WASHINGTON — In a preview of the political fireworks to come before November's elections, Democrats and Republicans used the Fourth of July to push contrasting legislative priorities: President Clinton wants more money for food safety, while GOP congressional leaders seek tax cuts.
Both sides wrapped their arguments in red, white and blue, with Clinton slipping in the wisp of news that he has called for the creation of an institute of food safety research to coordinate federal programs, including those conducted with the private sector and academia.
The institute is to be established by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
"I'm doing what I can to protect our families from contaminated food. Congress must also do its part to ensure the safety of America's food supply," the president said in his weekly radio address Saturday.
He said he wants $101 million from Congress to implement his broader food-safety initiative, including expanded surveillance, inspection and warning systems.
"That's one important way on this Fourth of July we can resolve to keep our nation strong as we move into the 21st century," Clinton said. Thus far, the House has voted to provide just $16.8 million of the president's request. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved only $2.6 million.
New York Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon countered in the GOP's weekly radio address that taxes were at the core of Independence Day.
"Yes, on July 4, 1776, we won the battle of independence from oppressive taxation. And today, 222 years later, the Republican Congress is winning another battle to restore a larger chunk of that freedom from taxation," he said.
Solomon, who chairs the House Rules Committee, the gatekeeper for legislation headed to the House floor, vowed to continue efforts to eliminate the so-called marriage penalty tax, overhaul the tax code and create education savings accounts and federal vouchers for private-school tuition.
As Republicans and Democrats look to shore up issues for their fall reelection campaigns, Saturday's exchange of radio broadcasts traced the outlines of their conflicting priorities.
Congressional Republicans interested in tax and spending cuts--and in control of the House and Senate--have all but ignored Clinton's plans not only for food safety, but also to expand Medicare and child care, build more classrooms, hire thousands more teachers and spur new energy technologies to address global warming.
Clinton taped his radio remarks Friday before he left Hong Kong.
Returning to Washington before dawn, Clinton, his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea, recuperated Saturday at the White House from their nine whirlwind days in China.
They entertained hundreds of administration aides and their families on the South Lawn on Saturday night, observing the stunning view of fireworks around the Washington Monument.
Following up on a 2-month-old Food and Drug Administration announcement that warning labels would be required on containers of unpasteurized juices, Clinton also said Saturday that work on the federal regulation is completed. It will take effect in time for the fall apple cider season, he said.