President Clinton's Radio Address to the Nation (7/15/00)
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|                            AMERICAN FAMILIES                            |
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|    Saturday, July 15, 2000    |
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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:

?  Congress passes fiscally irresponsible and regressive estate tax repeal.
According to estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation and the
Department of the Treasury, the cost of the Congressional estate tax repeal
would explode from about $100 billion from 2001-10 to about $750 billion
from 2011-20 ? possibly one of the most backloaded tax cuts ever passed by
Congress.  In 2010, the entire benefit of estate tax repeal would go to
only the 54,000 wealthiest estates ? two percent of all decedents ?
providing them with an average tax cut of $800,000.  Half of the benefits
of repeal would go to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of families ?
just 3,000 families annually.  Estate tax repeal would cost about $50
billion in 2010 ? substantially more than the cost of the President?s
prescription drug proposal, which would benefit more than 40 million
deserving seniors.  Only a tiny fraction of the revenue cost of estate tax
repeal would benefit small businesses and family farms.  Furthermore,
studies by economists have found that repealing the estate tax would reduce
charitable donations by $5 billion to $6 billion per year.  For these
reasons, the President has said he would veto the bill.

?  The Majority in the Senate ignores more targeted alternatives that
address priorities for American families.  The majority in the Senate voted
against more-targeted and fiscally responsible estate tax relief that would
have eliminated estate taxes for two-thirds of those who now pay and the
vast majority of small businesses and family farms ? at a fraction of the
cost of total repeal.  Senate Republicans also voted against amendments to
reduce poverty among senior citizens, provide for a voluntary Medicare
prescription drug benefit, make college more affordable,  provide
additional housing, help working families save for retirement, and assist
families in assuring affordable health insurance and long-term care.

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

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

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

?  Provide Affordable, Voluntary Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage For
All Beneficiaries:  Over 13 million Medicare beneficiaries have no drug
coverage, and over 3 in 5 beneficiaries have undependable drug coverage.
Medigap and managed care prescription drug coverage is either expensive,
extremely limited, and / or  unavailable. Seniors and people with
disabilities on Medicare without drug coverage fill 30% fewer prescriptions
than those with coverage, but pay 83 percent more out-of-pocket for drugs.
With fewer than 40 days left in the legislative session, President Clinton
will urge the Congress to act now to design a meaningful and accessible
prescription drug benefit option for all Medicare beneficiaries.  To that
end, the President has proposed a voluntary Medicare prescription drug
benefit that would begin in 2002 and, in return for a $25 premium, 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 as well as
limiting all out-of-pocket medication costs to $4,000.

?  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 modernizing
6,000 schools and repairing 25,000 more, meeting our commitment to hire
100,000 quality teachers to reduce class size, identifying and turning
around failing schools, mentoring at-risk youth to increase college
success, and increasing accountability.  However, to pay for fiscally
irresponsible tax cuts, Congressional Republicans have cut $28 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.

?  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 of whom are moving from
welfare to work.  The minimum wage has not been increased in nearly four
years.  An increase now enjoys broad bipartisan support and should not be
held hostage to an irresponsible tax cut aimed at helping those who are
already better off.

?  Pass 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.  The President will urge the Congress to reject the
partisan, flawed bill passed recently by Senate Republicans. This bill
would: fail to provide full protections to more than 135 million Americans;
allow health plans to subject patients accessing emergency care to
financial penalties; fail to guarantee real access to specialists; and
establish a wholly inadequate enforcement mechanism that prevents plans
from being accountable when they make harmful decisions.  He will stress
that the Congress is one vote away from achieving a majority vote for the
bipartisan Norwood-Dingell legislation, which has been endorsed by over 200
health care provider and consumer advocacy groups, and urge it to act to
pass this legislation without further delay.

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