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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 30, 1999

October 30, 1999

The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House of Representatives H-232 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6501

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Thank you for your letter on behalf of the Republican Leadership. I appreciate this opportunity to respond to the matters you raised.

As you know, it was the President who initiated the national challenge to "Save Social Security First" in his 1998 State of the Union Address. This year, the President sent legislation to Congress to ensure that the Social Security surplus is not spent, and also to extend the solvency of Social Security to 2050 by dedicating the interest savings from debt reduction to the Social Security Trust Fund. Congress has not yet acted on that proposal, and most Americans would be surprised to know that the Republican "lock-box" fails to extend Medicare or Social Security solvency by a single day.

Thanks to Democrats in Congress, we were able to stop a Republican tax cut that would have undermined Social Security. The exploding tax cut that President Clinton vetoed would have cost $1 trillion over the next decade and $4 trillion over the following decade just when the first baby boomers retire, Medicare becomes insolvent, and Social Security comes under strain. The clear, predictable impact of this plan would have been to drain hundreds of billions of dollars from Social security surpluses.

Today we have an historic opportunity to eliminate the debt by 2015, while strengthening Social Security and Medicare, investing in priorities like education, law enforcement, and the environment, and meeting our national security needs. We have this opportunity because of the tough decisions made by President Clinton and Congress in 1993 and 1997. As a result, today the debt is $1.7 trillion less than it was projected to be when President Clinton assumed office. Continuing balanced and responsible policies, is the only credible way to build on our progress and pay down the debt. Your exploding tax cut would have reversed our course of fiscal discipline and risked leaving America permanently in debt.

A central tenet of the President's approach is not only extending the life of the Social Security Trust Fund in the future, but also acting to protect the Trust Fund today. The President's plan does both. By contrast, some Republicans have even confessed to a conscious strategy to force the use of the Social Security surplus this year purely in order to gain partisan political advantage.

We can and should meet our obligations without spending from the Social Security Trust Fund. The President has proposed responsible offsets to prevent spending the Social Security surplus. Instead of adopting these proposals, you have adopted a series of budgetary gimmicks -- including the designation of the fully predictable and constitutionally-mandated census as "emergency" spending. And just this week, the Congressional Budget Office has certified that the final Republican budget bills spend more than $17 billion of the Social Security surplus in this fiscal year.

Having completed a budget that spends the Social Security surplus, you have a choice: you can continue with this pointless partisanship, or, as the President suggested in his meeting with you, work with us to strengthen Social Security for the 21st century.

We remain committed to reserving the Social Security surplus for debt reduction and Social Security and to working with you on a budget that accomplishes this goal while investing in education, law enforcement, the environment, and national security.


                              John Podesta
                              Chief of Staff to the President