Clinton travels to mid-America to push 'middle class bill of rights'

January 11, 1995|By Los Angeles Times

GALESBURG, Ill. -- President Clinton, seeking to regain the offensive in his battle with the Republican-led Congress, journeyed to the nation's midsection to appeal for public support for his "middle class bill of rights."

Mr. Clinton asked a small-town audience yesterday to remember that some federal programs are worth keeping, despite the enthusiasm of his GOP critics for budget-cutting. "There are still problems for the federal government to solve," he said, citing the relief effort that followed the disastrous 1993 floods that ravaged the Midwest.

Speaking to an audience of teachers, students and local officials at Carl Sandburg Community College, the president said: "We have to have some changes in what we expect our government to do, but . . . I think our purpose will be to keep the American dream alive."

Aides said the speech was the first of a series in which Mr. Clinton plans to promote his alternatives to House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." The aides acknowledged that many of the proposals are likely to die at the hands of the GOP-controlled Congress.

Mr. Clinton even referred to his own program as "my version of the 'Contract with America,' " a backhanded acknowledgment of Mr. Gingrich's success at defining the terms of the debate.

Aides said the president's campaign for his economic proposals, first made in December, was aimed both at boosting the Democrats' chances of making some impact in domestic policy debates in the House and Senate, and at redefining Mr. Clinton's image in voters' eyes.

Polls taken before and after the November election found that many voters view the president as a big-spender, despite his efforts to cut the federal budget deficit. And so the president spent much of his day declaring his enthusiasm for smaller government.

"We do not need all these federal programs telling you what to do," Mr. Clinton said. Instead of setting up job training schemes, he said, "We ought to just give you the money."

And he emphasized another traditionally Republican theme that was also supposed to define his creed as a "new Democrat" -- the idea that recipients of welfare or other government aid "have responsibilities as well as rights."

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