First lady criticizes Congress over tax cut, campaign finance
By Phil Hirschkorn/CNN
September 15, 1999
Web posted at: 5:25 p.m. EDT (2125 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Prospective Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton again aimed her rhetoric Wednesday at the Republican-led Congress, calling the GOP tax cut bill reckless, risky, and shortsighted.
At a news conference Wednesday in Manhattan -- her third news conference in a week's time -- Mrs. Clinton again attacked the $792 billion tax cut recently passed by the House and the Senate as a poor use of the federal budget surplus.
"They have passed a reckless tax plan that would squander our surplus without devoting a penny to Social Security and Medicare. It would raise interest rates and it would force devastating cuts in initiatives vital to people of this city and state," Mrs. Clinton said.
Four of the New York's most prominent elected Democrats flanked Mrs. Clinton and joined her in a chorus of criticism -- City Council President Peter Vallone, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Public Advocate Mark Green, and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.
President Bill Clinton has promised to veto the bill.
Mrs. Clinton is exploring a run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She has not officially announced a candidacy but has formed an exploratory committee and would likely face no primary opposition. The likely Republican opponent would be New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Mrs. Clinton said the budget plan would cost schools federal funding for more teachers, adding that it cuts $141 million earmarked for New York and would leave more than half of its 7,200 projected new teacher slots unfilled. She also said the bill would also cut $166 million of New York's piece of the popular Head Start program, which serves 24,000 New York pre-schoolers.
"I call on the people of New York to let Congress know what they are doing is just wrong. It is wrong to deprive our children of the chance they deserve to have for the future we want for them and for our nation. This is a risky, shortsighted tax scheme, and I hope we will make it clear to the Congress that New York will not stand for this kind of irresponsible behavior out of Washington," Mrs. Clinton said.
Mrs. Clinton also responded to reporters' questions about the campaign finance reform bill the House passed Tuesday, including a provision aimed at curtailing her use of government jets during campaign swings.
"I am pleased the House passed reform that could make a difference," Mrs. Clinton said, but she added she was "somewhat concerned" Senate Republicans would not follow suit.
"I hope the Senate Republicans will have a change of heart and do the right thing for the country," she said.
Part of the reform package included an amendment sponsored by Rep. John Sweeney (R-New York) that would require Mrs. Clinton's campaign to more fully reimburse the federal government for costs associated with her regular visits to New York.
The amendment would require candidates for federal office who are not federal officer holders to reimburse the government for "full and actual" transportation costs for political purposes. Secret Service costs would be exempt.
Current law requires campaigns using government jets like Mrs. Clinton's to pay the government an amount equal to first class airline tickets for the candidate and staff. But with military jets costing $3000 an hour to operate, or approximately $20,000 per Washington-New York round trip, the reimbursement rate is a money-loser for government.
"The taxpayers should not be forced to account for anyone's campaign travel," said John Bishop, a spokesman for Rep. Sweeney, in a telephone interview.
"This is an issue of equity. The first lady has a distinct advantage over any potential opponent who does not have access. It levels the playing field among candidates," Bishop said.
Mrs. Clinton vowed to abide the law, whatever it may be.
"We have followed the law and done everything we were required to do under the law and we will wait and see how it develops," she said.
Mrs. Clinton is expected to return to New York next week.