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Clinton Rips GOP for Long Holiday Recess

May 25, 1997|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Politics took no holiday Saturday as President Clinton used his radio address to batter Republicans for recessing Congress before providing money for long-term relief efforts in flooded states.

"Without taking action, Congress left town and our people were left in the lurch," Clinton said in the national broadcast this Memorial Day weekend. "These people are in dire need, and Congress has failed to act for them. That is unconscionable."

Republicans hit right back, accusing Clinton of shameless politics and insisting that relief efforts have all the money they need until Congress is back June 3.

Clinton was "being disingenuous at best," said Susan Irby, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). "It's very sad that the president is preying on people who are recovering. This is a long-term rebuilding effort, and all the aid they need right now is getting through."

Still, Democrats argue that out of the legislation's $5.5 billion in natural disaster aid, about $1 billion for housing and farming projects will be halted until the Republican-led Congress acts.

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Underscoring that point, Clinton released Saturday through the Federal Emergency Management Agency the outline of a long-term "action plan" for flood recovery in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The president ordered--"subject to funding"--that several projects be accelerated, including the provision of temporary housing to families repairing homes, and the purchase by the government of the most severely flood-damaged residences.

Lott sent lawmakers home last week for an extended holiday rather than lose leverage on the disaster-relief bill by accommodating Clinton. The president had pledged to veto the bill unless it was stripped of a GOP provision designed to prevent future federal government shutdowns.

Administration officials contend that the measure would impose Republican spending priorities whenever the regular appropriations process deadlocked.

Lott has pledged that the bill, which sanctions $8.4 billion in new spending this fiscal year, including $1.9 billion for Bosnian and Middle East peacekeeping, will be one of the Senate's "first orders of priority" when it returns from recess.

For the Republicans' radio speech Saturday, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) chose a more traditional Memorial Day topic: saluting the military and law enforcement officers who serve the nation.

"They are individuals who are motivated not by a desire to make money or achieve personal gain; rather, they are eager to serve others and to work to build a better and stronger United States," Thurmond said.

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