[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[November 13, 1995]
[Pages 1743-1748]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Democratic Leadership Council
November 13, 1995

    Thank you very much, Senator Lieberman, for your work, your example, 
and your wonderful introduction. You know, I knew 25 years ago when I 
worked for that guy that I'd have a big payoff some day. [Laughter] 
Thank you, Al From, for your long and devoted work for the DLC, to you 
and all the other staff members, to the other leaders of the DLC who are 
here, my good friends Senator Robb and Governor Romer. I see Congressman 
McCurdy and others in the crowd who have worked so hard for this 
organization for so many years.
    A week ago today I was in Israel, representing America at the 
funeral of Prime Minister Rabin. As I reflected on the terrible events 
that took his life, it was clear to me, again, how in the world of the 
global village, the post-cold-war world, the information technology age, 
we are both coming together and coming apart. Precisely because Prime 
Minister Rabin tried to unite his portion of the world in peace, an 
assassin took his life.
    Last night I went to Ford's Theatre for its annual benefit 
performance. And as I looked at the balcony where President Lincoln lost 
his life to an assassin, because he was determined to preserve the Union 
and end slavery, I was struck by the fact that the entire history of our 
great land has been dominated by three great ideas: love of liberty, 
belief in progress, and the struggle to find common ground.

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    We have worked throughout this entire life of our country to make 
our motto, E Pluribus Unum, from many, one, more than a slogan; instead, 
a driving force of unity and of strength. We have now to face the fact 
that we cannot achieve the first two objectives, liberty and freedom or 
progress and prosperity, unless we can achieve the third, common ground.
    We established in our country a Constitution and a rule of laws, 
limitations of powers, separation of powers, authority at the State and 
local level. All these things were designed to give us a way to resolve 
or differences in a lawful, reconciling manner so that we could preserve 
our liberty and always make progress. It's worked pretty well for us for 
well over 200 years now.
    If you look at the world and the problems it faces and you look at 
home and the problems we face, it is clear that the responsibility of 
the United States today is to lead the world away from division, to show 
the world that the center can hold, that a free and diverse people, 
through democratic means, can form a lasting union. This is the 
challenge of our time and our responsibility as Americans.
    That is, in a larger sense, why you and I joined the Democratic 
Leadership Council. We knew that to keep America strong, the old ways of 
governing would have to be abandoned. We wanted a Government committed 
to standing up for the values and interests of ordinary Americans, a 
Government that offers more opportunity with less bureaucracy, that 
insists on responsibility from all its citizens, that strengthens our 
sense of community, the idea that we are all in this together and that 
everyone counts.
    I ran for President in 1992 to restore the American dream for all 
our people, to bring the American people together, and to assure that 
America would remain the world's strongest force for peace and freedom, 
democracy and prosperity, into the 21st century. I have pressed that 
vision with a simple strategy rooted in economic growth, commonsense 
Government, and mainstream values. And my fellow Americans, this country 
is in better shape than it was 3 years ago.
    Of course, we still have formidable challenges. But America is on 
the move. We passed our economic plan, and when we did, our critics said 
it would bring on a deep recession. But they were wrong. Today the 
economy is growing. The American people have produced 7\1/2\ million new 
jobs, a 15-year high in home ownership, an all-time high in new business 
formation, and the lowest combined rates of inflation and unemployment 
in 25 years. It is a good thing for the country.
    A child born today has a better chance of going to college and 
getting a good job. It's a little easier for people to be good parents 
and good workers. The infant mortality rate is at an all-time low. Every 
day there are more opportunities for more Americans to tap into the 
technological marvels of the information economy and to build a 
prosperous future.
    Commonsense Government is moving forward, thanks in no small measure 
to the DLC members who have come to work at the White House. According 
to the Office of Management and Budget this morning, there are now 
200,000 fewer people working for the United States Government than on 
the day I became President. And I might say, almost no Americans have 
noticed that for two very good reasons. One is, as an employer the 
United States treated the Federal employees with dignity and respect, 
with genuinely good severance packages and early retirement packages. 
