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Public Papers - 1991 - October

Remarks at Republican Congressional Leadership Meeting


The President. I just want to say a word before this meeting. I am looking forward to making some comments on this unemployment benefits. I have been saying all along that I want to sign an unemployment benefits package, and I want it to be one that does not bust the budget agreement. We want a temporary program that takes care of the people that are hurting out there, and there are people that are hurting. And I've said this all along, I am very much concerned about it.

I want a temporary program, and I want to live within the budget agreement so we do not increase interest rates on everybody. And thirdly, I want one that does not raise taxes only to make the economic problems worse. And I am hopeful that the Democrats will now come forward with such a package. And they have one that busts the budget agreement, and they have one that is not confined the way I think it ought to be.

And so, I don't know where you all think it stands, but I'd like to -- leaders, and you're doing a great job trying to work it out, but we are for it, but not for a reckless one that burdens every single taxpayer in this country.

Senator Dole. If I could just reinforce that. I didn't mean to interrupt you, Mr. President.

The President. No, I want to hear what -- --

Senator Dole. But I just made a statement on the Senate floor saying pretty much the same thing. Let's set -- you know, we've taken care of civil rights. That was very important. The next most important thing in the agenda is the extended benefits. We ought to sit down and work it out in a bipartisan way without busting the budget in paying for it. And I hope we can do that in the next few days.

Representative Michel. Well, I want to say, too, Mr. President, we've had our substitute. You don't know, Bob Dole, and our substitute that we've had on the table there. I suspect we'll probably have to make some modification of that, but we're holding to your criteria that it be of a temporary nature, that it pay for itself, and not cause the other problems that you have alluded to here.

And I would add the highway bill, Bob, is a very important job-builder that we've got to get done here in addition to those that you have mentioned.

The President. We've got to increase jobs right away.

Well, we've got a lot to talk about, but this one is important. And I get a little annoyed at the politics being played at the expense of people that do not have benefits and need them. And what we're talking about is protecting all the taxpayers and helping those who are out of work. And that is what I want to do. And I have discovered something around here; the only way you can get reasonable legislation to protect all the people is to beat back bad legislation that is going to further burden all the people. And so, we'll just have to do that, and I appreciate your leadership and your help in trying to get some sense coming out of the Congress on this important issue. People are hurting, and they ought to be helped.

Representative Gingrich. Can I comment just for a second, Mr. President? I just want to say, I think, I know from our meetings in this room that you have been prepared for over 2 months to sign a bill that would have gotten nearly 3 million families extended checks on a regular basis. And those checks could have been going out for 2 months. And I think that, you know, I hope that in the next couple of days we can get a bipartisan agreement that will let you sign a bill that is responsible and that gets those checks out. But it is tragic to see people putting commercials on television about the checks that aren't being sent while they take the action to block the checks. So, I just want to reinforce, at any point in the last 2 months, we could have signed, we could have passed and signed a responsible bill, and the checks would be out there right this minute. So, I hope this week we'll be able to do it.

Q. Mr. President, what do you hear about your house, sir?

The President. Well, we are -- what I hear has not been from under the heading of good news. But I don't want to burden everybody about that. There are a lot of people that were hurt by this storm, and a lot of people in California that were hurt by fires that just wiped them out. And Barbara and I are in a fortunate position that we can bounce back. But it is not good news, and we'll just go up and take a look. Rather devastating to our family, but when I compare that to the fortunes of others, why, we've got a lot to be grateful for.

Note: The President spoke at 10:02 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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