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pd25oc99 Statement on Signing Legislation Establishing Black Canyon of the...

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    We believe that our administrative actions can complement 
legislative modifications to refine BBA payment policies. These 
legislative modifications should be targeted to address unintended 
consequences of the BBA that can expect to adversely affect beneficiary 
access to quality care. I hope and expect that our work together will 
lay the foundation for much broader and needed reforms to address the 
demographic and health care challenges confronting the program. We look 
forward to working with you, as well as the House Ways and Means and 
Commerce Committees, as we jointly strive to moderate the impact of BBA 
on the nation's health care provider community.
                                                  Bill Clinton

Note: Identical letters were sent to William V. Roth, Jr., chairman, and 
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ranking member, Senate Committee on Finance.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 2091-2096]
Monday, October 25, 1999
Volume 35--Number 42
Pages 2065-2124
Week Ending Friday, October 22, 1999
Remarks on Signing the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and 
Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000, 
and an Exchange With Reporters

October 20, 1999

    The President. Ladies and gentlemen, let me, first of all, welcome 
you all here for the signing of the VA/HUD bill, and say what I would 
like to do. I want to make a statement, sign the bill, pass out the 
pens, and then if you have questions, I'll answer the questions then. 
    Q. It's a deal.
    The President. We've got a deal? [Laughter] That way we won't all 
have to claw each other to death before we finish this.
    I would like to welcome Senator Edwards and Congressman Walsh and 
Congressman Mollohan, Secretary Cuomo, Secretary West, NSF Director 
Colwell, NASA Director Dan Goldin, and FEMA Director James Lee Witt, as 
well as the representatives of all these groups who are here who worked 
so hard

[[Page 2092]]

with us to fashion what I think is a truly remarkable and positive piece 
of legislation.
    I also want to say a special word of thanks to our OMB Director, 
Jack Lew, to Sylvia Mathews, and his whole staff, for the wonderful work 
that they did on this in working with the Congress, and all the people 
here represented.
    For over 200 years, Presidents have been called upon to approve or 
not approve spending bills passed by the Congress. Because these bills 
can profoundly affect the future of our Nation, Presidents must 
carefully weigh their decisions about signing them. In the 6\1/2\ years 
I have been President, I have put my signature on spending bills only 
when convinced they reflect the values of our people, respected the need 
for Government to live within its means, and looked toward the future. 
The VA/HUD bill I'm about to sign clearly meets these standards. It not 
only maintains the fiscal discipline that has led us to this moment of 
prosperity; it also honors our highest values.
    We value fairness and work; this bill reflects that by strengthening 
fair housing enforcement and by providing housing vouchers to help 
60,000 more hard-working, low income families move closer to where their 
jobs are. I want to thank Secretary Cuomo, especially, for his 
initiative on this. The bill also provides significant increases in 
housing for elderly Americans and puts in place a plan to ensure that 
they will continue to have safe and affordable places to live.
    We value opportunity. This bill expands opportunity to those who 
have not felt the full benefits of our prosperity yet. It maintains our 
commitments to empowerment zones and enterprise communities, while 
adding part of my new markets initiative, to give investors the same 
incentives to invest in our inner cities and poor rural areas they 
currently get to invest in new markets overseas. And the Vice President 
and I have worked very hard on this for many years, and I thank the 
Congress. I think the idea of bringing free enterprise and empowering 
poor communities is something that is becoming a bipartisan consensus in 
our country. I hope it is. We know that the Government can never provide 
enough economic opportunity in these areas. And we know if we can't 
bring private sector enterprise to these areas now, when our economy is 
so strong, we'll never get around to doing it. So I thank the Congress 
for putting these provisions in.
    We value clean air and clean water. This bill provides the 
Environmental Protection Agency with the resources it needs to protect 
our air and water.
    We value our fighting men and women, and thanks to the leadership of 
the Vice President and the commitment of this Congress, this bill adds 
the extra resources necessary to improve our veterans' health care.
    We value strong communities. This bill will help young people 
continue to serve their communities through AmeriCorps. And later today, 
we'll celebrate our fifth anniversary, and I'll have more to say about 
    The bill also provides critical funding for FEMA, to help 
communities cope with hurricanes and other unforeseen natural 
disasters--especially now, the disasters caused by Hurricane Floyd. 
Senator Edwards is here, and I want to thank him for his work on that.
    Last night I asked the congressional leaders when we met to look at 
doing more to pay for the agricultural disasters caused, particularly in 
this part of our country, by the hurricanes coming on top of the 
    This bill also looks to the future. It gives NASA the resources it 
needs to probe the mysteries of space and provides the National Science 
Foundation with the extra resources it needs to fund research on the 
frontiers of information technology. This is a little noticed, I think, 
but profoundly important part of this bill, which I predict will have a 
big impact on our future for years and years to come.
    The legislation is important not just for what it will achieve but 
for how it was achieved. I'm pleased that our administration and the 
Congress were able to work together successfully on this bill in a 
genuine spirit of bipartisan cooperation to resolve our respective 
differences. Together, we produced legislation that is fully paid for 
and effectively addresses the critical needs of the American people.
    We're especially pleased we were able to achieve acceptable funding 
levels in a number of areas by providing offsets that were

