microphone at podium

Republican Party Response to President Clinton's "Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union"

January 25, 1994

Rebuttal Delivered by Senator Robert Dole of Kansas

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

Good evening. I'm Bob Dole, the Senate Republican leader. Tonight, I'm speaking for congressional Republicans, for Republican governors, state legislators, mayors and other elected officials, and I hope for you, if you believe as we do, that America's taxes should be lower, that the government should spend less, that the people — not the government — should control more, and that our armed forces must be strong.

Now, here in Congress we're the minority party. The Democrats have many more votes than we do in both the House and the Senate. So, when the president spoke tonight, and he did a good job, he knew that whatever he really wants he stands a good chance of getting because most Democrats will vote with him. And when Republicans believe President Clinton is moving America in the right direction, as he did with the North American Free Trade Agreement, then he can count on our votes and our cooperation, too.

But far more often than not, the president and his Democrat majority have taken what we believe is the wrong fork in the road, not just on one or two matters of policy, but on their entire approach to government. And health care is a good example.

The president and Mrs. Clinton deserve credit for starting the debate. It has been very helpful. Now, nearly a year later, we really better understand this most important issue. We know that America has the best health-care system in the world, that people from every corner of the globe come here when they need the very best treatment, and that our goal should be to ensure that every American has access to this system.

Of course, there are many Americans with a sick child or sick parent in real need, both in rural and urban America. Our country has health-care problems, but not a health-care crisis. But we will have a crisis if we take the president's medicine — a massive overdose of government control. How massive? My colleague, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, has prepared a chart of what the health-care bureaucracy would look like under the president's plan, and I'd like to show you this chart. It's a great big chart. It contains 207 boxes. It would take a long time to fully explain it, and frankly, I have difficulty understanding it myself.

Let me point out some of the new bureaucracies that the president's plan will create. Way up here is the National Health Board. Over here is the Advisory Commission on Regional Variations of Health Expenditures. And here's the National Institute for Health Care Workforce Development.

Now, you and I are way down here, way at the bottom. I don't know why we're not at the top. but we're at the bottom.

Now, the president's idea is to put a mountain of bureaucrats between you and your doctor. For example, if you are a family member and want to receive care from a specialist or a clinic outside your own state — let's say you live in Kansas and you want to go to Minnesota — then you probably can't do it without asking for approval. And under his plan, information about your health and your treatment can be sent to a national data bank without your approval. And that's a compromise of privacy none of us should accept.

Now, these just are two examples, but there are many, many more. Clearly, the president is asking you to trust the government more than you trust your doctor and yourselves with your lives and the lives of your loved ones. More cost, less choice, more taxes, less quality, more government control and less control for you and your family — that's what the president's government-run plan is likely to give you.

Now, we can fix our most pressing problems without performing a triple bypass operation on our health care system. We can do it without the estimated $1 trillion gap — yes, $1 trillion gap — between the administration's own projections, their projections, of spending under the plan and the funds available to pay for it, and we can do it now. Republicans, and I believe many, many Democrats, are ready to vote for legislation containing some common-sense solutions — solutions like guaranteeing uninterrupted coverage to everyone who is insured, even if you leave or lose your job, and guaranteeing that your coverage cannot be denied because of a serious illness or pre-existing condition; giving relief to small businesses by allowing them to join together to buy insurance— that lowers the rates, that saves them money — giving individuals like yourselves who buy their own insurance 100 percent tax deduction; changing the law to allow you to open your own medical savings account or to buy what we refer to or call medical IRAs; and helping uninsured low-income Americans pay for coverage through tax credits or vouchers; and finally cutting government red tape and reforming medical malpractice laws that make our health care system so expensive.

A debate on the president's massive and complex program' will continue for most of the year, but the changes I just mentioned can be made now, so why wait? Why not act to put you and your family in control of your health care right now?

This evening the president also spoke at length about crime, and he's right. We all must take responsibility as individuals. And after years of debate, many Democrats are now joining Republicans behind this view.

Criminals are not the victims of society, society is the victim of criminals; and the best way to make America's streets and schools and homes safer is to put violent criminals in jail and to keep them there. And most provisions of this bill do just that. It passed the Senate last November by a vote of 94-4.

