CLINTON AND DOLE ADDRESS THE GOVERNORS
JULY 16, 1996
Back-to-back remarks by President Clinton and Bob Dole. Both spoke this morning by satellite to the National Governors Association Meeting in Puerto Rico. They focused on welfare reform, and they were introduced by Tommy Thompson, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, chairman of the NGA.
SEN. BOB DOLE, Republican Presidential Candidate: I hope that Congress will pass a tough welfare reform bill, not just any welfare reform bill, and I challenge the President to finally sign a welfare bill and make those waivers a thing of the past. I wish we had the bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 87 to 12 when I was a Majority Leader, 87 to 12. Fifty-four, I think, fifty-three Republicans and some Democrats, bipartisan, a good, strong welfare reform bill that the President vetoed--so I would again say to the President--he's going to speak, I understand, following my remarks, give the states the power and authority to chart their own paths from dependence to hope. And I think there are goals that Republicans and Democrats can share.
We must confront the forces of chaos, and we must strengthen the sources of hope--families and communities and neighborhoods. We need a federal government that embraces the diversity of your reforms. We need a federal government that trusts your compassion and your competence. And let me just pause here, if I can, for a second.
I remember Gov. Thompson, who's been one of the leaders in welfare reform, as many others have in the audience have there, speaking to a group of Republicans one day in my Majority Leader's office and some of our Republicans were having difficulty turning loose because the government had the control so long they wanted to keep the entitlement, they wanted to do this, they wanted to do this, they wanted a maintenance effort which is probably all right, but it was much too high at the time. I remember what Gov. Thompson said to them I think in a moment of frustration. He said,
"Who do you think I am? I get elected by the same people you do. Nobody is going to go without medical care in the state of Wisconsin. Nobody is going to go without food in Wisconsin. Nobody is going to be left out in the state of Wisconsin, as long as I'm governor of that state."
And I think he could talk for any, speak for any succeeding government. So I've always felt that governors were closer, closer to the people, they better understood the problems, the legislators in both parties are closer to the people, and this is the clear case where I think the 10th Amendment ought to apply. We ought to send this back to the states. And I think the federal government understands and encourages the vast and untapped promise and energy and the wisdom of American life. We'll make it work.
So I would just say finally I, again, as a private citizen, appreciate your kind invitation and thank all of you for what you do on a daily basis to renew this country. And I know this is--we're in the political season--and I know it's difficult for some to understand that we can do anything in a non-partisan or bipartisan way, but I believe there is still time if we all agree and all have pretty much the same goal. We don't want watered down welfare programs going back to the states that will have to be corrected next year and the next year and the next year. We want to give you the opportunity you deserve. We want to give you the opportunity your constituents deserve.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: For too long the welfare issue has been marred by partisanship. It's been mired by gridlock. But in recent weeks up here all this seems to be changing. I think we've now reached a real turning point, a breakthrough for welfare reform.
The new leadership of the Senate, along with the leadership of the House of Representatives, has now indicated that they want to move forward with bipartisan welfare reform and are dropping their insistence that welfare be linked to the block-granting of Medicaid. They've said that they want to work to pass legislation I can sign, rather than sending me legislation they know that I would reject. As you know, Congress sent me a welfare reform bill last year that fell short of my principles, as well as those expressed by the NGA in your February resolution.
After my veto and unanimous resolution, I am pleased that the congressional leadership has made several significant improvements that have made this a much better bill. They've added $4 billion in child care, included a $1 billion work performance bonus to reward states for moving people from welfare to work. They removed the spending cap on food stamps so states don't come up short in tough times. Their original bill made cuts in structural changes that were tough on children, a school lunch block grant, a 25 percent cut in SSI for disabled children, cuts in foster care. The current bill drops all these provisions. Congress has taken long strides in the right direction. Now as we approach the goal line, we do have a chance to make history and make this bill even better. We can give all our people a chance to move from welfare to work, to transform our broken welfare system once and for all.
So I hope that Congress will continue to improve the bill along the lines that you and I have long advocated and along the lines of the strong bipartisan bills introduced by Senators John Breaux and John Chafee and Representatives John Tanner and Mike Castle, another former colleague of ours. We must not let this opportunity slip from our grasp, as it has too many times before. Let's put politics aside. Let's give the American people the best possible welfare reform bill, and let's do it before the August congressional recess. I'm determined that this bill--that this will be the year that we finally transform welfare across America. If Congress doesn't act, we still have to continue to act to make responsibility a way of life and not an option.
Today I am taking the steps that I can take as President to advance the central premise of welfare reform, one that is invited in all the proposed welfare bills, that anyone who can go to work must do so. We'll say to welfare recipients within two years you'll be expected to go to work and earn a paycheck, not draw a welfare check. Here's how we'll do that. I'm directing the Department of Health & Human Services to require everyone who takes part in the jobs program to sign a personal responsibility contract and commit to going to work within two years. States can then take away the benefits if they fail to live up to that commitment.