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THE WHITE HOUSE

                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (New York, New York)
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For Immediate Release                                    October 7, 1999

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

Today the Senate passed a spending bill that woefully shortchanges America's children. The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriation bill fails to make vital investments in our nation's schools. It undermines the commitment we made last year to hire quality teachers and reduce class size in the early grades. It underfunds after-school programs and such important efforts as the GEAR UP mentoring program, education technology, and adult literacy.

If this bill were to come to me in its current form, I would veto it. I have already sent Congress a budget for the programs in this bill that provides for essential investments and is fully paid for. I urge Congress again to work on a bipartisan basis to develop legislation that truly strengthens public education and other key national priorities.

The bill passed by the Senate is a catalog of missed opportunities and misguided priorities. I am particularly disappointed that the Senate defeated a common-sense measure to make schools accountable for results. The Bingaman-Reed-Kerry amendment would have set aside funds for states to turn around failing schools. By rejecting it, the Senate lost a chance to make accountability more than just a slogan. The Senate also rejected amendments to increase the number of qualified teachers in high-need districts and to help states improve the quality of their teaching forces.

The Senate properly rejected two wrong-headed amendments that would have hurt workers. One would have barred implementation of the ergonomics rule so key to safeguarding worker health. The other would have barred enforcement of the Davis-Bacon law in natural disaster areas, a law which assures workers appropriate wages.

While the Senate did make important strides by committing to increase child care funding next year, the bill underfunds many other efforts, including public health priorities in preventive health, programs that give millions of Americans better access to health care, and critical social services for vulnerable families. The bill also does not provide aid to families caring for elderly or ill relatives through the Family Caregiver initiative. Even worse, in expressing support for an across-the-board cut in all discretionary programs, the Senate has shown its unwillingness to address America's needs in a responsible and comprehensive way. This bill is unacceptable, and I cannot support it.

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