May 15, 1997
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on
H.R. 1469, as reported by the House Appropriations Committee. The
Administration appreciates the prompt action of the House Appropriations
Committee on the President's supplemental requests. The bill contains $5.5
billion in urgently needed disaster assistance. To ensure an expeditious
response to the tragic natural disasters that continue to afflict hundreds of
thousands of citizens in 33 States, and for the efficient operation of our
troops abroad, it is essential that this bill remain free of extraneous issues
that could slow its progress.
The Administration continues to believe that the requested supplemental funding is for matters truly emergency in nature and, therefore, that the requested funding should not be offset with rescissions. However, recognizing that the House Committee has determined that offsets are to be included in the bill, the Administration has concerns with several of the specific offsets identified in the House Committee bill, which are discussed below. In addition, the Administration objects to certain language provisions, described below.
In the April 23, 1997 letter to the House Appropriations Committee providing the Administration's views on the draft Committee bill, OMB Director Raines described the Administration's concerns with a number of provisions in the Committee bill and urged that the bill be kept free of extraneous provisions. While the Committee bill continues to include a number of objectionable provisions, the Committee addressed several of the Administration's concerns and is free of provisions that would threaten approval of the bill. Regrettably, the rule makes in order an amendment, that if approved, would result in the President vetoing the bill.
"Automatic" Continuing Resolution
It is the Administration's understanding that an amendment will be offered that would create an automatic continuing resolution for FY 1998 based on the McCain-Hutchison language. While the goal of ensuring that the Government does not shut down again in the absence of enacted appropriations is a worthy one, such a provision is clearly extraneous to this emergency disaster relief legislation. The President has indicated that he would veto the bill if such a provision were included in it.
The President's budget requests a $100 million FY 1997 supplemental for WIC to maintain the FY 1996 year-end participation level of 7.4 million. Our most recent information from States suggests that a minimum of $76 million in new budget authority is necessary to maintain the FY 1996 year-end participation level. The funding level proposed by the House Committee would result in State agencies having to cut participation by 150,000 to 200,000 low-income women, infants, and children by year's end. The Administration remains firmly committed to fully funding the WIC program at a participation level of 7.5 million persons in FY 1998 and strongly supports the bipartisan amendment to provide the full $76 million this year.
Reductions to FEMA Disaster Relief and Other Non-Defense Programs
The Administration would oppose the amendment made in order in the rule which would eliminate $2.4 billion of FEMA Disaster Relief funds and require the President to reduce non-defense discretionary spending by $3.6 billion (-1.5%). Enactment of such a reduction two-thirds of the way through the fiscal year would result in reductions of nearly 5% in the final four months of the fiscal year.
Contingent Emergency Fund
On April 23rd, the President requested $300 million for funding additional emergency expenses arising from the consequences of the devastating flooding in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. The President requested that $200 million of this amount be provided to the Unanticipated Needs account within Funds Appropriated to the President. The Administration appreciates the quick action of the House Committee in providing funding. However, in rejecting the Administration's proposal to provide the $200 million as a contingency fund in the Unanticipated Needs account, the Committee has failed to provide the flexibility that is essential for the President to respond appropriately to a variety of funding requirements that continue to emerge from the unfolding disaster. We urge the House to adopt the Administration's proposal, which recognizes the substantial uncertainty surrounding the Upper Midwest's enormous needs.
Community Development Block Grant Program
The Administration encourages the House to provide requested supplemental funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. These funds would enable CDBG to repeat its past successes of working in concert with FEMA and other agencies to help victims of disasters rebuild their lives and their homes. The complementary programs of CDBG, FEMA, and SBA hastened the recovery from the 1993 Midwest floods and many other disasters. CDBG programs serve different purposes than SBA and FEMA programs.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development and OMB will work together to establish administrative procedures ensuring that CDBG funds are used to redevelop the affected communities to be viable and disaster-resistant, in a manner that complements other relief and recovery spending. For example, the additional funds could be used to buy out properties as part of a relocation effort and/or elevate structures out of the flood hazard; to relocate lower-income families from flood plains; and, to provide grants or loans to businesses and families who lack the income, savings, or credit history to qualify for an SBA loan.
