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REFORMING WELFARE TOPS CLINTON'S LIST

President Clinton Saturday put welfare reform and tax cuts high on his list of "must" items before Congress, but a White House spokeswoman said he was skeptical of a Republican call to scrap current tax laws.

Clinton, trying to re-establish his role in the legislative process, said the first 100 days of the Republican-led Congress "produced a blizzard of ideas and proposals" and in the next 100 days Congress "must get down to the hard task of passing bills" that he can sign.He said in his weekly radio address he was "concerned that important issues will be lost in all the welter of detailed legislative proposals Congress has to consider. So, I want to tell Congress and the American people what my priorities are."

"There are three areas that I assign the highest priority. They're my `must' list," Clinton said.

"First is welfare reform," he said. "We must pass a bill that reforms the welfare system and restores mainstream values of work and family, responsibility and community."

He said some parts of the welfare reform bill approved by the House March 24 and now before the Senate were steps in the right direction. But he said, "All the proposals are still too weak on (requiring) work and on helping people to move from welfare to work."

He added, "We can and must work together to pass a welfare reform bill that I can sign into law this year. Delaying any further would be a betrayal of what the American people want."

Clinton placed tax and spending cuts second on his list - "the right kind in the right amount for the right people." He said any new tax cuts must help "middle-class Americans who need them."

In the Republican response, Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee that writes tax laws, said, "The problems with the current tax code are so deep that they can't be fixed. Instead, we need to throw the code out by its roots so it can never grow back."

He continued, "We need a new tax system that creates incentives for people to save again."

White House spokeswoman Laurie McHugh said Clinton favors his own tax-cut approach and is skeptical about proposals to replace the system with a flat tax.

Republicans have been discussing a range of proposals to overhaul and simplify the U.S. tax code. One proposal would replace the graduated federal tax based on income with a flat tax of 17 percent with no deductions.

The House approved a five-year, $189 billion tax-cut plan that Clinton has said he would veto unless substantial changes are made. The Senate is working on its own version.

The third item on Clinton's list of priorities represents what he does not want - repeal of a ban on the sale of 19 different types of assault weapons and changes in a provision in last year's crime bill designed to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets.

"We should all be open to new proposals for tougher penalties and more support for our police, but they must not be a cover for cutting back on our commitment for 100,000 new police . . . or for repealing the assault weapons ban," he said, adding, "If that happens, I'll veto it."

The House has passed legislation that would give states so-called block grants for law enforcement without specifically earmarking the money for hiring police.