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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Okinawa, Japan)

For Immediate Release July 22, 2000

July 21, 2000

The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter. As always, we are eager to participate in a bicameral and bipartisan meeting to discuss the FY 2001 appropriations bills. Although we have not yet been invited to such a meeting, we stand ready to attend at your earliest convenience.

Moreover, I assure you that we would agree to a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill that builds on the House and Senate bills, so long as the President's priorities are also met and the bill is free of objectionable legislative riders such as the ban on the ergonomics regulation. The bill must provide full funding for initiatives to support childcare, class size reduction, urgent school renovation, after-school programs, educational accountability, GEAR-UP, and worker training. Congress needs to pass a budget that invests more in our schools and demands more from them, not one that invests too little and demands too little in return. In addition, we must address key health and social service programs for the uninsured, for people with HIV/AIDS, and for families who care for the chronically ill. The House and Senate bills either shortchange these important priorities or provide no funding for them whatsoever. The working families of America deserve more from their government.

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill brings into Conference a version of the Patients' Bill of Rights, unfortunately in an unacceptable form. The proposal passed by the Senate leaves out over 135 million Americans, provides inadequate protections, effectively rolls back state enforcement provisions that hold plans accountable for actions that harm patients, and includes expensive and inefficient health care tax proposals. We should take advantage of the opportunity this bill presents to work together to pass a real Patients' Bill of Rights - a goal that I know you personally share. A strong, enforceable set of patient protections, like those included in the Norwood-Dingell bill passed by the House last year, would go a long way in restoring public confidence in the nation's health care delivery system.

The President's FY 2001 Budget is based on a balanced approach that maintains fiscal discipline, eliminates the national debt, extends the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, provides for an appropriately sized tax cut, establishes a new voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit in the context of broader reforms, expands health care coverage to more families, and funds critical investments for our future. An essential element of this approach is ensuring adequate funding for discretionary programs.

As always, OMB Director Lew is ready to attend bipartisan meetings with whomever you deem appropriate so we can proceed on these issues of great importance. We still have time to work together to get a lot done for the American people.


                              John Podesta
                              Chief of Staff to the President

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