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Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference in Little Rock Announcing the Nomination of Lloyd Bentsen as Secretary of the Treasury

December 10, 1992

PRESIDENT-ELECT BILL CLINTON Today, I have asked you here to announce the first members of our economic team. These people are seasoned, skilled, incredibly able and ready to work for the American people. I stress the word "team" because the success of our economic action agenda will depend not only on the talents of these people as individuals and those whom I will announce in the next few days, but also in their capacity to work together for the common good of all Americans.

They are deeply aware that we must not be the first generation of Americans to leave a worse economy to our children. And as I have said repeatedly, our nation faces two deficits, a budget deficit and an investment deficit.

I'm going to work my heart out with these people to construct a strong, long-term plan for economic growth, for jobs, for incomes, and to reduce our national debt.

My first appointment, intentionally, is the Secretary of the Treasury. In filling this post, I wanted someone who had the unique capacity to command the respect of Wall Street, which showing an unrelenting concern for the Americans who make their living on Main Street.

When Lloyd Bentsen agreed to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, it is safe to say I succeeded. In American politics when you say the words "stature, dignity, and respects," Lloyd Bentsen's name comes right to mind. I've known Senator Bentsen for many years, and, as a few of my folks know, I've had him in mind for this position for a long time, long before I was actually elected President.

I followed his work for years as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; I know about the tax bills he tried to have written into law, which would have promoted more investment and less consumption; I know about the trade positions he's tried to convince our country to take which would have promoted more free trade but a tougher set of demand to open markets to American products.

But he, too, needs a team, and the team that will take the helm at the Treasury Department is truly exceptional, in part because of the creativity and quality of the person who will be appointed as deputy secretary of the Treasury, Roger Altman. Roger is a longtime friend of mine, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury, a preeminent investment banker. And he's been one of my closest economic advisers throughout this entire campaign.

As director of the Office of Management and Budget, Congressman Leon Panetta will bring integrity to this critical office and restore the confidence of the American people and their elected representatives that O.M.B. is shooting straight with the Congress and shooting straight with the American people, and doing its best to help us not only to have a responsible budget but to manage the massive American Government in a different and better way than ever before.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Leon Panetta brought a unique combination of strong leadership and superb technical skills. With Leon Panetta as O.M.B. director, I believe that agency can play the pivotal role we have to have it play in the swift and effective implementation of our economic plan.

I'm also delighted to announce that Alice Rivlin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office and one of our nation's most respected budget experts, has agreed to serve as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Together, Alice and Leon promise to be the most dynamic team in the history of O.M.B. and to restore the confidence of the Congress that the executive branch is going to be a responsible partner in making the budgets of this country.

Finally, I have asked Robert Rubin to serve as assistant to the President for economic policy and to help to coordinate and to direct our new Economic Council. I've created this new role, similar to that of the national security adviser in the present White House, because the coordination of our nation's economic policy is every bit as essential as the coordination of foreign policy to our long-term national security.

Bob Rubin has enjoyed a brilliant career at his firm, and has throughout manifested concern for the welfare of all Americans, and a special concern for the welfare of the inner city poor for whom he has worked as a member of the Cuomo Commission and in other contexts. This new Economic Council which I will chair embodies our commitment to make economic prosperity the top priority of this administration and to sharply focus on economic policy in the White House.

Today's appointments are just the first of many. In the coming days and before too long, we will have appointed the entire economic team and the remainder of the Cabinet. When we are done, the American people know that I mean business when it comes to our campaign commitment to promote a high way, high growth, strong and vital economy, not only for today's Americans, but for the future generations as well.


Q: Can you tell us, who will be taking orders from whom -- Mr. Rubin from Mr. Bentsen, or Mr. Bentsen from Mr. Rubin? It's not quite clear what each one will be doing here.

PRESIDENT-ELECT CLINTON Well, I think it is quite clear. First of all, the Secretary of the Treasury will continue to be the principal economic spokesperson after the President for this Administration, just as it has traditionally occurred. Mr. Rubin's job will be very much like General Scowcroft's job on the national security side in this Administration. His job will be to coordinate, to facilitate and to provide some direction to the deliberations of our economic council.

