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Special Event

President Clinton Signs his Final Budget

Aired December 21, 2000 - 2:06 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to over to the White House, now, well, actually, the Old Executive Office Building, where President Clinton is about to perform one of the last major functions of his presidency, the signing of the last budget.

He is speaking about that now. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... as the evidence of these distinguished members of Congress from both parties proved, that when we put progress against of partisanship, there's no limit to what we can do for America and our future.

We are now in the longest economic expansion in our history. A critical part of our strategy to get there was to put our fiscal house in order, to replace record deficits with record surpluses. With this budget, in spite of the investments -- and I would argue because, in part, of past investments -- we are going to be able to pay off another $200 billion of our national debt on track to paying down $560 billion on the national debt over the last four years and this year.

(APPLAUSE)

And because together we made the right real choices, we were able to increase investment in the things that matter most.

That's what this budget bill does today.

And let me just begin with education. Under Secretary Riley's leadership, we have worked hard to make the right real choice, to have more investment and higher standards, more accountability and spend the money on the things that the educators tell us work best.

Test scores are up today with some of the greatest gains coming in some of the most disadvantaged communities.

Two-thirds of our high school graduates are going on to college. That's up 10 percent from 1993.

In the last few years, there's been a 300 percent increase in the number of Hispanic students taking advanced placement courses and a 500 percent increase in the number of African-American students doing so. With the largest student enrollment in our entire history and the most diverse student body in our entire history, education must be priority number one for any administration.

With this budget, while turning the largest deficits in history into the largest surpluses, we also will have more than doubled funding for education during the life of this administration.

(APPLAUSE)

This clearly is the biggest and best education budget in our nation's history.

And it will make a difference in the lives of millions of young people.

Let me just give a couple of examples. Our first ever initiative to renovate classrooms will mean that, over time, millions of children will attend more modern, more dignified, more functional schools. This is about moving out of house trailers and it's about going to school in old buildings that provide modern education.

With $1.6 billion on its way to help communities with smaller classrooms, we will help roughly 2 million children learn in smaller classes with more individualized attention in the early grades.

With nearly a billion dollars more for Head Start, the largest increase in history, we'll have more than doubled the program, adding 60,000 more kids to this quality preschool program this year alone.

WATERS: President Clinton, at the Old Executive Office Building today, talking about accomplishments and arguments for improving education in the future, relying on the accomplishments of the past.

But, as we all know, it's out with the old and in with the new. At this very moment, the president-elect, George W. Bush is talking about education with a bipartisan committee on that subject. He's in Texas, and so is CNN's Kelly Wallace in Austin, the capital, to tell us what's going on there today -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, interesting timing, as you mentioned, U.S. President Bill Clinton, talking about education, talking about the final education budget he will sign as U.S. president, and then, of course, the incoming president focusing on the same subject. He invited a bipartisan group of House and Senate members to come to Austin to talk about education reform. He wants to make education, he has said, his first legislative priority. He has talked about things such as increasing accountability. He has also talked about taxpayer subsidies, going to parents, also referred to as vouchers, so that parents would be able to allow their kids, or pay for their kids, to go to private schools, if they were not happy with the public schools they were attending.

Also today, Mr. George W. Bush is now, I guess you could say, a man in transition, because he is a man between jobs. He resigned from the post he has held for the past six years, stepping down from the governorship of the state of Texas.

It was an emotional moment for Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura. He talked about how the office shaped him, how he learned about diversity, how he tried to work with Democrat and Republican alike. And then the president-elect said so long for now, but not farewell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES.-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: My wish is is that the new governor enjoys living in the mansion as much as we did. It won't be our home, but Texas always will be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Again, an emotional moment, Mr. Bush seen holding back some tears. Later this afternoon, Republican Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry will officially be sworn in as the 47th governor of the state of Texas. And that means Mr. Bush now can focus exclusively on interviewing candidates and building his Cabinet.

We don't expect any announcements today, but we could get more announcements as early as tomorrow. And it is strongly expected that Mr. Bush will tap New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman to be the administrator for the Environment Protection Agency. She has been New Jersey's governor since 1994. She is the first female governor of New Jersey, viewed as a moderate.

Another Republican governor, Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, looks to be the choice for the Department of Health and Human Services. He is the nation's longest serving governor, serving Wisconsin since 1986. He is a leader in the field of welfare reform, he is an abortion foe, and so he should be a pick that conservatives like very much. Conservatives expressing some concern that Mr. Bush has so far chosen many moderates for his Cabinet.

Now, at the same time, while the team looks for possible candidates, the fence mending and reaching out to Democrats continues. Vice President-elect Dick Cheney met with former rival, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman on Capitol Hill. It was their first face-to-face meeting since the election was resolved more than a week ago.

The two men said they talked about issues, such as education reform and national security, and they clearly showed that they respect each other and they both have quite a good sense of humor. A reporter asked Vice President-elect Cheney about possible appointees, Sen. Lieberman chimed in saying: The job I was looking for appears to be taken. Of course, referring to the vice president's position.

That being said though, Lou, the search continues for the Bush team to find a Democrat in the Cabinet. Bush officials saying they definitely will have a Democrat in the Cabinet, but so far we don't have anyone named to that post.

There is a name circulating, former Democratic congressman from New York, African-American, Floyd Flake. He is being floated out there as a possibility for education secretary. Again, though, all the Bush team saying is they definitely will have a Democrat in the Cabinet -- Lou.

WATERS: OK, Kelly Wallace, in Austin, where George W. Bush officially is unemployed today.

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