Remarks by the President on Signing Labor/HHS Budget Bill (12/21/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

               Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release              December 21, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                             Presidential Hall
              Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building

2:03 P.M. EST

          THE PRESIDENT:  Sit down.  Thank you.  You just have to do what I
ask for a few more days.  (Laughter.)

          First, I'd like to thank the very large delegation from the
United States Congress and both parties who are here -- Senator Specter,
Senator Conrad, Senator Dorgan; from the House, Chairman Goodling,
Representative Obey, Representative Kildee, Representative Kelly,
Representative Talent, Representative Porter, Lowey and Clement.  Did I get
everybody?  (Laughter.)

          I'd like to thank the Mayor of Philadelphia, John Street, for
joining us; and our neighbor, the Prince George's County Executive Wayne
Curry; and the members of the Cabinet who are here -- Secretaries Riley,
Shalala, Summers, Herman, Slater; EPA Director Browner; SBA Director
Alvarez.  Did I leave anybody out?  Chief of Staff Podesta, and my Economic
Advisor Gene Sperling.  And I'd like to thank Jack Lew and Sylvia Mathews,
and all the people on the budget team who worked so hard at OMB for this.

          This is a good day for our country.  For eight years now, we have
worked in this administration to prepare our country for the new century,
in a whole new era of human affairs, by building a nation in which there is
opportunity for every responsible citizen, a community of all Americans,
and a nation that leads the world toward greater peace and freedom and

          Today we have two more examples of that in implementing our
strategy of trying to make the right, real choices for America and not be
trapped in the old, false choices.

          Earlier today, this morning, we announced new steps to preserve
our environment by cleaning our air -- steps that will protect the health
of all Americans by dramatically reducing pollution from trucks and buses
powered by diesel fuel, building on the announcements last year to reduce
pollution from cars and sports utility vehicles.

          Together, these measures will preserve our environment and
protect thousands of children from the agony of asthma and other
respiratory diseases.  By the end of the decade, because of these steps,
every new vehicle sold in the United States will be up to 95 percent
cleaner than those rolling off the assembly line today.

          Again, this was the right, real choice, proving once again that
we can grow the economy and improve the environment at the same time.  And
I want to thank Carol Browner for her work on this.  She's here.  Thank
you.  (Applause.)

          Now, in a few moments it will be my honor to sign the very last
budget bill I will sign as President.  And in so many ways, it could truly
be said, we saved the best for last.  This bill is called The Labor-HHS
Appropriation bill.  But more than anything else, it's a bill about these
children behind me today, about their hopes, their dreams, their capacity
to learn and their need to learn about their future and the future of our

          Again, it is further proof, as the evidence of these
distinguished members of Congress from both parties prove, that when we put
progress ahead of partisanship, there's no limit to what we can do for
America and our future.

          We are now in the longest economic expansion in our history.  A
critical part of our strategy to get there was to put our fiscal house in
order, to replace record deficits with record surpluses.  With this budget,
in spite of the investments -- and I would argue because, in part, of past
investments -- we are going to be able to pay off another $200 billion of
our national debt, on track to paying down $560 billion of the national
debt over the last four years and this year.  (Applause.)

          And because, together, we made the right, real choices, we were
able to increase investment in the things that matter most.  That's what
this budget bill does today.  And let me just begin with education.

          Under Secretary Riley's leadership, we have worked hard to make
the right real choice -- to have more investment and higher standards, more
accountability and spend the money on the things that the educators tell us
work best.

          Test scores are up today with some of the greatest gains coming
in some of the most disadvantaged communities.  Two-thirds of our high
school graduates are going on to college.  That's up 10 percent from 1993.
In the last few years, there has been a 300-percent increase in the number
of Hispanic students taking advance placement courses, and a 500-percent
increase in the number of African American students doing so.

          With the largest student enrollment in our entire history, and
the most diverse student body in our entire history, education must be
priority number one for any administration.  With this budget, while
turning the largest deficits in history into the largest surpluses, we also
will have more than doubled the funding for education during the life of
this administration.  (Applause.)  This, clearly, is the biggest and best
education budget in our nation's history.  And it will make a difference in
the lives of millions of young people.  Let me just give a couple of

          Our first-ever initiative to renovate classrooms will mean that,
over time, millions of children will attend more modern, more dignified,
more functional schools.  This is about moving out of house trailers and
it's about going to school in old buildings that provide modern education.

