WASHINGTON -- President Clinton laid out yesterday a "must list" in his next round of wrangling with the Republican Congress, saying that he is intent on winning passage of tax cuts linked to education, a welfare overhaul that promotes work, and anti-crime measures that preserve the ban on assault-style weapons.
The three-point list, which Mr. Clinton presented in his weekly radio address, offered the sharpest vision yet of his agenda for the months ahead and represented his most forceful attempt to win back control of the capital's agenda.
For each area, it was also intended to sound a new note of caution for Republicans, whom Mr. Clinton warned against going too far.
Those three issues are also ones more likely to appeal to centrist voters than the other Republican measures that Mr. Clinton zTC pledged last week to veto if adopted unchanged, including rollbacks of regulatory power and changes that would make it harder to pursue civil lawsuits.
"The first 100 days of this Congress produced a blizzard of ideas and proposals," the president said. "The next 100 days must get down to the hard task of passing bills that command majorities in both houses, bills that will help to build a stronger America, bills that I can sign into law."
A week after Mr. Clinton used Congress' departure for spring recess to define the limits of his willingness to compromise, yesterday's speech was marked by an assertiveness that has mostly been absent from the White House since the Republicans won power on Capitol Hill in November.
Spelling out the terms of legislation he could accept, Mr. Clinton said: "They're my 'must list.' " He used the word "must" more than a dozen times and called on Congress to keep its focus on the issues he described as most important.
"Real welfare reform, tax and spending cuts that reduce both the budget deficit and the education deficit, and more steps to fight crime, not to back up on the fight," the president said. "These are my top priorities."
With Congress out of town and out of the headlines, Mr. Clinton's remarks were part of a bid to stake out new ground for the battles that will resume on its return.
In that effort, which is expected to continue in a news conference scheduled for Tuesday, the White House has clearly seized on the results of recent public opinion polls that found uneasiness about the apparent vast scope of the Republicans' aims.
In a fund-raising letter that is to be sent tomorrow to 1 million Americans as Mr. Clinton begins his 1996 re-election campaign, Mr. Clinton criticizes GOP-backed measures as "dangerous and shortsighted."
As the Senate prepares to take up work on the dizzying array of bills already approved by the House, Mr. Clinton's message yesterday served as a tempered version of that appeal.
"I'm concerned that important issues will be lost in all the welter of detailed legislative proposals Congress has to consider," Mr. Clinton said. He said he had chosen to use his address "to tell Congress and the American people what my priorities are."
Welfare overhaul, limited tax cuts and a defense of the assault-weapons ban have been at the center of Mr. Clinton's attention since early this year as he has tried to draw distinctions between his plans and those of his rivals.
But with the Senate also preparing to resume work on contentious measures ranging from term limits to the arming of Bosnian Muslims, Mr. Clinton's address made clear where he will seek to keep attention focused.
He said it is imperative that Congress pass a bill that overhauls the welfare system, but he criticized the welfare overhaul passed by the House for doing too little to provide job programs that would allow the government to require that welfare recipients return to work.
He urged passage of tax and spending cuts that would represent "the right kind in the right amount for the right people." But he warned that the deep cuts in taxes and spending already approved by the Republican-controlled House would exact too great a toll on education.
Tax reductions must be targeted to the middle class, be fully paid for by spending cuts and include a deduction for the cost of college or other post-secondary education, the president said.
Mr. Clinton also said that both parties should be open to possible improvements in the anti-crime bill that Congress passed last year. But he set as a top priority the blocking of any measure that would repeal the ban on 19 types of assault-style weapons or scale back the measure's commitment to provide funds for 100,000 police officers.
The speech prompted a blunt retort from Rep. Bill Archer, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. In his own radio address yesterday morning, the Texas Republican questioned what he described as Mr. Clinton's timidity in cutting taxes and spending.
"The money doesn't belong to the government," Mr. Archer said. "It belongs to the people. I think the ideal tax rate should be zero percent. Anything more than that should only take place with your permission and only for the purpose of funding as limited and as small a government as possible."
Mr. Clinton, who taped his address Friday afternoon, was at the presidential retreat in Camp David yesterday for the holiday weekend.
The Senate is scheduled to return April 24; the House a week later.