Good morning. As we come to the end of this congressional session in 1994, it's clearer than ever that Americans still want to change the way Washington works, and they should.
We've worked hard here for 20 months to make sure Government responds to ordinary citizens, not to organized pressure groups; responds to the national interests, not narrow interests. And we've made some good progress, but there's still a lot more work to do.
Since I became President, we fought to change the culture of our Capital City. We first imposed the toughest ethics rules ever on our own officials. Then we moved to close the tax loopholes that lets lobbyists deduct the costs of their activities. And then our initiative to reinvent Government, led by the Vice President, is already making progress in making Government work better and cost less. We're cutting the size of the Federal Government by 270,000, to its lowest level since John Kennedy was President. Already in our 20 months, there are 70,000 fewer people on the Federal payroll. And we're giving every dime of the money we save in reducing the Federal payroll back to local communities to fight crime. We've also slashed regulations and bureaucracy, speeded up the time Small Business Administration loans get answered. We've changed the way Government buys products to make it cheaper and more efficient. We've given 17 States permission to change the rules so they can move more folks from welfare to work.
Despite all these steps forward, our political system is still too often an obstacle to change, not an instrument of progress. One big reason is that here in Washington there are some 80,000 paid lobbyists who work to influence the Government. In the last year, we've certainly seen how well-organized, lavishly funded campaigns by people protecting their narrow interests work.
The gun lobby nearly derailed the crime bill strongly supported by police and prosecutors, just because it banned 19 assault weapons from our streets, weapons designed only to kill people, and in spite of the fact that the crime bill protected 650 hunting and sporting weapons from any Federal restrictions.
The foes of health care reform have spent $300 million, by most estimates, to oppose change. By all accounts, this was the most intense lobbying campaign in history. But rest assured, we're not giving up on our fight for health care reform, for universal coverage, cost controls, and protecting small businesses and the people who have health insurance now from losing it.
This week we're working to pass a major reform bill that Congress still has time to act on, a bill that will go a long way toward taking Government out of the hands of the influence industry. The legislation, for the first time ever, would require lobbyists to fully disclose who they work for, how much they're paid, and what they're seeking to get out of Government. That's not all it does. It also prevents lobbyists from buying Members of Congress meals, gifts, or vacations. All in all, it's very tough, and it will change the way Washington does business.
Not surprisingly, a lot of Washington's lobbyists don't like this bill very much. It takes away their special access and puts ordinary people on a more equal footing. And now at the last minute, some are trying to defeat lobby reform with bogus arguments.
Last Thursday, the House of Representatives stood up to intense pressure and passed lobby reform by a large margin. This week, it's the Senate's turn. The lobbyists and their allies will throw up a lot of rhetoric about how this bill hurts ordinary people. Don't you believe it. It's bad news for people who use paid professional lobbyists to influence legislation and don't want you to know what they're doing. That's all it does, and that's why the Senate should pass it immediately.
I've fought for reforms like this my entire public career. When I was Governor of Arkansas, after years of trying to pass lobby reform through the legislature, I went to the people of my State, and we passed a tough bill by a popular vote. I advocated this measure when I ran for President, and I've worked for it ever since. I am confident it will become law.
There's another bill Congress should pass before it goes home. This would apply the laws Congress passes to govern the rest of America to Congress itself. That's just common sense, and it's only fair. But believe it or not, it doesn't always hold up today. The people who make laws for the private sector should be willing to live under the laws they make. That's what this law would require.
Even these important changes, however, won't complete the task of political reform. The way we fund campaigns gives too much power to special interests and too often drowns out the voice of the people. We had a good chance to change that. But yesterday, once more, a Senate filibuster defeated campaign finance reform. I was very disappointed by this result. The campaign finance reform bill was a strong bill. It gave real reform. It would have limited spending in congressional races, curbed the political action committees, opened the airwaves to honest debate, and closed the so-called soft money loophole in our Presidential election system.
The fight for campaign reform isn't over, either. We'll return to it next year with redoubled determination to get this job done. The American people demand it.
Since I became President, we've made real progress in turning our country around, in getting our economic house in order, fighting crime, making Government work for ordinary people. Our comprehensive economic strategy cut our deficit drastically and for 3 years in a row for the first time since Mr. Truman was President. We've expanded trade with Mexico, negotiated a worldwide trade agreement, improved the education and training of our work force. We've got 4.3 million new jobs in just 20 months, and our country's rated the most productive in the world for the first time in 9 years. We've also enacted a tough crime bill. And we've begun with reinventing Government, the effort to make Government work for ordinary people.
But to finish this work, we need to keep changing the way Government does the people's business. Let's keep forward in the fight for political reform. We need your help on that.
Thanks very much.