Remarks on Signing the Older Americans Act Amendments of 1984

October 9, 1984

The President. Thank you very much, and welcome to the White House.

I'm pleased that the Congress has completed action on a bill to reauthorize and improve the Older Americans Act -- and it's not because I'm often reminded of what Francis Joseph Cardinal Spellman meant when he said there were three ages: youth, middle age, and ``You're looking wonderful.'' [Laughter]

But now, before I say anything else, please let me thank all those in the Congress who worked so hard on behalf of this important legislation. Our senior citizens want and deserve to be full participants in American life. They want and deserve independence, quality health care, and economic security. The legislation that I'm about to sign will help older Americans achieve these worthy goals.

This legislation will continue a program which has provided essential services for older Americans since 1965 -- nutritious meals, information and referral services, transportation, and other types of assistance which make it easier to find self-fulfillment and rewarding involvement in community life. These important programs serve an estimated 13 million older Americans each year.

And I would also like to point out that the bill provides new help and hope for the victims of Alzheimer's disease and their families. As you know, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of intellectual impairment in older Americans. Until recently, this indiscriminate killer of mind and life had gone virtually undetected with the families of its victims virtually helpless. This legislation means more help is on the way.

All of us have much to do to make the lives of our senior citizens safe, rewarding, and enjoyable. This legislation will help to do that and do it in a way that provides greater flexibility in the management of the grants that finance these programs.

But in signing this important piece of legislation, I must note my strong constitutional reservations regarding the provisions that give the President pro tem of the Senate and Speaker of the House the power to appoint two-thirds of the members of the Federal Council on the Aging. Under this legislation, the Council clearly remains within the executive branch. Under the Constitution, therefore, members of the Council should not be appointed by officers of the Congress. And, accordingly, I strongly urge the Congress to enact legislation to repeal these new appointment provisions before June 5th, 1985.

And having gotten that message across, I'll sign the bill. And thank you, and God bless you all.

It is law.

Reporter. Mr. President, will you cut Social Security for future benefits?

Q. Mondale says you have a secret plan, Mr. President.

Q. Sir, will you extend your pledge not to cut Social Security benefits to future recipients, as well as present recipients?

The President. I think that -- in a statement that I've released -- has been made clear. That's exactly what I meant the other night.

Q. That's not what you said Sunday night, sir.

The President. Yes, it is, really.

Note: The President spoke at 3:37 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

In his remarks, the President referred to the fact that earlier in the day, Larry M. Speakes, Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President, made the following statement to reporters during his daily press briefing:

``We note with chagrin that former Vice President Mondale finds himself in Cincinnati today talking about Social Security. I'm here to say that I have just spoken with the President, and Mondale ought to be ashamed. He's out to frighten the elderly. Mondale's statement is pure campaign rhetoric. The President will never stand for reduction of Social Security benefits for anybody, those now getting them or future recipients.''

As enacted, S. 2603 is Public Law 98 - 459, approved October 9.