Energy & Environment
President Clinton's political philosophy is often described as "moderately liberal." He supports traditionally liberal causes such as abortion rights, raising taxes on the wealthy, and gays in the military, but also more conservative causes such as welfare reform, the death penalty, and international free-trade agreements. He believes the size of government should be reduced (he said in his 1996 State of the Union address that "the era of big government is over") but still believes government can play a positive and important role in society.
Clinton's first two years in office were marked by distinct emphasis on liberal initiatives such as: lifting the ban on gays in the military; raising taxes in his 1993 economic stimulus package; and a sweeping health care proposal that would have dramatically increased the government's role in the health insurance industry.
After the November 1994 elections, when Republicans gained control of both chambers of Congress, Clinton began to "triangulate" by politically positioning himself between liberal congressional Democrats and conservative congressional Republicans. Clinton moved right by offering a middle-class tax cut in November 1994 and a balanced budget proposal in June 1995. However, Clinton also presented himself as a pragmatic defender of popular government programs such as environmental regulations, loans for college, and Medicaid.
Clinton has been a steady supporter of abortion rights. Clinton believes that the decision to have an abortion should be left to the woman; that legal abortions should be safe and rare. He supports the right of federal workers and women in the military to an abortion with their benefits. He opposes late-term abortions except when the life or health of the mother is threatened.
Clinton told CNN in April 1995 that one way to make abortion rare is to "push very strongly for more adoptions and more cross-racial adoptions."
On April 10, 1996 Clinton vetoed H.R. 1833, a measure that would have outlawed certain late term abortions, citing that it did not contain an exception for the health of the mother. In his veto message, Clinton stated, "I would sign HR 1833 if it were amended to add an exception for serious health consequences." His veto drew severe criticism from the U.S. Catholic Cardinals and anti-abortion groups.
Clinton believes affirmative action should be reformed, not abolished -- "Mend it, don't end it," he has said often. Clinton has said he is against quotas and guaranteed results but believes affirmative action still is a useful tool for increasing economic opportunities for minorities.
In March 1995, Clinton called for a review of all government affirmative action programs. In July 1995, Clinton announced the findings of the affirmative action review and directed the federal government to reform any program that "creates a quota, creates a preference for unqualified individuals, creates reverse discrimination or continues even after its equal opportunity purposes have been achieved."
Clinton said in a March 1995 news conference that he favors affirmative action programs similar to ones used in the military. Clinton said, "There is virtually no opposition to the affirmative action programs that are the most successful in our country, which are the ones adopted by the United States military, which have not resulted in people of inferior quality or ability getting preferential treatment ... and has resulted in the most integrated institution in our society."
Clinton opposes the California Civil Rights Initiative -- a statewide proposal to eliminate preferential treatment for public employment, education and contracting based on race, religion, gender and ethnicity.
Clinton supports a balanced budget but insists on one that maintains funding for Medicare, Medicaid, education, technology and research, the environment, and maintaining a strong defense. He opposes a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
In his 1996 State of the Union address, Clinton declared that the "era of big government is over." One year earlier, in his 1995 State of the Union address, Clinton said, "I certainly want to balance the budget ... if you believe passing this amendment is the right thing to do, then you have to be straight with the American people. They have a right to know what you're going to cut and how it's going to affect them."
In June 1995, Clinton proposed a plan to balance the budget in ten years. The proposal included a $105 billion tax cut ($500 per-child credit, education deduction for college tuition, and expanded individual retirement accounts) as well as a $128 billion cut in Medicare and a $200 billion cut in discretionary spending.
Clinton claims to have passed the largest deficit-cutting plan in history (reducing the projected deficit by over one trillion dollars in seven years.) Also, Clinton has cut federal spending by $255 billion and has presided over three years of deficit reduction.
On April 14, 1996 President Clinton's White House and Congress agreed on a budget deal for fiscal year 1996, ending over a year of stalemate which resulted in two partial government shutdowns.
Clinton's fiscal year 1997 budget proposal (which he offered in March 1996) would provide for a balanced budget by the year 2002 (using the administration's OMB estimate); make spending cuts in Medicare and Medicaid (though smaller cuts than the GOP proposed); cut discretionary spending on congressional appropriations roughly from 1/5 to 1/3, depending on the program. However, Clinton's FY 1997 budget proposal also calls for about $100 billion in tax cuts -- including deductions for children, post-secondary education tuition, and expanded individual retirement accounts. These "middle class" tax cuts are offset by more than 50 changes in corporate taxes that mostly close loopholes and end special preferences for certain companies -- reining in so called "corporate welfare."
