[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[August 5, 1997]
[Pages 1051-1052]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Signing the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Taxpayer 
Relief Act of 1997
August 5, 1997

    Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Senator 
Lautenberg, Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen. We come here 
today, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and President, Americans of 
good will from all points of view and all walks of life, to celebrate a 
true milestone for our Nation. In a few moments I will sign into law the 
first balanced budget in a generation, a balanced budget that honors our 
values, puts our fiscal house in order, expands vistas of opportunity 
for all our people, and fashions a new Government to lead in a new era.
    Like every generation of Americans before us, we have been called 
upon to renew our Nation and to restore its promise. For too long, huge, 
persistent, and growing budget deficits threatened to choke the 
opportunity that should be every American's birthright. For too long, it 
seemed as if America would not be ready for the new century, that we 
would be too divided, too wedded to old arrangements and ideas. It's 
hard to believe now, but it wasn't so very long ago that some people 
looked at our Nation and saw a setting Sun.
    When I became President, I determined that we must believe and make 
sure that America's best days were still ahead. After years in which the 
deficit drained our economy and dampened our spirit, in which our 
ability to lead the world was diminished by our inability to put our own 
house in order, after years in which too many people doubted whether our 
Nation would ever come together again to address this problem, we set 
off on a new economic course to cut the deficit, to create the 
conditions in which business could thrive, to open more foreign markets 
to our goods and services, to invest in our people so that all Americans 
would have the tools they need to make the most of their own lives.
    Today, our budget deficit has been cut by more than 80 percent. It 
is now among the smallest in the industrialized world, as a percentage 
of our economy. Our businesses once again lead in world markets, now 
made more open, more free, more fair than ever before through our 
efforts. Our workers are clearly the most competitive on Earth, and we 
have recast our old Government so that a new one can take shape that 
does give our people the tools to make the most of their God-given 
    This year we, Democrats and Republicans alike, were given the 
opportunity and the responsibility to finish the job of balancing the 
budget for the first time in almost 30 years and to do it in a way that 
prepares Americans to enter the next century stronger than ever. By 
large bipartisan majorities in both Houses, we have risen to that 
    The balanced budget I sign into law today will continue our 
successful economic strategy. It reflects the most fundamental values 
that brought us together. It will spur growth and spread opportunity. 
Even after we pay for tax cuts penny by penny, there will still be $900 
billion in savings, including half a trillion dollars in entitlement 
savings over the next 10 years. It opens the doors of college to a new 
generation, with the largest investment in higher education since the GI 
bill 50 years ago. It makes it possible for the 13th and 14th years of 
college to become as universal as high school is today. It strengthens 
our families with the largest expansion in health care for children 
since the Medicaid program 32 years ago. It modernizes Medicare and 
extends the life of the trust fund

[[Page 1052]]

for a decade. It helps our communities to rebuild, to move a million 
more people from welfare to work, to bring the spark of private 
enterprise back to our most isolated inner-city neighborhoods. It 
provides the largest tax relief to help families raise their children, 
save for the future, and pass on their home and a dream to the next 
generation. These tax cuts are the equivalent of a $1,000 raise in take-
home pay for the average family with two children.
    For so many Americans, what goes on here in Washington often seems 
abstract and remote, unrelated to their daily concerns. Well, this 
balanced budget deals with the big issues of the deficit and long-term 
economic growth in ways that respond to the practical challenges 
ordinary American citizens face every single day.
    Because we have acted, millions of children all across this country 
will be able to get medicine and have their sight and hearing tested and 
see dentists and doctors for the first time. Millions of young Americans 
will be able to go on to college. Millions of Americans not so young 
will be able to go back to school to get the education and training they 
need to succeed in life. Millions of families will have more to spend on 
their own children's needs and upbringing. This budget is an investment 
in their future and in America's.
    Today it should be clear to all of us, without regard to our party 
or our differences, that, in common, we were able to transform this era 
of challenge into an era of unparalleled possibility for the American 
people. I hope we can tap this spirit of cooperation and use it to meet 
and master the many challenges that remain before us.
    I want to thank, in closing, the many people whose work made this 
day possible. I want to thank Speaker Gingrich and Senator Lott, Mr. 
Armey and the other members of the House and Senate leadership, 
especially Senator Domenici and Senator Kasich. And let me thank 
Chairman Archer and Chairman Roth and the other leaders of the House and 
Senate committees. They were dedicated partners. They fought hard for 
their priorities. I want to thank Senator Daschle and Congressman Bonior 
and Congressman Fazio and Congressman Hoyer and the other members of the 
House Democratic leadership who worked with us.
    I want to thank especially Congressman Spratt and Senator 
Lautenberg, Congressman Rangel and the other members of the House and 
Senate Democratic minority leaders in the committees for the work that 
they did. I thank all the Members of the Congress who are here present 
and the many whom they represent who are already back home, who could 
not be. All of them deserve our thanks, and I would like to ask the 
Members of the Congress who are here today to stand and be recognized 
and appreciated by the crowd. [Applause]
    I'd like to thank the members of our budget team: Erskine Bowles, 
Secretary Rubin, John Hilley, OMB Director Raines, Gene Sperling, Janet 
Yellen, Rahm Emanuel, Jack Lew, Larry Summers, Chris Jennings, and many 
others, especially those who work in our legislative shop, too numerous 
to mention, for the enormous work that they did on this agreement.
    I would like to thank the First Lady, Mrs. Gore, the Vice President 
for their concern for the health of our children, for the mental health 
of the American people, and the Vice President, especially, who led the 
fight to protect our urban initiatives and our environmental program and 
the interests of legal immigrants in America. We owe to them a great 
    Again, I say to all, I thank you. I believe that together we have 
fulfilled the responsibility of our generation to guarantee opportunity 
to the next generation, the responsibility of our generation to take 
America into a new century, where there is opportunity for all who are 
responsible enough to work for it, where we have a chance to come 
together across all of our differences as a great American community, 
where we will be able to continue to lead the world toward peace and 
freedom and prosperity. That is worthy work, and you have all 
contributed doing it.
    We can say with pride and certainty that those who saw the Sun 
setting on America were wrong. The Sun is rising on America again. And I 
thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:33 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White 
House. H.R. 2015, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, approved August 5, 
was assigned Public Law No. 105-33. H.R. 2014, the Taxpayer Relief Act 
of 1997, approved August 5, was assigned Public Law No. 105-34.