Now let me give you just a few examples. Life imprisonment for those convicted of three violent felonies, call it three strikes and you're in, you're in for life; tough mandatory sentences for those who use a gun in the commission of a crime; violent juveniles will be treated as adults when they use a gun in a crime. But as you know very well, just putting criminals behind bars is not enough. There is a big, big second step, and that's padlocking the revolving door, keeping violent criminals in jail for their entire sentence. A 20-year sentence should mean just that, 20 years or darned close to it, not five, not 10, not even 15.

So this bill would authorize 10 new regional prisons, federal prisons. But before states can send their violent criminals to those prisons, they must adopt truth-in-sentencing laws. In other words, if you do the crime, you are really going to do the time.

Now, the Senate has passed tough crime bills before, but every time we do, liberal congressional Democrats remove the toughest provisions, and that must not happen again. Republicans want President Clinton to sign the toughest bill possible, and I've got the toughest bill around this town in my hands right now. Here it is, here it is. We hope the House passes it; we hope the Senate... the president will sign it.

Now, the president used some tough, tough language tonight, and that's good, but will he follow through, and will he act on it? Will he insist on the tough provisions — like 10 new regional federal prisons, like truth-in-sentencing laws, like tough, mandatory sentence for using a gun, and the death penalty for drug kingpins?

Unfortunately, the administration has damaged its credibility on the crime issue by cutting the federal prison construction budget by 20 percent, and by the 94 percent cut in the drug czar's office. And yes, the talk in the administration of legalizing drugs doesn't help much either.

Now, many people are confused when the president's actions appear different than his words. For example, the president talks about education, but he opposes school choice, which could give parents more control over the education of their children. He promised to end welfare as we know it, yet everyone waits for his proposal.

In the meantime, Republicans here in Congress and Republican governors across the nation are fighting for changes that make work and self-sufficiency, and reducing illegitimacy, top priorities.

The president promised a middle-class tax cut, yet he and his party imposed the largest tax increase in American history. This $255 billion tax increase was opposed by every Republican in the House and in the Senate. We hope his higher taxes will not cut short the economic recovery and declining interest rates that he inherited.

The two-year mark, coming at the end of this year, is when the economy usually starts to feel the results of a new administration's policies. Now instead of stifling growth and expansion through higher taxes and increased government regulations, Republicans would take America in a different direction, and we can do that through alternatives that reward risk-taking, and the creation of new jobs, and they give our small-business men and women relief from the heavy hand of government.

Now, the president told you tonight that the deficit is projected to decrease next year, and that's true. After all, the largest tax increase in American history would decrease any deficit — temporarily. But in the words of Paul Harvey, I want to tell you "the rest of the story." Under budget, government spending will increase by at least $343 billion in the next five years, and in the same time period, the nonpartisan — let me repeat, the nonpartisan — Congressional Budget Office projects that $1 trillion will be added to our national debt.

Now, the one place the president has cut drastically is precisely the wrong place — national security. Slashed to the lowest level since before Pearl Harbor. History tells us, and many of us know firsthand, that America cannot afford to have a hollow military, nor can we afford to let the United Nations dictate what is in America's national interest.

But I want to close tonight by talking about America, the greatest country on the face of the Earth. I believe America has an enduring mission, a mission of leadership. Fifty years ago, when Hitler's tyranny was on the march, it was only because of strong American leadership that freedom was preserved. In the Cold War, for millions behind the Iron Curtain and in the many nations that depended on us to protect them, it was again only because of strong American leadership that freedom prevailed. And now, as countries that were tyrannies learn democracy, as people learn about free markets where a short time ago buying and selling without the state's permission was illegal, the world again waits and wants strong — and needs strong — American leadership so that freedom will endure.

You know, many times over the past few years, right here in this office in the Capitol, I've met with representatives from the new emerging democracies. Some were leaders of their countries. Some were ordinary citizens. Some had been in jail for many years for just speaking out in public. And they all told me about the same thing — some with tears in their eyes, some could hardly speak — and they all said, "We want to be like America." That's what they said. "We want to be like America." In this great, good and generous nation, the American mission endures here at home and around the world. We are its stewards, and it's up to us to ensure that, wherever the road divides, that America takes the right path, remains true to our mission of leadership and remains the light and the hope of humanity.

Thank you. And to the people of Southern California, please know that all of us in Washington will be working with Gov. Wilson and your congressional delegation to provide the help you need.

And if you'd like a copy of this chart, just write Sen. Arlen Specter, care of the Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Thank you and good night.

Rebuttal Speech, Republican Party Response to President Clinton's "Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/308890

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