August 3, 1998
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on H.R. 4276, the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related
Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 1999, as reported by the House
Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views
would be appreciated.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for many of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation. 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 Balanced Budget Agreement and would enable us to achieve the goal of hiring 100,000 additional police officers by the year 2000.
However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in other critical programs funded by this bill. The only way to achieve the appropriate investment level is to offset discretionary spending by using savings in other areas. The President's FY 1999 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending for FY 1999 that conform to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. In the Transportation Equity Act, Congress -- on a broad, bipartisan basis -- took similar action in approving funding for surface transportation programs paid for with mandatory offsets. We want to work with the Congress on mutually agreeable mandatory and other offsets that would be used to increase high-priority discretionary programs, including those funded by this bill. In addition, we hope that the House will reduce funding for lower priority and unrequested discretionary programs, and redirect funding to programs of higher priority.
The Administration has very serious concerns, discussed below, with the Committee's inadequate funding of a number of priority programs, as well as with objectionable language provisions. If the bill presented to the President does not address the issues discussed below, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.
Legal Services Corporation
The Committee bill funds the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) at $141 million, $142 million below the FY 1998 enacted level and $199 million below the President's request of $340 million. This funding level is unacceptable. It represents a 65-percent cut from the FY 1995 level of $400 million, would severely cripple the program, and calls into question the Federal Government's commitment to ensuring that all Americans, regardless of income, have access to the Judicial system. The Supreme Court recently ruled that interest on lawyer trust accounts (IOLTAs) are the private property of clients and cannot be used to generate resources for civil legal services. This eliminates a funding source that provided LSC programs with more than $57 million last year and underscores the importance of action to fully fund the President's request. The Administration strongly supports efforts to increase funding for the LSC.
Small Business Administration
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's funding levels for the administration of the Small Business Administration's (SBA's) programs. The Committee's funding level for the Salaries and Expenses account regular operating expenses represents a 27- percent reduction from the President's request, and includes a requirement that all of the reduction be taken from headquarters functions. Such funding levels would require reducing staff by more than 1,200 staff years through severe reductions-in-force. Not even the elimination of all headquarters employees would satisfy the Committee Report requirement to take reductions solely from non-District Offices.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund the President's request of $279 million for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), $18.5 million above the Committee mark. The additional resources are essential and would allow EEOC to reduce the backlog of pending complaints and implement much-needed reforms in the way all complaints are managed, including an enhanced alternative dispute resolution program. We look forward to working with Congress to provide funding for EEOC and other programs included in the President's civil rights enforcement initiative.
Department of Commerce
Year 2000 Computer Conversion
In the FY 1999 Budget, the President has requested more than $1 billion for Y2K computer conversion. In addition, the budget anticipated that additional requirements would emerge over the course of the year and included an allowance for emergencies and other unanticipated needs. It is essential to make Y2K funding available quickly and flexibly. The House effort to defer action on the emergency fund in the Treasury and General Government appropriations bill is very troubling, particularly in light of several Subcommittees, including the Commerce, Justice, State Subcommittee, deciding not to fund the base Y2K requests.
Department of Justice
The Administration appreciates the Committee's continued support for law enforcement and other Department of Justice activities. However, as discussed below, we are concerned about Committee action in a number of areas.
Potential Amendment Related to Presidential Executive Orders
The Administration would strongly oppose an amendment that may be offered prohibiting the use of funds in the Act for implementing Executive Order 13087, dated May 28, 1998. The purpose of Executive Order 13087 is to confirm and make uniform the existing bar preventing the Federal government from discriminating against members of the Federal civilian workforce based on sexual orientation. The term "sexual orientation" has its common, limited, and accepted meaning as in H.R. 1858, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Executive Order 13087 does not authorize affirmative action policies, such as recruitment, reporting, or goal-setting based on sexual orientation. Nor does it create any rights to file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with a court or with the EEOC. The order leaves intact the current procedures for dealing with such complaints. The Administration objects to any effort to scale back policies that ensure that Federal workers are treated fairly. In particular, we object to any amendment that would allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The amendment would also prohibit the Federal Government from implementing Executive Order 13083 on Federalism. The Administration opposes this or other amendments, which would block our efforts to ensure that existing policies are consistent with recent Supreme Court decisions and unfunded mandates statutes and would inhibit our ongoing efforts to take into account important State and local concerns in Federal actions. After hearing concerns from representatives of State and local elected officials and their representative organizations and other interested parties, the Administration announced it would suspend implementation of the Executive Order in order to consult thoroughly with those groups about the content of the Order, and to make changes where appropriate.
