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March 23, 1998
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on S. 1768 and S. 1769, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
It is critical to our national security that Congress pass a single bill that provides funding for our missions in Bosnia and Iraq, for overdue payments to the United Nations, and for the International Monetary Fund. American economic and security interests will suffer badly if the President's requests are not enacted into law. It is also essential that Congress approve emergency disaster assistance for victims of recent natural disasters. Such a bill should be free of extraneous and objectionable language provisions.
The Federal government is currently responding to natural disasters in 49 states. Since January of this year, there have been disasters in 16 states. On March 3, 1998, the President requested emergency supplemental funds for disaster assistance requirements resulting from recent flooding, ice storms, El Nino and other natural disasters. In addition to meeting individual needs through the FEMA and SBA programs, funds are needed for emergency highway repair, debris removal, assistance for state and private forestry, assistance to farmers and for other disaster programs. The Committee is to be commended for approving such funding.
The Administration appreciates the Senate Committee's prompt action to ensure that vital resources needed for recovery from natural disasters, for our troops overseas and for the International Monetary Fund are enacted as soon as possible. However, the Administration is deeply disappointed that the Senate Committee did not approve funding for overdue payments for international organizations and chose to add provisions to the IMF funding that are unworkable. In addition, we are disappointed that the Senate Committee attached two objectionable environmental riders to the bill. Finally, the Administration is disappointed that the pending supplemental appropriations have been segregated into two distinct appropriations bills and strongly recommends that the two Senate measures should be combined into a single bill.
Overdue Payments to the United Nations and Other International Organizations
The Administration is deeply concerned that the Committee has not provided funding for arrears payments to the United Nations (U.N.) and other international organizations. The failure to provide such funding would undermine U.S. leadership in the international community and should not be separated from other critical, emergency foreign affairs priorities (Bosnia, Iraq, IMF).
Because the U.N. will consider one last time, starting in May, a resolution to adopt important reforms, including reducing the U.S. assessment rate, it is critical that the necessary legislation that funds these arrearage payments be completed very soon. Absent legislation, there is no possibility for the United States to garner international support for these reforms, and the United States may risk an erosion of support for other U.S. policies and positions in the international community. The Administration strongly urges the Senate to provide the full request for arrears.
International Monetary Fund
The Administration supports the Committee's recognition that the Congress should act now to authorize and appropriate funds for both the New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB) and the quota increase. The Administration believes that the immediate approval of these requests is necessary to provide the IMF with the resources it needs to protect the international financial system -- and, therefore, the U.S. economy -- against the risk of new or escalating financial crises of the kind now gripping key East Asian economies. A failure to act or a significant delay in action could leave us without the capacity to protect United States interests in the current environment.
The Administration is deeply concerned, however, with some of the provisions of the Committee-reported bill. These concerns relate primarily to the procedural requirements attached to the proposed appropriation for the quota increase, not necessarily to the underlying policy objectives of such requirements. In fact, the Administration is in agreement with many of those objectives as policies that the United States should vigorously promote at the IMF. However, a number of the reported bill's proposed procedures for achieving those objectives are unworkable.
For example, section 101 of the bill would condition the availability of the increased U.S. quota resources on the IMF's agreement that all lending agreements with member countries include specified provisions. The United States Government itself could not meet some of the conditions that would theoretically be imposed on borrowers from the IMF. The Administration believes that the practical effect of this section alone would delay indefinitely the implementation of the quota increase, denying the IMF resources it needs to perform its mission during a period of crisis.
Other sections pose similar kinds of problems. To solve these problems in a constructive manner, the Administration will work to amend these provisions as this much-needed bill moves through the appropriations process. If the IMF does not have sufficient resources to deal with future crises, it will significantly affect our workers, our farmers, and our businesses. It is important for Congress to act on this request at the earliest possible legislative opportunity, and we strongly recommend that this request be joined with S. 1768.
