View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                                   January 21, 1997
                           THE WHITE HOUSE
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                        AT ECONOMIC TEAM MEETING

The Cabinet Room

2:24 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Are we all here? Are we all awake. (Laughter.) Are we all cogent?

Q How about you?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'm, fine. I got a good night's sleep last night.

Yesterday was a great day of celebration for us, but it's time to get down to work. I told everyone at all the balls yesterday that I felt better at the second inauguration than the first because the country was better, but that I wanted us to see it not as a reward for the first four years, but a mandate for the next four. And that's what I want to be working on today.

I wanted to begin this second term by meeting first with our economic team to discuss finishing the job of balancing the budget. I said yesterday that we need a new government for the new century ahead and that means a government that lives within its means, that our parties must work together and that we have to be repairers of the breach that has developed in our partisan system over the last four years and too often among our people.

To that end, on February the 6th I will submit a balanced budget. As I said yesterday, we have to do -- what I will do -- maintain our commitment to a balanced budget and the balance of our values. That's why we will also expand education, research and technology, protect the environment, and preserve health care for our parents and our children.

The only way we can actually balance the budget is if we seize this moment to work together. And I'm going to do my best to reach out to the Republicans. So today I want to announce that our balanced budget will contain Medicare reforms that will make the program work better and will meet my goal of securing the Medicare trust fund for 10 years. It will save $138 billion over six years. And it should bring us much closer to bipartisan agreement, because based on the scoring of the Congressional Budget Office last year, this means that we're meeting the Republicans halfway. I want to meet them halfway on this and on many other issues. And I hope they'll meet me halfway.

I'm determined that if we'll do that we can resolve our remaining differences and reach agreement to balance the budget and do a lot of other good things for the American people as well. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope this first gesture is one that will be treated in good faith and responded to in kind.

Q Mr. President, what effect do you think today's House vote on Mr. Gingrich will have on your stated effort yesterday and today to repair the breach?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, of course, it depends on how everyone reacts to it. But I believe I said what I needed to say in the inaugural -- I think the House should do its business and then we should get back to the people's business.

Q Mr. President, on the $138 billion, what does that come to over five years since you're going to be submitting a five-year balanced budget proposal, not a six-year balanced budget proposal?

THE PRESIDENT: It's about -- but the point is that the Republicans will be, too. In other words, the ratio will be about the same.

Q And do you expect them to simply accept that or to see that as an opening bargaining position, going forward in the negotiations to try to find some sort of common ground, given the history of the so-called "Mediscare" tactics that were used against them during the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, as you know, I dispute that. I vetoed a budget that had $270 billion in Medicare cuts. Throughout the campaign and in the debates I pointed out that the Republicans and I had moved closer together at the end, but that if we adopted a 15-percent across-the-board tax cut it would push the Medicare number back to a number I vetoed. I don't think that's Mediscare. so I just dispute that.

But the main thing is we've got to get up today and do the work of the country. There are lots of elements to this budget, Medicare is not the only one. But it's a very important one, and I do believe, obviously, if we adopt a balanced budget plan in a bipartisan way, then we all have to take responsibility for the decisions and we all have to take responsibility, therefore, for complimenting those in the other party who take the same decision we do. And so I'm just trying to create the conditions in which we can do that, and I think meeting them halfway on this and perhaps a number of other issues is the way to go.

Q Mr. President -- will the cuts come from providers or beneficiaries?

THE PRESIDENT: You'll be briefed on all that, I think, as soon as this is over. But we believe there are substantial savings to be made in the Medicare program and we're going to offer our ways of doing it.

Q Mr. President, the Democratic National Committee has decided to stop taking even legal -- what are now legal contributions from foreigners. Can we ask you -- I assume you've had a lot to do that, and is it a sign that perhaps there were problems in the past?

THE PRESIDENT: We're going over there in a few minutes and I'll be addressing all that then.

Q What about the, Mr. President, you're making --some new, tighter restrictions on access to the White House later today as well?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going over there in a few minutes, so I'll have more to say about it.

Q You heard Alan Greenspan -- constitutional amendment? (Laughter.) He says he has reservations about that.

THE PRESIDENT: Good for him.

Q Is that a result of the meeting you had with him the other day?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I think Mr. Greenspan makes his own conclusions.

Q What about --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Everyone but Wolf leaves. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: -- makes his own -- but I was very pleased to hear him say that.

MR. MCCURRY: Wolf, Greenspan is still on the access list. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: We've got new rules on access to the press. You guys are staying here. (Laughter.)

END 2:29 P.M. EST