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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 2, 1998
                     REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT
                     ON SUBMISSION OF 1999 BUDGET

The East Room

10:30 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, and, Erskine, thank you for your kind introduction and for your tremendous dedication to the achievement that we're celebrating here today. And of course we would not be here, everyone understands clearly, without the outstanding economic team that poured their hearts and souls, and lots of cups of coffee also, into this first balanced budget in a generation.

And I want to acknowledge with the greatest respect possible that economic team: Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin; Budget Director Frank Raines; Chair of our Council of Economic Advisers Janet Yellen; and Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling. A great team. (Applause.)

On behalf of the President I want to also acknowledge the other members of the Cabinet who are here: the Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman; the Attorney General, Janet Reno; the Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbitt; Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo; Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman; Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala; Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater; Secretary of Energy Federico Pena; our special Trade Representative, Charlene Barshefsky; Secretary of Education Dick Riley; the Director of the Office of Drug Control, Barry McCaffrey; Director of FEMA James Lee Witt; head of the SBA Aida Alvarez; Joe Duffey of USIA; Togo West, Secretary-designate of Veterans Affairs; and other distinguished guests. If I've missed other members of the administration, as I know I have, I want to acknowledge all of you as a group.

Now, there are more than 30 members of the House and Senate here. I want to acknowledge two by name and then ask the others to join in standing to receive our thanks. The two ranking members of the budget committees in the Senate and House respectively are Frank Lautenberg and John Spratt, and I'd like to thank the two of them. (Applause.) And I'd like to ask each member of the House and Senate present here who helped to make this achievement possible to please stand and receive our thanks. Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: Both sides.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Both sides. (Applause.)

Well, it's a great day. And among other things I just want to note in passing that this also happens to be Groundhog Day. And, as you know, there is a great new American tradition that's starting today, and you will see some young people here in the audience shadowing the members of the Cabinet and other top leaders of our government, learning what it's like. And we're awfully glad that they are here. General Colin Powell and others have come up with this idea, and we're delighted that they're here.

I think of Groundhog Day also, I have to admit, in connection with that terrific movie by Bill Murray -- (laughter) -- where he wakes up every morning and it's the same day over and over and over again. You know, that's the way Budget Day used to be. (Laughter.) Every time we got to Budget Day, we woke up from the wonderful dreams that had been spun out for us by our national leaders at that time, about how we were going to balance the budget and how we were going to be fiscally responsible and everything was going to be great. And then the alarm bell rang on Budget Day and we woke up and it was the same old story. Over and over again, the deficit got bigger and bigger, and problems got worse and worse, and people got really tired of it.

And so it was time for a change, and of course that was one of the main messages that then-Governor Bill Clinton and I took to the country so many years ago. And then immediately after the inauguration in 1993, the President and this terrific economic team put a blueprint for change before the Congress. And, you know, not one single member of the other party supported that, and these members from the House and Senate who are here did. And there are some former members of the House and Senate who put their careers on the line and sacrificed their careers in order to make it possible for our nation to undergo the very painful changes that led directly to the achievement that we celebrate today. I would like to acknowledge all of the former members of the House and Senate who voted for a balanced budget and lost their careers as a result of it. (Applause.)

Now, when you read through this budget -- for all the excitement we feel here today -- you may notice that like all budgets, it makes for pretty dry reading -- numbers and graphs and tables. I love it, though. I think it's great. (Laughter.) For those of you who won't pore through all of those numbers and graphs, let me preview the ending for you. I don't want to ruin it for you, but when you get to the end, what you'll find is that President Clinton is submitting to the Congress today the first balanced budget in 30 years. That's the ending. (Applause.)

Now, there was another step necessary in order to come to this remarkable achievement. The change brought about in 1993 was the essential part of the job. That charted the course and set us on the course. But in order to finish the journey and in order to really get this locked in, he had to lead our country in another difficult challenge, and that was to create bipartisanship in forging the final steps forward toward this balanced budget.

In many ways, that was even harder than the first job of getting the change in the first place. You know how bitter partisanship sometimes becomes in this city and in our modern-day politics, but this President was able to lead the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to join hands in putting aside a lot of the differences long enough to create a compromise that reflects our values in this country while the budget is balanced. And so I would also like to acknowledge the active participation and help in the 1997 bipartisan balanced budget agreement that included the leadership of both parties and the members in both parties to strengthen our country for the 21st century.

And to the nay-sayers and back-seat budgeteers who doubted our ability to meet these challenges and dry up that sea of red ink, our message is clear: this is the right approach for America's future. And now with momentum on our side and our economy thriving, this is no time to go back to Washington, D.C.'s bad old days. Already, some of the very same voices who were so wrong in opposing our '93 plan and opposing our '97 agreement have been urging us to spending again like there's no tomorrow, or giving away the store in huge budget-busting tax breaks.

Well, we're not going to follow their faulty advice. We're going to stick to the agenda that the President laid out in his

State of the Union address: strategic investments in the future, targeted tax cuts, and fixing Social Security first before touching any of the surpluses. (Applause).

We will also continue reinventing government to make it work better and cost less. After all, it is our progress in reinventing and downsizing government, while improving it, that has enabled us to balance the budget, cut taxes for families, and invest properly in key priorities for the future.

For a generation, many in Washington would reflexively say that the solution to the budget crunch was to cut down on waste, fraud, and abuse. Well, yes, but they said it so often, it wasn't a policy proposal, it was a punch line -- and it didn't have anything to back it up. But, for the past 5 years, we've made the tough choices based on real numbers and done the hard work of actually cutting wasteful spending.

And do you know the people who made that possible? They don't often get the credit they deserve. They are the federal employees and the federal managers and the leaders of these Cabinet departments who went to work cutting the red tape, eliminating the waste, in a way that didn't get rid of the good things about our self-government, but got rid of the unnecessary things. None of this achievement today would have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the federal employees who have made this President's plan work. (Applause.)

We cut 316,000 people from the federal work force, acting on the advice of those federal employees and managers. And we now have not only the balanced budget but also the smallest federal government as a percentage of the work force since before the New Deal. We eliminated 200 outdated government programs, slashed 16,000 pages of red tape, and saved the American people by that means over $120 billion dollars.

And because of that, always remember this is not only a balanced budget -- it is a progressive budget that allows us to work together through the instruments of self-government in order to successfully address our country's problems.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we've come a long way from the endless deficits of that Groundhog Day, five, six years ago, and we thanked all the people who made it possible. But everybody knows that the one person who really charted this course, wrote the blueprint, inspired all of us to work as part of a unified American team, to really recapture our destiny in America, to once again redeem the promise of representative democracy and to show that we are in control of America's future because we are Americans, and we have the fortitude to make the kind of choices that make sense for the people of the United States of America in this generation and in the generations to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is truly a remarkable accomplishment, made possible by the leadership of a remarkable President of the United States of America, William Jefferson Clinton.

END 10:44 A.M. EST