THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 28, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE BUDGET
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:17 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon.
Q Got it right.
THE PRESIDENT: I got it right. I'm making progress.
As I said yesterday, when this Congress has acted in a spirit of
genuine bipartisanship, we have made profound progress. Yesterday I signed
the VA-HUD bill that invests in the health of veterans, advances welfare
reform with 75,000 housing vouchers, strengthens AmeriCorps, and invests in
cutting-edge scientific research with the largest increase ever in the
National Science Foundation.
Earlier this month I signed an Interior bill that creates the
largest appropriation for lands preservation in our nation's history. I
also look forward to signing the bipartisan foreign operations bill, which
will fund our debt relief initiative for the poorest countries in the
And just a few moments ago, I signed a vitally important and
bipartisan Agriculture appropriations bill. This legislation will fund our
nation's agriculture programs for the coming year and provided much need
help to our farmers, our ranchers, our rural communities, who have suffered
everything from devastating droughts to low commodity prices.
It also contains the largest increase ever in development funding
for rural and Native American communities that have not shared in our
nation's prosperity. It will help to create new businesses and expand
current ones in small towns and rural areas. It will help rural
communities attract new residents, and with funding for new health clinics
and improved water systems, it will improve the quality of life all across
The bill also will help us provide humanitarian relief and
development loans to countries that need help, and promote the sale of
United States goods abroad. The bill modernizes our food inspection system
with increased surveillance and more food inspectors.
Finally, this bill includes common-sense reforms that will let
food stamp recipients own a dependable car and have decent housing. If we
want people to go to work, they have to be able to get to work. They
shouldn't have to choose between a car they need to get to their jobs and
the nutrition and shelter they need for their children.
This is a good bill for America. It helps hard-hit farmers,
ranchers and rural communities, improves the safety of our food, and takes
the next steps in welfare reform. Of course, there are also things in the
bill I don't like. It says it allows the importation of lower-cost
prescription drugs from other countries, but leaves the power of deciding
whether or not to import these drugs to the drug companies, meaning it will
do nothing for seniors and others struggling to pay high prescription drug
It purports to allow the export of American products to Cuba, yet
it makes it virtually impossible for family farmers to arrange the
financing that enables such sales to take place. Moreover, the legislation
is designed to impose new restriction on our efforts to foster
people-to-people contacts and bring reform in Cuba.
It also includes objectionable trade provisions and doesn't
restore food stamps for legal immigrants. And it contains fewer resources
than I requested for clean water for farms and for climate change.
Nonetheless, I decided that on balance this bill advances the
interests of the American people. That's why I signed it, and that's how
progress is made, when we work together and have honorable compromise. No
one gets everything he or she wants.
I still have the feeling the congressional majority has not yet
decided whether they want to work with us in this way on the remaining
bills, or just score points and leave town. On Medicare, we sent the
majority a very detailed proposal. We said when it comes to more
resources, the priority should not be HMOs, but teaching hospitals, rural
hospitals, home health agencies, children with disabilities, and pregnant
women and children who are legal immigrants. The congressional leadership
so far has virtually ignored that proposal.
The story is the same on taxes. We put forward a good-faith
compromise, and then offered to work to craft a bipartisan tax bill that
meets the test of fairness to children, to seniors, to millions of
Americans without health coverage, and to small business. The answer we
got was disappointing -- instead of meeting with us, instead of working
with the White House and-or congressional Democrats, the Republican
leadership instead crafted their own partisan tax package and passed it on
largely a party-line vote.
Again I'm asking the congressional leaders to instruct their tax
negotiators to meet with ours tomorrow, so we can find common ground on tax
relief for America's families. We don't yet know how the education and
health bill will work out. I hope the majority doesn't choose the path
they took on the tax bill, or the Commerce-State-Justice bill, for that
matter. Instead we should do what was done on the Agriculture bill I
signed today; on the VA-HUD bill; on the Interior bill -- the bipartisan
path that invariably leads us to progress.
We said very specifically what our schools need -- smaller class
sizes and modern classrooms, investments in accountability, turning around
failing schools, and teacher quality. There's no secret about what the
right course is. Our priorities are clear and we're ready to work with
them in good faith, just as we have on all other bills.
Again this morning, Congress voted for a stopgap spending bill
for today, and quickly left town for the weekend. That's like going to
work in the morning, punching the clock and going back home. Our budget
team is working all weekend, ready to meet. We need to come together on a
budget, meet on Medicare, work out a fair tax cut bill, raise the minimum
wage, and pass the New Markets legislation.
Tonight we turn back the clocks and we gain an hour. We ought to
put that extra hour to good use. We're here; we're ready; and we need to
finish the job.
Q Mr. President, does it bother you that your insistence on
just single-day extensions of the emergency spending bill has provoked
considerable anger and irritation on the Capitol? Trent Lott says it's
humiliating. Arlen Specter said you're intimidating Congress -- I'm sorry,
Trent Lott said it was harassment. Does that bother you? Do you think
this works against you?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I hope not. I'm not trying to harass them,
I'm just trying to get them finished and get out of town. They want to go
home and campaign and they have a right to -- they need to campaign, but
they need to finish their jobs.
And I think it's highly -- it's frustrating for Senator Lott
because the real problem here is that the right wing of the Republican
Caucus in the Senate so far has not permitted the Republicans to meet with
the Democrats and work out a compromise on these last bills, as we have on
all the others.
Now, we're working together on the Labor-HHS bill, which is the
education bill and human services bill. But on the tax bill and on the
appropriation for Commerce-State-Justice, they haven't permitted him to
work with us. And he's in a very difficult position. I'm very sympathetic
with him. I'm not trying to harass them. But if we kept passing these
four and five-day continuing resolutions, we'll just never get our work
done. And they are coming back tomorrow night. Last week they came back
on Monday night. So if we could make an agreement tomorrow night, they
could be out of here by Monday, and that would give them -- they could go
home eight days and take their case to the American people. That's all I'm
trying to do.
