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30-Year-Old ‘Veto’ Pen Dries Up

December 6, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ His jaw set, his shoulders squared, President Clinton reached across his Oval Office desk Wednesday for an historic and symbolic pen Wednesday to veto the Republican budget bill.

But his first attempt at writing his signature produced only scratches.

The pen, used 30 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the legislation that created the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs, was bone dry.

The president raised his head and asked, ``Can you bring me some more ink, boys?″

A new inkwell was quickly produced and in seconds the Clinton veto was complete, in fresh black ink. The black-grip Esterbrook Ink-o-Mat pen, which has a clear-colored body, must be dipped in ink.

The president intended the Johnson pen to symbolize his strong objections to an ``extreme Republican″ budget. He said it would reduce the scope of the Medicare and Medicaid programs by an unacceptable $433 billion over the next seven years.

``I am using this pen to preserve our commitment to our parents, to protect opportunity for our children, to defend the public health and our natural resources and natural beauty, and to stop a tax increase that actually undercuts the value of work,″ Clinton said.

The pen, embossed with the words ``The President _ The White House″ was originally wielded by Johnson on July 30, 1965, at a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Library at Independence, Mo.

The president used it to sign The Social Security Act Amendments of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.

The White House had the pen shipped by Federal Express from the LBJ Library at Austin, Texas.

``We will return it dutifully and we thank them for allowing us to borrow said pen,″ said Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary.

The White House requested the pen Friday but didn’t say what it would be used for, said Char Diercks, registrar of the library’s museum.

``I was thrilled to death,″ Ms. Diercks said Wednesday. ``I really did suspect that was why he was going to use it.″

After the veto ceremony was concluded, the White House staff passed out copies of a 50-page document outlining 82 separate reasons that prompted the president to kill what he called ``the extreme Republican budget.″

They ranged from reason one _ the $433 billion reduction in the scope of Medicare and Medicaid _ to reason 82, cuts in the export enhancement program.

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