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Remarks on the Legislative Agenda

October 05, 1998

Good afternoon. From the beginning of our efforts to create the economic renaissance America now enjoys, Congressman Gephardt and Senator Daschle have been tireless in working for that change. Especially in these last few weeks as the congressional session has entered its crucial final stage and the political season has intensified, these two leaders have stood above the crowd in their constant efforts to elevate progress over partisanship.

I realize that the calendar says the election is just a month away. The calendar also says it is now 8 months since I sent the Congress a budget, 5 months since the legal deadline for Congress to pass a budget resolution. And as all of you know, the fiscal year ended last week. Yet so far, Congress has sent me only 2 of 13 appropriations bills necessary to keep our Government running. On Friday the temporary spending measure I signed will run out. I want to work with Congress to get this important work done. There is still time for real achievement, still time for progress over partisanship.

That is why today I stand with Representative Gephardt and Senator Daschle to call on the congressional majority. Time is running short. Congress has important work left to do. Pass the necessary spending bills to keep the Government running; save Social Security for future generations; ensure a quality education for all our children; protect America from the global economic turmoil—these are the priorities of the American people, and they must be the priorities of Congress in these last days before the election.

First, we must save Social Security first. Last week I was privileged to announce the first budget surplus in a generation. Congress must not lose this spirit of fiscal discipline. I have proposed tax cuts, but they're fully paid for. If the Congress sends me a tax plan that drains billions from the surplus before saving Social Security, I will veto it. We've worked too hard for too long to abandon fiscal discipline and our economic strength and to weaken our commitment to Social Security just because it's election time.

Second, we must act to protect our prosperity in this turbulent international economy by meeting our obligations to the International Monetary Fund. The world is waiting—literally, the world is waiting—for Congress to step up to America's responsibility, provide funds to the IMF, and give us the tools we need to pull teetering economies back from the brink and to keep America's economic prosperity going. It would be unacceptable for Congress to leave Washington before acting.

Third, we must continue to invest in education. As the leaders here with me and about 50 other Members of Congress asked last week, we seek just one day for Congress to consider the education measures I have proposed, to pass a plan to provide our schools with the tools they need, with 100,000 teachers so we can have smaller classes in the early grades, with afterschool and summer school programs to help students raise higher—achieve higher academic standards, with thousands of modernized schools for the 21st century.

And fourth, in these last few days, Congress must act to protect, not gut, the environment. Republicans in Congress have sought to slip unacceptable provisions into unrelated bills that would cripple wildlife protection, force overcutting of our national forests, deny taxpayers a fair return on oil leasing, thwart commonsense efforts to address global warming. If they insist on sending these antienvironmental riders to my desk, again I will veto them.

Fifth, Congress must act to address a range of pressing emergencies that simply cannot wait for a new congressional session, emergencies including supporting our troops in Bosnia, maintaining our military readiness worldwide, providing assistance to our farmers who are in real crisis out there, protecting American citizens from terrorism, and providing resources to address the year 2000 computer problem.

For two administrations the budget rules under which both parties have operated have accommodated such emergencies. Troops in the field and citizens in crisis should never be subject to partisan wrangling. This is what we ought to do: We ought to save Social Security first, pass the education program, protect our own economy, and do what we should do to lead the world away from world financial crisis, pass the Patients' Bill of Rights, avoid these environmentally destructive riders. There is still time for us to put the people of our country ahead of politics, and I hope we'll do it.

Now I'd like to ask Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt to say a word.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:17 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Senator Thomas A. Daschle and Representative Richard A. Gephardt.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Legislative Agenda Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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