Q Mr. President, after you spoke out yesterday, the House
Speaker said he believed you were being forced by House Democrats to veto
the tax cut bill and to keep lawmakers in session in order to, A, prevent
Republicans from getting a victory before election day, and also to force
some confrontation for election-year gain. What do you say to the Speaker?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's not true. I mean, look at what -- I
mean, I have -- for three days in a row now I have lavished praise on the
Republicans, as well as the Democrats, where we have worked together. And
in each case I've told you the things that I didn't agree with that they
wanted in the bills that we accepted. So we're not trying to force a
I will say again, look at the facts here. We haven't finished
the education bill because we are still arguing over one issue, but I have
not criticized them. We're working in good faith to try to work through
There are two pieces of legislation, and two only, in this entire
Congress that they basically have refused to meet with us on. They said,
we heard you, and here's the best we can do, take it or leave it. And
they're in that position because of the power of the right wing of their
Caucus in the Senate and the House. And I understand, it's a very
difficult thing for them. I am not trying to provoke a confrontation here.
But these are the only -- I will say again, the facts are clear. These are
the only two bills on which we have not had a bipartisan negotiation.
All we're asking for is to do these bills the way we did the
others. They'll get some of what they want, we'll get some of what we
want. We'll have an agreement. It will be, on balance, good for the
American people. I will say that. Then they can go home and make their
case about what else they want to do; the Democrats can go home and make
their case about what else we would like to do.
All I'm trying to do is get the job done here, and all I'm asking
for is we treat these bills the same way we treated every other one.
Q Mr. President, is it your position that you'll sign one-day
CRs until you get a Labor-HHS bill, or that you'll only sign one-day CRs
until you get a Labor-HHS bill, a tax proposal and a Medicare --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we've got to finish the
education bill. But what I would -- my preference, my strong preference is
to finish it all. Let me just go back to -- your question is tied to the
previous one. It is not true that I do not want a tax bill before the
election. That is not true. I believe we should give some tax relief. I
am more than willing to do it, but I cannot in good conscience do something
that I think is unfair and that will aggravate some of the problems that it
purports to solve.
All I'm asking for here is what I have done every single year
I've been here. I just want -- if you go back, ever since we've had
divided government, whenever we have negotiated, we have reached agreement,
we've done things that have been good for America, starting with the
welfare reform bill in '96; we had the Balanced Budget Act in '97; we had
the Telecommunications Act, which has been an incredible boon to our
economy; and many, many other things.
And this year, because we've been fiscally prudent and we've got
some funds to invest in America's future, we have made some truly
astonishing steps forward for our country. All I am asking for is the same
method of working out the bill on the last two remaining bills that we got
on the other bills, and a good-faith conclusion to the work we're doing on
the education bill. That's all I'm asking for.
Q Mr. President, one question about the campaign, if I might.
There are reports today that Vice President Gore has communicated to you
that he would like you to steer clear of the battleground states of
Pennsylvania and Michigan. Is that true? And do you think you'd be a
political liability, or does he think that, if you went there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I said yesterday, generally -- remember
what I said yesterday? Let me just go back through this. I think, in
general, these elections are always decided by the candidates and the case
they make to the people. I actually, as I said, I may be the only person
that's involved in this debate who has experienced this situation in
reverse -- when President Reagan was immensely popular, and came to
Arkansas in '84 to campaign. And when the votes were counted, he had 62
percent and I think I had 63.
So what a President who is not running -- there are only two
things a President who is not running can do. You can tell people what you
think the condition of the country is and what the stakes are, and you can
try to rally the people that are already with you in the hope of getting a
bigger turnout. The undecided voters will be swayed primarily by the
And what I have to hope is that wherever I go, that what I have
to say is more important than just the fact of my being there. Because
you're going to decide who you want to be the next President, Mark is going
to decide, all of you are going to decide, and very few third parties can
change your mind. So that's not what is at issue here. The most important
actors in this drama are Al Gore and Governor Bush. They're the only
actors in the drama that really have any sway here -- except for Senator
Lieberman and Congressman Cheney; I think they can have some impact.
And the rest of us might be able to sway some undecided voters if
our arguments are heard -- and I have an understanding of this that's
unique because I've been President the last eight years. I may -- we
haven't decided everyplace I'm going yet, and I may still go to Michigan.
If they want me to come and the campaign thinks it will be helpful, I'll
go. But what I have to do is what I think will be most helpful. The
President, if your arguments are heard and people listen to them, you may
sway a few undecided voters. But the fact of your going is not a vote
getter ever. That wasn't for any previous President. It wasn't for
President Reagan. But it does help if you can turn out your votes.
So we're looking at all the best ways we have to try to make sure
all the people who are for our side and agree with us actually show up.
That's very important. The Republicans are doing the same thing. And
we'll just see what happens. I'll do whatever I think is best, in
consultation with the campaign. But I don't think the final travel
schedule has been set yet, and I think we just have to wait and see how
things unfold the next few days.
Also, as I said yesterday, I have to finish this work here. And
as you know, we're watching events in the Middle East very closely. So if
I can be helpful, I will. I've already done a lot the last year and I've
done a lot in the last few days. I will continue to do what I can. But
the first priority for me has to be here, and the election will be
determined by, I believe, the case made by the two candidates for President
in the next few days. And I think the rest of us, all we can do is hope to
sway a few undecided voters if they hear us, and get the folks out that are
already for us.
END 2:32 P.M. EDT