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Clinton Defends Gains, Asks Help on Key Bills


WASHINGTON — With time running out and much of his legislative agenda already in oblivion, President Clinton made an appeal Saturday to salvage bills that aim to curb the influence of lobbyists and require Congress to abide by the laws it passes to govern everyone else.

Clinton's weekly radio address came at the end of a particularly dismal two weeks for the Administration.

The biggest blow was the death of health care reform, which had been the centerpiece of his presidency. Congress also has abandoned efforts to pass legislation on campaign reform, telecommunications, housing and a series of environmental issues. On Friday, the House is scheduled to adjourn for the year and the Senate will go into recess.

Clinton emphasized several of his Administration's accomplishments, including efforts to reduce the federal payroll, streamline bureaucracy and make it easier for states to experiment with welfare reform. He also pointed to recently passed crime legislation that bans 19 types of assault weapons.

"Despite all these steps forward, our political system is still too often an obstacle to change, not an instrument of progress," the President said. "One big reason is that here in Washington there are some 80,000 paid lobbyists who work to influence the government. In the last year, we've certainly seen how well-organized, lavishly funded campaigns by people protecting their . . . narrow interests work."

The lobbying measure, which already passed the House, would tighten registration requirements for paid lobbyists and require fuller disclosure of the identities of clients and how much they are paying. It also places a virtual ban on lobbyists' gifts to lawmakers, which have included highly publicized resort vacations.

Clinton said the bill "will go a long way toward taking government out of the hands of the influence industry."

Opponents say the bill is a farce and that it would stifle grass-roots efforts to influence lawmakers, rather than the special interests.

Separately, in an address to U.S. troops in Haiti, Clinton commended them for "performing a difficult mission with extraordinary skill. You have our thanks, our praise, our admiration and our prayers."

Though violence has continued since the arrival of the U.S. forces, the President said it has been curbed.

In the Republican response to Clinton's radio address, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) termed U.S. policy in Haiti "a mistake" and warned: "Our soldiers on the ground in Haiti are on a dangerous and vague mission where the rules of engagement are ever-changing.

"They are trained to fight wars, not police communities and control rowdy and unpredictable crowds."

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