[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[July 22, 1998]
[Pages 1297-1299]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Signing the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform 
Act of 1998
July 22, 1998

Death of Alan B. Shepard, Jr.

    Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, before I make my 
statement, I would like to amplify a little bit on the remarks I made 
earlier this morning on the death of Alan Shepard.
    He is one of the great heroes of modern America: our first 
astronaut; our first American in space. None of us who were alive then 
will ever forget him sitting so calmly in Freedom 7, atop a slender and 
sometimes unreliable Mercury Redstone rocket. As President Kennedy 
observed at the time, America chose to make this first risky launch in 
full view of the world, and our entire Nation, in his words, ``which 
risked much, gained much.''
    Alan Shepard understood the odds. He faced them bravely, and he led 
our country and all humanity beyond the bounds of our planet, across a 
truly new frontier, into the new era of space exploration.
    A decade later, in 1971, Commander Shepard fought his way back from 
a debilitating ear infection to become the commander of Apollo 14 and 
the fifth person to walk on the Moon. On behalf of myself and Mr. 
Bowles, I can't help noting that there, on the Moon, he lived every 
golfer's dream--[laughter]--taking his six iron and hitting the ball, in 
his words, ``for miles and miles.'' [Laughter]
    Alan Shepard truly had the right stuff. His service will always loom 
large in America's history. I extend to his wife, Louise, his family, 
and his colleagues in the Navy and at NASA the thanks of a grateful 
Nation and our thoughts and prayers.

Internal Revenue Service

    Now, I'd like to join Secretary Rubin in thanking Commissioner 
Rossotti, the Vice President, and you, Mr. Secretary, for what you have 
done. But I especially want to acknowledge the presence of all the 
Members of Congress here. And in particular, let me thank Senator Kerrey 
and Congressman Portman, Senator Roth, Senator Moynihan, Senator 
Grassley, Congressman Archer, Congressman Rangel, Congressman Cardin for 
their leading work that makes it possible for me to sign into law today 
the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act. The bill is a 
culmination of the commitment and hard work of many people but 
especially those whom I have just mentioned.
    We've all worked hard to give the American people an IRS that 
reflects America's values and

[[Page 1298]]

respects America's taxpayers. Two years ago I was proud to sign into law 
a Taxpayer Bill of Rights--again, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan 
majority of the Congress--that has helped to make the IRS fairer and 
more responsive. Under the leadership of the Vice President and 
Secretary Rubin, we've upgraded customer service at the IRS, appointing 
Charles Rossotti, a seasoned private sector CEO, to reshape the agency; 
expanding office hours and phone hours; making it easier to file taxes 
over the telephone or by computer. We've created problem-solving days 
where taxpayers can work face-to-face with IRS customer service 
    For the first time this year, IRS helplines were open for the full 
24 hours preceding the final filing deadline, April 15th. And in 1999, 
they will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year long. This 
year 40 million more callers heard a human voice, not a busy signal, 
when they called an IRS helpline. Nearly 25 million taxpayers took 
advantage of our new high-tech filing options. That's a 25 percent 
increase from the previous year.
    Our streamlined IRS webpage had nearly half a billion hits this 
year. All this has meant quicker refunds, less paperwork, and fewer 
hassles for American taxpayers.
    But clearly, there is more to do to build an IRS for the 21st 
century. This bill takes important steps in that direction. It will help 
the IRS to serve taxpayers as well as the best private companies serve 
their customers, building on efforts to offer simple high-tech options 
for filing taxes and making tax forms more easily available over the 
    As Secretary Rubin has said, it expands taxpayer rights, extending 
refund periods, protecting innocent spouses, cutting penalties in half 
for 2\1/2\ million taxpayers who are paying what they owe on installment 
plans. In all these ways, the bill will give the American people an IRS 
they deserve.
    Again, let me thank the Congress for helping the IRS to meet the 
challenge of serving taxpayers by giving it the time it needs also to 
meet the challenge of the year 2000 computer conversion. I call on the 
Congress to fully fund our year 2000 effort to allow all Federal 
agencies to respond flexibly to unforeseen difficulties that are sure to 
    This bill shows what we can do when we work together, when we put 
the progress of America ahead of our partisan concerns, when we put our 
people over politics. That is how we have balanced the budget for the 
first time in 30 years while cutting taxes, expanding trade, and 
investing in our people. It is how I believe we can continue to make the 
Tax Code fairer for our people.
    I have asked Congress to provide targeted tax relief for American 
families for child care, to expand pensions, to spur school 
construction, to protect our environment. In the context of 
comprehensive legislation to protect our children from tobacco, I have 
supported the effort to address the marriage penalty by cutting taxes 
for American families.
    Every one of these tax cuts is prudent, bipartisan, and fully paid 
for. For 29 years, our country ran up large deficits, quadrupling our 
debt in the 12 years before I became President. It caused us to fall 
behind in the global economy; it caused our incomes to stagnate. Now 
we're on the verge of achieving our first balanced budget and our first 
surplus in a generation, and our economy is the envy of the world.
    Fiscal responsibility has driven this economic expansion. A return 
to irresponsibility would put that prosperity at risk. After 29 years, 
it seems to me, it's worth taking one year to address the challenge of 
fixing the Social Security system before we start spending the surplus 
on tax cuts or new spending programs, however worthy they might be.
    The American people expect us to have the good sense to rack up the 
surplus before we spend it and to save Social Security first. I know 
there are many people who think we should spend the surplus now and 
spend hundreds of billions of dollars on tax cuts before we have the 
bipartisan plan to save Social Security. I think it's the wrong course 
for America, in no small measure because we haven't fixed the price tag 
for saving Social Security and because, as we all know, we can't really 
predict with any absolute certainty what will happen 10 or 15 years from 
    I believe we should tell our children and our grandchildren that we 
think enough of them and their future that we're going to resist 
spending a penny of the surplus on things that I would very much like to 
spend it on--or you would--until we have met our basic obligation to our 
future, passing a bipartisan plan to save Social Security, which I am 
convinced the Congress will do early next year. I do not intend

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to waver from my commitment to future generations, and I hope the rest 
of us will do the same.
    Now it is my honor to sign into law the Internal Revenue Service 
Restructuring and Reform Act. I would like to ask all the Members of 
Congress to come up here and join me on the stage. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. H.R. 2676, approved July 22, was assigned Public Law No. 105-206.