Remarks on Signing the Energy and Water Development Appropriation Act, 1982

December 4, 1981

The President. Good morning.

I'm signing the first regular appropriations bill for 1982, the energy and water development appropriations act. This bill should be a model for a responsible approach to reducing budget deficits. It provides nearly three-fourths of the additional savings for 1982 that I requested. So, on behalf of the taxpayers, please accept my gratitude.

There are good reasons for these savings, why they were achieved, and those reasons are standing right here around me. The two Appropriations Committee chairmen, Mark Hatfield and Tom Bevill, and one of the ranking minority members, John Myers, all worked hard, well, and together. Under their leadership, along with the other ranking minority member, Senator Johnston, the Conference Committee agreed to a bill that actually provided less spending than either the House or the Senate version.

I think it's particularly important that spending for the nondefense programs in this bill is lower than in 1981. For example, water resources construction and maintenance is 5 percent below 1981, but funding for all essential needs has been maintained. The bill provides funds for a number of initiatives of the administration, and it will strengthen the atomic energy defense programs of the Department of Energy.

The American people understand that every dollar we save of unnecessary spending means not only a lower deficit but also a chance to expand the pool of capital needed by industry to modernize and keep abreast of new production methods, so we can create more jobs and more economic opportunity for the people we serve. That's our goal, and thanks to the skill and dedication of these gentlemen, this bill is a significant step in the right direction. If we keep working together, I know we can make bigger and better progress in the days ahead.

And I shall now -- --

[At this point, the President signed the bill into law, handing the pens to the three Members of Congress.]

Representative Bevill. I have that luck when I write, too. [Laughter]

Senator Hatfield. Thank you.

Representative Myers. Thank you.

Reporter. Mr. President, how about the '82 spending bill? Have you made a decision on this compromise of 4 billion?

The President. Right now we're working up on the Hill with that. And we'll have a statement later on it, but we're working on it, and -- --

Q. Is it acceptable?

The President. Well, I'm very pleased with the progress that's been made, and we'll let you know.

Q. Mr. President, with Christmas coming, we now have 9 million Americans out of work. Are you alarmed at this sudden jump in the unemployment rate?

The President. I'd be alarmed if there were only half that many. And it's not a -- well, maybe ``alarm'' isn't the proper word to be used here. We've known that the economy was going to be in the doldrums for the latter part of this year; we talked about it a great deal. And while none of us had used the word ``recession'' or projected that, it is now technically a recession.

But I'd like to point out that this has been a long-time unemployment that I was talking about clear back in the campaign, and this is one of the reasons for the economic program, is to restore our productivity and our ability to compete in the world market so that these people can be put back to work. But having grown up and entered the work force in the depths of the Great Depression, I can assure you I do not take unemployment lightly. I think it's a very great tragedy for our country and for the people involved.

Q. Mr. President, why have you assigned extra security protection for some of your top aides?

The President. Well, I think that the press had carried the story pretty well, that there is a threat to them that has been made rather obvious.

Q. Are you concerned about the terrorist squad?

The President. Well, obviously you have to be concerned about everyone and all the people that have been named in this.

Q. Have you tried to contact Libyan leader Qadhafi to tell him of your concern, or what are we saying to Libya?

The President. Oh, I think he figures that I'm concerned. But no -- as you know, I hope you'll understand, we don't talk about security measures and situations of this kind.

Q. But you are taking them seriously?

The President. I think you have to. I think it safe to say that in any security case, even sometimes when security gets what they think is a crank call, why, they can't take that for granted.

Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Q. But Speakes hasn't had any security. [Laughter]

The President. What?

Q. Speakes doesn't have any security.

The President. Who?

Q. Larry Speakes. [Laughter]

Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. I'll need that with regard to you. [Laughter]

The President. He's told me that he's assured of protection because of the warmth and the relationship with all of you. [Laughter]

Q. He's in a lot of trouble then, Mr. President. [Laughter]

Reporter. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. to reporters assembled in the Oval Office at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 4144 is Public Law 97 - 88, approved December 4.