President Clinton Urges Congress to Work Day and Night to Finish its Work for American Families
Today, President Clinton will again urge Congress to come together in a bipartisan process and pass a tax bill he can sign. Nearly one month past the end of the fiscal year, Congress has passed seven extensions but still has not completed a budget. On almost half of the 27 days since this fiscal year began, Congress has failed to do any work for the American people. President Clinton is now granting additional extensions one day at a time to ensure that Congress stays in town and completes its business, passing a tax bill for middle-class families, finishing a fiscally responsible budget that invests in education, and enacting other national priorities.
PRESIDENT CLINTON IS WORKING TO FIND BIPARTISAN COMMON GROUND ON TAX RELIEF FOR MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILIES AND WILL URGE CONGRESS TO BEGIN BIPARTISAN NEGOTIATIONS. On Wednesday, President Clinton offered Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Lott a tax package thatóin recognition of the reality that both sides must compromise to reach an agreementóreflected the priorities of both parties. But yesterday, in a largely partisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a tax bill that ignores key priorities for America. Despite President Clinton's efforts to find compromise, the Republicans package falls short. First, the Republican school construction provisions fall far short of both the great national need for school modernization and the help that would be provided by the bipartisan Johnson-Rangel proposal. They would sacrifice thousands of modernized schools to pay for inefficient tax incentives that help only a few. Second, although President Clinton's proposal included both Democratic and Republican priorities on health care, the Republican bill completely ignores the President's proposal to cover millions of uninsured working Americans; includes only half of the benefits of his long-term care tax credit; and excludes the bipartisan credit for vaccine research and purchases. Finally, it makes virtually no attempt to address the Administration's concerns about the pension provisions by failing to address the lack of pension coverage for over 70 million people and potentially creating new incentives for employers to drop pension coverage.
THE REPUBLICAN TAX BILL ALSO IGNORES CRITICAL MEDICARE/MEDICAID PRIORITIES. The Republican legislation insists on an unjustifiable spending increase for HMOs at the same time it excludes bipartisan policies such as health insurance options for children with disabilities, legal immigrant pregnant women and children, simplifying eligibility and enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP, and needed payment increases to hospitals, academic health centers, home health agencies, and other vulnerable providers. President Clinton will insist that Congress not go home before responding to the urgent health needs of our seniors, people with disabilities, and children and the health care providers who serve them.
IN ADDITION, PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL CALL ON CONGRESS TO FINISH THE BUDGET NOW, INVEST IN EDUCATION, AND ACT ON THE REST OF AMERICA'S UNFINISHED BUSINESS. Before leaving town, Congress should:
- RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE. Raising the minimum wage by $1 over two years would help more than 10 million workers make ends meet. At a time when we are experiencing the longest economic expansion in history, the proposed $1 increase would return the real value of the minimum wage to the level it was in 1982. It would give full-time workers an annual raise of about $2,000 a year, enough money to pay for nearly seven months of groceries or five months of rent. Approximately 33 percent of minimum-wage workers rely on their income to support children under 18.
- FINISH A BUDGET AND INVEST IN EDUCATION. In February, President Clinton and Vice President Gore sent Congress a balanced and fiscally responsible budget that makes investments in key priorities, such as education. So far, Congress has not acted on legislation to meet the full needs for:
- School Modernization. President Clinton proposed to create $25 billion in bonds to build and modernize 6,000 schools and a $1.3 billion initiative for urgent school repairs;
- Expanded after-school opportunities. President Clinton proposed $1 billion to support 8,000 extended learning centers serving nearly 2.5 million children;
- Class-size reduction. President Clinton proposed $1.75 billion to help school districts hire 20,000 new teachers and support the 29,000 teachers already hired under the Class-Size Reduction initiative;
- Improved teacher quality. President Clinton proposed a $1 billion initiative to improve teacher quality through teacher professional development, recruitment, and rewards;
- Turning around failing schools. The President's $250 million accountability fund would help states and school districts to turn around low-performing schools and hold them accountable for results.
- PROVIDE AN AFFORDABLE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT OPTION FOR ALL MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES. Three out of five Medicare beneficiaries have inadequate or no prescription drug coverage. In the context of broader reform that ensures that Medicare revenues are only used for Medicare, the President has proposed a voluntary, affordable, Medicare prescription drug benefit for all beneficiaries.
- ENACT A MEANINGFUL PATIENT'S BILL OF RIGHTS. The majority of the U.S. Senate supports a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights, similar to the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell plan. However, the Republican leadership continues to support an alternative that leaves over 135 million people without protections and doesn't assure that plans are held accountable when they make decisions that harm patients.
- PASS HATE CRIMES LEGISLATION. The President will urge Congress to send him meaningful legislation to allow federal prosecution of hate crimes based on gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
- ENSURE EQUAL PAY FOR WOMEN. The President's $47 million Equal Pay Initiative would train employers on wage discrimination; train women in nontraditional jobs; and support apprenticeships and industry partnerships. Within this initiative, the National Science Foundation will invest $20 million to remove barriers to career advancement for women scientists and engineers. The President will also urge Congress to pass the "The Paycheck Fairness Act," introduced by Senator Tom Daschle and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, to strengthen laws prohibiting wage discrimination.
- INSIST ON FAIRNESS FOR IMMIGRANTS. The President will reiterate his commitment to fairness for immigrants who have been in this country for years, working hard and paying taxes, by enacting the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act (LIFA) and restoring critical nutrition assistance and health benefits for legal immigrants.
- PROTECT OUR NATION'S YOUTH AND HOLD TOBACCO COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE. The President will call on Congress to provide the funds necessary to support the Department of Justice's tobacco litigation so we can hold the tobacco companies accountable for the harm they've caused and give the American people their day in court.
- COMPLETE ITS WORK ON NATIONAL SERVICE. The President and 49 of the 50 governors have called on Congress to pass the reauthorization of AmeriCorps and other critical national service programs this year. This reauthorization would reaffirm and strengthen our nation's commitment to national service and build on the far-reaching benefits of the national service programs.