Lott Charts A Slightly Different Course
'Big government or families? More taxes or more freedom?'
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 27) -- A commitment to "family, faith and freedom" is what separates the GOP from President Bill Clinton, said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) in his party's response to the State of the Union address. (416K wav sound)
After the president's speech, billed as a vision to "strengthen our nation for the 21st century," Lott took issue with the premise that government should play an even more expansive and supporting role in the lives of Americans.
"Big government or families? More taxes or more freedom?" The answer to these questions -- families and freedom -- forms the basis for the GOP's legislative agenda in 1998, according to Lott. (544K wav sound)
Lott, crediting the success of the Republican balanced budget plan, called for a commitment not to spend more money on unnecessary government programs and instead to use the projected $200 billion surplus "to pay down the national debt, and return the rest to you, the taxpayer." (320K wav sound)
"We believe our choice is clear," Lott said. "The first priority of your representatives in Washington must be to fight for the interests of the American family."
While the president touched on a host of programs and initiatives, Lott's response pushed a Republican agenda for the 1998 session and made only a few veiled references to the scandal surrounding the president.
While Lott found little common ground with the president's agenda, he stressed that the "difficult job of stopping big government, making it more responsive and, perhaps hardest of all, rebuilding the trust you used to have in your elected officials" had just begun.
Lott referred to the amount of taxes the "typical family" pays as "immoral" and called for the replacement of the tax code and IRS reform to make "government more accountable" and create a tax code that is "fair, consistent and easy to understand."
As Clinton expounded on several education initiatives, including limiting class size and spending more money to hire new teachers and build or renovate schools, Lott, too, said the Republicans will "launch an era of education renewal." Lott cited school choice and teacher testing as two mainstays in the Republican plan. (288K wav sound)
Lott threw his full support behind the president on the growing tensions with Iraq. "Let me make one thing clear to Saddam Hussein -- or anyone else who needs to be told," Lott said. "Despite any current controversy, this Congress will vigorously support the president in full defense of America's interests throughout the world." (384K wav sound)
Lott also challenged the president to reconsider the option of deploying a missile defense system in the event the United States is the target of missiles carrying nuclear, chemical or biological warheads.
Lott also called on Senate Democrats to help overturn the president's veto of the legislation banning what he called "the dreadful practice of partial-birth abortions." (480K wav sound)
He promised more oversight hearings in 1998, though he did not specify exactly what the hearings would address. "We intend to make government accountable," Lott said. "From the classroom to the courts ... from the clerks to the president's Cabinet ... from the post office to the presidency."
"The American people elected us in the Congress to listen to you and then to lead," Lott said. "So while we listen respectfully to the president's ideas, we cannot wait on them."