Clinton defends affirmative action, threatens veto of GOP welfare reform

April 09, 1995|By New York Times News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- President Clinton defended affirmative action yesterday and attacked the House & 2/3 Republicans' welfare plan, threatening a veto unless it is changed to provide more job training and education.

At the same time, Mr. Clinton re-affirmed his commitment both to reviewing programs that give preferences to women and minorities and to an overhaul of the welfare system.

In a speech to the California Democratic Party convention, and in his weekly radio address, he continued the effort he began Friday to use Congress' recess as an opportunity to sketch out lines of compromise and confrontation with Republicans in the battles to come.

In his most detailed recent comments on affirmative action, the president said that there should be no retreat from the concept but that the feelings of white men facing economically troubling times should be considered.

"We don't have to retreat from these affirmative action programs that have done great things for the American people," he said. "But we do have to ask ourselves: Are they all working? Are they all fair? Has there been any kind of reverse discrimination?"

In addition, Mr. Clinton sharply criticized the House measure, saying it did not provide incentives to work and that it harmed children.

Mr. Clinton said the Republicans simply wanted to reduce welfare costs, and that their plan provided no education or job-training funds to help people find jobs.

Mr. Clinton also chastised the House Republicans for the bill's provision to deny aid to children born out of wedlock to unmarried mothers already receiving welfare. Republicans say their plan removes incentives for unmarried women to have additional children.

"In or out of wedlock, those kids are going to grow up someday," Mr. Clinton told the delegates to the convention. "They're going to be in Berkeley, Stanford or San Quentin or somewhere in between. They're going to be in prison or they're going to be in university or someplace in between.

"And whether they are or not is due, in part, to what we do and how we behave. Let us not punish the children and cut off our own noses to spite our face in this welfare reform."

The Senate has yet to take up the welfare issue, and Mr. Clinton said that if it approves the House bill unaltered, he will not sign it.

On Friday, in a speech to a group of newspaper editors, Mr. Clinton laid out his most detailed list of bills passed by the House that he would veto if adopted by the Senate in their current form. While saying he did "not want a pile of vetoes," he said he would not sign House bills on the legal system, government regulations, crime and the use of U.S. forces in international peacekeeping operations, among others.

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