President Clinton, continuing to promote popular social issues, on Monday announced additional steps to crack down on “deadbeat” parents including displaying their faces on post-office “wanted posters, using the Internet to find them and strengthening criminal penalties for child-support delinquency.
The steps come as the administration and Republicans are both trying to gain the upper hand in the sparring over welfare reform legislation, which is scheduled for a Senate vote today.
Clinton told a cheering crowd at a theater here that he believed a welfare bill could be signed before Congress adjourned for the August recess, but reiterated that he had vetoed two previous bills because they were “too tough on kids.”
Neither Clinton nor White House aides spelled out their bottom line Monday for avoiding a third veto. But aides have indicated the president is concerned about language denying benefits to legal immigrants, cuts in food stamp programs and the impact on children whose parents are cut off welfare. In the Senate Monday, Democrats won a small victory by softening the bill’s restrictions on food stamp programs.
“I hope and expect to sign legislation that does move people from welfare to work, does support, instead of undermining, the raising of our children,” Clinton said. “This should not be a party issue.”
The president’s speech in Denver came on the second day of a three-day western campaign swing heavy with fundraisers that are expected to raise nearly $5 million for the Democratic Party. Clinton left Denver for California, where he gave a speech on combating juvenile crime at a high school in Monrovia, which passed one of the country’s toughest truancy laws in 1994.
Presidential adviser Bruce Reed described Monday’s announcement about child-support enforcement measures as another in a series of actions intended to show that Clinton is “moving forward while we wait for Congress to pass a (welfare) bill.”
Last month, the president announced he was directing states to require mothers to provide detailed information about who fathered their children before they would be eligible for welfare. At that time, he also vowed to improve national efforts to hunt down deadbeat parents when they cross state lines.
The issue is hardly controversial. Tough childenforcement measures have been embraced by Clinton’s presidential rival Bob Dole.
But Dole’s campaign criticized Clinton Monday, charging that the Senate reprimanded the administration two years ago for “failing to use existing federal law to prosecute deadbeat parents,” according to Dole spokeswoman Christina Martin.