May 13, 1997
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on H.R. 1469, a bill making emergency supplemental appropriations for recovery
from natural disasters and for overseas peacekeeping efforts, 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 Administration understands that a number of amendments may be made in order that would threaten approval of the bill. The Administration's strong opposition to such provisions are addressed in this statement.
"Automatic" Continuing Resolution
It is the Administration's understanding that an amendment may be made in order in the rule for consideration of this bill 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 Administration understands that an amendment may be made in order that would mandate a date certain for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Bosnia. The President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill if such an amendment were adopted. Such an amendment could jeopardize the safety of our troops and damage our national security interests. It would seriously undercut the U.S. commitment to help implement the Dayton Peace Accords and successfully complete the NATO-led mission in Bosnia, resulting in a serious loss in U.S. credibility with the Bosnian parties, with our allies, and with other countries participating in the SFOR operation.
The Administration continues to believe that the duration of SFOR's mission should provide sufficient time to establish conditions to maintain security and stability in Bosnia without an outside military presence. However, this effort can only succeed if the parties and the international community remain assured of U.S. leadership and commitment to peace in Bosnia.
National Testing Initiative
It is the Administration's understanding that an amendment may be made in order that would prohibit the Department of Education from using its Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE) to support the President's national testing initiative. The President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill if such an amendment were adopted. These voluntary national tests in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math would help States and communities ensure that their academic standards are high and that all students master the skills they will need to succeed. The purpose of these national tests is to offer students, along with their parents and teachers, a measure of how well they are performing in comparison to national standards and other students both nationally and internationally. The tests are receiving strong public support -- more than 240 of America's business leaders and three Governors have already endorsed them. FIE is the most appropriate source of funds for the development of these tests, since the program is designed to give the Secretary of Education discretion to fund reform projects of national significance, including strategies for "the assessment of student learning.
The Administration understands that an amendment may be made in order that would prevent the Department of the Interior from promulgating rules on Revised Statute (RS) 2477 and also prohibit implementation of the Department's January 1997 policy guidance on that statute. The Administration would strongly oppose such a provision. The Department's rules and guidance seek to resolve long-standing RS 2477 disputes that involve right-of-way across Federal lands, including national parks and wilderness areas. The Secretary of the Interior has indicated that he would recommend that the President veto this bill if it were to contain this RS 2477 provision and accompanying report language. The scope of the provision would far exceed a similar but more limited provision in the FY 1997 Interior Appropriations Act. The Administration believes that the January 1997 policy fairly balances the interests of a right-of-way claimant with Federal land planning and management responsibilities. States should not be permitted now to expand rights granted under a 19th century statute that was repealed by Congress more than 20 years ago.
Statistical Sampling for the 2000 Decennial Census
The Administration understands that an amendment may be made in order that would prohibit the Census Bureau from spending funds in FY 1997 for developing a plan for the 2000 decennial census that would use sampling. The Secretary of Commerce has indicated that he would recommend that the President veto the bill if such an amendment were adopted. The provision related to the use of sampling contained in the Senate-passed version of the bill would be acceptable to the Administration.
The inclusion of language prohibiting the Census Bureau from using sampling would be an unprecedented intrusion into the management of the decennial census. Without sampling, the cost of the decennial census will increase as its accuracy, especially with regard to minorities and groups that are traditionally undercounted, decreases. The 1990 decennial census was the first to be less accurate than the one that preceded it. Congress instructed the Census Bureau to consult with the National Academy of Sciences to find a way to improve the results. These experts unanimously recommended that the Census Bureau use some form of statistical sampling in the 2000 decennial census.
Texas Public Assistance Program Amendment
The Administration understands that an amendment may be made in order that would mandate that the Administration approve a proposal by the State of Texas to release a "Request for Offers" that could lead to contracting out large portions of the administration of Federal public assistance programs. The Administration supports the objective of making administration of these programs more efficient. However, the Administration strongly opposes this amendment. Any proposal of the scope of Texas' raises many issues of how to judge contractor performance; fairness to current employees of the State; how to ensure fiscal integrity; the impact on families who depend on these programs, and many other issues. The Administration is working with Texas to resolve these issues, as it would in the case of any such proposal. Congressional action is inappropriate while the Administration is reviewing the proposal.
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 fully fund the requested $100 million in 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 the Office of Management and Budget 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.
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 Kaptur-Roukema amendment to provide the full $76 million this year.
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.
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.