THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER SENATE VOTE ON BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT
The Briefing Room
3:17 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I have a statement I'd like to make about the vote on the balanced budget amendment and what happens now. And I look forward to taking your questions tomorrow. We're going to have a press conference then, and so I'll just read the statement now.
The balanced budget amendment has been defeated because Republicans could not provide enough Democratic senators with the simple guarantee that Social Security would be protected in any balanced budget amendment procedures.
Let me begin by simply congratulating the people on both sides of this issue who argued with great depth of conviction and sincerity, and people on both sides who want to bring down the deficit and eliminate unnecessary spending but who differ on the consequences and the necessity of using an amendment to the Constitution to do it.
The question we must all face now is, what happens tomorrow? We all know that there is no real requirement of a constitutional amendment to reduce unnecessary government spending and to reduce the deficit. For 12 years before I took office, Washington allowed the deficit to explode. Organized interest did well, but the public interest and the future suffered. Washington, during this entire period, spent too much time on rhetoric and gimmicks, and too little time making hard, smart, specific budgetary decisions.
Then, just two years ago, Democrats acting alone had the courage to pass the largest deficit reduction package in the history of the United States -- now, over $600 billion. Our annual deficit at that time was about five percent of our income. It has now dropped to just over half that and is scheduled to go down much lower.
A month ago we added to that historic deficit reduction with a budget that cuts spending, cuts the deficit even more, and provides for modest tax cuts to the middle class for education and child-rearing. I am as ready as ever to work with the Congress to make further reductions in the deficit. As I have said repeatedly, it must come in the context of responsible health care reform because it is only the health care costs of the country that are going up in our budget. All other costs are flat or declining.
Now, the process of reducing the deficit while investing in our future must go forward. There is a legal process for doing just that. In 1993, though I had never before been a part of government in Washington, we presented our budget plan only 27 days into our administration.
It has now been 57 days since the Republicans took control of the Congress. And even though their leadership has been here many, many more years, they have still not presented their budget. We passed the budget resolution for our plan before the legal deadline of April 15th. Now they must follow that process as well, telling the American people how they are going to keep the promises of their Contract on balancing the budget and paying for their tax cuts by the legal deadline of April 15th.
When the Republicans do present their budget plan we will carefully consider it. We owe them that, and we must. I have shown my commitment to reducing the deficit and to investing in our future. And I will continue to do that. I believe we can reduce the deficit without compromising our commitment to education and to our children, and without undermining our commitment to our seniors and Social Security and basic Medicare needs. I believe we can do that. I believe we can do it while continuing our commitment to provide 100,000 police officers for this country, a program that has already fully paid for by spending cuts. We do not need to allow any of those things to be used as a bank to cut taxes for upper-income Americans. There are other things we can do right now; things that I agree with the Republican leadership on.
And let me just close with this one. Let us now immediately take up in the Senate the line-item veto and let's pass it. We can cut millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars in spending with the line-item veto. So I urge the Senate to proceed immediately to take that up. And I will work as hard as I can to persuade members of both parties to support it and to continue the important work of reducing the deficit.
END3:23 P.M. EST