Under Vice President Gore, the Clinton administration developed a "Reinventing Government" plan to reduce waste and bureaucracy, and to eliminate more than 100,000 jobs from the federal payroll. Most of this plan was enacted by executive action.
Clinton supports reducing the size of the Housing and Urban Development Department, eliminating the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Helium Reserve Program, as well as privatizing the Air Traffic Control Board.
Clinton supported legislation that called for campaign finance reform and lobbying disclosure. He successfully eliminated the tax deduction for lobbying expenses. He made Congressional reform a key element of his 1995 State of the Union address, calling for members of Congress to "... just stop taking the lobbyists' perks." He asked Congress to send him the "strongest possible lobby reform bill."
On June 11, 1995 Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich held a town meeting in Claremont, New Hampshire. At this meeting, they agreed to establish what Gingrich called a "sort of blue-ribbon commission" to review the nation's lobbying and political process. As of mid-1996, neither Clinton nor Gingrich had made progress on establishing such a commission.
However, Clinton does support the measure proposed by Sens. Feingold and McCain which would allow for free television advertising; require candidates to raise 60 percent of campaign funds in the candidates' home states; and a ban on political action committees. He also wants to mandate new limits and full disclosure of "soft money," unrestricted donations given to state and local political party committees for general voter registration or mobilization activities.
Clinton wants greater disclosure from lobbyists, such as who they work for, what they spend, and what their legislative priorities are. Plus, he supports curbing the role of big money in campaigns, including limiting the influence of PACs. He supports giving free TV time to candidates running for public office.
Clinton supports the death penalty. Signed the 1994 Crime Bill, which expanded the use of death penalty. Clinton expanded the federal death penalty to cover terrorism, large-scale drug trafficking and the murder of federal law enforcement officers.
Clinton signed his $30 billion crime bill into law in September 1994. The law provided: funding to hire 100,000 new police officers over six years (though Republicans refute this, claiming it would result in a lower number of cops on the beat); money for states to build more prisons (with more money going to states that adopt "truth in sentencing" laws -- where convicted criminals must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence); a ban for 10 years of 19 assault weapons; life imprisonment for a person convicted of three violent crimes (i.e.: "Three strikes and you're out"); and $6.9 billion worth of crime prevention programs, including $1 billion for new drug courts and $1.6 billion aimed at reducing violence against women.
As of May 1996, funding for 43,000 new cops had been approved. However, The Washington Post reported on May 19 that only 17,000 new police officers were actually on the street as a result of the 1994 Crime Bill.
In May 1996, Clinton signed the so-called "Megan's Law," which requires states to notify neighborhoods when convicted sex offenders move into a community.
Clinton supports drug testing of high school athletes and stronger sentencing for people involved in drug-related violence.
Clinton also signed the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act which increased school security and violence prevention programs and introduced legislation to fight crime in public housing.
In June 1996 Clinton endorsed a victims' rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He believes victims should be allowed to participate in judicial proceedings related to the crime in which they were the victim -- including notification about court actions and parole hearings, and the right to submit statements about bail and sentencing.
Clinton supports "increased options and quality of education through such projects as charter schools, public school choice and national standards.
Clinton opposes school vouchers (government money given to parents to send their children to private or religious schools) stating "I do not support using public funds to pay for private schools."
Clinton signed the Goals 2000 Act, which set voluntary national academic standards for all children (President Bush and the nation's governors had adopted 6 of the 8 goals in 1989.) Clinton also signed the Student Loan Reform Act, which allowed students to borrow directly from the government instead of from banks (saving the government $4.3 billion over five years) and increased repayment options.
Clinton signed the National Service Act (Americorps) in September 1993. The program created national service jobs where young people could earn money for college. He also signed the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, which allowed for flexible use of federal aid to improve teaching in poor areas; and the Schools-to-Work Opportunities Act, which improved vocational education.
On June 4, 1996 Clinton proposed a $1,500 per year tax credit to help pay for two years of college (or $750 for part-time students). Families may choose between the tax credit and the previously proposed $10,000 a year tax deduction for vocational training or college tuition
In July 1996, Clinton proposed a $5 billion program to repair the infrastructure of the nation's public schools.
Clinton has proposed increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency's operating program which deals with global climate change, developing and exporting environmental technologies and protecting sensitive ecosystems. Clinton has also proposed increased funding for the operation of national parks and phasing down federal land acquisitions.
Clinton opposes compensating citizens when regulations lower the value of their property -- the so called "takings" or "property rights" issue. Property rights is key to every major environmental proposal and Clinton has threatened to veto. He claims it be would extremely costly for the federal government and would benefit wealthy developers and landowners.
