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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 15, 1995


The Briefing Room

5:39 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: As all of you know, today the Republicans in Congress broke off our negotiations on how best to balance the budget in seven years. They said they would not even continue to talk unless we agreed right now to make deep and unconscionable cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. That's unacceptable. The cuts they propose would deprive millions of people of health care -- poor children, pregnant women, the disabled, seniors in nursing homes. They would let Medicare "wither on the vine" into a second-class system. And these things simply are not necessary to balance the budget.

You know, I don't agree with their very large tax cuts for wealthy Americans and for all the special interests that get help in their bill. But I did not require them to drop those provisions as a condition of just talking. But they wanted us to agree to big cuts in Medicare and Medicaid simply to talk.

Last week, before these talks even began, I forwarded to Congress a detailed plan to balance the budget in seven years without violating our values. That plan contained a large amount of deficit reduction over and above our original proposal. Today, we made yet another good-faith effort to resolve our differences. I have sought reasonable discussions and honest compromise to balance the budget.

Now the Republicans in Congress are not only refusing to talk; once again they're threatening to shut the government down if I do not accept their deep cuts in health care, education, the environment, and their tax increases on working families. I would not give into such a threat last month, and I will not give in today.

I would remind you when we signed the last resolution we said we would work in good faith to balance the budget in seven years without harmful cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education, the environment, agriculture, veterans benefits, and without raising taxes on working families.

So let me say again, and all Americans must understand this -- the decision by the Republican congressional majority to shut the government down has nothing -- nothing -- to do with the discussion over the seven-year balanced budget plan. Congress has simply refused to pass this year's budgets and has forced the government to operate on a series of temporary approvals so that they can use the threat of a shutdown to pressure me and the congressional Democrats into approving long-term reductions in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment that we believe strongly are not good for America.

It is wrong, it is simply wrong, for the congressional Republicans to insist that I make deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, or they will not even talk, and, furthermore, they will shut the government down again just before Christmas.

The Congress should simply pass straightforward legislation to keep the government open. And then our negotiators should return to the table without threats, without ultimatums, to discuss how we can find common ground on balancing the budget. That is what we ought to do. That is what I am willing to do. And the idea that we should abandon the commitment we made and they agreed to just a few days ago in not having unacceptable cuts in Medicare and Medicaid as a condition of talking is wrong -- is wrong -- and we should not do that.

Thank you very much.

END 5:43 P.M. EST