President's Remarks on Legislative Agenda (9/5/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

              Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release               September 5, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                         ON THE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

                              The Rose Garden

12:07 P.M.

          THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  First of all, I want to thank Senator
Daschle and Leader Gephardt for the work they have done and the statements
they have made.  And I also want to thank Senator Reid and Representative
Bonior for their role in the leadership of our party in the House and
Senate.  And Mr. Podesta and Mr. Lew and Secretary Summers and others were
in the meeting that we've just completed.

          What we're trying to say is that we are committed to breaking the
legislative logjam.  But we have to move forward with fiscal
responsibility, with responsible tax cuts and with public investments that
give all our people a chance and fuel our prosperity.  For seven-and-a-half
years now, we have followed that program and it has worked very well for
America.  It has paid enormous dividends.

          Unfortunately, the strategy pursued by the Republican leaders in
Congress, I believe, would squander that remarkable success.  Month by
month and bill by bill, they are attempting to spend our projected surplus
for years to come, an estimated $2 trillion, on massive and reckless tax
cuts for the privileged few.  This isn't fiscally responsible, it isn't
fair, and it doesn't even take into account that costs that would follow on
their plans to partially privatize Social Security or any spending promises
they have made to the American people in this election season.

          I believe we owe it to our children to stay on course, to pay off
the national debt over the next 12 years.  If we do it, interest rates will
stay low, businesses can grow, generations will know that Social Security
and Medicare will be there for them.  And, I might add, as the Council of
Economic Advisors reported to me, it amounts to a tax cut, because paying
off the debt, as opposed to spending it all, will keep interest rates, at a
minimum -- one percent lower a year, over the next decade -- and that is
worth $250 billion to the average American families in this country in
lower home mortgages, $30 billion in lower car payments, and $15 billion in
lower college loan payments.  So that's a $300-billion tax cut real people
get, just by doing the right thing.  I think it's important that we never
forget that.

          As Dick said, the American people want us to address the pressing
issues that affect their daily lives.  Yesterday, we celebrated Labor Day.
Today, it's time to honor the labor of the American people who sent us
here.  We should do it by raising the minimum wage by a dollar.  Congress
should stop holding up the process, and make it the first order of

          We should also have sensible tax cuts, in the areas of health
care, college tuition, long-term care, the environment, and of course the
new markets tax cut, which is a tax cut that all of us support for upper
income people, to encourage them to invest in lower-income people in lower
income neighborhoods that have been left behind by our prosperity.

          Congress should pass a strong patients' bill of rights, and
Senator Daschle, I hope we'll hear that comment that you said over and over
again, that the Republican National Committee, the Senate Committee has now
identified our bill as the real patient's bill of rights, and I want to
thank them for that, and ask them to vote accordingly, now that we're back
in business.

          Americans and people with disabilities should not have to wait
another year, for an affordable voluntary medicare prescription drug
benefit.  The money is there.  We ought not to be wasting a lot of time
seeing how much we could parse down what is something clearly a life or
death matter for so many Americans.  Our nation's 44 million uninsured
citizens shouldn't have to wait for a significant expansion of health care.

          We have a proposal on the table that would allow the states to
enroll the parents of children who are eligible for our children's health
insurance program.  We have a proposal on the table that would allow people
between the ages of 55 and 65 to enroll in Medicare if they lose their
previous health insurance and give them a tax credit to make it affordable.
Now, these proposals could take care of 25 percent -- and I might say the
most needy -- 25 percent of those 44 million Americans without health
insurance.  We have the money to do it.

          We need to keep working to put 50,000 more police on the street.
The 100,000 police program has worked very well.  We have the lowest
violent crime rate in 27 years now and we need to keep doing what has
worked.  We should also pass common sense gun safety legislation and I hope
the hate crimes bill.  I applaud the Senate for passing the hate crimes
legislation, including the Republicans who joined our unanimous Democratic
caucus in voting for it -- or virtually unanimous -- and I hope that the
House will follow suit.

          We need to strip out the anti-environmental riders and press for
cleaner air and cleaner water.  We need to pass the measures that will
enable the American people to combat global warming and we need to approve
permanent conservation funding to protect our natural heritage.  We also
need to strengthen our laws for providing for equal pay for equal work,
pass debt relief for the emerging democracies, normalize trade relations
with China.

          Most important, we should not forget that the Congress comes back
at the beginning of the school year and there are pressing educational
needs for America.  The children of this country need more teachers and
smaller classes in modern classrooms.  We need to continue to support
100,000 good new teachers to reduce class size and we need Congress to
determine finally we're going to do our part to help the school districts
of this country replace broken down buildings and trailers with modern

          Again, I will say -- we believe in sensible tax cuts for middle
class families that make education and long-term care more affordable, not
cuts that threaten our prosperity.

          Last week, I vetoed the Republican estate tax repeal, not because
I don't favor reform of the estate tax laws, but because absolute repeal is
not fiscally responsible and it's not fair.  It was a budget buster that
ignored 98 percent of America's families.

          Now, later this week, the Republicans say they are going to vote
to try to override my veto of the estate tax repeal.  Needless to say, the
small number of people that are affected have an enormous amount of
influence, especially if they can convince a lot of other people that they
are affected by the law.  But I think it's very important for the American
people to remember something else about the estate tax repeal.  It is not a
bill standing on its own.

          Many of these bills they've passed -- it's very much -- what
they've done this year is better politically for them than what they did
last year.  Last year, they sent me a bill down here that was obviously
very big and unwieldy and uneffective.

          This year, as Mr. Gephardt said, they're sending them down here
in discrete bills.  And every one of them appeals to some constituency or
another.  But when you add them all up, it's still part of a $2-trillion
plan that would wipe out the entire projected budget surplus.  And I will
say again, that is before we agreed to take Medicare spending off budget,
the Medicare taxes, before they had to pay for a privatization plan for
Social Security and before they had to pay for any of their spending plans,
they take away all the money that the country would have in a balanced
budget to invest in education and health care and the environment for a
decade.  It is wrong.

          Now, they've got a right to try to override any veto that I make;
that's the way that the Constitution works.  But I wish they would try just
as hard to muster up the two-thirds to raise the minimum wage for people
that are working 40 hours a week.  (Applause.)  The students that are still
sitting in crowded classrooms and trailers, the patients fighting for the
health care they need, the seniors struggling to pay for prescription

          You know, if my health holds up, I'll probably be one of those
people that will be fortunate enough to have some estate tax to pay one
day, or my heirs will.  But I'd kind of like to see us spend a little time,
we seem to spend all of our time fighting in Congress, over what they want
to do to help people who, like me, that America has been very good to.  I
think we ought to spend a little more time working on the minimum wage, the
schoolchildren, the people that need the patient's bill of rights, the
seniors who need the prescription drugs.

          This is a great and good country.  We should be fair to
everybody.  I'm for changes in the estate tax.  All of us are, they all
voted for it, but the Republicans wanted an issue.  They want it to be an
all or nothing thing.  I just don't think that the most fortunate people in
this country should be the only ones that are considered here.

          I think the folks that don't have anybody up here lobbying for
them, and the folks that don't have the ability to contribute to any of our
campaigns, but to keep this country going day in and day out, their kids
deserve a good education too, their parents deserve medicine too, and they
deserve to have the protections that the patient's bill of rights gives,
that the rest of us can buy.  That's what I believe, and we've got five
weeks to give it to them, and we ought to just saddle up and do it.  Thank
you very much.

                             END   12:20 P.M. EDT

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E