And I am proud of that. We didn't just throw those people into the 
street. The second is that the Federal employees who stayed behind 
working for you are doing more with less, and they deserve our respect 
and appreciation. If no one noticed that 200,000 are gone, it's because 
those who are left are doing their jobs better. And I'm proud of that.
    It is not only true that we are now moving quickly to the smallest 
Federal Government we have had since President Kennedy was here, but 
listen to this: Today, Federal employees are a smaller percentage of the 
civilian work force than at any time since 1933, before the New Deal. 
That is an astonishing statistic. Does it mean that Government still 
never does anything it shouldn't or that there's never a regulation that 
doesn't make sense? No, it doesn't, but it means that the Democrats have 
taken the lead in reducing the deficit and reducing the burden of 
unnecessary Government, while keeping a Government strong enough to 
advance our values and our interests. That is our mission, and we are 
achieving it, and you should be proud of it.
    This country is stronger and safer. For the first time since the 
dawn of the nuclear age, there is not a single nuclear missile pointed 

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an American child. And from Northern Ireland to Haiti to the Middle 
East, the United States is leading the world to peace.
    Now, we are working for peace in Bosnia, to stop the slaughter of 
innocents, to prevent the war from spreading, to bring real peace to 
Europe. Our military might, through NATO, stopped the Bosnian-Serb 
attacks on the safe areas. Our mediators helped the parties to reach a 
cease-fire and agree on principles of a settlement and now to come to 
Dayton, Ohio, to forge a lasting peace. If this peace is achieved, my 
fellow Americans, our responsibility does not end, for NATO must help to 
secure it, and as NATO's leader, the United States must participate.
    The war of ethnic and religious hatred in Bosnia strikes at the 
heart of our ideal. It's the sort of thing that led to hatred in the 
hearts of people in the Middle East and cost Prime Minister Rabin his 
life. It's the sort of thing that cost Abraham Lincoln his life. We have 
to, we have to, stand against this.
    It's convenient now to forget, but there was a time when Bosnia, 
too, found unity in its diversity, when Sarajevo was one of the most 
beautiful and peaceful multiethnic cities in all of Europe. It can 
happen again if we stand up for our principles and stand up for our 
interests, if we are willing to be leaders for peace.
    That responsibility extends to the other threats in the world today 
that are related to racial and ethnic and religious divisions, 
especially to terrorism. Just this morning, the terrorist attacks 
against American citizens in Saudi Arabia provided a brutal reminder 
that our people are not immune, not immune here at home as we learned at 
the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City and not immune abroad.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones 
at this time of their loss. We owe it to them and to all of our citizens 
to increase our efforts to deter terrorism, to make sure that those 
responsible for this hideous act are brought to justice, to intensify 
and pressure the isolation of countries that support terrorism. And we 
must spare no effort to make sure our own law enforcement officials have 
what they need to protect our citizens. That's why, even before Oklahoma 
City, I sent legislation to Capitol Hill asking for additional resources 
to deal with the threat of terrorism. The Senate passed the bill 
quickly, but the bill has stalled for months and months in the House. I 
ask again for the House of Representatives to pass the antiterrorism 
    Just as we try to advance our principles abroad, we know we have, 
first and more importantly, to stand by them at home. Our Nation is 
coming together around traditional values even as we move forward 
economically and try to bring more common sense to our Government. All 
across America though they are still too high, the American people 
should know that the crime rate is down, the welfare rolls and food 
stamp rolls are down, teen pregnancy has dropped for 2 years in a row, 
and for the first time in more than a decade, the poverty rate is down.
    We still have a lot to do; you know that better than anyone. And I 
encourage the development of the new ideas that you are pushing, how you 
are going beyond what we are advocating now in the ``GI bill'' of rights 
and tax benefits for childrearing and education. I encourage this 
    There are still too many people who are in trouble. There are too 
many young people without parents or others to teach them right from 
wrong who are turning to drugs and to violence. There are too many 
places in our country that still have both too little opportunity and 
too little responsibility. But we are coming together.