          With $1.6 billion on its way to help communities with smaller
classrooms, we will help roughly 2 million children learn in smaller
classes, with more individualized attention in the early grades.  With
nearly $1 billion for Head Start, the largest increase in history, we'll
have more than doubled the program, adding 60,000 more kids to this quality
pre-school program this year alone.

          There is a dramatic increase in child care in this budget that,
along with the child care funds provided in welfare reform, will help more
than 2.2 million kids next year, an increase in nearly a million just since
1997.  By over doubling funding for after-school programs, we are providing
650,000 more students with a safe place to learn, bringing to 1.3 million
the number of young people benefiting from this after-school initiative,
something that did not even exist four years ago.

          With another major increase in the GEAR-UP program, 1.2 million
disadvantaged children will now be preparing for college as early as the
sixth grade.  Together, with one of the largest increases in the TRIO
program ever, we are building greater pathways to college for economically
disadvantaged young people.
          This bill has the largest increase ever in Pell grants.  We've
now increased the maximum grant by nearly $1,500 since 1993, for four
million young people every year from low and moderate income families.
This significant expansion of Pell grants is part of the biggest expansion
in college aid since the G.I. Bill, including the Direct Student Loan
program, which has saved students $8 billion already in loan repayment
costs, and the HOPE Scholarship tax cut, which 10 million families are
benefiting from this year.

          I want to say to all of you who worked on this -- to Chairman
Goodling and Mr. Kildee, Mr. Obey, all the other members of the House; and
to you, Senator Specter, and the other senators who are here; and most of
all to you, Secretary Riley, who is now the longest serving, and, I
believe, clearly the finest Education Secretary our country has ever had --
I thank you all very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  This education budget
is a real tribute to the bipartisan work of this Congress, and I'm very

          The budget also makes good on our commitment to help every
community share in our nation's prosperity.  This is a big deal to me, and
also to America's future.  About 18 months ago, I began the first of what I
called New Markets tours, to shine a spotlight on people and places that
had been left behind in this long and remarkable recovery.  I wanted every
American investor to see the potential of these communities and the promise
of the people who live there.

          I knew that government couldn't do it alone and that, in fact, we
would have to find a way to get more private investment into these
communities.  But I also knew that business could not be expected to go it
alone; that we had to find some way to bring hope and opportunity home to
these communities.

          Now, at the same time, to be fair, there were people in the
Congress who were interested in this who were struggling for some
bipartisan consensus to bring free enterprise to parts of America that have
been left behind.  Among them in the House were Representative Talent, who
is here; and J.C. Watts, and Danny Davis who represents Chicago, but, like
me, was born in Arkansas.  And there were other groups that were looking at

          So we all worked together to give you a budget that delivers
something that I believe is truly unique and significant.  It includes the
landmark New Markets and Community Renewal initiative.  It's the most
significant effort ever to help hard-pressed areas, both rural and urban,
to lift themselves up through private investment and entrepreneurship.  It
is a triumph of bipartisanship, and again, I want to thank those whom I
just mentioned -- especially you, Mr. Talent -- and I want to thank the
Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who went to Chicago with me and
Reverend Jackson, and without whom we could not have passed this important

          Here's what it does.  First, it establishes the first-ever New
Markets tax credit.  It sets up a New Market venture capital initiative.
Now, what does all that mean?  It basically means if we can get people to
put money into really depressed areas, all the rest of America will share
part of the risk by giving them a tax credit to do it.  And it's a darn
good investment.

          We also expanded and strengthened 40 empowerment zones.  That's
the program our administration has run for the last eight years under the
able leadership of Vice President Gore.  And we created 40 renewal
communities across our nation -- that's an alternative designed essentially
by Republicans in the House, with the Democrats who worked with them, and
we decided that since nobody knows how to do this, we ought to try in 40
places with each approach and see which one works better, and see what
works better with each approach.  It's a terrific idea.  And I only wish I
was going to be around when all the results come in.  (Laughter.)

          But over the next -- sometime over the next, I'd say, two to four
years, probably more like a four-year period, we'll actually have evidence
of what happened in the 40 empowerment zones, what happened in the 40
renewal communities; that Congress will take the evidence, and I hope, as a
result of that evidence, will then enact legislation that will permanently
establish a framework for always encouraging America to invest in the areas
that otherwise would be left behind.

