President Clinton: Congress Preparing to Leave Town Without Passing an Education Budget
Thursday, November 2, 2000
Today, as Congress prepares to leave until after the election, President Clinton will express his concern that Congress has chosen to leave town without finishing its work for the American people. He will emphasize his continuing commitment to work with Congress whenever it returns. Since the beginning of September, President Clinton has signed 12 continuing resolutions to extend Congress's budget deadline. Nonetheless, Congress has been unwilling or unable to finish its work. Just this week, it retreated from an agreement on the education budget and six of the 13 budget bills still are not yet law. When Republicans have worked with the Administration and congressional Democrats, we have made progress. Working together, we have passed bills for veterans, housing, agriculture, transportation, and foreign operations; permanent normal trade relations with China; the Older Americans Act; the Ryan White CARE Act, and other important legislation.
CONGRESS WILL LEAVE UNFINISHED BUSINESS BEHIND. Despite bipartisan agreement on many important issues, Congress has not finished a budget or acted on other significant priorities for the American people. Today, Congress is leaving without having acted on many of President Clinton's key proposals.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT PASSED AN EDUCATION BUDGET THAT INVESTS MORE IN AND DEMANDS MORE FROM AMERICA'S SCHOOLS. Earlier this week, the Clinton-Gore Administration had reached consensus with Republican members of the appropriations and education committees that focus on our children . However, this landmark achievement in education is now in jeopardy. Congressional leaders backed away from the agreement after special interests objected to an unrelated provision regarding repetitive stress injuries in the workplace. If important education initiatives continue to be funded by continuing resolutions, rather than by the bipartisan agreement renounced by the Republican leadership, then:
- Nearly 70,000 low-income children will be denied the opportunity to participate in Head Start in preparation for a lifetime of learning;
- Nearly 650,000 children will be denied smaller classes;
- School districts will not receive $1 billion to make urgently needed repairs to school facilities;
- About 850,000 children will be denied safe, enriching after-school learning opportunities;
- Nearly 15,000 school districts will not receive $250 million to improve teacher quality and help put a qualified teacher in every classroom;
- Children in low-performing schools would be denied the benefits of stronger accountability and an additional $116 million investment in proven measures to increase achievement;
- Over 6 million special education students would be denied an additional $1.6 billion in federal help;
- About 600,000 disadvantaged students would be unable to participate in the GEAR UP college preparation initiative; and
- Nearly 4 million needy college students would receive smaller Pell grant scholarships because the maximum award will not increase from $3,300 to $3,800.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT WORKED FOR COMMON GROUND ON TAX CUTS FOR MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILIES. President Clinton has repeatedly called for bipartisan negotiations on tax legislation. Last week, the President proposed a compromise package that reflected the priorities of both parties. Nonetheless, Congress moved forward with a bill that ignores key priorities for America and is now leaving town before finishing its work. As a result, the following pieces of legislation are unresolved:
- Bipartisan Proposals to Improve Long-Term Care and Health Care Coverage. The Republican leadership turned its back on a bipartisan proposal, which was endorsed by the President, to couple his $3,000 tax credit for people with long-term care needs or their caregivers with the Republican deduction for private long-term care insurance premiums with appropriate consumer protections. This initiative, which was endorsed by both AARP and the Health Insurance Association of America, was rejected and replaced by a regressive tax exemption that provides low-income families with half the benefit of the credit. Similarly, the Republican tax bill maintains the deduction for individual health insurance premiums and rejected the President's proposal to convert it to a more equitable refundable tax credit with appropriate insurance reforms. It also failed to incorporate the bipartisan FamilyCare plan that would efficiently and effectively expand affordable health insurance to over 4 million uninsured parents.
- Build and Modernize 6,000 Schools. President Clinton has urged Congress to pass the Nancy Johnson-Charles Rangel legislation to create $25 billion in school modernization bonds. That important bill has 231 sponsors, a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives. House leaders have consistently prevented a vote on Representatives Johnson and Rangel's effort to add school modernization bonds to the Education Savings and School Excellence Act (H.R. 7). President Clinton has also urged Congress to pass legislation for tribal bonds to fund construction of schools serving Native Americans.
- New Markets and Renewal Communities. The bipartisan agreement between the President and Speaker Hastert would spur business investment in our nation's economically distressed urban and rural communities. During this time of unparalleled prosperity, we should make sure that no community is left behind.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT RAISED THE MINIMUM WAGE. In his 1998 State of the Union Address, the President called for raising the minimum wage by $1 over two years to help more than 10 million workers make ends meet. At a time when we are experiencing the longest economic expansion in history, the proposed $1 increase would return the real value of the minimum wage to the level it was in 1982. Full-time workers would receive an annual raise of about $2,000 a year, enough to pay for nearly seven months of groceries or five months of rent. So far, Republican delay on this legislation has cost minimum wage workers over $1,000.
- Over the opposition of Republican leaders, the House passed a $1 increase in the minimum wage by a 282-143 vote on March 9, 2000, with 78 Republicans supporting the measure.