    And I'm proud of what we did in the administration with welfare 
reform efforts to support 35 States, with the crime bill that Senator 
Lieberman mentioned, with a 40 percent increase in child support 
collections, and a cut in the student loan default rate by 50 percent 
since this administration took office. I am proud of that.
    My fellow Americans, we have to see this debate about the budget in 
the context of the remarks I have just made. This is a very great 
country. No one is so well-positioned for the 21st century as the United 
States, as long as we stick to our strategy of economic growth, 
commonsense Government, and mainstream values. There is no country so 
    But we now have to make a fundamental choice. In 1992, most voters 
believed the choice was between an active approach to our problems and a 
more passive one. Today in the budget debate you see two very different 
active approaches to America's challenges. We face a choice that will be 
a test of our values, a test of our vision, a choice that goes to the 

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heart of our identity as a nation and to the very core of the future we 
will chart.
    What is the vision of the congressional Republicans as manifest in 
their budget? Their budget would render our Government incapable of 
supporting our values and advancing our common interests. It is bereft 
of the simple understanding that we rise or fall together. They would 
support policies that would make us far more a divided, winner-take-all 
society, a community with fewer connections and less common purpose, in 
which we say to all Americans without regard to opportunity or 
obligation, fend for yourselves.
    Ours is a vastly different vision. We know Government cannot do 
everything. We know there is not a program for every problem. We know we 
should not ask Government to do for people what they ought to be doing 
for themselves. We know more must be done at the State and local level 
and in partnership with private citizens. But we know our Government has 
fundamental responsibilities to lead, to act, to move forward.
    We know that the Government of the 21st century must be a constant 
challenge to our people to seize opportunities and assume 
responsibilities. We know that, above all, we must give people the 
tools, the skills, the opportunities they need to make the most of their 
own lives, not through a one-size-fits-all, old-style bureaucracy but by 
liberating the creative energies of millions and millions of Americans 
in their homes, their businesses, their schools, and their communities. 
This must be the vision that animates our Nation. We don't want a 
winner-take-all society. We want a society in which all have a chance to 
win together.
    I think it is very important that you understand that this great 
debate in Washington is not, is not, about balancing the budget. It is 
about balancing our values as a people. The American people want and 
deserve a balanced budget. Since I took the oath of office, we have cut 
the Federal deficit in half. And listen to this: When I became 
President, we had the highest deficit we've had ever. And the prospect 
was for it getting larger. Today, today, the United States of America 
has the smallest deficit of any industrialized country in the world 
except Norway. Every other country has a deficit that is a larger 
percentage of its income than we do. You should be proud of that, my 
fellow Democrats, and I am, too.
    Five months ago, I proposed a balanced budget that eliminates the 
deficit, cuts hundreds of wasteful and outdated programs, but preserves 
Medicare and Medicaid, invests in education, technology, and research, 
protects the environment, and defends and strengthens working families. 
And it maintains the ability of the United States to lead the world 
toward peace and freedom and democracy and prosperity. My budget 
reflects those values and fulfills our interests. The Republican 
congressional budget simply does not.
    I believe we have a duty to care for our parents so that they can 
live their lives in dignity. That duty includes securing Medicare, 
slowing the rate of growth of inflation, protecting our senior citizens 
and giving them every opportunity to maximize the options that are out 
    But the Republican budget rests on massive cuts, 3 times bigger than 
any previous ones in our history, designed apparently to let the system 
wither away. We believe our children should have the opportunity to make 
the most of their own lives. We think schools should be run by teachers 
and principals, not by bureaucrats in the central office or in 
Washington, DC. But the Republican budget slashes college scholarships 
and college loans, funds to cut class size and provide computers, and 
rewards schools which agree to be held accountable for meeting the 
highest standards, in direct contradiction to the work that Democrats 
and Republicans have done to establish national education goals, high 
standards, and more accountability, the things that Governor Romer has 
led this country in for 5 or 6 years. The last Congress was supporting 
that direction; this budget would undermine it.