Clinton opposes changing the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to limit the number of habitats eligible to be designated as endangered. He supports reforming government regulations so they "make more sense" and make health and environment programs work better and cost less.
Clinton said at the Annual Family Reunion Conference in Nashville Tennessee in July 1995: "The family is the locus of both middle class dreams and middle class values, for it is the center around which we organize child rearing, our country's most important responsibility, and work, how we determine how we live and what will become of us over the long run."
Clinton signed into law the requirement that the V-chip (a computer card which allows parents to block violent programming from their television) be installed in all large screen televisions. On February 29, 1996 Clinton also persuaded television executives to develop a rating system for television programs, similar to the one used for movies, to give parents more control over what their children watch on television. During a June 11, 1996 speech in Glendale, California, Clinton called for another broadcasters' conference to focus on a pending FCC requirement for three hours of children's programming each week for all broadcast television stations.
In June 1995, Clinton directed a review of all federal programs to help find ways for the government to help support men in their roles as fathers.
Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to provide time off for new parents and for family medical emergencies.
In his January 23, 1996 State of the Union address, Clinton said: "We must end the deadly scourge of domestic violence in our country. And I challenge America's families to work harder to stay together ... In particular, I challenge the fathers of this country to love and care for their children. If your family has separated, you must pay your child support."
In June 1996, Clinton proposed legislation requiring employers to give their employees time off from work to deal with their families, and take time off from work instead of receiving overtime pay.
Clinton supports gun control. He signed the Brady Law, requiring a five day waiting period to purchase firearms. Clinton also signed the assault weapons ban included in the 1994 crime bill -- outlawing 19 assault weapons. He also issued a directive that enforced a "Zero Tolerance" gun policy in public schools. Clinton vows to veto any legislation repealing the assault weapons ban.
Clinton has been criticized by his Republican rival, Bob Dole, for appointing "liberal" and "soft on crime" judges. However, an independent study by political scientist Robert Carp at the University of Houston showed that Clinton's judges at the district court level make liberal decisions 33 percent of the time, and 31 percent of the time at appeals court level. Overall, Carp said Clinton's judges are "kind of moderate to moderately liberal."
Results of the study were as follows:
APPOINTING LIBERAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE LIBERAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE PRESIDENT DECISIONS/DISTRICT LEVEL DECISIONS/APPEALS COURT LEVEL ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NIXON 30% 26% FORD 32% 20% CARTER 38% 40% REAGAN 23% 26% BUSH 29% 22% CLINTON 33% 31% (source: "Voting Behavior of Judges Appointed by President Clinton" by Robert Carp, Ronald Stidham, and Donald Songer 3/21/96)
Clinton pushed hard for a minimum wage increase in the spring of '96. Congressional Republicans, saying such a move would be a job killer, resisted, though polls showed a majority of Americans supported the hike, the first raise in five years. Congressional leaders eventually passed the increase (from $4.25 an hour to $5.15) which Clinton signed into law Aug. 20.
Clinton believes that a sweeping, all-embracing, international policy is not workable in the post Cold War era. Clinton's approach is one of case-by-case management.
In January 1996, Secretary of State Warren Christopher outlined the Clinton Administration's top priorities for international affairs. Christopher's list included expanding NATO "on a roughly parallel track" with the expansion of the European Union; end the testing of nuclear weapons; ratification of the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia; and integrating environmental goals (reduction of greenhouse gasses, maintaining biodiversity, among others).
Clinton signed an agreement with the Japanese in April 1996 to keep nearly 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan; allow (for the first time) military supplies to be transferred to U.S. troops during peacetime; and to allow for more Japanese logistical support should a military crisis occur in Asia. The agreement came at a crucial time, after U.S. military men had raped a school girl in Okinawa, and after China had conducted military maneuvers off the coast of Taiwan prior to the island's presidential election.
Clinton has had success in increasing trade with Japan. The Clinton Administration claims that exports have increased 85 percent in the goods and services covered by the 21 trade agreements signed with Japan. Clinton also claims that total exports have jumped by one-third since 1992.
Clinton supports linking China's trade status to its human rights record, but extended most-favored-nation trading status without securing such a link, vowing to improve China's human rights record through other avenues. Clinton believes that international trade keeps China open to outside influences and values.
On May 20, 1996 Clinton again extended most favored status to China, saying that to curtail trade with China would, "harm America's interest, not advance them."
Clinton opposes China's efforts to export nuclear technology.
