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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 25, 1998
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                             UPON DEPARTURE
                            The South Grounds  

9:06 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. For the past several days Hurricane Georges has torn through the Caribbean, costing many lives. Now, as we speak, the hurricane is bearing down on south Florida. I have spoken several times with FEMA Director James Lee Witt. For the past day an emergency response team has been on the ground, working with the government and the people of Florida to prepare for the storm. We are as ready as we can be, and we pray that the human and material costs will be limited. In the coming days we will work as closely as possible with the state of Florida to provide whatever assistance will do the most good.

A few moments ago I signed stop-gap legislation to keep the government open and running at the start of the new fiscal year. The legislation is a regrettable sign that the Republican majority in Congress has failed to address the urgent priorities of the American people. There is only one week left in this fiscal year; yet the Congress has passed and sent me only one of the 13 appropriations bills to fund the operation of the United States government. And the Congress is five months past the legal deadline for passing a budget resolution.

By failing to meet its most basic governing responsibility, the Republican majority in Congress has its priorities wrong -- partisanship over progress, politics over people. Moreover, on key national goals -- improving education, providing affordable child care, expanding health coverage, protecting our environment, stabilizing the international economy -- the House of Representatives, in fact, is moving in the wrong direction. For example, at a time when opportunity depends on education more than ever before, neither chamber has even brought the education funding bill to a vote. And the House is preparing to deny funding for smaller classes, to cut after school programs, to cut technology in the classroom, to eliminate summer jobs. At the same time, some lawmakers have attached controversial and unrelated provisions guaranteed to mire these bills in unnecessary delay.

For six years our economic strategy of fiscal responsibility, investing in people, expanding America's exports has spurred lower interest rates and created conditions for the strongest economy in a generation. If we hold fast to fiscal discipline we will enter a new and promising era of budget surpluses. We must keep our economy growing and use this time to meet the challenges facing our people.

I have laid out a concrete plan of how we can continue on that course to make smart investments, to maintain fiscal discipline, and to set aside the surplus until we have saved Social Security first. I have reached out to members of Congress in both parties to work toward these ends. It isn't too late. But Congress cannot simply keep passing patchwork spending plans, putting off choices about national priorities until next year, or at least until after the election.

It is time now for Congress to buckle down, to send me the measures to keep the government open, and to invest in education, in health care, in other needs of the American people. It is time to put progress over partisanship. We should do the job the people sent us here to do and strengthen America for the new century.

Thank you very much.

Q How do you think the Democrats are going to do in the election?

THE PRESIDENT: I have nothing to add to what I said.

END 9:10 A.M. EDT