget, five months since the legal deadline forCongress to pass a budget resolution. And, as all of you know, thefiscal year ended last week. Yet, so far, Congress has sent me onlytwo of 13 appropriations bills necessary to keep our governmentrunning. On Friday the temporary spending measure I signed will runout. I want to work with Congress to get this important work done.There is still time for real achievement, still time for progressover partisanship.
That is why today I stand with Representative Gephardtand Senator Daschle to call on the congressional majority. Time isrunning short. Congress has important work left to do. Pass thenecessary spending bills to keep the government running. Save SocialSecurity for future generations. Insure a quality education for allour children. Protect America from the global economic turmoil.
These are the priorities of the American people, andthey must be the priorities of Congress in these last days before theelection. First, we must save Social Security first. Last week Iwas privileged to announce the first budget surplus in a generation.Congress must not lose this spirit of fiscal discipline. I haveproposed tax cuts, but they're fully paid for. If the Congress sendsme a tax plan that drains billions from the surplus before savingSocial Security, I will veto it. We've worked too hard for too longto abandon fiscal discipline and our economic strength and to weakenour commitment to Social Security just because it's election time.
Second, we must act to protect our prosperity in thisturbulent international economy by meeting our obligations to theInternational Monetary Fund. The world is waiting -- literally, theworld is waiting -- for Congress to step up to America'sresponsibility, provide funds to the IMF, and give us the tools weneed to pull teetering economies back from the brink, and to keepAmerica's economic prosperity going. It would be unacceptable forCongress to leave Washington before acting.
Third, we must continue to invest in education. As theleaders here with me and about 50 other members of Congress askedlast week, we seek just one day for Congress to consider theeducation measures I have proposed, to pass a plan to provide ourschools with the tools they need -- with 100,000 teachers so we canhave smaller classes in the early grades; with after-school andsummer school programs to help students achieve higher academicstandards; for thousands of modernized schools for the 21st century.
And, fourth, in these last few days, Congress must actto protect, not gut, the environment. Republicans in Congress havesought to slip unacceptable provisions into unrelated bills thatwould cripple wildlife protection, force over-cutting of our nationalforests, deny taxpayers a fair return on oil leasing, thwartcommonsense efforts to address global warming. If they insist onsending these anti-environmental riders to my desk, again I will vetothem.
Fifth, Congress must act to address a range of pressingemergencies that simply cannot wait for a new congressional session-- emergencies including supporting our troops in Bosnia, maintainingour military readiness worldwide, providing assistance to our farmerswho are in real crisis out there, protecting American citizens fromterrorism, and providing resources to address the year 2000 computerproblem.
For two administrations the budget rules under whichboth parties have operated have accommodated such emergencies.Troops in the field and citizens in crisis should never be subject topartisan wrangling. This is what we ought to do. We ought to saveSocial Security first, pass the education program, protect our owneconomy, and do what we should do to lead the world away from worldfinancial crisis, pass the patients' bill of rights, avoid theseenvironmentally destructive riders. There is still time for us toput the people of our country ahead of politics, and I hope we'll doit.
Now I'd like to ask Senator Daschle and CongressmanGephardt to say a word.
SENATOR DASCHLE: Mr. President and Congressman Gephardtand I have had the opportunity in the last couple of hours now totalk again about the critical nature of this remaining week of oursession. Everyone understands that adjournment is scheduled atweek's end. Our Republican leaders have failed to meet theirresponsibilities on an array of issues that the President has justoutlined, but there is still time.
Republicans have not produced a budget for the firsttime in 24 years, but there is still time. The Republicans have nocoherent appropriations strategy. As the President noted, only twoof the 13 appropriations bills have passed. Republicans have failedin that responsibility, but there is still time.
There is no domestic agenda. The President noted thatthey blocked HMO reform. They blocked the opportunity to providesmaller classrooms and school modernization. They blocked teensmoking prohibitions. They blocked minimum wage. They blockedcampaign finance reform. But on some of these issues, perhaps notall, there is still time.
There is no vision for the future among Republicanleaders. They intend to raid Social Security to financeelection-year tax cuts, but we believe on that score time has runout. Democrats will stand united in our determination not to allowSocial Security to be raided for tax cuts. So Republicans need toget to work in the seven days that remain, stop playing politics,pass legislation, and let's make some progress.
It was wrong to shut the Senate down to avoid apatients' bill of rights debate. It was wrong to shut down ouragenda for public schools. It was wrong to kill teen smoking andcampaign finance reform. And it would also be wrong to shut thegovernment down now. No one will be to blame but the Republicanleadership if that were to happen.
What we're announcing again this afternoon is oursincere desire to work with Republican leaders to ensure that thatdoesn't happen. We're prepared to work overtime. We're prepared towork a second shift if necessary. Republicans need to throw out thepartisan playbook and put people's needs ahead of political gain.It's time for them to meet their responsibilities. There is stilltime for that.
REPRESENTATIVE GEPHARDT: Mr. President and SenatorDaschle, we are working our way toward our target for adjournment.And as we do that, I think it's very unfortunate that the SenateRepublican Leader has decided to play show-down politics over agovernment shut-down. The President and congressional Democrats havetime and time again asked the Republicans in Congress to completetheir work by passing a responsible budget to fund the government,but Republicans have wasted the entire year and have left the heavylifting until the last week. There are six days left.
In my view this is the worst Congress that has ever satin the United States Capitol, that has achieved less than anyCongress that we've ever had. This Congress, for the first time in24 years, has not passed a budget since the Budget Act was passed in1974. This Congress would have made the Congress that Harry Trumancalled the "do-nothing Congress" look energetic and good.
We began this session with great promise and high hopes,reforming our health care system with a patients' bill of rights,improving our public schools with 100,000 new teachers, repairingschool buildings, after-school programs, pre-school programs,computers in schools, saving Social Security first, keeping our kidsfrom smoking, reforming our campaign system. Sadly, we haveaccomplished very little for the American people beyond namingairports.
The beginning of the fiscal year was last Thursday. TheRepublicans passed the stay of execution shutting down the governmentto keep it running through this Friday, and there are still nineappropriation bills to be completed in the next five days.
Can the Republican leadership rein in the right wing,the far right wing of the Republican Party so we can avoid ashut-down? The test of the GOP leadership is this: Can they setaside their partisan political agenda in order to advance the realinterests of the nation? If this Congress is unsuccessful inenacting all 13 appropriation bills to keep the government runningthrough next October, it will be a failure of one group in one partof our government and one part only, and that is the Republicanleadership of the Congress.
Democrats are committed, as Tom said, to meet day andnight to do whatever is necessary, to do everything we can to keepthe government open and to finally begin to address some of theseurgent priorities that we feel we should have been talking about andworking on over the last year or year and a half.
Thank you very much.
Q Will there be a government shut-down? And how willit affect the November elections?
REPRESENTATIVE GEPHARDT: As I just said, I reallybelieve if we have a shut-down, just like the last shut-down, it willbe the responsibility of the Republican leadership in the Congress.Thank you very much.