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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 14, 1998
                              TO THE NATION

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This is a time of great promise for America, and it should be a time of great achievement as we work to strengthen our nation for the 21st century.

There are only 68 work days remaining in the congressional session. Yet, we still have a lot of work to do -- maintaining fiscal discipline by setting aside any budget surplus until we save Social Security first; protecting our children with comprehensive tobacco legislation; strengthening families with the Patient's Bill of Rights and child care legislation; honoring our parents by letting more people buy into Medicare; improving education with higher standards and smaller classes and more funds to build and repair schools; preserving our environment with a new clean water initiative and incentives to have new technologies meet the challenge of global warming.

This is a full agenda for the future of our nation. But we must act now -- not over the next 68 days, but right now, in the next several days -- to advance our security around the world and rebuild communities hit by natural disasters here at home.

I have asked Congress for an emergency bill to fund these pressing security and natural disaster needs. Here's what's at stake. The measure will pay for the deployment of America's Armed Forces in and around the Persian Gulf. Our Armed Forces must stand watch to make sure Saddam Hussein allows inspectors to detect and destroy his capacity for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. As long as Saddam Hussein continues to pose a threat we must remain vigilant.

The measure would also pay our longstanding debt to the United Nations at a time when that organization continues to play a critical role in forcing Iraq to yield and in supporting peace and progress throughout the world. I don't think any American believes that America shouldn't pay its dues to the U.N.

The emergency measure will also support the brave men and women of our Armed Forces as they continue to help democracy and peace take root in Bosnia. It will promote our national economic security as well, supporting the International Monetary Fund as it reduces the harm to America's economy from the financial turmoil in Asia.

Perhaps most important of all, we need emergency action to help millions of families whose lives have been turned upside down by the natural disasters in the winter of 1998. Communities in California, New England, Florida and Guam have seen flooding, ice, mudslides and the savage force of El Nino. I visited with many of these families; I've seen how hard they're struggling. Our national community must help them. This emergency measure will rebuild roads, repair military bases, prevent future flooding, help family farmers, and help families in distress.

Now, these emergency measures are vital to the national interest. They have broad bipartisan support. But, unfortunately, some in Congress are preparing to slip unrelated, controversial provisions into the bill -- proposals guaranteed to produce gridlock and delay. One provision is a controversial issue related to family planning. Another would even block the Federal Communications Commission from offering candidates free TV air time which would cut the cost of campaigns and reduce special interest influence. Now, it's bad enough that Congress won't pass campaign financial reform; now some in Congress want to stamp it out anywhere it sees it.

These unrelated issues, whatever side you have on them, absolutely have no place on emergency legislation. Congress shouldn't hold emergency aid for families hostage to controversial provisions. Congress shouldn't demand ransom to maintain America's world leadership and meet America's responsibility to our own national security.

Last year when Congress tried to attach partisan measures to similar disaster legislation, I said, no. Congress would be unwise to head down that same road again. Instead, let's work together to enact a straightforward emergency measure. No unacceptable provisions, no political gimmicks. Let's work together to meet the long-term needs of our families, our economy, our nation. If we will once again put aside partisanship, reject narrow agendas, and focus on the national interest, the remaining 68 days of this congressional session can be a time of real achievement for our people, and our future.

Thanks for listening.