    We believe we have a duty to preserve God's Earth for future 
generations. We are committed to reform so that environmental protection 
doesn't trap business in a tangle of redtape. And indeed, we are now 
reducing by 25 percent the time businesses have to spend in filling out 
compliance forms with the EPA. But we must not, we must not, abandon our 
commitment to clean air, clean water, safe drinking water, safe food. 
These things are at the core of the quality of life we owe to ourselves 
and, most important, to our future.
    And we believe, as Senator Lieberman says, that we should not tax 
working people into poverty. The working family tax cut is something

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the DLC supported for years. But I want to make it clear that we were 
building on an idea supported by Republicans at least as much as 
    President Ford signed the earned-income tax credit into law. 
President Reagan said it was the best antipoverty program ever designed 
because it rewarded work. It was increased under President Bush. The DLC 
idea was simple. We would simply double it so we could say to everybody 
in America, ``If you are willing to work 40 hours a week and you have 
children in the home, you will not be in poverty. Therefore, there is no 
incentive to be on welfare. Move to work. Your tax system will not put 
you in poverty; it will lift you out of it.'' That is what we did, and 
it was the right thing to do.
    Now, the Republican budget would cut the tax credit by even more 
than we raised it, raising taxes on 17 million working families, rising 
to an average of $574 a year for families with two or more children. If 
you've got a breadwinner out there trying to feed two children on 
$12,000 a year or $13,000 a year, $574 is a lot of money. And it is 
wrong, and I will fight it.
    I support a balanced budget, but I oppose the Republican budget 
plan. I had looked forward to working with this Congress to achieve a 
balanced budget consistent with our values and consistent with our 
obligation to keep this economy growing. This week, instead of following 
a path of reconciliation, they have gone their own way and brought the 
Government to the brink of two serious problems.
    They're following a strategy announced by the Speaker last April. In 
an unprecedented move, they have passed one bill and sent it to me and 
apparently are about to send another that say that we will keep the 
Government going and we will raise the debt limit so America can meet 
its financial obligations, if and only if, we can in this interim 
legislation increase Medicare premiums on all senior citizens by 25 
percent, have deep cuts in education and the environment, and repeal 30 
years of bipartisan Republican and Democratic commitments to protect the 
environment and the public health in ways that will increase pollution 
and decrease support for clean air, clean water, and safe food. This is 
irresponsible, and it is wrong.
    For example, if Congress forces the Government to default on its 
obligations and interest costs rise, they will rise for Government, 
thereby undermining the ability of the Republicans to meet their 
balanced budget targets. One-tenth of one percent interest rate increase 
adds $42 billion to the deficit over a 10-year period. But interest 
rates would also rise for businesses and for the 10 million American 
homeowners whose variable mortgage rates are tied to Federal interests 
rates and for consumers.
    Here we are trying to drive interest rates down so we can keep the 
economic recovery going. That is what we should be doing, not putting a 
ball and chain on every American who is trying to soar in the global 
    The Republican Congress has said to me with brutal simplicity, ``You 
will sign our cuts in Medicare, education, the environment, or we will 
shut the Government down. You will agree to support our budget and all 
of its major elements. You will agree to support what we have called 
regulatory reform, repealing 30 years of bipartisan commitment to a 
clean environment and a safe food supply or we will push the Government 
into default.''
    Well, America doesn't respond very well to those kind of pressure 
tactics. It's no way to find common ground. So this morning, just before 
I came here, I vetoed their bill on the debt ceiling. [Applause] Thank 
you very much. I did not relish doing this. My job as President is to 
take care of the American people. And I have done my best to take good 
care of this country. We are safer. We are more secure. We are more 
prosperous. We have a Government that helps more and costs less in the 
last 3 years. That is what I am for America.