In May 1996, the Clinton Administration threatened to ban a list of Chinese products ($3 billion worth) that would be subjected to steep tariffs unless China took "immediate action" to end pirating of U.S. "intellectual property" such as movies, computer software and music.
Clinton sent U.S. warships to the area where China was conducting military maneuvers off of Taiwan in the spring of 1996 and got assurance that China would not invade Taiwan. Clinton also granted a U.S. visa to Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui in 1995.
Clinton normalized relations with Vietnam in June 1995, promising full diplomatic ties (including a U.S. embassy in Hanoi). Clinton also promised to grant Vietnam favorable trading status as a part of the new relationship (the 19 year trade embargo was lifted in 1994). The exact trading status of Vietnam has yet to be resolved.
The Clinton Administration worked to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program (the administration offered diplomatic recognition and modern, peaceful nuclear reactors) but North Korea never fully kept its side of the agreement, particularly the agreement to have direct dialogue with South Korea.
In April 1996, Clinton and South Korea President Kim Young Sam proposed 4-way peace talks among China, the United States, North Korea and South Korea with the eventual goal of replacing the 1953 armistice.
Russia and The Independent States of the Former Soviet Union
Clinton's approach to the nations of the former Soviet Union is to cooperate where interests are mutual and manage differences constructively where they are not. Secretary of State Warren Christopher called the policy, "focused on the long haul ... realistic and grounded in America's strategic interests."
Clinton supports continuing the Lugar-Nunn program to eliminate nuclear weapons from the region.
Clinton visited Russia in April 1996 in hopes of bolstering the re-election of President Boris Yeltsin on June 16. Although Clinton could not campaign for Yeltsin directly, he made his biases evident, publicly complimenting Yeltsin for disarmament and liberalized economic policies while assuring the Russian people that the U.S. would continue to offer its financial support.
After vacillating for more than two years, Clinton took a high-profile hand in trying to end the war in Bosnia. U.S. State Department officials brokered the Bosnian peace agreement in 1995 (the Dayton Peace Accords) which required sending about 20,000 U.S. troops to join the 60,000 NATO peace-keepers. Clinton has said he plans to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of 1996.
Clinton vetoed legislation lifting the arms-embargo on Bosnia, but agreed to U.S.-led air strikes. Clinton's air strikes against the Serbs are generally credited with convincing them to negotiate.
From Clinton's national speech 11/27/95:
"My fellow Americans, in this new era there are still times when America and America alone can and should make the difference for peace. The terrible war in Bosnia is such a case. Nowhere today is the need for American leadership more stark or more immediate than in Bosnia. ... I assume full responsibility for any harm that may come to them, but anyone contemplating any action that would endanger our troops should know this: America protects its own. Anyone -- anyone who takes on our troops will suffer the consequences. We will fight fire with fire, and then some.
Clinton supports the peace-process in the Mid-East. The 1993 and 1995 signing ceremonies involving PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were held at the White House.
Clinton promised at least $100 million to fight Middle East terrorism and pledged greater national security help to Israel. Clinton said, "Fear must be conquered, security must be restored and peace must be pursued."
Clinton sent Warren Christopher to the Middle East to broker a cease fire between Israel and the Hezbollah in April 1996. The move was seen by many as an attempt to bolster the election of Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Peres replaced assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and was considered crucial to the continued peace-process of the region.
After Peres lost the election, the Clinton administration met with the new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July 1996 to discuss America's concerns about continuing the peace process. Clinton said after the meeting, "Our commitment to Israel's security is rock solid" and restated his support for the peace process.
Clinton opposes moving the Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Clinton opposes same-sex marriages. But on May 23, 1996 Clinton responded to allegations that he has betrayed gays and lesbians by stating, "Name me another president who has been so pilloried for standing up for the fact that we shouldn't discriminate against any group of Americans including gay Americans.."
Clinton tried to lift the ban on gays in the military and settled for the "Don't ask, don't tell" compromise.
He supports equal rights for gays and continued funding for AIDS research.
In his 1992 campaign, Clinton endorsed proposed laws that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. He opposes state and local ballot measures to restrict gay rights, but his administration did not take a position in a Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of such measures. Clinton said: "Those who would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or any other grounds are gravely mistaken about the values that make our nation strong. The essential right to equality must not be denied by a ballot initiative or otherwise."
Clinton introduced the Health Care Security Act on November 20, 1993, a strategy aimed at creating large health care cooperatives, overseen by Washington, with the overarching goal of providing health care coverage for all Americans. Clinton's ambitious plan, developed by First Lady Hillary Clinton and former aide Ira Magaziner, died without ever making it out of congressional committees.