It will be a larger group than the National Security Council because it will include not only these departments, but also some others which I have discussed with you before, like Commerce, Labor, Energy. And it is a very important job.

But in the end, I will make the ultimate decisions and be the ultimate arbiter when there has to be an arbiter. I think that if you go back to the campaign structure that we tried to provide, which really did defy past organizations because it was less hierarchical and more team work oriented, that's what I expect to provide here.

And I think that because we want to bring in more people in a more systematic way and reconcile what these departments are doing so they can reinforce and energy one another, I decided that I needed someone on the domestic side to be that sort of coordinator and facilitator but these departments, each will stand on their own. . . . The Treasury will still be the place where the President's economic views are spoken for after the President does it.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN I've heard all these stories about my being an insider. Let me tell you, I felt like an outsider for 12 years. And I'm tired of the gridlock.

To do the things we've tried to do on campaign reform, do the things we tried to do on a tough crime bill, to do the things that we did in the last tax bill, to put economic incentives in there to create jobs, and to get this country moving again, and to see those kinds of things vetoed, I'm just delighted to see us be able to bring about the kind of change, to create those jobs now, with a Democratic President, a Democratic President like Bill Clinton.

I think you're going to see those hopes turn into reality. And to be able to pass those and put them into law is what I'm so pleased about.

And as far as the Secretary of the Treasury's job, I know you're probably looking for more maturity in that job. But I'll do what I can.

REPRESENTATIVE LEON E. PANETTA I think everyone that knows me as chairman of the Budget Committee and my work on the budget, we've been basically fighting the budgets that have been presented over the last 12 years concerned about the priorities that we part of those budgets, the failure to invest in our society, and the fact that they would ultimately produce the record deficits that they have produced.

So I've been fighting against those kinds of budgets in the time I've been in Congress, and I think the President-elect and I share a common commitment, not only to long-term deficit reduction, but to making the investments in education and health care and infrastructure and growth that this Administration has failed to make over the last few years.

Q: Governor Clinton, and also Senator Bentsen, for both of you, were you at all concerned in picking Senator Bentsen that his choice might lead to the loss of yet another Democratic Senate seat in Texas that might make your job of getting your program passed harder? And Senator Bentsen, did that play any part in your decision whether to take this position?

SENATOR BENTSEN Obviously that's something that would be of some concern to me. But the Democratic Party in Texas is in great shape and we have a very effective and attractive Governor who will be making that decision and that choice and who will play a major role in that campaign and I think the odds are just excellent that a Democrat will succeed me in that spot.

PRESIDENT-ELECT CLINTON I did give it some thought. It crossed my mind. I think that frankly the kind of leadership that has been provided in Texas by people like Ann Richards, Henry Cisneros, John Sharp, that they and many others have embodied the kind of new Democratic Party that we're trying to bring to the United States. And I think there's a good chance that Governor Richards will name someone senator who will have the confidence of the people of Texas. I thought about it. But I also thought that Senator Bentsen was the best choice for America for Treasury Secretary and I think the people of Texas will respond to that. But I don't think there's any reason to believe that the Democrats can't be highly competitive in that job.

Q: The Justice Department has decided not to appoint a special prosecutor in the Iraqgate case. Do you believe that there is a need for additional inquiries in that? And will you appoint, have your Justice Department appoint, a special prosecutor after you take office?

PRESIDENT-ELECT CLINTON I certainly think we need to know more about it than we now know. And what I intend to do is to appoint an Attorney General and then get a recommendation on it. And generically, let me make a statement, the special prosecutor law, as you know, either just did or is about to expire and I had to tell you, I think it should be reenacted. And I will support that.

William J. Clinton, Excerpts of the President-Elect's News Conference in Little Rock Announcing the Nomination of Lloyd Bentsen as Secretary of the Treasury Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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