Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval Budget Reconciliation Legislation
To the House of Representatives:
I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 2491, the budget reconciliation bill adopted by the Republican majority, which seeks to make extreme cuts and other unacceptable changes in Medicare and Medicaid, and to raise taxes on millions of working Americans.
As I have repeatedly stressed, I want to find common ground with the Congress on a balanced budget plan that will best serve the American people. But, I have profound differences with the extreme approach that the Republican majority has adopted. It would hurt average Americans and help special interests.
My balanced budget plan reflects the values that Americans share—work and family, opportunity and responsibility. It would protect Medicare and retain Medicaid's guarantee of coverage; invest in education and training and other priorities; protect public health and the environment; and provide for a targeted tax cut to help middle-income Americans raise their children, save for the future, and pay for postsecondary education. To reach balance, my plan would eliminate wasteful spending, streamline programs, and end unneeded subsidies; take the first, serious steps toward health care reform; and reform welfare to reward work.
By contrast, H.R. 2491 would cut deeply into Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, and nutrition programs; hurt the environment; raise taxes on millions of working men and women and their families by slashing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and provide a huge tax cut whose benefits would flow disproportionately to those who are already the most well-off.
Moreover, this bill creates new fiscal pressures. Revenue losses from the tax cuts grow rapidly after 2002, with costs exploding for provisions that primarily benefit upper-income taxpayers. Taken together, the revenue losses for the 3 years after 2002 for the individual retirement account (IRA), capital gains, and estate tax provisions exceed the losses for the preceding 6 years.
Title VIII would cut Medicare by $270 billion over 7 years—by far the largest cut in Medicare's 30-year history. While we need to slow the rate of growth in Medicare spending, I believe Medicare must keep pace with anticipated increases in the costs of medical services and the growing number of elderly Americans. This bill would fall woefully short and would hurt beneficiaries, over half of whom are women. In addition, the bill introduces untested, and highly questionable, Medicare "choices" that could increase risks and costs for the most vulnerable beneficiaries.
Title VII would cut Federal Medicaid payments to States by $163 billion over 7 years and convert the program into a block grant, eliminating guaranteed coverage to millions of Americans and putting States at risk during economic downturns. States would face untenable choices: cutting benefits, dropping coverage for millions of beneficiaries, or reducing provider payments to a level that would undermine quality service to children, people with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women, and others who depend on Medicaid. I am also concerned that the bill has inadequate quality and income protections for nursing home residents, the developmentally disabled, and their families, and that it would eliminate a program that guarantees immunizations to many children.
Title IV would virtually eliminate the Direct Student Loan Program, reversing its significant progress and ending the participation of over 1,300 schools and hundreds of thousands of students. These actions would hurt middle- and low-income families, make student loan programs less efficient, perpetuate unnecessary red tape, and deny students and schools the freemarket choice of guaranteed or direct loans.
Title V would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling, threatening a unique, pristine ecosystem, in hopes of generating $1.3 billion in Federal revenues—a revenue estimate based on wishful thinking and outdated analysis. I want to protect this biologically rich wilderness permanently. I am also concerned that the Congress has chosen to use the reconciliation bill as a catch-all for various objectionable natural resource and environmental policies. One would retain the notorious patenting provision whereby the government transfers billions of dollars of publicly owned minerals at little or no charge to private interests; another would transfer Federal land for a low-level radioactive waste site in California without public safeguards.
While making such devastating cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and other vital programs, this bill would provide huge tax cuts for those who are already the most well-off. Over 47 percent of the tax benefits would go to families with incomes over $100,000—the top 12 percent. The bill would provide unwarranted benefits to corporations and new tax breaks for special interests. At the same time, it would raise taxes, on average, for the poorest one-fifth of all families.
The bill would make capital gains cuts retroactive to January 1, 1995, providing a windfall of $13 billion in about the first 9 months of 1995 alone to taxpayers who already have sold their assets. While my Administration supports limited reform of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), this bill's cuts in the corporate AMT would not adequately ensure that profitable corporations pay at least some Federal tax. The bill also would encourage businesses to avoid taxes by stockpiling foreign earnings in tax havens. And the bill does not include my proposal to close a loophole that allows wealthy Americans to avoid taxes on the gains they accrue by giving up their U.S. citizenship. Instead, it substitutes a provision that would prove ineffective.
While cutting taxes for the well-off, this bill would cut the EITC for almost 13 million working families. It would repeal part of the scheduled 1996 increase for taxpayers with two or more children, and end the credit for workers who do not live with qualifying children. Even after accounting for other tax cuts in this bill, about eight million families would face a net tax increase.
The bill would threaten the retirement benefits of workers and increase the exposure of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation by making it easy for companies to withdraw taxfavored pension assets for nonpension purposes. It also would raise Federal employee retirement contributions, unduly burdening Federal workers. Moreover, the bill would eliminate the lowincome housing tax credit and the community development corporation tax credit, which address critical housing needs and help rebuild communities. Finally, the bill would repeal the tax credit that encourages economic activity in Puerto Rico. We must not ignore the real needs of our citizens in Puerto Rico, and any legislation must contain effective mechanisms to promote job creation in the islands.
Title XII includes many welfare provisions. I strongly support real welfare reform that strengthens families and encourages work and responsibility. But the provisions in this bill, when added to the EITC cuts, would cut lowincome programs too deeply. For welfare reform to succeed, savings should result from moving people from welfare to work, not from cutting people off and shifting costs to the States. The cost of excessive program cuts in human terms—to working families, single mothers with small children, abused and neglected children, low-income legal immigrants, and disabled children—would be grave. In addition, this bill threatens the national nutritional safety net by making unwarranted changes in child nutrition programs and the national food stamp program.
The agriculture provisions would eliminate the safety net that farm programs provide for U.S. agriculture. Title I would provide windfall payments to producers when prices are high, but not protect family farm income when prices are low. In addition, it would slash spending for agricultural export assistance and reduce the environmental benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program.
For all of these reasons, and for others detailed in the attachment, this bill is unacceptable.
Nevertheless, while I have major differences with the Congress, I want to work with Members to find a common path to balance the budget in a way that will honor our commitment to senior citizens, help working families, provide a better life for our children, and improve the standard of living of all Americans.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
The White House, December 6, 1995.
William J. Clinton, Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval Budget Reconciliation Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/221138