Rep. Kay Granger's Response
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Good morning. Today I want to talk with you about the progress we have made in response to last year's disturbing rash of arsons and other destructive acts directed at houses of worship throughout our country. But before I do, I want to condemn another act of violent terror, the recent bombing of the women's health center in Atlanta. That, too, is wrong, and we also must stop it.
Now, in the aftermath of these terrible crimes against the houses of worship, many of us asked ourselves, why? Were these fires fueled by a sudden upsurge in racial and religious hostility? Were they set for personal gain or revenge? Or were they merely random acts of violence? Whatever the causes of the crimes, they offended every citizens who cherishes America's proud heritage of religious and ethnic diversity, every citizen who remembers that religious freedom, justice and equality are the founding principles of our great democracy.
As one who was raised in the church and who continues to be guided by the enduring lessons I learned there, I joined with all Americans of conscience in demanding swift action to combat these crimes, to help the churches rebuild and to prevent anymore fires.
Seven months ago I established the National Church Arson Task Force to coordinate the efforts of more than 200 FBI and ATF agents deployed to work with local and state law enforcement agencies, churches and citizens to catch and prosecute those responsible for these crimes. This week, the task force released its first interim report. The report shows that we have been remarkably successful in solving the crimes. Since January 1995, 143 suspects have been arrested in connection with 107 fires at churches and other houses of worship. This rate of arrest is double the general arrest rate for arsons -- and three-quarters of these arrests occurred during the seven months following the formation of the task force. So far, 48 defendants have been convicted on federal and state charges in connection with 43 fires.
This work has been supported by $3 million in Justice Department grants to help local communities intensify their enforcement and surveillance efforts. In addition, Congress authorized the Department of Housing to administer a $10-million loan guarantee program to assist with the rebuilding of churches. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to work with communities to increase awareness and help build local arson prevention coalitions. This federal effort must continue until all those responsible are brought to justice and no more fires burn.
But even more impressive than our government effort has been the tremendous outpouring of assistance that has flowed from every corner of our country in response to these crimes. People have crossed lines of faith and race and region to link arms in a united effort to rebuild and protect our houses of worship. And by doing so, they have shown us that America is still a country that cares about its neighbors -- a country that comes together in the face of common threats to defend the common ground of our values. I am reminded of what Joseph said in Genesis when he met up with the brothers who sold him into slavery: "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."
I saw this up close this past August when Hillary and I, along with the Vice President and Tipper Gore, picked up paint brushes and hammers to help rebuild Salem Baptist Church in Fruitland, Tennessee. One of the earliest supporters of the rebuilding of this tiny black church was the congregation of a white church three miles down the road that also had suffered a suspicious fire.
On a national level, we saw groups like the National Council of Churches, the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the NAACP come together as one to tackle this problem. And we received strong bipartisan support from Congress for our work. The insurance industry, at the urging of the Vice President, also became a partner in the rebuilding effort. These groups, and others of goodwill all over America, stepped forward to live out the lesson of the man whose birthday celebration this year coincides with my second inauguration on Monday.
Thirty-four years ago in his famous speech on the Mall in Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King recognized the need for biracial cooperation. In talking of his fellow Americans who stood with him in the civil rights struggle, he said, "Their destiny is tied up with our destiny, and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."
My fellow citizens, we must not walk alone into the 21st century. This next week, as we focus on the inauguration and the future of our great country, my greatest hope is that we as Americans will continue to find strength in our diversity, that the world will always look to us as a champion of racial and religious liberty, that we will have the wisdom to heal our divisions and walk together into a bright new day.
Thanks for listening.
We are Americans, whose nation is the model of freedom and self-government for people the world over. In Congress, we must honor our democratic tradition and work together as Americans to do the people's business.
Our first task must be to balance the federal budget. Balancing the budget is more than just smart accounting. Balancing the budget will improve the quality of life for all Americans.
A balanced budget will reduce the cost of a typical home by $37,500. New families, just starting out, will be able to buy a new home sooner. A balanced budget will slash the price of a ten year student loan by $8,885. College education will be more affordable for young men and women around the country. And a balanced budget will create more than four million new jobs over 10 years and boost family incomes by 16 percent. For a family earning $30,000, that's another $4,000 in the family budget.
Most importantly, a balanced budget will restore the American dream, reverse the slide in living standards, and revive the tradition that American children can hope for better lives than their parents.
Our future financial security depends on balancing the budget. The miracles of modern medicine allow us to enjoy more time with our parents and grandparents as they live longer and fuller lives. As medical knowledge expands, and my generation - The Baby Boomers - age, our social security system face enormous pressures. The Medicare program will be bankrupt in six years if we continue down the current path. We must balance the budget now so that the government can protect social security and Medicare in the future.
If we are to make balancing the budget a reality, we must pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. This will protect future generations from the backbreaking debts we face today.
A balanced budget amendment will change the face of Washington. No longer will Congress be able to simply throw money at a problem in order to score political points, with little or no concern for whether or not the money is well spent.
Congress will have to review the programs that are on the books, and see where the money is accomplishing something, and where it is simply wasted. A balanced budget amendment, like nothing in law today, will force a top-down review of federal spending programs that is long overdue.
A balanced budget amendment will stop Washington from wasting America's money. Those wasted dollars belong in your pockets, because you'll spend them better than Washington can.
Until we pass a balanced budget amendment, we can take a first step now that will ensure a balanced budget from the President and from Congress. Last week, Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA) and I introduced the Balanced Budget Requirement Act.
This bipartisan legislation will enforce the Congress' commitment, and President Clinton's promise, to balance the budget, and keep it balanced. Out bipartisan bill requires the government to balance the government's budget the same way that hard working families balance their checkbooks.
It requires that the President submit a real balanced budget. Unbalanced budgets will be returned to sender. It requires the Congress to consider a real balanced budget unless we're at war. And our bill empowers the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to ensure that both the President and Congress keep this promise.
This week we inaugurate our President. But let's do more than just celebrate democracy. Let us use the inaugural afterglow to make a balanced budget reality for our families and for our future.