September 24, 1997
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on H.R. 2267, the Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and
Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 1998, as reported by the House
Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views
would be appreciated.
The Committee has developed a bill that provides requested funding for many of the Administration's priorities. For example, we appreciate the Committee's funding of law enforcement programs in general and the COPS program in particular. Funding COPS at the requested level of $1.4 billion is consistent with the Bipartisan Budget Agreement and would enable us to achieve the goal of hiring 100,000 additional police officers by the year 2000.
As discussed below, the Administration will seek restoration of certain of the Committee's reductions. We recognize that it will not be possible in all cases to attain the Administration's full request and will work with the House toward achieving acceptable funding levels. The Administration is committed to working with the House to identify reductions in the bill in order to find offsets for the restoration of funds that the Administration seeks. For example, funding could be reduced for the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant and the new Juvenile Justice Block Grant. We urge the House to reduce funding for lower priority programs, or for programs that would be adequately funded at the requested level, and to redirect funding to programs of higher priority.
The Administration is particularly concerned about the objectionable funding level provided for the Legal Services Corporation and language that would prohibit any funds from being used for activities related to the design, planning, testing, or implementation of sampling in the 2000 Census, and would further require the passage of an authorization bill prior to the expenditure of more than $100 million for any 2000 decennial planning operations. In addition, the Hastert amendment, approved by the Rules Committee, would effectively ban sampling in the guise of providing for judicial review. If the bill presented to the President were to contain the funding level provided in the Committee bill for the Legal Services Corporation or the restrictions on Census activities in either the Committee bill or the Hastert amendment, the President's senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill.
To date, the Administration has been working with the Appropriations Committees to include items contained in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement in the FY 1998 appropriations bills, in the hope that these issues could be worked out. We are concerned that several of these and other priority issues are not being resolved in a satisfactory manner. If these issues are not resolved satisfactorily, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.
Department of Commerce
The Administration finds the Committee bill's funding level for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) unacceptable. The bill would fund the LSC at $141 million, $142 million below the FY 1997 enacted level and $199 million below the President's request of $340 million. The amount that the Committee bill would provide, 65 percent below the FY 1995 level of $400 million, would cripple the program and call into question the Federal Government's commitment to ensuring that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to the judicial system. The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund the President's request. The President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill if it contained the funding level in the Committee bill.
Reimbursement of Legal Fees
The Administration strongly opposes the Hyde amendment that would require the United States to pay attorney's fees and litigation costs to "prevailing parties" in federal criminal cases, unless the Government can demonstrate the case was "substantially justified." This would have a profound and harmful impact on the Federal criminal justice system. It would create a monetary incentive for criminal defense attorneys to generate additional litigation in cases in which prosecutors have in good faith brought sound charges, tying up the scarce time and resources that are vital to bringing criminals to justice.
The Fifth Amendment already requires that, in every Federal felony case, a grand jury of citizens find probable cause to bring charges against a defendant, thereby protecting against unjustified prosecutions. In addition, the Department of Justice and the courts have safeguards to guard against such prosecutions. The amendment, which would provide for reimbursement out of the budget of Federal prosecutors, would have a chilling effect on prosecutorial discretion.
The litigation generated by this proposal may require disclosure and compromise of confidential sources and law enforcement techniques. If the bill presented to the President were to include this provision, the President's senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Department of Justice
The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the State Department's accounts that fund diplomatic and consular activities, which would help reverse the erosion of the Department's worldwide operations. We are also pleased that the Committee provided the transfers as requested to support the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) program.
The Administration welcomes the first-year funding of $100 million for arrears payments, and strongly opposes the Bartlett amendment that would eliminate this funding. United States leadership in the United Nations and other international organizations on a host of issues of importance to the American people would be compromised if we fail to meet our binding obligations. Thus we are deeply concerned that this bill provide full funding for the FY 1998 annual assessments provided in Contributions to International Organizations and Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities accounts. It is vital for the Administration to be able to pay annual costs, avoid new arrears, and have some flexibility to address unforeseen needs relating to peace and security around the world. While we appreciate report language that underscores the importance of funding the arrears, we want to work with the House to ensure that the final bill contains multi-year arrears funding provided for in the Balanced Budget Act, and consistent with the pending authorization bill. The Administration is committed to working with the House to resolve these important issues relating to the future of international organizations.
The Administration urges the House to strike two provisions that raise Constitutional concerns: section 609, which concerns diplomatic relations with Vietnam, and section 610, which relates to command and control of United Nations peacekeeping efforts. In addition to Constitutional concerns, we believe that the issues raised by these provisions are being addressed in the pending authorization bill in more workable and appropriate ways.
Ounce of Prevention Council
The Administration strongly opposes the Committee's termination of the Ounce of Prevention Council. Elimination of this program would hinder the Federal Government's ability to help neighborhoods implement balanced strategies to reduce crime through enforcement, prevention, and intervention. The Council awards discretionary grants for promising community collaborative crime prevention programs, publishes a catalog of crime prevention grants and programs, and provides information and technical assistance. It plays a critical role in helping communities gain access to information on crime prevention best practices. The Administration strongly urges the House to provide funding for the Council and has identified an appropriate offset for that purpose.
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
The Administration opposes the Committee mark of $41.5 million for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), which would undercut the Administration's efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear and other weapons to the security of the American people.
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
In addition to the $2.8 million requested in the FY 1998 Budget, a $13 million budget amendment for Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty requirements was transmitted on July 17th. The Administration urges the House to provide the full revised request for these important national security activities.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund the President's request of $246 million for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission given the importance of its work in addressing unlawful discrimination.
Office of the United States Trade Representative
The Administration appreciates the Committee's increase in funding for, and its past support of, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). USTR has had to manage a seven-fold increase in the number of World Trade Organization dispute settlement cases since the signing of the Uruguay Round Agreement. Despite its substantially increased workload, USTR has virtually the same number of attorneys working in this area as it did in 1990. USTR's work will be even more important in FY 1998 and in future years as the United States seeks to capitalize on new market-opening opportunities and to improve access to existing markets through enforcement actions. Given these circumstances, the Administration has transmitted a fully-offset $1.7 million budget amendment. We urge the House to provide the revised request.
National Endowment for Democracy
The Administration strongly supports the Committee mark of $30 million, at the President's request level, for the National Endowment for Democracy. Full funding of the President's request is needed to support democracy-building programs throughout the world. We would strongly oppose any amendment offered on the House floor that would eliminate or reduce funding for these important programs.
Additional Administration concerns with the Committee bill are contained in the attachment.
H.R. 2267 -- DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE, JUSTICE, AND STATE,
THE JUDICIARY, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, FY 1998
(AS REPORTED BY THE HOUSE COMMITTEE)
The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address the
following additional concerns:
Department of Commerce