President Clinton ticked off a list of differences with the Republican Congress on crime, education and national security Saturday. But he pledged to work with Republicans on other issues, saying, “It’s not all bad.”
Clinton, in his weekly radio address, marched through a series of Republican proposals in Congress that he said would hurt ordinary Americans. He said he would “keep doing everything in my power to fight against anything” that weakens opportunities for Americans.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, in the GOP response to Clinton’s address, insisted Republicans were simply delivering on their “Contract With America,” which voters endorsed in the midterm elections.
Armey said the GOP contract was winning support from Democrats as well, and promised “big change, hard work, promises kept.”
Both sides offered themselves as advocates for a smaller federal government, greater accountability by Congress and increased flexibility for state and local governments.
Clinton, in an interview with “CBS This Morning” to be broadcast Monday, held out some hope for cooperation. “Wherever I can work with (House Speaker) Newt Gingrich or anybody else to get that done, I’m going to do it,” he said.
“It’s not all bad,” he said. “I agree with them that we need a smaller federal government.”
Nonetheless, sharp differences are emerging over how to reach that goal.
On crime, Clinton renewed his threat to veto House-passed legislation that would scrap his plan to put 100,000 more police on the streets in favor of letting local communities decide how to spend federal dollars to fight crime.
“I’m going to work with the Senate to fix this proposal, but I will veto any effort to repeal or undermine our promise,” Clinton said.
The president also criticized GOP education proposals, including a plan by some Republicans to limit the program under which college students can borrow money for tuition directly from the government.
“They want to slow down or stop or reverse a lot of these … education gains,” Clinton said. “Some of these Republicans see education as just another place to cut and gut.”
On national security, Clinton welcomed the defeat of GOP-sponsored legislation that would put money into research on a Star Wars-type missile defense system. Clinton called the proposal “an unacceptable and unconstitutional infringement on the president’s authority.”
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said GOP proposals to scrap the school lunch program and another program that feeds pregnant women and preschoolers were “another example of how the fine print in the `Contract With America’ is adding up to a very damaging assault on some of the most vulnerable in our society.”