After the defeat of his comprehensive strategy, Clinton backburnered health care reform, though he supported the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill to guarantee coverage for people with preexisting conditions and allow workers to continue coverage when the switch jobs, the so-called "portability" issue. Passed by Congress in early August 1996, Clinton was set to sign the bill just before the Democratic convention. The bill also contained provisions for 750,000 experimental medical savings accounts. The idea, opposed by Clinton but supported by Republicans, is to set up savings accounts from which individuals pay out-of-pocket for routine care complemented with high deductible, catastrophic insurance policy for more serious ailments. Advocates say the strategy, by putting people more in charge of health expenditures, would slow the growth in health costs; critics charge that the plan would weaken insurance pools.
Clinton wants to make sure that self-employed people in small businesses can buy insurance at more affordable rates through voluntary purchasing pools. He wants to help families provide long-term care for the elderly and disabled children, and help workers who lose their job keep health insurance for a year while they look for work. He also wants to ensure health care for every child.
Clinton supports reforming Medicare to ensure solvency and to allow for more managed care (HMO) options. He also wants to keep Medicaid as a federally-run program, and vetoed two GOP bills that would have changed block granted the program.
He signed a comprehensive child immunization plan, increased NIH funding for breast cancer research by 65 percent, and worked toward fully funding the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).
Clinton supports efforts to reduce illegal immigration, such as increasing the number of border patrol agents; increasing penalties for alien smuggling; streamlining deportation procedures. Clinton also supports denying federal contracts to companies that have hired illegal immigrants.
Clinton supports moderately decreasing legal immigration (the NY Times reported in June 1995 that Clinton embraced a proposal to cut legal immigration by one third). He wrote in March 1996, "Legal immigration reform must be based on principles that are pro-family, pro-work and pro-naturalization, retaining opportunities for family reunification as the levels are lowered."
Clinton says the U.S. should have the best-equipped, best-trained and best prepared military on Earth. He asked Congress to add $25 billion in defense spending over the next six years. However, Clinton's 1997 Budget proposed scaling back defense spending by $7 billion (as compared to 1996 outlays). Clinton's total defense spending request for 1997 is $258 billion.
Clinton opposes the National Missile Defense Program, a limited anti-missile system which supporters say would protect the U.S. from nuclear attack by rogue nations or terrorists. Clinton contends that it is not needed for national security, and that it would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.
Clinton supports the START II treaty further cutting nuclear arsenals.
Clinton told CNN in April 1995 that he supports simplifying the tax code, but opposes the flat tax, saying existing proposals would increase the deficit and increase taxes on anyone making less than $200,000 per year.
Clinton proposes a middle-class income tax cut that provides for:
On June 4, 1996 Clinton expanded his middle class tax cut proposal to include a $1,500 per year tax credit to help pay for two years of college (or $750 tax credit for part time students).
After Bob Dole announced his proposal to slash tax rates across-the-board by 15 percent, Clinton said he was "unalterably" opposed to tax cuts that he said would "balloon" the deficit.
On August 10, 1996 Clinton authorized the Federal Drug Administration to take several steps to prevent children from buying tobacco products. The steps include: require identification to purchase tobacco products; impose several restrictions on tobacco advertising, ban vending machines that sell tobacco products, ensure that teenagers are not targeted by tobacco marketing gimmicks, and require tobacco companies to implement an yearly $150 million educational campaign to prevent teens from smoking.
Clinton supports free-trade. He signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1993 and 1994, respectively. He secured free-trade commitments from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leader and supports negotiating a Free Trade Area of Americas by 2005 (free-trade with Latin America).
Clinton's primary urban improvement plan is the Empowerment Zone program, which he signed in 1993. The strategy allows for $300 million in city, state and federal and funds to be spent over 10 years to help spur private sector investment in 6 cities, 3 rural areas and about 70 other "enterprise communities." Cities selected for the program include: New York, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.
Clinton also supports the continuation of the Housing and Urban Development Department (most Republicans, including Bob Dole, want it abolished) though he supports efforts to make the department smaller and more efficient and has adopted the idea, largely pushed by Republicans in the 1980s, of providing housing aid through vouchers.
Clinton planned to sign the GOP-passed welfare reform bill before heading to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Though he objected to provisions that would deny citizenship to the children of illegal aliens, and another provision that would deny assistance to the children of welfare recipients after their eligibility was exhausted, the president said he supported the bill overall, which would:
Clinton would consolidate 70 job training programs into one voucher worth $2,600 for college tuition or job training, creating what he has called a G.I. Bill for unemployed or underemployed American workers to attend community college. He would divert welfare money to employers who hire recipients.
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