President Clinton, after a year of quarreling with Congress, got the last word on the budget Monday as he signed a mammoth $390-billion spending plan. He said it represents progress but “leaves some challenges unmet.”
Sitting at a wooden table in the Rose Garden, the president was surrounded by police officers and teachers as he used 20 pens to write his name. It was a chilly day and he wore a sweater vest under his suit. Clinton passed out 11 of the pens to members of Congress at the ceremony.
The measure earmarks $1.3 billion for a seven-year plan to hire 100,000 teachers to reduce class sizes in early grades. It also includes $595 million for the first installment of a program to hire 50,000 community police by 2005. Further, it provides $926 million for unpaid U.N. dues and $1.8 billion to implement the Middle East peace accord reached at Wye River, Md.
But the year ended with a long list of disappointments for Clinton. He failed to win any increase in the minimum wage, was denied an increase in cigarette taxes and lost battles for tougher gun controls and stronger rights for patients in managed care programs. Congress also rejected his proposals to extend the solvency of Social Security or Medicare programs or to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.
“As we celebrate what we’ve accomplished,” Clinton said, “I ask us all to be humble and mindful of what we still have to accomplish.” However, prospects for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats likely will diminish next year amid partisan campaigns for the White House and control of Congress.