          If, like me, you've spent a lot of time in the Mississippi Delta
or Appalachia or inner-city neighborhoods or on Native American
reservations, you doubtless have concluded, as I have, that intelligence is
pretty equally distributed throughout this country, and so is the work
ethic.  But we have not yet equally distributed opportunity and access to
capital.  We're trying to figure out how to do it.  This is a truly
historic day, and we did it together, and I am very grateful.  (Applause.)
Thank you.

          This budget also does more to improve health care and to
strengthen families and community.  And again, I want to thank the members
of Congress who are here who had primary responsibility for the health care
issues, and Secretary Shalala, who has also been with me from day one.  And
we were together yesterday with our sweeping health care privacy

          She may be the only one of us that is absolutely convinced she is
getting a promotion, because she's going to become president of the
University of Miami -- (laughter) -- and she gets a football team, which
she does not have in her present job.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

          This budget includes options for states to enroll tens of
thousands of uninsured children in the Medicaid program by using schools,
public housing, and other sites easily acceptable to parents and children.

          Let me explain why this is important.  We have got 2.5 -- since
the Congress -- in the balanced budget bill, Congress adopted the CHIP
program, the Children's Health Insurance Program, 1997.  Since then, 2.5*
kids have been enrolled.  And as a result, this year, for the first time in
12 years, the number of people without health insurance in the United
States went down -- for the first time in 12 years.  But the money is there
for five million kids to be enrolled.  And we know, from the evidence of
all of the states that have been particularly vigorous that if we can just
find the kids, their parents will sign up.

          This program provides funds so that we can do CHIP enrollment in
schools, public housing and other places where the people are.  It also
provides options for states to help low-income seniors enroll in programs
that cover their Medicare premiums and co-payments.  It provides critical
support to those moving from welfare to work by ensuring that working does
not mean losing your health care.  It ensures quality health care services
for people on Medicare by investing about $30 billion in hospitals, home
health agencies, hospices, nursing homes and managed care plants.

          This is very important.  I admire the Congress for doing this.
We adopted the Balanced Budget Act in '97.  We adopted some substantive
changes in our Medicare program that we thought would produce a certain
level of savings.  They produced more savings than we estimated, at great
cost to the quality

* 2.5 million

health care, or the capacity of our providers to do it.  So they asked us
to make some corrections, and we did.  And that's what this is.  It's a
very, very good thing for America.

          The other thing this bill does, that I think will be very
important to people for a very long time, is that it expands preventive
benefits, like cancer and glaucoma screenings for Medicare beneficiaries.
It creates a new program to provide people with disabilities with
community-based health care services, and it increases fundings for AIDS
prevention, research and treatment.

          Also, it includes a $20.3 billion investment in bio-medical
research, nearly doubling since 1993 our investment in the National
Institutes of Health.  And I would like to say a special word of thanks to
a retiring member of Congress, Representative John Porter, who's been a
great leader in this.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

          The bill provides $11.9 billion in funding for the Department of
Labor, for funding from job training to eliminating abusive child labor
practices and promoting education around the world.  Nearly 900,000
dislocated workers will receive support and assistance in their efforts to
return to work.

          Secretary Herman's here.  I'd like to thank her for many things,
and eight years of service in this administration, four in the White House
and then the Secretary of Labor.  But one of the relatively little noticed,
but I think profoundly important initiatives that this administration has
undertaken is to try to eliminate abusive child labor in the United States
and everywhere it exists in the world.  And I thank you for your leadership
in that regard.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.

          Finally, the bill would allow nearly 700,000 immigrants who have
worked, lived and paid taxes in the United States for years to stay here
legally without fear of being separated from their families.

          When I outlined our budget priorities in the State of the Union
last January, I urged Congress to work with me to pass a fiscally
responsible budget that would be true to our values and invest in the
capacity and future of the American people.  I recall the good advice of
President Theodore Roosevelt, who said that a growing nation with a future
takes the long look ahead.  This budget takes the long look ahead -- to
educate our children, renew our communities, and build our common future.
I am very proud of it, and very grateful.  If we stay on this course, our
best days are ahead.

          Thank you very much.

                           END        2:25 P.M. EST

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