THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT UPON DEPARTURE
The South Grounds
8:55 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: In a few moments I am leaving for Houston to speak to the men and women of NASA, visit with America's oldest and newest space hero, Senator John Glenn, and participate tonight in an ESPN Town Hall on Race. But first, I want to make a personnel announcement about a critical position on our economic team.
For five and a half years, our administration has brought a new vision of stewardship to our economy. We insisted on fiscal discipline, on bringing the deficit down from $290 billion on the day I took office to nearly zero today. At the same time, we were determined to invest in our people and their future, to give all Americans the chance to reap the rewards of our prosperity. This invest and grow economic strategy is clearly the right one for America.
To put this strategy into place we have needed an able team. I have been proud to have at my side skilled and dedicated men and women, a true team of public servants who have helped to steer the economy through one of the longest peacetime expansions in our history. For the past two years, Frank Raines has been a key member of that team. He has served the American people with true distinction as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He is the first Budget Director to draft and submit a balanced budget since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. He brought a businessman's practical sensibility to the task of safeguarding the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.
He has earned the trust of Democratic and Republican members of Congress alike. He has served as a key negotiator of last year's balanced budget agreement. He has shown true leadership in tackling the difficult problems of the District of Columbia. Frank Raines has been, in short, a brilliant OMB Director, a leader of this administration, a trusted advisor, an able spokesperson, and a real friend.
He has just informed me in the last couple of days that he has decided to step down as Director of OMB because of a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the private sector. I regret his decision, but I certainly understand it. I think it's clearly the right thing for him, his wife Wendy and their children, and I wish them all the best.
I'm also delighted to announce my intention to nominate Jack Lew to be the next OMB Director. Only a handful of people in Washington have Jack Lew's profound knowledge of the federal budget and the legislative process; almost none of them has his ability to explain it in plain English. Just as important, very few people in Washington also have his record of idealism, commitment and conscience.
From his days as policy director for the Speaker of the House, when he and Tip O'Neill worked to strengthen Social Security in 1983, to his days fighting to create AmeriCorps, a national service initiative that has brought the spark of service and the opportunity for a college education to the lives of tens of thousands of young Americans, to his most recent work as Deputy Director of OMB, drafting our balanced budget, Jack Lew has been a true and dedicated public servant.
Like Frank Raines, with whom he has made a very good team, Jack works to balance the budget not just for its own sake, but for the sake of the people whose interests and values he serves. He already serves as a valued member of our economic team. I look forward to his speedy confirmation as Director of OMB, and I thank him and his wonderful family for being here today and for being willing to undertake the sacrifice and rigors of public service for the honor and the reward.
Thank you very much. Now I'd like to ask Mr. Raines and Mr. Lew to make statements.
MR. RAINES: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, two years and two days ago you introduced me to the public as your nominee to be the next Director of the Office of Management and Budget. That was a thrilling day for me and my family, and it's been a distinct honor to serve in your administration and work every day on behalf of the American people. I'm proud to have been a member of your economic team.
The American family's budget as well as the government's budget are doing well because you have successfully pursued a policy of fiscal discipline from the day you took office. As the federal government has gotten its financial affairs in order, it has cleared the way for the American economy to deliver its best performance in more than a generation.
You have not only eliminated deficit spending, which was as high as $290 billion when you took office, but even the word "deficit" seems to have disappeared from Washington's lexicon. Now everyone focuses on the prospects of budget surpluses as far as the eye can see -- surpluses you have wisely reserved until a long-term solution to the problems of Social Security have been put in place.
Yours has been the finest fiscal policy in 30 years. Over the last two years we've not only reached a bipartisan budget agreement, but also invested in the future of the nation. Congress has enacted your proposals to ensure that every high school graduate can attend college, extend health insurance coverage to five million kids, restore benefits to legal immigrants, protect the environment, modernize our Armed Forces, increase scientific research, and reduce crime. Your tax cuts will help families raise their kids with a $500-per-child tax credit and to save for retirement.
The 1999 budget you submitted in February lays and agenda for action before the Congress. It proposes to balance the budget three years earlier than called for in the Balanced Budget Agreement and proposes fully paid for new initiatives. But the economy is performing so well that it's clear that the first balanced budget in 30 years will occur in 1998, four years early. When I promised you a year ago that the budget would reach balance during your term of office, little did I know how quickly that promise would be redeemed.
Less remarked upon has been our progress in creating a more effective government under the leadership of the Vice President. We not only produced the first balanced budget, but also produced the first agency's strategic plans, the first government-wide performance plan, and the first government-wide audited financial statements. We now purchase goods with the taxpayer in mind and invest in information technology in a smarter, more effective way.
I've derived particular personal satisfaction from the enactment of your revitalization plan for the District of Columbia. Your plan redressed decades of problems and inequities faced by the citizens of the Nation's Capital, and I'm grateful for the personal support lent by you and the First Lady to this cause.
The Office of Management and Budget is one of the most important institutions of the modern presidency. These policy and career officials work days, nights, weekends and holidays to make sure that your policies succeed. It's been my privilege to lead the men and women of OMB as the 31st Director, and I'd like to thank them for helping me help you.
Finally, Mr. President, I could not be more pleased that you've selected Jack Lew as my successor. He's been my partner in the fullest sense of the word. He has dedicated most of his life to public service, and I am sure that he will be a most valuable player on your economic team.
Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, my tenure as Director of OMB has been a wonderful experience and a great adventure for me and my family. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve my nation.
MR. LEW: Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President. It's been a privilege to serve you for these last five years. Your leadership has produced a record of economic success almost unimaginable five years ago. You've restored the ideal that fiscal discipline and progressive government must be essential partners. Working in a bipartisan manner, you have helped move America forward.
The challenges that lie ahead are many -- from Social Security reform to education, child care and health care; from dealing with the challenges of climate change and managing the federal government that is smaller and more efficient, to ensuring that we maintain the strongest force for freedom in the world.
I am honored by the challenge to serve as your Budget Director as we complete the work of the 20th century and chart the course for a vibrant 21st century.
On a personal note, there are many to whom I owe much: My parents, Irving and Ruth Lew taught me and my sister that freedom is a blessing which we cannot take for granted and which requires us to participate in public debate. My wife Ruth, and my children Shoshi and Danny, who make so many sacrifices so that I may continue to serve. Teachers and colleagues who have taught me that the devil is in the detail, and that so are the accomplishments. (Laughter.) Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill, who taught me how this great democracy works, how core values can weather the most difficult storms, and perhaps most importantly, it's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.
It has been an honor to serve as Deputy to Alice Rivlin and Frank Raines, on an economic team with Erskine Bowles, Bob Rubin, Gene Sperling, Janet Yellin, and Larry Summers; to work alongside Eli Segal to launch AmeriCorps, and with the First Lady on health care reform. I'm truly honored to be nominated today.
I look forward to continuing our efforts to maintain sound fiscal policy as we advance the values that make our community strong and provide opportunities to all Americans as we raise a generation that will take responsibility for leading us into a new century.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, what do you think of the big bank mergers? Mr. President, do you have any ideas about them?
THE PRESIDENT: It would be inappropriate to comment now.
Q Where is Mr. Raines going -- this chance of a lifetime?
MR. RAINES: Stay tuned. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Shortly. That's news, unfortunately, I can't make.
Q Do you expect others to be leaving the administration, Mr. President?
END 9:07 A.M. EDT