President Clinton and Democratic Leaders Challenge Congress to Act Now on America's Priorities
September 5, 2000
Today, following a meeting with House and Senate Democratic leaders, President Clinton will call on Congress to put progress before partisanship, and get back to work for the American people. Joined by Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt, the President and the Democratic leaders will reaffirm their commitment to breaking the legislative logjam. Instead of working to override the President's veto of the estate tax bill -- which would give tax cuts to 54,000 of America's wealthiest families -- President Clinton will call on the Republican leaders to make their first order of business raising the minimum wage to help more than 10 million hard pressed workers make ends meet. He will also urge Congress to move forward with fiscal discipline, responsible tax cuts, and public investments that fuel our prosperity, such as an affordable prescription drug benefit for all Medicare beneficiaries, a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights, and expanded health care coverage for low-income families. He will note the release of two new studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of the Administration's targeted approach to expanding health coverage. President Clinton will also urge Congress to pass a fiscally responsible budget that maintains America's prosperity by paying down the debt, provides targeted middle-class tax cuts, and makes key investments in improving education, protecting the environment and fighting crime.
PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL CALL ON CONGRESS TO MAINTAIN AND EXPAND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY: President Clinton's economic strategy of maintaining fiscal discipline, making investments in the American people and opening foreign markets has created the conditions for the longest economic expansion in history and put us on track to pay off the national debt by 2012. Before the 106th Congress adjourns it should take actions that will expand and maintain our prosperity for future generations:
- Increase the minimum wage: At a time when we are experiencing the longest economic expansion in history, the proposed $1 increase before Congress would merely return the real value of the minimum wage to the level it was in 1982. This modest raise would help more than 10 million workers, including millions of women and hard-pressed families, make ends meet. Full-time workers would receive an annual raise of about $2,000 a year – enough to pay for nearly 7 months of groceries or 5 months of rent.
- Provide targeted tax cuts: President Clinton's package of responsible, targeted tax cuts provides more tax relief for middle-class families at less than half the cost of Republican plans. It would allow America to maintain our fiscal discipline, strengthen the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, invest in key priorities, and pay off the debt by at least 2012. President Clinton's fiscally responsible plan provides marriage penalty relief for couples and tax credits that reward retirement savings, expand college opportunity, help families with the rising costs of long-term care and child care, and promote philanthropy by encouraging charitable giving. The President is also committed to working with Congress to achieve targeted estate tax relief for small businesses and farmers.
- Maintain fiscal discipline: The Clinton-Gore Administration turned $290 billion deficits into the largest surpluses in our history and has put us on track to pay off the entire national debt by at least 2012. Fiscal discipline has produced lower interest rates while encouraging productivity and investment. Republican tax cuts passed this year, combined with those they have proposed for next year, squander the entire projected surplus, leaving America permanently in debt and making it impossible to invest in priorities like improving education or adding a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL ALSO CALL ON CONGRESS TO COMPLETE WORK ON AMERICA'S KEY PRIORITIES:
Provide an Affordable, Accessible Prescription Drug Benefit Option For All Medicare Beneficiaries: Three out of five Medicare beneficiaries have inadequate prescription drug coverage or none at all. 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. Beginning in 2002, it would provide prescription drug coverage that would have a zero deductible and cover half of all prescription drug costs up to $5,000 when fully phased in. It would limit all out-of-pocket medication costs to $4,000. This optional benefit would also provide negotiated discounts that would guarantee that Medicare beneficiaries no longer pay the highest prices in the marketplace. And, it would explicitly pay for the cost of prescription drugs in managed care plans beginning next year to ensure that they continue to offer this important benefit.
Enact A Meaningful Patient's Bill Of Rights: The majority of the United States Senate supports passing a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights, similar to the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership continues to support an approach that leaves over 135 million people without protections and does not assure that plans are held accountable when they make decisions that harm patients. The Norwood-Dingell legislation, endorsed by over 200 health care provider and consumer advocacy groups, is the only bipartisan proposal currently being considered that protects state-based accountability provisions already available under current law and includes: protections for all Americans in all health plans; protections for patients accessing emergency room care from financial sanctions; guarantees that assure access to necessary and accessible health care specialists; and meaningful enforcement mechanisms that ensure recourse for patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan's actions.
Provide Affordable Health Insurance Coverage for Low-Income Families: The President has proposed a new state option to cover millions of uninsured parents and their children in CHIP FamilyCare, workers in between jobs, 55 to 65 year olds, young adults between 19 and 20, and legal immigrants. The Administration's approach is supported by two new studies being released today by the independent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA). The CBPP report concludes that coverage expansions including parents increase enrollment among eligible but unenrolled children by nearly 25 percent. The CEA report documents that tax approaches such as those advocated by the Republican leadership are highly inefficient, expensive, and ineffective mechanisms to expand coverage, while policies such as the FamilyCare initiative proposed by the President efficiently and effectively assure coverage.
Pass A Fiscally Responsible Budget That Invests In Education and Other Key Priorities: The President proposed a balanced and fiscally responsible budget that extends the solvency of Social Security and Medicare and makes investments in key priorities for the American people. The President's budget includes important investments in education – such as modernizing 6,000 schools and repairing 25,000 more, meeting our commitment to hire 100,000 quality teachers to reduce class size, funding teacher training to put qualified teachers in every classroom, increasing accountability including identifying and turning around failing schools, increasing after school opportunities, and preparing at-risk youth for college success. To pay for fiscally irresponsible tax cuts, Congressional Republicans have cut key priorities, resulting in fewer quality teachers for schools, fewer law enforcement officers and prosecutors to fight crime, reduced environmental protection, and less funding for National Science Foundation research. The President will also call on Congress to put the people's interest above the interests of big tobacco by fully funding federal tobacco litigation and letting the American taxpayers have their day in court to recover tobacco-related health care costs.
Approve Common Sense Gun Safety Legislation: Sensible gun safety legislation has languished in Congress for over a year. Meanwhile, an estimated 30,000 Americans have lost their lives to gun violence. The Senate passed common sense gun safety measures in May 1999, with Vice President Gore casting the tie-breaking vote to close the gun show loophole. Since then, Republican leaders have delayed and bottled up this legislation at the behest of the gun lobby, despite the fact that 10 children are killed by gunfire every day. The President will call on the Republican leadership to put the safety of America's children first as they return to school by passing a bill that closes the gun show loophole, requires child safety locks to be sold with handguns, bans the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips, and prevents violent juvenile offenders from buying guns as adults.
Pass Legislation to Prevent Hate Crimes and Legislation to Combat Violence Against Women: The President will also urge Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to prevent hate crimes and further respond to violence against women. The Senate has already passed hate crimes legislation that will punish hate crimes based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability – areas not covered by current law. The President will urge the House to act expeditiously to pass this critical proposal. In addition, this legislation also recognizes that state and local law enforcement still have primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. The President will also call on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act to continue his support for the work of prosecutors, law enforcement officials, victim advocates, and health and social service professionals as they respond to the problems of violence against women in communities throughout the country.