PRESIDENT CLINTON URGES CONGRESS TO ACT ON AMERICA'S PRIORITIES
Patients' Rights, Gun Safety, Minimum Wage, and the Supplemental
Appropriations Bill: The Time to Act is Now
Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton urged Congress to
act before the spring recess on national priorities that have been
unnecessarily delayed. He called on Congress to put partisan politics
aside and pass a strong, enforceable, Patients' Bill of Rights; common
sense gun safety legislation; a simple $1 increase in the minimum wage;
and the supplemental budget request to fund urgent domestic and
international priorities. President Clinton also highlighted the real
everyday consequences of inaction on those initiatives, including: (1)
thousands of doctors see patients whose health has declined because a
managed care plan refused to approve a diagnostic test or rejected a
referral to a specialist; (2) 12 children a day continue to be killed by
gunfire; (3) hundreds of dollars a year are lost to millions of working
families; and (4) international and domestic safety are jeopardized.
AMERICAN FAMILIES PAY THE PRICE FOR CONGRESSIONAL DELAYS.
Patients need protections now. Unnecessary delay in passing
legislation to curb insurance company abuse results in harm to thousands
of patients every day. Each day without a strong Patients Bill of
Rights results in: 14,000 physicians seeing patients harmed because a
plan refused to cover a prescription drug their doctor deemed necessary;
10,000 physicians seeing patients harmed because a plan refused a
diagnostic test or procedure; and 7,000 physicians seeing patients
harmed because their insurance plan refused a referral to a specialist,
according to a new analysis by the minority staff of the Senate Health
Education Labor and Pensions Committee of Kaiser Family Foundation data.
The President called on Congress to pass strong patient protections for
more than two years now, and despite the passage of the Norwood-Dingell
bill -- a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights that passed with
overwhelming bipartisan support -- Congress has delayed action on this
critical legislation for more than 5 months.
Sacrificing the safety of American families to the interests of the
gun lobby. While gun crime has fallen over 35 percent nationwide since
1993, gun violence continues to claim the lives of too many Americans.
Every day, nearly 89 Americans, including 12 children, are killed by
gunfire. For each fatal shooting, another three people are injured by
guns. Despite the tragic toll that gun violence has taken on our nation
and widespread support for common sense gun measures, Congress has
buckled under the pressure of the powerful gun lobby and allowed
sensible gun safety legislation to languish for over 9 months.
Making America's families work harder to make ends meet. Congress
has spent over a year delaying action on this legislation and attaching
costly and unnecessary poison pill tax cuts to this common-sense
measure. While the Congress has been stonewalling, a full-time minimum
wage worker has lost $620 -- two months' worth of grocery money for a
family of four or nearly a semester of community college tuition and
fees. Each month of delay costs a person working at the minimum wage
Ignoring essential and urgent foreign and domestic priorities. The
Congress has yet to act on the President's supplemental budget request.
Delaying this funding could have devastating effects at home and abroad
-- curtailing military training activities essential to peace and
stability in Kosovo; eroding international support for Colombia's effort
to fight drug traffickers; leaving more than 2,300 families without
funds to relocate after their homes were destroyed by Hurricane Floyd;
providing debt relief to the poorest nations; and leaving low-income
elderly nationwide vulnerable to summer's high temperatures.
Delaying international debt relief. Congress has yet to approve
the President's $210 million supplemental request for international debt
relief. As a result, an international initiative to reduce the debts of
the world's poorest countries cannot move forward. The longer inaction
by Congress continues, the longer countries in Latin America and Africa
that are trying to reduce poverty will continue to pay millions more in
interest to foreign creditors than on the health or the education of
their people. In many of these countries, one in ten children dies
before their first birthday, one in three children is malnourished, and
the average adult has had only three years of education.
PRESIDENT CLINTON URGES CONGRESS TO PUT AMERICA'S PRIORITIES AHEAD OF
POLITICS. Today, President Clinton urged the Congress to:
Pass a strong, enforceable, Patients' Bill of Rights without delay.
Last October, the House passed the Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of
Rights with overwhelming bipartisan support, strong legislation that the
President would be proud to sign. This legislation, endorsed by over 200
health care provider and consumer advocacy groups, is the only proposal
currently being considered that meets the Administration's fundamental
criteria: that patient protections be real and that court enforced
remedies be accessible and meaningful.
Reduce gun violence with common sense gun legislation. Congress
should act immediately to pass sensible gun safety measures proposed by
the Administration and passed by the Senate last year that would help
keep guns out of the wrong hands and prevent gun accidents.
Specifically, the Senate-passed provisions would: close the gun show
loophole permitting guns to be sold at thousands of gun shows without
background checks; require child safety locks for all handguns sold; ban
the importation of large capacity ammunition clips; and bar violent
juveniles from buying guns as adults
Give American families a needed increase in the minimum wage. In
his 1999 State of the Union Address, the President called for a $1
increase in the minimum wage in two equal steps. This proposal would
benefit more than 10 million American workers -- but Congress has
refused to pass clean, straightforward legislation.
Fund urgent needs in the President's supplemental request. On Feb.
25th, President Clinton sent Congress his request for FY2000 funding
that is essential for Americans at home and our nation's interests and
security around the world. The request includes funding to help victims
of Hurricane Floyd, providing debt relief to the poorest nations,
provide needed energy assistance for families struggling with increased
oil prices, combat drug traffickers in Colombia, and support our troops
in Kosovo without jeopardizing our current state of military readiness
Congressional action is necessary to reduce foreign debt and
alleviate poverty in poor, reforming countries. The President requested
$210 million for U.S. participation in the Heavily Indebted Poor Country
(HIPC) Trust Fund to provide debt relief for the poorest nations. Full
implementation of this initiative, which was spearheaded by the U.S. and
is supported by the Pope and a broad spectrum of religious and other
groups, depends on funding by Congress. Each dollar the U.S.
contributes leverages $27 from other creditors and is essential to
enable the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and African Development
Bank to write down their debts. The IDB is the largest creditor for
some Latin American countries. Largely because of Congressional
inaction, Bolivia is not receiving $850 million in debt relief for which
it has qualified. Countries such as Honduras, Tanzania, and Mozambique
will soon qualify for the program.