    But in the end, what we stand for, the values we embrace, and the 
things we fight for will shape the future that we will all live with. I 
will do everything I can to minimize disruption in these next several 
days. There are limits to what we can do until Congress does its job and 
allows us to resolve our budget differences in a forthright manner.
    But I was elected President to restore the American dream for all of 
our people, to keep our Nation the strongest in the world and to bring 
our people together. I cannot and will not under pressure sign a budget 
that will rob the American dream for millions of Americans, divide our 
people instead of uniting them, and undermine our ability to remain the 
strongest Nation in the world and the greatest force for those things we 
believe in.
    You have to understand what is going on here. The strategy that was 
adopted and announced

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last April was to precipitate this crisis in the hope of forcing me to 
accept the budget and the other priorities in their contract. They have 
not done the normal work of budgeting.
    Here we are, 6 weeks into the new budget year, 6 weeks into the new 
budget year, and this Congress has only passed 3 of the 13 required 
budget bills. The Senate and the House have each passed balanced budget 
plans, which I find objectionable but which are different from one 
another, and they have not met, resolved their differences, and sent it 
to me.
    The Founding Fathers set up a system to deal with this. The Congress 
passes bills. The President signs or vetoes them. Then the Congress can 
either override the veto or work with the President to find a bill that 
either the President will sign or they can get two-thirds of the 
Congress to support so they can override the veto. That is the wisdom of 
the Founding Fathers. This strategy is nothing more or less than an 
attempt to evade that system.
    As long as they insist on plunging ahead with a budget that violates 
our values in a process that is characterized more by pressure than 
constitutional practice, I will fight it. I am fighting it today. I will 
fight it tomorrow. I will fight it next week and next month. I will 
fight it until we get a budget that is fair to all Americans. [Applause] 
Thank you.
    And let me say to you that I am honored to have been given the 
opportunity to wage this contest, to stand up for the values and the 
interests of ordinary Americans. And I ask you to think about this, as I 
close, in two ways. This struggle is about things that the Founding 
Fathers knew we would always have to face, so it is as old as our 
history. It is also about our challenge as Americans and as leaders in 
the world moving to the 21st century.
    Our Founding Fathers had this dream that people of different 
religious backgrounds and beliefs could build a strong nation together. 
They knew it was flawed. Thomas Jefferson knew it was flawed on slavery. 
But they set up a system where we could just keep working on it, year-in 
and year-out, decade-in a decade-out, as we work through the problems 
and became better and fashioned a life that was a purer and purer and 
purer example of the values which they enshrined.
    We are now called upon to be faithful to the vision of our Founders, 
the vision that Andrew Jackson had that true and lasting prosperity 
rests on equal opportunity for all and special privileges for none; the 
wisdom of Abraham Lincoln that a house divided against itself cannot 
stand; the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt that the heritage of America is 
in no small measure the heritage of the natural resources and bounty 
that God gifted us with here in our own land.
    This is also the challenge of the modern times. The forces of 
integration which offer so much hope are pitted against the forces of 
disintegration: the people who killed Americans in Iraq; the fanatic who 
killed that brave and good Prime Minister in Israel, our partner for 
peace; the people who everywhere would sow discord over harmony.
    At the end of this month, I hope I will be going to Great Britain 
and to Ireland to do what I can to continue to further the peace process 
there. How many people have died in Ireland in the 20th century because 
of hatred and division--religious hatred and division? In his great 
poem, ``The Second Coming,'' about the Irish civil war, William Butler 
Yeats said this: Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Mere anarchy 
is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and 
everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all 
conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
    My fellow Americans, we have worked too hard for too long to bring 
our country to this point. If we have our convictions and we stand for 
them firmly, reasonably, responsibly, if we hold out our hands in 
cooperation but always stand up for what we know is right, this 
country's future will be even brighter than its brilliant past. It is 
our responsibility to make that happen.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 10:50 a.m. at the Washington Convention 
Center. In his remarks, he referred to Senator Joseph Lieberman, 
chairman, and Al From, president, Democratic Leadership Council.