- In the Senate, a clean measure to increase the minimum wage over two years had the support of four Republicans, but failed in a close vote on November 9, 1999. So far, Senate Republican leaders have refused reasonable compromises that would allow the minimum wage to pass.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT PROVIDED LONG-OVERDUE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT FOR MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES. Three out of five Medicare beneficiaries have inadequate or no prescription drug coverage. The President has proposed a voluntary, affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit for all beneficiaries. In addition, he proposed to make Medicare more efficient and competitive, to protect the Medicare surplus from being spent on tax cuts and other priorities, and to add resources to the Trust Fund, extending its life through 2030. The Republican Congress failed to act on any of these policies.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT PASSED A MEANINGFUL PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS. A bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress supports a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights, similar to the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell plan that passed the House overwhelmingly by a vote of 275-151 over a year ago. However, the Senate Republican leadership continues to support an alternative that leaves over 135 million people without protections and doesn't assure that plans are held accountable when they make decisions that harm patients.
- On October 7, 1999, a bipartisan coalition led by Reps. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) and John Dingell (D-MI) and including 68 Republicans won passage of the Patients' Bill of Rights Act in the House.
- On July 15, 1999, the Senate passed weaker legislation that covered only one-third as many Americans in HMOs. It rejected a stronger version on June 8, 2000, despite the support of four Republican senators. With the addition of Democratic Senator Zell Miller from Georgia, a majority of both the House and Senate now supports the Dingell-Norwood plan.
- More than a year after the House passed its bill, the conference committee has still not delivered strong bipartisan legislation. Speaker Hastert originally appointed conferees who opposed the bill and delayed conference committee action until this year.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT PASSED BIPARTISAN MEDICARE / MEDICAID PLAN. The Republican leadership dedicated 43 percent of its ten-year spending to unjustifiably large HMO payment increases with no meaningful accountability provisions. At the same time, it rejected affordable, bipartisan policies to expand coverage to vulnerable populations like uninsured children, children with disabilities, people moving from welfare to work, legal immigrants, and low-income elderly. Despite the bipartisan support from 78 senators, the Republican leadership plan excludes a new Medicaid buy-in option for children with disabilities that would ensure that families do not have to choose between work and health care for their children. It rejected beneficiary proposals passed unanimously by the House Commerce Committee that would extend health insurance to legal immigrant children and pregnant women, improve Medicaid enrollment of uninsured children and low-income seniors, and waive the waiting period for Medicare for people with Lou Gehrig's Disease. The Republican leadership bill also ignored vulnerable provider provisions including more resources for rural providers, teaching hospitals, home health providers, and others.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT ENACTED COMMON-SENSE GUN SAFETY PROTECTIONS. Despite a series of tragic shootings—in our nation's schools, places of worship, day care centers, and workplaces—Congress has stalled passage of common-sense gun safety legislation that passed in the Senate for over one year. During this time period, more than 30,000 Americans, including 10 children per day, lost their lives in gunfire. Congress should save lives by passing sensible gun safety measures to: close the gun show loophole; require child safety locks for handguns; ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips; and bar violent juveniles from owning guns for life.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT PASSED HATE CRIMES LEGISLATION. There is no justification for failing to pass hate crimes legislation this year, which would enhance the Federal government's ability to prosecute violent crimes motivated by race, color, religion, or national origin and would authorize Federal prosecution of crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender, or disability. There have been strong bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate on expanded hate crime legislation:
- On June 20, 2000, the Senate added hate crimes legislation to the Department of Defense authorization bill by a 57-42 vote, with the support of 13 Republicans.
- On September 13, 2000, the House voted to retain hate crimes in that bill, 232-192 with 41 Republicans.
- However, Republican leaders stripped hate crimes before sending the Defense bill to the President.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT REFORMED THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE SYSTEM. This year, the Congress failed once again to adopt comprehensive, meaningful reform of our campaign finance system. In July, the President signed modest but important reporting requirements to stop interest groups from using special "527" tax-exempt status to hide their political spending, and he called on Congress to continue working in a bipartisan fashion to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform. Unfortunately, Congressional leaders failed to take the next step. The American people want meaningful campaign finance reform, and the Congress should not stand in their way.
- On September 10, 1999, the House passed the bipartisan Shays-Meehan reform plan with the support of 54 Republicans.
- The Senate version of that bill has six Republican sponsors, including Senator John McCain. A majority of senators support it, but they haven't been allowed a clean vote. The Senate has not debated the bill in over a year.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT COMPLETED ITS WORK ON NATIONAL SERVICE. In July, the Senate health, education, labor and pensions committee passed a bipartisan national service reauthorization bill, the Jeffords-Kennedy National and Community Service Amendments Act of 2000. Forty-nine of the 50 governors wrote the Republican leadership to urge them to pass the reauthorization of AmeriCorps and other critical national service programs this year. General Colin Powell has continually advocated for Congress to reauthorize this critical bill that provides opportunities for young people to serve their communities. However, the Republican leadership did not bring the bill to a vote, thus refusing to reaffirm and strengthen our nation's commitment to national service and build on the far-reaching benefits of the national service program.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT INSISTED ON FAIRNESS FOR IMMIGRANTS. The President is committed to fairness for immigrants who have been in this country for years, working hard and paying taxes, by enacting legislation addressing injustices under our immigration laws and restoring critical nutrition assistance and health benefits for legal immigrants. Despite bipartisan support for these proposals, the Republican leadership proposal simply does not go far enough to address these injustices and does nothing to restore critical benefits for legal immigrants.
- CONGRESS HAS NOT PROTECTED CIVIL RIGHTS AND WORK FOR EQUAL PAY. President Clinton requested a 13 percent increase to improve civil rights enforcement, bringing the federal commitment to more than $1 billion per year. This initiative provides resources for stepped-up civil rights enforcement, education and outreach at the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development.