Congress should not agree to President Clinton’s proposals to add teachers and shrink classes in primary grades, Republicans from Washington state said Tuesday night.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation generally agreed with the president that the country was on sound economic footing.
They agreed he was right to discuss the condition of the nation and his plans for the future, rather than to talk about allegations that have consumed the nation’s capital for the last week.
But they disagreed with some of the new programs Clinton outlined in his State of the Union address.
Most contentious could be a Clinton proposal for the federal government to help local schools hire more teachers, decrease classroom size and build more classrooms.
“That’s not a federal job, to make classrooms small,” Republican Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane said. “If we give the federal government more control over education, it diminishes the local ability to determine what’s best for the schools.”
Clinton should have put more emphasis on cutting spending and taxes, he added.
Rep. Doc Hastings, a Tri-Cities Republican, also argued against increased federal involvement in public schools.
“The challenges we have are to make sure we don’t centralize control here, but to move responsibilities away from D.C.,” Hastings said.
Clinton was able to address the nation at a time when many things are positive, Hastings said.
“I can’t think of a better time for the president to make a State of the Union address than this year,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray considered the speech a strong statement on where the country was, and where its energies need to be focused.
“We know we have to work on our budget this year,” she said.
The allegations that Clinton had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and that Lewinsky was urged to lie about it, are serious, Murray said.
“We hope this is concluded quickly so we can go on. We need to know the facts,” she said. “I feel sorry for this country, that it has to focus its attention on this.”
Nethercutt said he will support Clinton’s call for more medical research, and to better focus the efforts of such agencies as the National Institutes of Health.
The Spokane attorney has been asked by House Speaker Newt Gingrich to review the NIH to look for ways to improve research - a job that would seem to fit in with Clinton’s plan.
“I will enjoy leading the charge on that whole issue,” said Nethercutt.
Republican Rep. Linda Smith of Vancouver said she thought Clinton did a good job overall, but disagreed with his assessment of the budget.
Clinton and congressional leaders of both parties were applauding themselves for a budget with a nearly nonexistent deficit, and talking about how to use money from a possible surplus. But the federal government continues to borrow money from the Social Security Trust Fund, Smith noted.
“I don’t believe in the surplus when we’re violating the trust of the people,” she said.
Republican Sen. Slade Gorton, complimented Clinton on his skills as a speaker, then suggested he was less than truthful.
Clinton’s “historic flair for exaggeration and lack of credibility” called into question his plans to balance the budget, use the surplus to save Social Security and start new spending programs, Gorton said.