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Remarks on Signing the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995

January 23, 1995

Good morning, everyone. I'm delighted to be joined this morning by Senator Nickles, Senator Ford, Senator Lieberman, Senator Grassley, and Senator Glenn and by Congressman Armey, Congressman Fazio, Congressman Shays, Congressman Gutknecht, and also by former Congressman Dick Swett and former Speaker Foley, who were instrumental in supporting this legislation in the previous session of the Congress where it passed the House but not the Senate.

Let me say that I am extremely pleased, and I think the American people are extremely pleased, that we are beginning the new year with a reform that requires Congress to live under the laws it imposes on the American people. I'm encouraged that we've begun this year with the White House and Congress, with Republicans and Democrats working together on a reform that has long been needed.

Most Americans are actually surprised when they learn that some of our most basic laws don't apply to Congress and their staffs. This legislation ensures that we'll change that. It guarantees that the cafeteria workers and the police who work in Congress and who help millions of tourists every year will have the same rights as all Americans do to a safe environment, to collective bargaining, to civil rights protection.

It does something else that's very important. Over the years, Washington has too often isolated itself from the everyday experience of ordinary Americans. It's become remote from the consequences of the actions Congress takes. I want to end this. Congress clearly wants to end this. Now when Congress passes a law, it will immediately know the consequences of the law if it affects private employers as well.

This will help us reconnect Government to the lives of ordinary Americans. That's why I supported this change when I ran for President and why I have supported it as President. It will help us to do what we must do to continue to fight to bring a reality check to Washington. That's why I worked to cut the White House staff, to eliminate the executive dining rooms, to cut back the widespread use of Government limousines, to reduce the deficit, to shrink the Federal bureaucracy to its smallest size in 30 years.

I'll admit that last year when this reform didn't pass I was disappointed. But I am very happy today. I want to thank all the Senators who are here, Senators Lieberman, Glenn, and Grassley, Senator Nickles, for what they all did. I thank Congressman Shays and Congressman Hoyer, who is not here, and the other Members of the House for all the work that they did. And again I say, I thank those who worked on this last year when it passed the House.

Already this year, Congress has enacted other important reforms, like reducing the staff and the number of committees. I want to congratulate the Members of Congress on these steps and, in particular, Majority Leader Dole and Speaker Gingrich, the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, and the House Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt.

These changes I hope are the beginning of something that will continue for the next several years. We must use this impetus to make much deeper changes in the culture of Washington that has too often disconnected it from ordinary Americans. The American people, for example, know that lobbyists frequently get access to Congress they can never hope to get. They know the voices of special interests still sometimes ring too loud. They know too much of what goes on here goes on behind closed doors. Congress should ban the practice of gifts and meals and travels and entertainment from lobbyists. It should pass the strongest possible version of the line-item veto, lobby disclosure reform, and real comprehensive campaign finance reform.

I want to discuss these matters in detail tomorrow evening, but this is a job we must finish. This bill demonstrates the common resolve of people here that those in power should not lose touch with those who sent them here. Now we've got to go on. We must make this system more open, more fair, and less elitist. That's the goal we all share. I look forward to working with all of the Members here and all the Members of the Congress in both parties to achieve that goal.

Now I want to get on with signing the bill.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. S. 2, approved January 23, was assigned Public Law No. 104-1.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Signing the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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