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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 4, 1999
          President Clinton Calls On Congress to Complete Work
              On Key Domestic Challenges Facing The Nation
                           September 4, 1999

In his weekly radio address from Waterman Elementary School in Skaneateles, New York, President Clinton noted that the latest economic report provides more evidence that the Administration's economic strategy is working. Unemployment is at a record 29-year low, and American families are prospering. In this time of economic prosperity, the President challenged Congress to abandon its risky tax scheme and adopt a budget plan which addresses priority issues like Social Security, Medicare and debt reduction, makes key investments in the American and provides sensible, targeted tax relief. And, as Americans head back to school all across America, the President called on Congress to get to work and finish action on key challenges facing the nation, including: 1) passing common sense measures to prevent youth violence and keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals; 2) putting in place a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights; 3) passing legislation to rebuild and modernize America's schools; and 4) keeping its promise to hire 100,000 new teachers to reduce class sizes.

Pass A Budget That Maintains Fiscal Discipline And Makes Key Investments In The American People While Strengthening Social Security And Medicare.

In 1993, the President and Vice President charted a new economic course that took Washington back to the basics - a strategy based on fiscal discipline, expanded trade and investment in the American people. Unemployment has now dropped to 4.2 percent - the lowest rate since January 1970. In the last six and a half years, we have created 19.4 million new jobs, and our decades of deficits have turned into a projected surplus of $99 billion. Today, with the strongest economy in the world, it is clear that this strategy is working.

The President put forth a responsible budget that builds on our prosperity, by putting first things first. The President's plan pays down the debt, saves Social Security, strengthens and modernizes Medicare and invests in priorities like education.

Unfortunately, before leaving for its August recess, Congress responded by passing a risky tax plan that would threaten our economic prosperity and require deep cuts in programs important to the American people. The Republican plan does nothing to save Social Security or to modernize and strengthen Medicare. And, in 2009, the Republican plan would mean a nearly 50% cut in domestic programs across the board. Cuts of this magnitude could mean: roughly 425,000 fewer children enrolled in the Head Start program; over 7,000 fewer FBI agents protecting our streets; and the elimination of funding for all toxic-waste clean ups in communities across the nation. The tax cut, if continued, would explode in costs in ten years, just when the baby boom generation begins to retire, Medicare is projected to become insolvent, and Social Security begins to come under significant strain.

Fifty economists, including six Nobel laureates, signed a statement on July 21st which said: "Committing to a large tax cut would create significant risks to the budget and the economy." And, on July 22nd, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said: "I would prefer to hold off on significant further tax cuts." It is clear that the Republican tax plan is the wrong course for America. The President called on Congress to listen to the American people and to work with him to pass a bill that meets our most press national priorities, includes sensible tax cuts, and extends our prosperity into the places it has yet to reach.

Protect Our Children From Gun Violence By Enacting The Moderate, Common Sense Gun Measures Passed By The Senate.

In the wake of recent acts of school gun violence, the President took comprehensive action - calling on everyone from parents, teachers and students to entertainment executives, gun owners and gun dealers to take more responsibility to keep our children safe. As one element of that strategy, the President called on Congress to close glaring loopholes in the law which allow kids and criminals to obtain guns - most importantly the gun show loophole.

While the Senate passed many of the President's common sense proposals, the House refused to close the guns show loophole and tried to weaken existing law. Today, the President sent a letter to the Republican leadership urging that Congress take immediate action to keep our children safe, and pass a balanced, bipartisan juvenile crime bill that closes the gun-show loophole, requires child safety locks for guns, and bans the importation of large capacity ammunition clips. Pass A Strong, Enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights to Assure Americans Receive the Quality Health Care They Deserve. Over 160 million Americans in managed care do not have the protections they need to navigate through the nation's rapidly changing health care delivery system. For two years, the President has been calling on the Congress to pass a strong and enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. Unlike the partisan initiative passed by Senate, the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives responds to the President's challenge by providing for meaningful patients' protections. This long-overdue legislation includes: (1) the right to see a specialist without burdensome and time-consuming barriers; (2) the right to access emergency room services when and where the need arises; (3) the right to continuity of care protections; (4) the right to protections that assure that arbitrary medical decisions cannot be made by accountants; and (5) the right to hold health plans accountable for decisions that cause harm to patients. This legislation has been endorsed by the American Medical Association and over 200 medical and consumer groups, and has already attracted broad-based co-sponsorships from Republicans and Democrats alike. If given a chance for an up or down vote, it would easily pass the House. The President called on the Congress to pass this legislation as soon as they return.

Enact A Credible, Comprehensive Plan To Strengthen And Modernize Medicare, Including The Creation Of A New Prescription Drug Benefit.

President Clinton has unveiled a comprehensive plan that will dedicate 15 percent of the budget surplus to modernize and strengthen Medicare. The President's proposal includes a new prescription drug benefit as part of a broader set of reforms for the Medicare program. Congress has passed a budget that does nothing to extend the life of Medicare, to modernize its benefits or to add a prescription drug benefit. The President called on Congress to take action for our seniors and disabled Americans - to provide them with the quality health care they need and deserve.

Maintain Commitment To Hiring 100,000 New Teachers To Reduce Class Size, And Pass the President's Plan to Modernize and Build New Schools.

Last year, Congress agreed to begin funding the President's initiative to hire 100,000 new teachers in our schools to reduce class size in the early grades. In July, the Clinton Administration awarded funds to help local school districts begin hiring 30,000 teachers before school starts this fall. While the President wants to finish the job, House Republicans have passed a bill that undermines this class size initiative and fails to guarantee that one cent will be used to hire a single teacher to reduce the size of a single class. The President expects Congress to continue and build on this investment in education rather than back away from it.

In addition, the President called on Congress to invest in school construction and modernization for the nation's schools. The President put forth a targeted tax cut that would cover the interest on state and local efforts to build and modernize 6,000 public schools across the nation. The Republican alternative, part of their risky tax plan, is inadequate to address the urgent needs for schools modernization, and funds repairs at only 644 schools. And, the Republican risky tax plan would threaten education priorities, potentially leading to 50 percent cuts in key initiatives to keep schools safe and drug-free, help children learn to read, reduce class size, support after-school programs, and expand access to college. The President called on Congress to invest in the future of this nation, and work with him to pass legislation and provide adequate funding to improve our schools and provide the quality education our children need and deserve.