President Clinton Calls On Congress to Emphasize Fiscal Discipline and Priorities for American Families


July 15, 2000

Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton criticized the Senate Republican leadership for placing a higher priority on an excessive, regressive, multi-billion estate tax repeal that would benefit fewer than 60,000 Americans over a Medicare prescription drug benefit that would provide desperately needed coverage for tens of millions of seniors and people with disabilities. He reiterated his opposition to this ill-advised and irresponsible tax change and urged the Congress to focus on priorities that will benefit millions of Americans of all incomes, including raising the minimum wage, enacting a strong, enforceable, Patients' Bill of Rights, and investments in key priorities like education, health coverage, and the environment, many of which have attracted substantial bipartisan support. In this spirit, President Clinton made a good-faith offer to move forward on debt reduction by taking Medicare off-budget, as well as signing prescription drug and marriage penalty relief legislation. However, Republican Congressional leaders have not only worked to defeat the President's program to help working families, but have moved ahead on their own agenda that risks our fiscal discipline and undermines our priorities.

The Republicans Have Failed to Address Key Priorities and Instead Have Passed Irresponsible Tax Cuts that Threaten Our Fiscal Discipline, Spending Over $650 Billion of the Surplus

This Congress has adopted a strategy of passing tax cuts one by one, with no overall framework or plan. The tax cuts already passed by the Congress would spend over $650 billion of the surplus. These include: estate tax repeal ($104 billion in the House and Senate), marriage penalty ($182 billion in the House, with a $248 billion bill currently being debated in the Senate), communications excise tax repeal ($51 billion in the House), so-called small business tax reductions ($122 billion in the House and $103 billion in the Senate), Patients Bill of Rights ($49 billion in the House and $32 billion in the Senate), and affordable education ($21 billion in the Senate). With interest, the total cost of these cuts is over $650 billion. If the Republican Congress continues on this path, it could pass tax cuts that would spend the entire on-budget surplus and more – leaving no money for America's priorities.

The most recent tax cut passed by Congress was an irresponsible repeal of the estate tax, which the Republican majority pushed through while voting down a more targeted approach that would have allowed additional resources for priorities:


The President's Constructive Offer to Address America's Priorities;

On June 26th, President Clinton made a constructive offer to the Congressional leadership to break the gridlock in Washington and take important steps for America's families. The President's offer had three parts:

  1. As a precondition, Medicare should be taken off-budget and its $403 billion surplus locked in for debt reduction.

  2. If Congress passes an affordable voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit that is available to all and protects against catastrophic costs along the lines of the plan proposed by the President, then

  3. The President would be willing to sign broader marriage penalty tax relief along the lines passed by the House or reported out of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Congressional leadership has chosen to ignore this offer, without providing an alternative of its own, and to proceed with an agenda that risks our fiscal discipline while bypassing the priorities of American families.

Congress Should Act on Crucial Priorities This Year: In his radio address, the President highlighted several priorities for Congressional action this year:

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