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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release March 13, 1996
                            PRESS CONFERENCE

      I wish I didn't have to be here this morning.  But once again,

it looks like Congress is about to send President Clinton a plan that balances the budget by unbalancing our values. And just two days from now, the Republican Congressional leadership could close the federal government for the third time in less than six months.

Let me say it plain: It was wrong for them to shut down the government the first time. It was wrong the second time. And three wrongs don't make a right.

President Clinton is committed to balancing the budget. He believes deeply in reaching that destination. But we refuse to travel to a balanced budget by running over Medicare, rear-ending education, and sideswiping the environment. That's simply not right.

The Republican leadership's legislation still contains both special interest riders and deep budget cuts that would roll back protections for America's air, water, and public lands.

We went through the exact same song and dance five months ago: They sent us these same extreme measures on the environment. We sent them back, said they were unacceptable, and asked the Congress to do better.

But instead of doing better, these Congressmen are just rerunning the same show in a new time slot. They're sending up virtually the same provisions we said were unacceptable last time. And we'll be forced to reject them -- exactly like last time. Here we go again. I'm starting to feel like I'm in that movie, "Groundhog Day."

But besides giving America a wicked case of deja vu, this budget plan is hazardous to the nation's health in more significant ways. These Congressmen may claim their environmental budget is clean and green -- but it would leave the environment black and blue.

The bill President Clinton vetoed in December cut EPA's by 22 percent. The Senate is proposing to restore a fraction of this funding and the House none at all.

And the damage is already being done. The cuts already in place have taken many environmental cops off the beat. In the first quarter of this fiscal year, EPA missed 40 percent of its inspections, because it didn't have the resources.

As a result, they're putting our kids in danger. More than 10 million American children under 12 currently live within four miles of a toxic waste site. But because of the cuts they've already made, cleanups at 60 toxic waste sites have been delayed. And if these cuts extend into the rest of the year, our ability to clean up this poison will be seriously delayed at more than 400 sites.

And there are other provisions that are simply an outrage: clearcutting the Tongass rainforest; crippling EPA's wetlands efforts; telling communities they don't have a right to know about toxic pollutants being pumped into their neighborhoods. All of these special interest giveaways were tucked into their bills without hearing or comment.

We've got to do better than that. Yes, the era of big government is over. But the dusk of big government need not bring the dawn of a fend for yourself society. So let's balance the budget. But let's do it in a way that honors our values, invests in our future, and protects our environment.