PRESIDENT CLINTON HIGHLIGHTS PROGRESS ON AMERICA'S PRIORITIES
BUT PRODS CONGRESS ON UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Today, in his weekly radio address to the nation, President Clinton will
discuss the progress he has made with Congress on a budget that reflects
the values and priorities of the American people. The President will
also point out that there remains a great deal of unfinished business on
Capitol Hill, and will urge Congress to act on these issues.
PROGRESS ON AMERICA'S PRIORITIES: BETTER SCHOOLS, SAFER STREETS, AND A
CLEANER ENVIRONMENT. Today President Clinton will announce some of the
achievements from the final budget negotiations with Congress, on
priorities ranging from education to public safety to the environment.
More High-Quality Teachers With Smaller Class Sizes: The budget
agreement will provide $1.3 billion for the President's initiative to
hire 100,000 new teachers to reduce class size in the early grades to a
national average of 18. This funding, a nearly 10 percent increase from
last year's levels, will enable communities to keep the estimated 29,000
teachers already hired and to help hire even more high-quality teachers.
This plan means more teachers and better teachers -- and for students,
more individual attention and a better foundation in the basics. The
agreement provides flexibility in the use of funds for teacher training,
but not for block grants or vouchers.
More Police on the Street: In 1994, President Clinton won a
commitment to fund 100,000 police officers for our streets through his
COPS program. In this budget, the President secured more than $900
million to help put up to 50,000 more officers on the street, provide
law enforcement with the latest crime-fighting technologies, and help
fund new community prosecutors.
Protecting the Environment: The Interior bill funds most of the
President's Lands Legacy Initiative, including significant increases
over FY 1999 levels and over the House and Senate funding levels for
land acquisition in National parks, forests, refuges, and public lands.
It also includes important new funding for state and local governments
to acquire and conserve parks, forests, open space, and recreational
opportunities. While there has been progress in addressing
anti-environmental riders, there are still several objectionable items
that remain. Congress has more work to do in resolving these issues.
THE UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. President Clinton today
will also identify important work that Congress still needs to address,
from gun control and hate crimes to a minimum wage increase and
strengthening Social Security and Medicare.
Passing Common Sense Gun Legislation. While the Administration's
successful strategy of keeping guns out of the wrong hands has
contributed to record declines in crime, recent tragic shootings
reinforce the need to protect American families from gun violence. For
months, Congress has failed to enact common-sense gun legislation.
Congress must pass a bipartisan juvenile crime bill that includes strong
gun measures to: close the gun show loophole; require child safety locks
for handguns; ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips;
and bar violent juveniles from owning guns for life.
Passing a Strong, Enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. For over two
years, the American people have been waiting for Congress pass a strong,
enforceable Patients Bill of Rights. During that time, the President
has exercised his executive authority to extend critical patient
protections to over 85 million Americans. But ultimately, the only way
to ensure that all Americans in all plans have basic consumer
protections is to enact a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill Of Rights.
Although the House has passed such legislation by a wide bipartisan
majority, Republican leaders have signaled their intent to delay action
on a final bill until next year. Even worse, they have designed a
process behind closed doors that is likely to benefit special interests
rather than the public interest. Today, the President will urge
Congress to adopt legislation that gives Americans the protections they
Removing Disincentives that Discourage People with Disabilities From
Working. Under current law, people with disabilities often become
ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they work, forcing many to choose
between health care and employment. The bipartisan Work Incentives
Improvement Act helps address this problem by giving people with
disabilities the ability to maintain their Medicare and Medicaid
coverage when they go to work. Today, President Clinton will call on the
Congress to act on this legislation this year so that one of the most
significant barriers to work for people with disabilities is removed.
Raising the Minimum Wage. The Congress has failed to pass a clean,
straightforward bill to increase the minimum wage by $1 over two years
-- a step that would simply restore it to the 1982 inflation-adjusted
level. Instead, the Senate attached the minimum wage increase to
fiscally irresponsible tax giveaways for special interests. More than
11 million workers would benefit from a $1 increase in the minimum wage.
A full-time, year-round worker at the minimum wage would get a $2,000
raise -- enough for a typical family of four to buy groceries for 7
months or pay rent for 5 months. Today, the President will urge
Congress to send him a straightforward bill increasing the minimum wage
by $1 over 2 years.
Strengthening Social Security. The President has put forth a specific
proposal to use the benefits of fiscal discipline and debt reduction to
strengthen Social Security, extending its solvency from 2034 to 2050.
This would be a down payment on truly saving Social Security. The
Republican so-called "lockbox" legislation would not add a single day to
the life of Social Security. The President will urge Congress to work
with him to strengthen Social Security.
Modernizing and Strengthening Medicare. Although members of both
parties joined the President in the effort to adjust Medicare health
care provider payments, Congress otherwise failed to address the growing
challenges that Medicare faces. With the number of beneficiaries
expected to double over the next 30 years, Medicare needs adequate
resources and the tools to be as efficient as possible. A long-overdue
prescription drug benefit option is also essential for seniors and
people with disabilities. The President today will call on Congress to
work with him in developing and enacting these urgent Medicare reforms.
Expanding Federal Hate Crimes Laws. At a time when our leaders should
be doing all they can to bring Americans together, Congress has refused
to pass legislation to punish hate crimes. The President has called for
a bill that would make it easier to prosecute crimes based on race,
color, religion, and national origin; and that would also include crimes
based on sexual orientation, gender and disability. He will urge
Congress today to take a strong stand against intolerance and hatred by
enacting such legislation without further delay.