[[Page 2093]]

agreed to by both sides. There is no debate on this bill that there is 
any Social Security surplus money involved at all.
    Now, as all of you know, I met last night with congressional leaders 
of both parties. We agreed to work together in that same spirit to 
resolve our remaining differences and make the tough choices necessary 
to reach an overall agreement on our other outstanding values and budget 
    First and foremost, we must protect Social Security and strengthen 
Medicare. I regret that the leaders of the Republican Party have said 
they won't take up the Medicare reform and the prescription drug benefit 
this year. I did ask them to consider my proposal, which would lengthen 
the life of the Social Security Trust Fund to 2050 and take it out 
beyond the life expectancy of the baby boomers, without a tax increase 
or without any benefit cuts. And I hope they will do that.
    I believe the priorities that we have must also include making the 
largest and most diverse group of students in our schools ever, the 
smartest and best educated students ever, by giving them a world-class, 
21st century education. That includes reducing class size by hiring 
100,000 more teachers, building or modernizing 6,000 schools, connecting 
every classroom to the Internet, investing in after-school programs to 
keep our children safe, and demanding accountability, so that we can 
turn around failing schools.
    We must also work together to keep the crime rate going down. I say 
again, I'm glad we've got the lowest crime rate in 26 years and the 
lowest murder rate in 32 years. No American believes our country is safe 
enough. We should set a goal of making this the safest big country in 
the world. That means doing more of what we know works, including 
putting 50,000 more community police into our toughest neighborhoods.
    It also means, achieving this agreement, that we will have to put 
aside our differences and honor our commitment to our environment and 
our national security.
    Again I say, in spite of all the conflicts of the last few weeks, we 
still have a great opportunity to make this a season of progress and 
work together to pass a budget that lives within its means and lives up 
to our values. We've done it before, and we can do it again. We will be 
stronger in the new century because of what we have achieved here today, 
and I hope it is just the beginning.
    Again, let me thank all of you for your role in this and especially 
the Members of the Congress who are here.

[At this point, the President began to sign the bill.]

    The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], how 
many pens did President Johnson use when he signed the Voting Rights 
    Ms. Thomas. Fifty. [Laughter] He gave one to the press, too. 
    The President. When all else fails, I can always spell my middle 
name. [Laughter]

[The President finished signing the bill.]

    The President. I'll answer the questions and then pass out the pens. 
How's that?

Meeting With Congressional Leaders

    Q. Mr. President, after the meeting last night, why did both sides 
come out with such conflicting views on taxes, Social Security, 
    The President. I'll tell you exactly what I said about the tobacco 
issue and what we said about spending. Now, first of all, there's a big 
controversy, as you know, about whether the Congress has already spent 
into the Social Security surplus. I don't think we can fully evaluate 
all that until we see all these bills, and we have a comprehensive 
resolution. This bill had its own pay-fors. There's no question that 
this bill does not get into the Social Security surplus.
    So what I said to them is--I said the following things: Number one, 
let's try to have a comprehensive solution. Let's look at all these 
bills together, see where we are and where we need to go. Number two, 
there were some things that I felt very strongly that we ought to fund 
that weren't presently in the bills. I wanted to make sure that we 
continued to work on the 100,000 teachers, that we continued to work on 
the police, that we paid our commitments to the Middle East peace 
process, to reducing the nuclear arsenal in Russia, to our part of our 
efforts to alleviate the debt of the poorest countries--

