|For Immediate Release||June 6, 2000|
Today, as Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, President Clinton will call on Congressional Leaders to break the logjam that has neglected crucial needs such as disaster relief, the war against drugs, military readiness, LIHEAP cooling assistance, and air safety. The President will insist that Congress immediately pass supplemental emergency funding that has languished in the Senate for months. The President will also call on Congress to complete work on a fiscally responsible budget that invests in the American people and to finalize bipartisan legislation to pass common sense gun safety legislation, a strong, enforceable Patient's Bill of Rights, a clean $1 increase in the minimum wage over two years, and an affordable, voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit.
End Delays on Urgent Disaster Relief, Military and Other Crucial Needs
In February, President Clinton sent Congress an urgent $5.5 billion supplemental funding request to pay for pressing national needs that could not wait for next year's budget. After quick, bipartisan House action, the Senate has now dragged its feet for three months. Among other serious consequences, further delays will result in:
· Reduced Air Safety Inspections And Air Traffic Control System Maintenance: Without $77 million in additional funding contained in the President's request, the FAA will have to complete the summer travel season without hiring 170 safety inspectors, resulting in 10,000 fewer safety inspections and 100 fewer substance abuse inspections. Continued Congressional delay would also force the FAA to reduce maintenance of critical air traffic control systems, which will cause more system outages and increased flight delays during peak vacation times.
· Delayed Relief To Victims Of Hurricane Floyd: In September 1999 Hurricane Floyd destroyed homes, farms and businesses along the east coast, hitting North Carolina especially hard. Thousands of disaster victims are still waiting for promised assistance. The President's supplemental request contains $347 million to allow families to move or rebuild, help farmers replace equipment and buildings lost in the storm, and help small businesses repair damage. Further delays could postpone home construction until next spring, forcing families to spend a second winter in trailers or temporary shelters and preventing farmers from producing a successful crop again this year. The request contains housing assistance for up to 10,000 households through FEMA, HUD and the Department of Agriculture.
· Insufficient Firefighting Resources on National Parks and Public Lands: Department of Interior funding to fight fires will be exhausted by mid-June, just as peak fire season is beginning. The President has supported another $200 million to maintain the ability to respond to fires on National Parks and other public lands, and complete emergency rehabilitation tasks for this year and next.
· No emergency LIHEAP Cooling Assistance for Low Income Families: Winter fuel needs exhausted the emergency reserve for low-income heating and cooling assistance. The National Weather Service is predicting a hotter than average summer, but there is no emergency fund to provide cooling assistance for low income and elderly Americans. The President requested $600 million for LIHEAP to protect vulnerable low-income individuals from heat-related illness and death.
· Weakened Anti-Drug Efforts in Colombia: Colombia supplies 80 percent of the cocaine entering the U.S. The President's request for $955 million to support Colombia's sweeping anti-drug efforts has been pending for four months, restricting counter narcotics efforts in Colombia to small operations and giving drug traffickers an upper hand in the area. Congress' lack of support has been a setback to the international anti-drug effort, hampered Colombia's domestic reforms and economic recovery. Further delays will weaken the Colombian government and erode U.S. credibility in the global counter-narcotics battle while strengthening illegal armed groups and drug kingpins.
· Delaying International Debt Relief. Last year, the United States led the way in reaching an historic international agreement to provide greatly expanded relief to heavily indebted poor countries in order to help them reduce poverty. The President has requested $210 million to finance our participation in a global initiative that leverages $20 in foreign contributions for every dollar we contribute. While Congress fails to act, countries undertaking reforms in Latin America and Africa are likely to continue paying millions in interest to foreign creditors rather than investing in the health and education of their people. In many of these countries, one in ten children dies before their first birthday, one in three is malnourished, and the average adult has had only three years of education.
· Insufficient Funding for Military Readiness and American Troops in Kosovo: The Department of Defense has already been forced to take extraordinary action to avert a funding crisis because Congress failed to make the $2.7 billion requested by the President available in April. If Congress does not approve funds this month, the Army and other services will likely have to curtail training, damaging the readiness, capability and morale of our armed forces. The President's supplemental request also contains vital funding to support American troops in Kosovo.
Complete Work on America's Priorities
President Clinton will also call on Republican Congressional leaders to move forward on five key priorities. In many cases, Congress has answered the President's request to act on these items on a bipartisan basis, only to see progress blocked and the interests of the American people take a back seat to powerful lobbyists and special interests. The President will call on Congress to use the weeks ahead to complete work on the following measures:
· Raise The Minimum Wage: Congress has delayed increasing the minimum wage for over a year by attaching costly and unnecessary tax cuts to this long-overdue measure. Each day Congress delays, it takes money out of the paychecks of 10 million minimum wage workers, many who are moving from welfare to work. The minimum wage has not been increased in nearly four years. It now enjoys broad bipartisan support and should not be held hostage to an irresponsible tax cut aimed at helping special interests.
· Pass Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China: The House passed permanent normal trade relations in May. Now the Senate should clear this bill for the President's signature. Granting permanent normal trade relations, along with China's entry in the WTO, will open China's markets to the United States and will promote the cause of openness, reform and accountability in China. While China's entry into the WTO will slash barriers to the sale of American goods and services in the world's most populous country, the United States will be required simply to continue the trade policies that it already applies to China. The agreement is a clear win for American farmers, workers, manufacturers and high-tech businesses.
· Complete A Meaningful Patient's Bill Of Rights: Over nine months ago, the House passed the Norwood-Dingell Patient's Bill of Rights with overwhelming bipartisan support. However, Republican Congressional leaders have stalled action. The delay has resulted in unnecessary harm to thousands of patients whose insurance companies refuse to pay for tests or diagnostic procedures, fail to cover a prescription drug, or refuse to allow a doctor to refer the patient to a specialist. Congress has just a few weeks remaining to demonstrate that the interests of patients and doctors come before insurance company profits by passing a meaningful bipartisan Patient's Bill of Rights.
· Provide Affordable, Voluntary Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage For All Beneficiaries: Medicare beneficiaries face prescription drug costs that are increasing at double the rate of inflation, and a growing number of seniors are finding themselves with inadequate prescription drug coverage or none at all. Congress should act now to provide an affordable coverage option before even more seniors are forced to choose between food and prescription drugs for all beneficiaries.
· Approve Common Sense Gun Safety Legislation: Sensible gun safety legislation has languished in Congress for nearly a year, while an estimated 30,000 Americans have lost their lives to gun violence. In May 1999 the Senate passed common sense gun safety measures, with Vice President Gore casting the tie-breaking vote. Since then, Republican Congressional leaders have delayed and bottled up this legislation at the behest of the gun lobby. The President will call on Congress to come to consensus on 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 A Fiscally Responsible Budget That Invests In Our Priorities: The President proposed a balanced and fiscally responsible budget that makes investments in key priorities for the American people. The President's budget includes important investments in education, including funds to modernize 6,000 schools, continue the effort to hire 100,000 quality teachers to reduce class size, expand our efforts to identify and turn around failing schools, and increase accountability. However, in order to pay for fiscally irresponsible tax cuts, Congressional Republicans have cut $24 billion from the President's domestic priorities. This would result 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. This year, as he has for the past seven, President Clinton will insist that Congress produce a responsible budget that honors our values and invests in the American people.
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