HED: Mississippi Republicans say Clinton speech all talk
By Marty Russell
The Northeast Mississippi congressional delegation, all of whom hold leadership positions within the Republican ranks, were united in their criticism of President Clinton’s State of the Union address, saying the president talks like a moderate but acts like a liberal.
“The president’s speeches and his veto pen tell two different stories,” said 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, president of the House freshman class.
Clinton, who has agreed to a seven-year deadline for balancing the budget, has repeatedly vetoed GOP spending bills and a balanced budget bill because of what he says are harmful cuts and changes affecting Medicare, Medicaid, the environment and education.
“There’s a lot of talk but no action,” said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. “There’s a lot of talk about welfare reform but no action. We’ve seen veto after veto after veto of important legislative changes.”
In his address, Clinton called for putting able welfare recipients to work, but only if the government could guarantee child care for mothers who would have to go to work under the program.
In the GOP rebuttal following the president’s speech, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole called Clinton “the rear guard of the welfare state” and Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Clinton was a “congenital liberal.”
Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., echoed the prevailing GOP sentiment the day after the State of the Union address when polls showed the public approved of Clinton’s proposals by as much as 69 percent.
“He talks optimistically,” Lott said of the president. “He talks a good game, but it doesn’t match with his actions.”
Even Lott said there were many proposals put forth in the president’s address, such as parental choice of schools, that he could support if the president sincerely wanted to pursue them. But he said he believes the president suffers from “habitual mendacity.”
“A lot of what he talked about I agree with,” Lott said. “The problem is the way he would do it and the way I would do it are fundamentally different.”
Lott and his fellow Republicans are pushing for less government so businesses and individuals can be free to follow their pursuits “without the (Internal Revenue Service) and the (Environmental Protection Service) and everybody in Washington telling you this is how you have to do it.”
Cochran, who is backing Dole in his presidential bid, said he didn’t believe any real changes would come until Clinton leaves office.
“It seems to me the state of the union if characterized by disarray right now,” Cochran said. “I think we have a breakdown in the leadership of our government here in Washington … I think Washington is in need of some new leadership, and I think we’ve got to start at the White House.”
Wicker said all the president would have to do to achieve some of the goals he put forth in his speech would be to sign legislation already passed by Congress.
“I hope the president keeps the promises he made to the American people in the State of the Union by signing the bills this Congress has passed to move his speech from rhetoric to reality,” Wicker said.