[[Page 2094]]

that's a big part of the world's millennium project--to the U.N. dues. 
I'm trying to work that out. But that if I ask for extra money, over and 
above what they had appropriated, I would make a commitment that we 
would pay for it, we would find a way to cover that, so there would be 
no question that any extra funds we asked for--which, in the context of 
the overall budget, would be quite modest now; there's not that much 
difference in the dollars--that that would be paid for and that we ought 
to get all this together and look.
    Now, with regard to the tobacco tax, what I said was, I was well 
aware that they were not going to raise the tobacco tax 55 cents, as I 
had originally proposed. I still believe that it would be good health 
policy to have a more modest increase or at least a look-back provision 
to protect kids from smoking. We're seeing all over the country an 
absence of those kinds of efforts. Even in the States that have gotten a 
lot of money, some States are doing it, some States aren't. So I think 
it would be good policy.
    So all I said was that I realized they weren't going to accept my 
proposal, but that we were now talking about much more modest money that 
I thought we could find a way to pay for that they could live with.

2000 Election and Campaign Finance Reform

    Q. Mr. President, Elizabeth Dole pulled out of the Presidential race 
today. And also, as you know, for I guess the fourth year in a row, 
Senate Republicans have defeated the campaign finance efforts. So I 
wondered whether--first, what you think of that, the fact that they've 
put that aside again, and also, whether Mrs. Dole's pulling out is 
another example, in your opinion, of why these efforts are necessary?
    The President. Well, first of all, let me say about Mrs. Dole, I 
think she's a very, very, impressive person. She's had a lot of 
important public service in her career, and she was clearly qualified to 
seek the Presidency. And I regret the fact that finances alone kept her 
from going through the first few primaries and getting to the stage when 
all those candidates have debates and the voters can actually see them 
all in ways other than they see them in their ads. And I think that's 
too bad, because I think she has a kind of experience that's different 
from that of any other person running, her work in the Cabinet and in 
the Red Cross. And I think it's a loss to the Republican Party and a 
loss to the country that she couldn't go forward.
    Secondly, I think that part of what you see is that fact that 
Governor Bush is the first candidate in the history of the modern era 
when we've had Federal financing who has given it up so that an 
unlimited amount of money could be raised; so that puts all the others 
at, I think, a relative disadvantage. It's something that some people 
urged on me 4 years ago, because I could have done that, and I decided 
it wasn't fair, and I didn't do it. I didn't think it was the right 
thing to do.
    And finally, obviously it does make the point, as Senator McCain 
pointed out earlier, that we do need campaign finance reform, that it's 
not just the Presidential campaigns. It's also the Senate races. It's 
also the Congress races. And I can only say, I'm very proud of the 
members of my party. There were some, I think when I got here in '93, 
some of our folks felt ambivalent about it, and we worked and worked and 
worked until we've now got, I think, 100 percent of our party in both 
Houses voted for both those bills.
    You know, the truth is, this is now a matter that's in the hands of 
the American people. If they decide it's important enough that it will 
become a voting issue for them, we can change the direction of the 
country. If they continue to say they care about it but it doesn't 
influence their votes, then we won't--because it's a democracy, and 
they're in the driver's seat.
    But obviously, I think we ought to pass something like the McCain-
Feingold bill. I would even go further. I think--my whole view of this 
is that the biggest problem is the cost of communications. So if you 
want--and that's not a criticism of the people who charge us money to 
run our ads, either, because they can get even more money, as you know. 
In the election season, they can get even more money for commercial 
clients. But it costs a lot money. So you're either

[[Page 2095]]

going to have to have free or reduced television time, radio time, 
access to the newspapers, or some guaranteed source of funding, because 
no matter how you change the rules, until people can have more or less 
comparable access to have their views heard, it's going to be a 
difficult thing.
    But I think we should keep working on it. I hope that Senator McCain 
and Senator Feingold aren't too discouraged. I hope they'll be willing 
to come back next year. And we'll keep working.
    But the plain fact is that the American people need to say not only 
that they care about it but that they care enough about it for it to 
influence how they vote. And if they do, we'll make some progress.

Defense Appropriations Legislation

    Q. Mr. President, are you going to sign or veto the defense bill?
    The President. Well, let me tell you what I said yesterday to the 
leaders. That's not a decision that I have to make until early next 
week. And what I said to them I will say again to you. All these other 
bills raise questions already about how they're financed and whether 
they're properly financed. And then there are these outstanding 
questions I mentioned. I think the teachers--keeping the commitment that 
a bipartisan majority of Congress made just a year ago, in 1998, to the 
smaller classes and the 100,000 teachers; continuing to do the things we 
know will bring the crime rate down with the police; doing right by the 
environment--these things are important.

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