International Affairs Programs
The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the Department of State's Diplomatic and Consular Programs and Salaries and Expenses accounts. However, we are concerned about the Committee's reduction of $26 million for the Department's operating requirements. Further, the Committee's reduction of $38 million to the request for information technology improvements in the Capital Investment Fund would jeopardize the Department's effort to achieve Y2K compliance. In addition, limits placed on the amount of fees to execute the President's Border Security Program that can be used in FY 1999 could slow urgently needed border security improvements.
The Administration is very concerned about the Committee's $245 million reduction to the request for Security and Maintenance of U.S. Missions. The Committee's mark does not fund construction of needed Embassy projects in Beijing and Berlin and would require offsets against regular security and maintenance activities to fund initial design work for these important projects. We request that the Committee provide a funding level consistent with the President's budget for urgently needed embassy facilities and ongoing security and maintenance programs, including Y2K-related activities.
The Administration appreciates the steps the Committee has taken to fund the request for arrearage payments this year and would strongly oppose amendments to reduce those levels. The Administration wants to work with the Congress to ensure that these funds are available in a timely fashion to retain our influence in these organizations and to identify reform measures that further U.S. interests. However, we strongly oppose the bill's authorization requirement that is intended to subject this important foreign policy measure to the unrelated issue of family planning policy. There is legitimate disagreement over this issue, but none of the U.N. and related international organizations arrears payments is related to this issue. Therefore, it is wholly inappropriate to hold the payment of U.S. arrears hostage to the family planning issue.
Further, although the Committee has provided significant funding for the Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) and Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities for FY 1999, the Administration is concerned that reductions in these accounts would increase arrears and impair the ability of the United States to address foreign policy interests through the mechanism of U.N. peacekeeping.
The Administration opposes the Committee's proposal to provide up to $15 million for Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty needs by transfer from the CIO account without any increase in funding. We strongly believe that these important activities should be funded at the $29 million level, as requested in the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs account.
The Administration is concerned about the $21 million overall reduction to the request for the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). Given that the USIA request is virtually at the FY 1998 level, the Committee's reduction would hurt core public diplomacy activities, Year 2000 compliance, critical broadcasting activities including broadcasting to Africa, and important grant programs. We urge the House to provide funding for USIA's operating and special accounts at the requested level.
The Administration is concerned about the Committee's reductions for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Asia Foundation, the American Institute in Taiwan, and the International Commissions. Such reductions would place a disproportionate burden on the operating budgets of these small agencies.
In addition, the Administration would strongly oppose an amendment that may be offered that would prevent intervention by the Justice Department and other agencies in certain U.S. court proceedings to seize property of foreign governments designated as state sponsors of terrorism. Such a measure likely would result in seizures of property in direct violation of U.S. statutory and treaty law and in giving priority to certain U.S. claimants over long-standing, legitimate claims by other U.S. citizens. It could also lead to costs incurred by the United States in the event of judgements for foreign governments, retaliation against U.S. diplomatic properties abroad, and seizure of property where the United States is claiming an interest in actual ownership of the property. Moreover, this provision would undermine the Administration's ability to protect the interests of the United States in U.S. courts.
Finally, the Administration would oppose an amendment that may be offered that would restrict efforts to challenge State, local, or tribal laws on the grounds that the law is inconsistent with an international commercial agreement, including any trade or investment agreement. The Administration is committed to cooperating closely with State, local, and tribal governments and taking into account their views in implementing agreements with respect to any matter that directly affects their interests. Further, neither World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panels, nor the WTO itself, has any power to compel the United States to change its laws or regulations, and such trade panel reports cannot form the basis for bringing suit in U.S. courts.
Federal Communications Commission
The Administration is very concerned about the lack of funding for any of the requested increases for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Committee's funding level could require an agency-wide furlough or reduction-in-force, impairing the FCC's ability to implement the mandates of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and to carry out critical mission operations.
The Administration understands that an amendment may be offered that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing collections for the e-rate program to connect schools and libraries to the Internet. This amendment is unacceptable. Such an amendment could effectively end the e-rate program. The e-rate is a critical component of Universal Service and promises to ensure that all American classrooms, including those in rural and low income areas, have full access to a powerful new set of learning tools.
The Administration objects to the continuation of last year's rider that prohibits the use of funds for supervising the Teamster's election, despite a court order requiring the Federal Government to pay for a supervised election.