THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||October 16, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE BUDGET AGREEMENT
The Rose Garden
10:36 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Please be seated. I amdelighted to be here with the Vice President and Senator Daschle,Congressman Gephardt, Mr. Bowles -- who's got a great closing acthere -- (laughter) -- the terrific representation from Congress andthe administration, especially our economic team and all of you.
Before I make some remarks on the budget, I'd like tofirst say how very pleased I was, personally and as President, thatthe Nobel Prize Committee has awarded the courage and the people ofNorthern Ireland by giving the Nobel Peace Prize to John Hume and toDavid Trimble today. I am very grateful for that. (Applause.)
For 30 years, John Hume has been committed to achievingpeace through negotiations, not confrontation and violence. He hasbeen an inspiration to the nationalist community, to all the peopleof Northern Ireland and, indeed, all around the world. DavidTrimble, as Unionist leader, took up the challenge of peace with rarecourage, negotiating and beginning to implement the Good FridayAccord. Both have earned this award.
But I believe there are others, too, who deserve creditfor their indispensable roles, beginning with Gerry Adams, the SinnFein leader, without whom there would have been no peace.(Applause.) Prime Minister Ahern, Prime Minister Blair, Mo Mowlan,their predecessors, without whom there would have been no peace.Other Irish leaders, like Seamus Mallon; and I would say a specialword of thanks to Senator George Mitchell for his role in the peacetalks. (Applause.) The American people appreciate the recognitionthe Nobel Committee gave our nation in the citation, and we thank allthese people for their continuing work for peace.
Yesterday, our administration and the Democrats inCongress reached agreement with the Republican leadership on afiscally responsible balanced budget that seizes this moment ofprosperity and wisely invests it in the future. By standingtogether, we were able to achieve historic victories for the Americanpeople.
We fought for, and won, vital new investments,especially for our children. By hiring 100,000 new teachers, we willreduce class size in the early grades to an average of 18.(Applause.) We will enhance individual attention, increase studentlearning and, as we learned yesterday at the School ViolenceConference, find more kids who are in trouble and need help early,and prevent more bad things from happening while more good thingshappen.
We're also making very important investments in childliteracy, college mentoring, after-school programs and summerjobs -- all of them at risk until the people behind me stood firm andunited. (Applause.) We fought for, and won, emergency relief forour hard-pressed farmers and ranchers who are suffering not only fromthe collapse of world markets, but from crop diseases and drought andfloods. And we fought for, and won, an impressive package to dealwith this emergency only because the people behind me were willing tosustain my veto of the first bill, and I thank them for that verymuch. (Applause.)
We fought for, and won, a substantial increase infunding for our Clean Water Initiative to help restore the 40 percentof our lakes and rivers still too polluted for fishing and swimming.We won substantial increases in funding to head off the threat ofglobal climate change which disrupted weather patterns in America--have warned us about in the last couple of years. We fought forand won the ability to protect precious lands in America, and westruck down the worst of the anti-environmental provisions theRepublicans had put into the budget bill because of the people whoare standing behind me. (Applause.)
And we worked and worked and worked for eight longmonths until, finally, we were able to persuade the RepublicanMajority to join with us in funding America's responsibility to theInternational Monetary Fund so that we can protect the Americaneconomy and fulfill our responsibility to stabilize the globaleconomy. It is a critically important thing to our future; it couldnot have happened if the people behind us hadn't stood strong andunited for months and months. (Applause.)
Let me say, I am especially proud of the way we foughtand won the right to reserve every penny of the surplus until we saveSocial Security first. (Applause.) Despite the efforts of themajority, particularly in the House of Representatives, to squanderthe surplus on election year tax plans, we are still nowwell-positioned to save Social Security. Although we can takejustifiable pride in these accomplishments, let's not make anymistakes here. Eight days of progress cannot totally erase eightmonths of partisanship.
We all know that in those eight months of partisanship,too many dreams of too many families were deferred. The RepublicanMajority is now leaving town to campaign, but they're also leaving alot of America's business unfinished. Partisanship killed thePatients' Bill of Rights. Rest assured, as my first legislativepriority I will ask the next Congress to guarantee your right to seea specialist, to receive the nearest emergency care, to keep yourdoctor throughout your course of treatment -- (applause) -- to keepyour medical records private, to have medical decisions made bydoctors, not insurance company accountants. That's unfinishedbusiness because of partisanship.
Partisanship killed our efforts to help students stuckin crumbled and overcrowded school rooms. We fought and fought andfought and won the right for the 100,000 teachers. Now, we've got tofight to give the teachers someplace to teach and to give thosesmaller classes someplace to meet. This is a battle our childrencannot afford to lose. (Applause.)
You know, I must say, of all the things that wedisagreed with the Republicans on this year, this one mystified methe most. I would have thought they would like this program -- not agovernment spending program, but a targeted tax cut, fully paid forin the balanced budget, that wouldn't take a dime from the surplus,wouldn't add an inch of red tape to the government's rules, but wouldbuild or repair 5,000 schools. We were right to fight for it and weought to take it to the American people and ask them to put progressover partisanship. (Applause.)