Endangered Species Act
The Administration opposes the inclusion in the bill of a waiver of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Current law already allows Federal agencies to implement effective emergency procedures in order to accommodate the ESA during emergency responses to floods, and these procedures are routinely used and have been used during the recent flood events. While the Administration believes that the February 1997 policy statement issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service adequately addresses emergency situations affected by flooding and that additional legislation is unnecessary, we conclude that the language in the House Bill, as revised in the version of the bill reported by the House Appropriations Committee, is acceptable because it is consistent with that polic y and will provide essential flood protection to the American people while maintaining the capability to protect endangered species.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The Administration objects to language that would restrict CRP sign-ups in FY 1997 to 14 million acres. This action would deny willing landowners the opportunity to enroll land for which the environmental benefits exceed their agricultural production value. In light of the 25 million acres recently offered for CRP enrollment, the provision would at best delay the ability to enroll the optimum number of acres. This provision is also misplaced in this bill because it would not result in any FY 1997 savings. Federal payments on FY 1997-enrolled CRP acres would not begin until FY 1998.
The President's FY 1998 Budget requests that Congress appropriate funds sufficient to renew all expiring housing assistance contracts in FY 1998 and all future years. The Administration does not object to funding FEMA's Disaster Relief program through the rescission of $3.8 billion of recaptured excess reserves in HUD's assisted housing program, provided that the Congress is committed to approving sufficient resources to renew all expiring housing assistance contracts in FY 1998 and future years.
Concerns with Certain Offsets
The Dual Use Applications Program helps to develop and incorporate technologies used and tested by the cost-conscious commercial sector into military systems. By adopting these dual-use technologies, the Department will be able to take advantage of cost savings that flow from the production efficiencies of larger-scale commercial manufacturing lines. Reducing funding for this program would result in higher costs for future defense systems. This is an Administration priority, and the Administration strongly opposes the rescission contained in the Committee bill.
The Administration strongly objects to rescinding $1 million of unobligated balances from the Ounce of Prevention Council. Rescission of these funds, which represent roughly one-third of the Council's total funding, would substantially reduce the work of the Council in coordinating crime prevention efforts at the Federal level and assisting the communities to make their neighborhoods safer. The Council is in the process of awarding $1.8 million for youth substance use prevention grants and evaluating its existing grant programs. The Council has received over 300 applications from communities and community-based organizations from all across the country for these grants.
The Administration strongly objects to the House Committee action that would limit FY 1997 spending from the Fund for Rural America to $80 million, representing a $20 million, or 20 percent, reduction. The Fund's creation in the 1996 Farm Bill was a significant factor in the President's decision to sign that legislation because of its mandate to aid farmers, ranchers, and rural residents in their transition to reliance on a market economy. This provision would likely result in an over 40 percent reduction in the agricultural research portion of the Fund's activities this year, significantly reducing programs that would enhance needed information and technological assistance to rural areas.
Restoring Benefits for Certain Legalized Aliens
The Administration has proposed legislation to restore SSI and Medicaid benefits for disabled legal immigrants and children of legal immigrants. To ensure that benefits for needy legal immigrants are not abruptly curtailed, the Administration would strongly support a simple extension of benefits through the end of the fiscal year to all legal immigrants currently receiving SSI. This approach would ensure that the Congress has sufficient time to enact the components of the Administration's legislative proposals, consistent with the recent bipartisan budget agreement, and that SSA has sufficient time to implement the legislation. The Administration supports the amendment made in order in the rule.
Federal Election Commission
The Administration appreciates the provision of $1.7 million in additional funding for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in the House Committee version of the bill and would oppose the elimination of these funds. The Administration encourages the House to remove the restrictions on these funds that would require their expenditure on automated data processing systems (ADP). The Administration requested these funds for the express purpose of supporting additional staff and related costs for investigations and audits pursuant to the Federal Election Campaign Act. While additional ADP costs are a component of these investigations, they are not the key purpose of the request.
Supplementals Not Approved
The Administration has requested a $22.8 million emergency supplemental appropriation for NOAA to fund both hatchery repair and fishery habitat restoration. We are disappointed with the House Committee's view that NOAA's proposed fishery habitat restoration activities are not directly connected to disaster assistance and that only funding for hatchery repair is proposed. The flooding in the Northwest has resulted in direct damage to important fishery habitat. NOAA's proposed habitat restoration activities are intended to address this damage and to mitigate the impact of damage from future floods.
Supplemental funding of $6.25 million is needed to restore funding for the Nutrition, Education, and Training program of the Department of Agriculture. This funding was unintentionally eliminated when permanent mandatory funds for the program were deleted after Congress had already passed the FY 1997 appropriations act. These funds help to provide basic nutrition education to teachers, food service workers, parents, and children.