Department of Defense Funding
The Administration welcomes the Committee's support in S. 1768 for the President's FY 1998 emergency supplemental request for Bosnia, Southwest Asia, and natural disasters. Funding for Bosnia and Southwest Asia will cover the costs of unanticipated military operations in these areas that directly support U.S. national interests, while also protecting military readiness. Additional funding for natural disasters will ensure that affected bases and facilities can recover fully and quickly from storm damage.
Department of Agriculture: Forest Service
The Administration has serious concerns with riders added to the Committee-reported version of the bill, as well as with report language, and strongly opposes the inclusion, in an emergency appropriations bill, of extraneous and controversial authorizing provisions. The Administration strongly opposes section 405 of S.1768, which is an unwarranted and ill-timed interference with the Forest Service's proposal to implement a temporary suspension of new road construction in the roadless areas of our national forests. The provisions appear overly broad in that they could apply to any Forest Service "project" -- not just to timber sales affected by the proposed suspension -- that for whatever reason do not go forward in FY 1998 and FY 1999. The provisions also attempt to preempt a public process that the Forest Service has initiated to develop a long-term, science-based transportation policy to address a 380,000 mile road system that it cannot afford to maintain.
Major provisions of section 405 could not be implemented. There is currently no final rule imposing a suspension, only a proposal. These provisions assume continued road building or replacement of speculative timber sales and other projects. These potential projects may not have received thorough environmental analysis and the Government may not have contractual obligations meriting replacement or compensation. Furthermore, the provisions, as drafted, might not increase county receipt payments as anticipated. Finally, the provisions would also invite costly, divisive lawsuits that would not benefit any of the resources the public cares about. The Administration urges the Congress to adopt the FY 1999 Budget proposal to stabilize Forest Service payments to local governments.
Department of the Interior
Again, the Administration has serious concerns with riders added to the Committee-reported version of the bill, as well as with report language, and strongly opposes the inclusion, in an emergency appropriations bill, of extraneous and controversial authorizing provisions. In October 1997, the Department of the Interior testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks that Secretary Babbitt would recommend that the President veto S. 633, a bill to modify Petroglyph National Monument (NM) boundaries to facilitate construction of the Paseo del Norte highway. Such legislation has now been added to the emergency supplemental (section 404). This would set an unworkable precedent for the National Park System by mandating that park lands be used in a manner that disregards the expert judgement of the park managers and damages the overall integrity of the monument.
In addition, report language directs the Department not to modify financial terms for oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico that are eligible for royalty relief under the Deep Water Royalty Relief Act. Compliance with such direction would clearly interfere with the Department's conduct of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) program and limit the Department's authority to set the terms and conditions of a lease sale, which would undercut the Government's ability to meet the requirements of the OCS Lands Act regarding due diligence and obtaining the fair market value of oil and gas royalty payments for U.S. taxpayers.
Federal Communications Commission
The Administration is concerned with the Committee's language in S. 1768 imposing unwarranted and burdensome requirements on the Federal Communications Commission in administering Universal Service Programs, particularly the new program to ensure that every school and library has access to advanced telecommunications services, which promises to enhance educational opportunities across our country. These programs serve a broad range of constituents as illustrated by the over 39,000 applications that have been submitted thus far from schools and libraries throughout the United States. These applications represent communities, small and large, urban and rural, from every State. No language should be included that would jeopardize the successful and timely implementation of these much-needed programs.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The Administration objects to the failure of the Committee to include $173 million in NASA appropriations transfer authority for FY 1998 for the International Space Station, as proposed by the President, and requests that the bill be amended consistent with the President's proposal. The transfer authority is an insurance policy to maintain the planned assembly schedule for the U.S. and its international partners, react to new program requirements as the need arises, and control out-year costs. The Administration's FY 1999 proposal for the International Space Station assumes that the funding derived by this transfer would be made available to the Space Station program.
The Administration is also concerned that the Committee did not approve emergency funding for the Bureau of Reclamation, that it did not approve the proposed repeal of the FERS/CSRS open season and that it places unnecessary restrictions on the ongoing space consolidation of the Patent and Trademark Office. The Administration also believes that the earmark for Emergency Conservation funds should be dropped, consistent with the longstanding practice for providing disaster funding to all eligible communities.