THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
RADIO ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION The Roosevelt Room
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This weekend all across our country, Christians and Jews are gathered with their families to celebrate Easter and Passover. For them and for every American, Hillary and I wish that this season of faith and renewal will also be a time of hope.
In a few weeks Congress will return from their own Easter recess and begin to sift through all the bills passed by the House and, in some cases, those passed by the Senate, too. A lot of that work is good. A lot of it I campaigned on in 1992 -- spending cuts, the line-item veto, paperwork reduction, tougher criminal sentences and greater flexibility for the police to do their jobs. These things are also consistent with actions already taken by our administration to cut the deficit, the size of government, the burden of regulation, to tighten enforcement on child support and college loan repayments, and to give more support to Head Start and affordable college loans, national service, and family leave.
But a lot of these proposals, these new ones, go too far -- cuts in education and job training, undermining environmental protections, undermining our efforts to put 100,000 new police on our streets, legislation to permit the sale of assault weapons, and penalties for going into court to assert your rights as a citizen. I'm concerned that important issues will be lost in all the welter of detailed legislative proposals Congress has to consider. So I want to tell Congress and the American people what my priorities are.
There are three areas that I assign the highest priority. They're my "must" list. First is welfare reform. We must pass a bill that reforms the welfare system and restores mainstream values of work and family, responsibility and community. We must demand work and responsibility by setting definite time limits for welfare recipients and enforcing strict work requirements. We must promote family and responsibility by passing the toughest possible child support enforcement, including our plan to deny driver's licenses to parents who refuse to pay their child support.
We must also give the states more flexibility, building on the work I've already done by giving states freedom -- 25 of them -- from federal rules so they can find new ways to move people from welfare to work. At the same time, we have to uphold our values of community and responsibility by avoiding proposals that punish children for their parents mistakes.
Recent proposals by a number of senators for welfare reform that don't penalize children born to teenage mothers are certainly a step in the right direction. And the House of Representatives has adopted all my proposals for tougher child support enforcement. I appreciate these efforts. We have to keep on working, however. All the proposals are still too weak on work and on helping people to move from welfare to work. We can and must work together to pass a welfare reform bill that I can sign into law this year. Delaying reform any further would be a betrayal of what the American people want.
Second on my "must" list are tax and spending cuts --the right kind in the right amount for the right people. These tax cuts must be directed at the right people, that is, the middle class Americans who need them to help them build a successful future. And they must be fully paid for by spending cuts. Tax cuts must include a deduction for the cost of college or other education after high school.
Then Congress and I need to work together to go beyond the $600 billion of deficit reduction we've already enacted. And I've already proposed another $80 billion in cuts on top of paying for all the tax cuts that I have proposed for the cost of education after high school for helping people with raising children and for an IRA which can be withdrawn from tax free for the cost of education or health care, first-time home buying or caring for an elderly parent.
We've also worked with Congress on $15 billion of further cuts. And I am ready to do more. But we have to focus on our twin deficits -- we have a budget deficit and an education deficit. And we cannot cut one at the expense of the other.
The third thing I want to do is to build on last year's crime bill, not tear it down. We should all be open to new proposals for tougher penalties and more support for our police, but they must not be a cover for cutting back on our commitment for 100,000 new police officers on our street, or for repealing the assault weapons ban that would put our police and our citizens more at risk. If that happens, I'll veto it.
More police on the street is the single most effective crime-fighting tool we know of. And assault weapons have no place on our streets. Last year's bill did ban assault weapons in the future -- 19 of them -- whose only purpose is to kill people. But it also, for the first time, gave legal protection from government meddling to over 650 kinds of hunting and sporting weapons.
Congress must send me a bill that doesn't scale back or repeal the efforts so I can sign it and it can become law. There is too much to do in crime to play politics with it or to go back.
Real welfare reform, tax and spending cuts that reduce both the budget deficit and the education deficit, and more steps to fight crime, not to back up on the fight -- those are my top priorities. The first 100 days of this Congress produced a blizzard of ideas and proposals. The next 100 days must get down to the hard task of passing bills that command majorities in both Houses, bills that will help to build a stronger America, bills that I can sign into law.
In the coming months, we have an historic chance to make progress on the issues of great concern to all Americans. Let's get on with it.
Thanks for listening.