[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[September 16, 1995]
[Pages 1365-1366]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1365]]

The President's Radio Address
September 16, 1995

    Good morning. Last week I spoke with you about what I believe must 
be done to reform our Nation's broken welfare system. I said that real 
welfare reform should reflect the values all of us as Americans share: 
work, personal responsibility, and family. And I challenged the Senate 
to put aside its partisan differences to stand up to ideological 
extremism and to find common ground and higher ground.
    Ever since the 1992 campaign, I've been appealing to Americans to 
join me in an effort to end welfare as we know it. Since I became 
President, I've been working to reform welfare State by State while 
pushing for national action in Congress.
    Our administration has freed 34 States from Federal rules to enable 
them to move people from welfare to work. We've offered all 50 States 
the opportunity to set time limits on welfare, require people to work or 
stay in school, give private employers incentives to work. And it's 
working. The welfare rolls are down, the food stamp rolls are down 
across America. But we still need national action in Congress.
    The votes taken this week by the United States Senate under the 
leadership of a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and moderate 
Republicans give us hope that a conclusion to this effort may only be 
days or weeks away.
    After months of sometimes bitter debate, we are now within striking 
distance of transforming the welfare system in four fundamental ways: 
First, people on welfare will have to work in return for the help they 
receive. Second, no one who can work will be able to stay on welfare 
forever. Third, we will begin to make work possible by providing child 
care for mothers of young children. And fourth, we will put in place the 
toughest child support enforcement measures ever.
    It wasn't always this way. Not long ago, some in Congress wanted to 
punish children for the mistakes of their parents, and some still do. 
Others wanted to pretend that States could require mothers to work 
without the child care they need.
    But this week, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate 
rejected that course and began to insist that welfare reform should be 
about moving people from welfare to work, not simply cutting them off. 
Senators in both parties agreed to provide resources for child care.
    They agreed that States have a responsibility to maintain their own 
efforts to move people from welfare to work and to care for poor 
children and that States should have access to a contingency fund to 
protect against an economic downturn that would put people out of work 
and on welfare through no fault of their own. They also agreed on a 
revolutionary work performance bonus that I have urged that for the 
first time ever will reward States for placing welfare recipients into 
private sector jobs.
    They agreed that instead of just cutting off young unwed mothers, we 
should require them to live at home, stay in school, and turn their 
lives around. And if their homes are unsuitable, this bill provides 
incentives for States to establish second-chance homes, a part of our 
national effort to reduce teen pregnancy and give young people a better 
start in life.
    All these things have long been critical elements of my approach to 
welfare reform, from my service as Governor to my work as President. For 
15 years I have worked on this problem. I know these things will make a 
real difference in moving people from welfare to work.
    Soon, both the House and the Senate will have endorsed all the tough 
child support enforcement provisions I supported last year, including 
saying to parents who owe child support, ``If you can pay up and you 
don't, we'll take your driver's license away.''
    Despite the progress we've made, our work isn't done yet. We'll be 
working hard on this bill over the next few weeks to make sure the right 
incentives are there to move people from welfare to work, to make sure 
children are protected, and that States not only share the problem but 
have the resources they need to get the job done. And we'll be working 
hard to build on the bipartisan progress we made this week. We must not 
let it fall apart when the House and Senate meet to resolve their 
    Still, there are some on the far right who say they don't want 
welfare reform at all unless it meets all their ideological litmus 
tests. These

[[Page 1366]]

extremists want to cut off all help to children whose mothers are poor, 
young, and unmarried, even though the Catholic Church and many 
Republicans have warned that this would lead to more abortions. These 
same people want Washington to impose mandates, like a family cap, even 
though Republican and Democratic Governors alike agree that these 
decisions should be left to the States.
    By an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the Senate showed wisdom and 
courage in rejecting those litmus tests this week. I challenged the 
conference committee of House and Senate Members to do the same. One of 
the primary reasons I ran for President was to reform welfare. I've done 
my best to do it without congressional action, but with the right kind 
of congressional action, we can do the job right. We can advance work 
and personal responsibility and family.
    Finally, we're on the verge of coming to grips with one of the most 
fundamental social problems of our time, moving people from welfare to 
work. Now we must finish the job, and we can't let ideological extremism 
and politics as usual get in the way. Make no mistake: If Congress walks 
away from this bipartisan progress, they will kill welfare reform.
    But we've worked too hard, too long, to let partisan extremism kill 
this effort. Welfare reform will not work and cannot pass unless it's a 
truly bipartisan effort. And it will only become law if it truly 
reflects the spirit of our great Nation and the values of all Americans.
    There's an important lesson in what took place this week. If we can 
find common ground on the issue of welfare reform, surely we can find it 
in our efforts to solve our other problems, especially in our effort to 
balance the budget in a way that will strengthen families and prepare 
our citizens to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st 
century. Let's do welfare reform, then let's do the budget and do it 
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the 
White House.