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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 14, 2000

March 14, 2000

The Honorable John R. Kasich
Committee on the Budget
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing to express the Administration's deep concern that the majority in Congress is poised, once again, to propose a budget based on irresponsible tax cuts that would require deep reductions in key priorities, would jeopardize our ability to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and would undermine our ability to pay off the debt by 2013.

The budget resolution you outlined last week proposed large and costly tax cuts based on the assumption that essential funding for domestic priorities -- including health care, the environment, science and technology, and law enforcement -- will be slashed by $24 billion dollars, the equivalent of a 10 percent across-the-board cut in these priorities. A 10 percent cut would have severe consequences:

     In law enforcement programs -- FBI reduced by 1,100 FBI agents 
     and Drug Enforcement Agency reduced by 900 agents;

     More than 2000 air traffic controllers cut, forcing delays and
     reductions of air carrier operations at U.S. airports by 1.5
     million flights (67 million passenger trips);

     EPA Superfund forced to eliminate funding for 25 ongoing 
     federally led cleanups and all 15 new federally-led cleanups;

     National Science Foundation funded research, which supports our
     high-tech future, would be denied to more than 15,000 fewer
     researchers, educators and students; and

     750,000 fewer low-income women, infants, and children would 
     receive nutritional benefits from WIC.

Judging by the actions of Congress last year, it seems unlikely that these deep spending cuts would actually materialize. Therefore, your insistence on such a damaging and unrealistic budget would only increase the risk of dipping into the Social Security surplus and make it virtually impossible to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and pay off the debt by 2013.

As the President has pointed out, the tax cuts you have already passed would use more than $443 billion of the surplus over the next decade -- this is more than half of the non-Social Security surplus -- before a single penny has been devoted to extending the life of Social Security and Medicare, adding a voluntary prescription drug benefit, or investing in education for our children. To make matters worse, Speaker Hastert and the Republican leadership have made it clear that this is only the beginning -- that your proposals will be at least as costly and irresponsible as the risky $792 billion tax cut that the President vetoed last year. Let me be clear -- the budget that you have outlined is the wrong approach for America.

The President's budget takes a responsible and balanced approach. It not only protects the Social Security surplus for debt reduction, but also ensures that the interest savings from this debt reduction are used to extend the life of Social Security to at least 2050. In contrast, last year, Republicans in Congress proposed a so-called "lockbox" that failed to add a single day to the life of Social Security. I urge you to join us this year in making the simple, bipartisan commitment to use the benefits of debt reduction to extend the life of Social Security.

Our budget devotes more than half of the non-Social Security surplus to strengthening and modernizing Medicare, extending its life for a decade to 2025 and adding a badly needed prescription drug benefit. If the tax cuts you have already passed became law, we would not be able to afford these much-needed measures to strengthen and modernize Medicare. I urge you to join us in protecting a substantial portion of the surplus for Medicare.

Our budget builds on our record of fiscal discipline to pay off the debt by 2013. I know you have expressed your strong support for debt reduction. I urge you to produce a realistic budget that will actually result in paying off the debt over the next thirteen years.

And in the context of this budget based on fiscal discipline, the President has proposed substantial investments in key priorities like education and expanding health insurance coverage along with targeted tax relief to help reward work, make college more affordable, and lessen the costs of long-term health care. This is tax relief that will make a difference for working families. It is the kind of tax relief that Congress should consider this year.

We now have an historic opportunity. The economy is strong, the budget is balanced, and we have the chance to start down a path of real progress on Social Security, Medicare, and paying down the debt. Let's make the most of this moment by meeting the challenges of the future and working together for the American people.


                              John Podesta
                              Chief of Staff to the President

cc: The Honorable John M. Spratt, Jr.