Renewing a long-running political debate, President Clinton accused Republican legislators Saturday of betraying family values even as the nation marks the two-year anniversary of the family leave law.
"The congressional majority seems to be determined to cut back on programs that advance our family values," Clinton said in his weekly radio address. "They call it change; I say it shortchanges America's families."The president pointed to House passage last week of a bill making sharp cuts in education and training programs as a case in point, saying, "This vote is anti-family and I won't let it stand."
In the GOP response, Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky said Republicans were targeting their cuts at "duplicative and inefficient programs" to create a more responsive, loss costly government.
"The guiding principle behind all of these measures is our commitment to balance the budget in a fair and equitable manner for all segments of our society," he said.
Clinton's latest volley in the family-values war - a constant of recent election seasons - came as the nation celebrated the second birthday of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The law requires employers to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical or family reasons such as serious illness or a birth.
"Sometimes this time off can be the most important time in a family's life," Clinton said. "It can also be the toughest time. But it would be a lot tougher if the family couldn't face it together."
The president delivered his radio address from the National Institutes of Health in nearby Bethesda, Md., before an audience of families who have benefited from the family leave law.
Kenny Weaver of Port Lavaca, Texas, later told Clinton the law allowed him to take leave from work for the last month before his daughter's death from leukemia in September 1993.
"There were a lot of great memories," Weaver said, his voice choked with emotion.
Clinton said Congress should be working to "build on the legacy of family leave" rather than cutting Head Start, job training, college loans and other programs.