Republican partisanship killed an increase in theminimum wage. You can't really raise a family on $5.15 an houranymore. If we value work and family, we ought to raise the minimumwage. You know, all those arguments against the minimum wage werewrong the last time we did it. We kept on growing. And unemploymentnow and inflation now are lower than they were the last time weraised it. Only partisanship killed it. I hope we can take that tothe American people and come back here in January and raise theminimum wage. (Applause.)
And, partisanship killed our best chance at bipartisancampaign finance reform. We had a handful of Republicans who didagree with us on this, but the majority was able to defeat us.Senator Daschle produced a unanimous vote from the Senate DemocraticCaucus -- absolutely unanimous -- but partisanship defeated us. Itsaid yes to soft money, yes to the status quo, no to reform. Thenext Congress must strengthen our democracy and finally reform theseoutdated campaign finance laws -- and people will do it who are herewith me. (Applause.)
And finally, let me say that partisanship killed thecomprehensive anti-tobacco legislation which would have savedmillions of young Americans from painful and premature death. Istill can't believe -- I think about it every day -- I still can'tbelieve that the tobacco interests were able to persuade the Congresswith the majority in Congress to walk away from this. It didn't haveanything to do with the tobacco farmers; Senator Ford back there tookcare of that. (Laughter.) This was about whether we were going totake appropriate action to save our children, and pure, old-fashionedpartisanship killed it. The people behind me will save more of ourchildren's lives when the voters give them a chance to do so nextJanuary. We're going to do that. (Applause.)
So let me say again, by way of thanks to all of them andto all of you who worked on this, we can be justifiably proud of thehard work and hard-won gains that this budget represents: of the100,000 teachers, of the after-school programs, the saving thesurplus for Social Security, of protecting the environment andadvancing the cause of clean water, and a safer global environment,of keeping our economy going strong. But eight days of progresscannot replace or make up for eight months of partisanship, toprotect our patients, to modernize our schools, to raise the minimumwage, to look out for the 21st century and reform Social Security andMedicare in the right way. We need a Congress that will put peoplebefore politics, progress ahead of partisanship.
I will always remember these last eight days. I willalways remember what our caucus, united, was able to achieve. And Iwill always be grateful to them for what they did for the Americanpeople. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Now, I want to introduce the Vice President and theother leaders. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, as we close, how verygrateful I am to all those who have spoken and those who have notspoken, those who are here and those who stood with us who are nothere, for giving us a chance to, in the last eight days, have somevery important victories for the American people and, today, forgiving us a chance to make it absolutely clear what is at stake inthe next two years.
When we leave here, I am going to take a brief trip toChicago to stand with Senator Carol Moseley-Braun. (Applause.) AndI think it is worth pointing out today that she is the very firstmember of our caucus who stood up for the idea that the nationalgovernment had an opportunity and an obligation to do something topromote the building and the repair of school facilities for ourchildren's future. (Applause.) I say that to make this point:Every one of us here, standing here, except Mr. Bowles -- and he maybe about to take the plunge -- (laughter) -- every one of us here ishere because of the judgment of the American people. The jobs wehold are not our jobs in any fundamental sense; they belong to theAmerican people.
And in 18 days, after a blizzard of advertisements --probably two or three times as much from the Republican side as fromours -- maybe even more when you count the third party committees andall that -- they will make a decision. The first decision they'llhave to make is whether to go and vote in a midterm election, whichalways, always seems to have lower turnout than the presidentialelections.
If we have accomplished nothing else here today, evenwhen our voices reach those who disagree with us, who think we'remaking a mistake to put 100,000 teachers in the classroom, who thinkwe're making a mistake to fight for a patients' bill of rights or arise in the minimum wage, or better school facilities, if we havedone nothing else, I hope we have reminded the American people that,in the end, every one of us gets to raise our voice, to cast ourvote, to wield our sign-or-veto pen because of their judgments. Andin 18 days, they will be given a chance to render another judgment.
Between now and then, they will have to sort their waythrough all the conflicting claims and the blizzard of advertisement.But I think that, in the end, many will agree that it is worth goingto vote to ratify those who fought for 100,000 teachers and a cleanenvironment and a strong American economy, and an America playing aresponsible role in the world economy. And perhaps most important ofall, people who voted to save the surplus until we save SocialSecurity and honor the compact with generations and keep our countrystrong when the baby boomers retire.
In 18 days, they'll have a chance not only to supportthose people, but to say, "With my vote, I choose to go back andbuild world-class school facilities. I choose to say, 'yes, we'regoing to have managed care, but even people in managed care deservethe right to have medical decisions made by medical doctors, notaccountants,' to choose to give people the minimum wage, to choose tosave Social Security in the right way, to choose these things."
That's the message. I hope the American people knowthat the people standing behind me earned their pay the last eight ornine days. They were worth every penny of tax dollars they got. Andthey did it the last eight months because they fought and waited andstood in storm after storm until the time came when they could standup and do something right for America. And in 18 days, I hope thevoters of this country, the citizens will exercise their power tosay, "This is the path I choose." Staying home is not a very goodoption when so much is riding on a trip to the ballot box.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)