microphone at podium

Republican Party Response to President Clinton's "Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on Administration Goals"

February 17, 1993

Rebuttal Delivered by Representative Bob Michel of Illinois (18th District)

[The President's speech of which this is a response, can be found by clicking this link.]

Good evening. Tonight you and I witnessed a colorful ritual — a new president of the United States addressing a joint session of Congress for the first time. The great chamber of the House rang out with cheers for the president. It was, as always, a thrilling spectacle. But now the last echo of the final cheer has faded away. The ceremony is over. It's time to put aside the pomp and circumstance. It's time to get to work for America.

That's what I'd like to briefly visit with you about: how your government can work better for you. Don't worry; I have no props, no flip-charts, no pointer, no electronic gimmicks. I don't even have a 1-800 number for you to call. I'd just like to talk with you as though we were having a cup of coffee back in my hometown of Peoria. It is a chance to ask some questions about where our nation is heading, the kinds of questions you might ask if you were here. We Americans are a questioning people; it is part of our national character. In fact, we may be the only nation whose national anthem begins and ends with a question. So, in questioning the direction of the administration, we are acting in a great American tradition.

All of us — Democrats, Republicans, Perot supporters, independents — want our new president to succeed. We want to help him do the right thing. But the only way we can help him is by candidly letting him know-how we feel about his announced policies.

Our new president has an excellent chance to be successful. Because of the leadership of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, our nation does not face a nuclear threat. President Bush handed over to the president an economy that is growing, not shrinking, and a rate of worker productivity that is rising, not falling. As a matter of fact, the past 12 years of Republican leadership have built a strong foundation for progress.

We agree with the president that we have to put more people to work, but remember this: 80 to 85 percent of the new jobs in this country are created by small business. So the climate for starting and expanding businesses must be enhanced with tax incentives and deregulation, rather than imposing higher taxes and more governmental mandates.

The president speaks of the half million new jobs that will be created by his economic stimulus program. But, there are estimates that doing it his way will cost taxpayers some $55,000 per job. It should be noted that last year alone the private sector created a million-and-a-half new jobs on its own.

We have to make certain that government action helps, not hinders, the growing economy. After listening to the president tonight, I wonder if you know what the president's long-range economic strategy is. I don't — and I must say, I wonder if he does. All we are certain of is that the administration is engaged in a media blitz to sell his program. The president offers us what he calls a new direction but where he seems to be going is "back to the future," back to the failed big government schemes of a generation ago, and that's not the direction we should be going.

The Clinton spin-doctors have even given us a new political vocabulary, if you will: "Investment" now means big government spending your tax dollars. "Change" now means reviving old, discredited big government tax-and-spend schemes. "Patriotism" now means agreeing with the Clinton program. The powerful, evocative word, "sacrifice" has been reduced to the level of a bumper sticker slogan. And, my favorite — "contribution" — is now the new word for "taxes." On April 15, just try telling the IRS you don't feel like contributing this year.

The administration is about to launch the biggest propaganda campaign in recent political history. The White House is even now becoming one big partisan political megaphone. But public relations campaigns are no substitute for sound public policy.

Tonight, the president mentioned a number of new programs that inevitably will cost considerable sums of money. As laudable as they might be, how do we pay for them? The president's answer is: more taxes on everyone. In 1992, candidate Clinton said: Tax only the super-rich. Then in 1993, President Clinton now says: If you earn more than $30,000, your taxes are going up. So much for not taxing the middle class.

The American people would do well to remember when you hear a Democrat call for taxes, do not ask for whom the tax rises — it will rise for you. There are those who say some taxes are a necessary evil. The difference is that Democrats stress the word "necessary," and we Republicans stress the word "evil."

The president was short on specifics again tonight — particularly as it relates to cutting spending. That's probably because he keeps juggling the figures. He offers no benchmarks, no coherent economic principles by which to judge what it is he is hoping to achieve. These fragmented, ad hoc proposals are the kind of thing that might be excused in the heat of a campaign. But, Mr. President, the campaign is over. You won. The time has come to park the bus and start the hard work of governing. And one of the hardest parts of that work is the vital question of health-care reform, which the president mentioned time and again. Will there be rationing of care? Will there be job-destroying mandates on employers?

Republicans believe in your right to select the doctor of your choice, and your right to immediate care without long waiting lines, and preserving the best of what our health care system has to offer. Does the administration share these principles? As I said, these are some of the questions we have to ask, and then the answers we get will determine the kind of future we will have. And we Republicans are here to ask the tough questions, cut through the rhetoric and get the job done. But we do need your help.

My father, a French immigrant, used to tell me that it's better to listen 90 percent of the time — for that leaves you only 10 percent for talking. And throughout my life in public service, I've tried to take his advice. And I know my party is listening to your voice because we share your basic principles.

Our Republican governors, our state legislators, our elected officials, and of course, those of us in the U.S. House and Senate are all parts of the same team.

We owe it to you to make clear the ideas at the heart of our policies. And here are a few: We Republicans, and I think it's fair to say a great body of Perot supporters, insist on cutting spending as the best way to real deficit reduction. We'd like to support the president on an honest line-item veto that applies not only to pork barrel spending but to special interests' tax loopholes as well. And we will continue to press for a balanced budget amendment. We want to help President Clinton in his efforts to spur savings and investments. We hope he will strive to maintain the current low rates of interest and inflation he inherited from George Bush. And let's not forget that we still live in a tough and often brutal world. Our national destiny is linked to our ability to compete in a global economy and to defend our interests and our values around the world. That's why we need to maintain a strong defense and stay on the cutting edge of high technology.

I'd like to address a few closing comments directly to the president himself. Mr. President, we wish you well. President Reagan and President Bush have given you a solid foundation of peace and a growing economy on which to build. You have a wonderful opportunity to succeed.

And when your domestic programs and policies are based on sound economic principles, common sense and traditional American values, we Republicans will be with you. And when your foreign policy is based on defending American interests and American values first and foremost, we'll be with you. But when those great values are missing from your proposals, we Republicans will be there to ask the tough questions and to provide effective answers. And to all of you, thanks for listening.

As the designated Republican questioner tonight, I know I speak for all elected Republicans among our governors, within the state legislatures, and in the House and Senate when I say, in the months ahead, we'll be visiting with you, whether the issue is health care, crime, education or the economy. Well be listening and ready to react to your concerns. Do make your voice heard; you can make a difference.

Thank you, and do have a good evening.

Rebuttal Speech, Republican Party Response to President Clinton's "Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on Administration Goals" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/308883

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