July 21, 2000
The President's FY 2001 Budget is based on a balanced approach that maintains fiscal discipline, eliminates the national debt, extends the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, provides for an appropriately sized tax cut, establishes a new voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit in the context of broader reforms, expands health care coverage to more families, and funds critical investments for our future. An essential element of this approach is ensuring adequate funding for discretionary programs. To this end, the President has proposed discretionary spending limits at levels that we believe are necessary to serve the American people.
Unfortunately, the FY 2001 congressional budget resolution provides inadequate resources for discretionary investments. We need realistic levels of funding for critical government functions that the American people expect their government to perform well, including education, national security, law enforcement, environmental protection, preservation of our global leadership, air safety, food safety, economic assistance for the less fortunate, research and technology, and the administration of Social Security and Medicare. Based on the inadequate budget resolution, this bill fails to address critical needs of the American people.
The Administration appreciates efforts by the Committee to accommodate a number of Presidential priority programs within its 302(b) allocation. However, the bill contains several highly objectionable riders that inappropriately interfere with important Executive Branch efforts, and the bill still inadequately funds certain key domestic priorities. Because of these issues, if this bill were presented to the President in this form, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto it. These concerns and others are discussed below.
Department of Energy
The Administration is concerned with the large shift in the Senate bill from key domestic priorities of the Department of Energy (DOE) to fund Atomic Energy Defense Activities. The bill provides $599 million less than the President's request for DOE's domestic programs and adds $401 million to the President's request for defense activities. The bill would significantly reduce vital programs in science, radioactive waste management, energy research, and other activities. Specific funding issues include:
National Nuclear Security Administration
The Administration strongly opposes numerous prohibitions and restraints placed on the Secretary of Energy that would inhibit the Secretary from effectively managing the missions of the Department. In particular, the Administration objects to statutory provisions in the bill relating to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Sections 301, 302, 309, 310, 315 and 317 would strip specific authorities away from the Secretary of Energy and vest them with the Administrator of the NNSA, thereby providing the Administrator with the autonomy to grant waivers that deviate from the Federal Acquisition Regulations; approve laboratory funding plans; reorganize the agency functions; and authorize directed research and development activities at defense production plants. Section 314 restricts the Secretary's discretion by setting forth criteria for removal of the NNSA Administrator. Section 316 would preclude DOE from detailing staff with critical technical skills within the Department. This provision is unnecessary, duplicative, and too restrictive -- a prohibition on concurrent service with the NNSA is already included in pending authorizing legislation and has been agreed to by the Administration. These provisions reduce Executive authority and raise concerns regarding the Executive Branch's ability to manage a Cabinet-level agency.
Department of Energy Security Reorganization
In order to improve security at the Department of Energy, the Administration requested a budget-neutral amendment to reorganize all safeguards and security functions, and to fund these activities under the Office of Security and Emergency Operations. We urge the Senate to support this critical proposal to address the current institutional issues associated with ensuring safeguards and security.
Bureau of Reclamation
The Administration strongly objects to provisions included in the Senate bill related to the Middle Rio Grande Project and Fort Sumner Irrigation District in New Mexico. These provisions would severely constrain the Department of the Interior's ability to prevent actions that harm protected species, and would create a dangerous precedent for not enforcing the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The provisions would prohibit steps the Bureau of Reclamation can take to ensure minimum flows are maintained in the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers to protect two endangered species -- the southwestern willow flycatcher and Rio Grande silvery minnow -- and the threatened Pecos bluntnose shiner. While Federal agencies and other stakeholders continue to develop collaborative, comprehensive recovery strategies for these species, agencies must be able to ensure that adequate flows are maintained in the Rio Grande. Failure to protect the silvery minnow this year could lead to its extinction. In addition, these provisions could potentially increase the burden on other water users to compensate for the ESA exemption provided to specific water districts.
The Administration also strongly objects to a provision that would delay through the next fiscal year any environmental analysis of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water allocations. The proposed delay jeopardizes resolution of Arizona Indian water rights settlements that are under active negotiation. It would also jeopardize the related CAP repayment litigation agreement conditionally reached by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District and the United States on May 9, 2000. Absent the environmental analysis that would be prevented by this rider, water allocation decisions would be precluded. These allocation decisions are conditions to finalizing the settlement of the CAP repayment litigations, as well as resolving outstanding Tribal water rights claims. Thus, passage of the provision would require careful analysis as to whether the parties could now fulfill CAP settlement conditions during the time set forth in the settlement stipulation, as well as a decision on whether the stipulations' termination provisions should be exercised.
The Administration strongly objects to the Senate's decision to deny funding for the California Bay-Delta Restoration Program. This decision could significantly hamper ongoing Federal and State efforts to restore this ecosystem, protect the drinking water for 22 million Californians, and enhance water supply and reliability for over seven million acres of highly productive farmland and growing urban areas across California. After more than five years of work, on June 9th, the Secretary of the Interior and the Governor of California issued a CALFED Bay-Delta "Framework for Action" that proposes a seven year, "Phase 1" package for water and environmental initiatives. This plan has been well received by stakeholders. A Final Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be issued in late July, and a Record of Decision is expected to be signed near the end of August. The $60 million requested in the President's budget, much of which supports activities that can be carried out using existing authorities, is the minimum necessary to ensure adequate Federal participation in these initiatives, which are essential to reducing existing conflicts among water users in California.
The Administration appreciates that the Senate Committee has provided full funding for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund and substantial funding for the Water and Related Resources account. Within the Water and Related Resources account, however, we are concerned about the level of funding for the Lower Colorado River Operations Program. The $5.7 million reduction in the Committee bill would severely limit Reclamation's ability to complete development of the Multi-Species Conservation Plan and meet the deadlines in the Biological Opinion on Lower Colorado River operations. In addition, we are disappointed that the Committee has not adopted the Administration's proposal to convert the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund program from discretionary to permanent funding to improve its operating efficiency and effectiveness.
Regional Economic Development
The Administration appreciates the initial funding provided for certain regional economic development programs, but remains concerned that the Committee bill does not provide sufficient funding to meet current needs. In the distressed counties of the Mississippi Delta, for example, per capita income is only 53 percent of the national average, and the poverty rate is more than twice the national average. To address these and other needs, the Administration strongly urges full funding of both the $30 million request for the Mississippi Delta Regional Authority (DRA), which would benefit a seven-State region, and the $71.4 million request for the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Army Corps of Engineers
The Administration strongly objects to section 103 of the Senate Committee bill, which would undermine implementation of the Endangered Species Act by preventing the Corps of Engineers from funding reasonable and much-needed changes to the operating manual for the Missouri River. The Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are entering a critical phase in their Section 7 consultation on the effects of reservoir project operations. This provision would prevent the Corps from carrying out a necessary element of any reasonable and prudent alternative to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of the endangered least tern and pallid sturgeon, and the threatened piping plover. In addition to these Endangered Species Act concerns, the Corps must revise the manual because it is outdated. In its current form, the manual simply does not provide an appropriate balance among the competing interests, both commercial and recreational, of the many people who seek to use this great American river. The Administration understands that there may be an amendment offered to strike the objectionable language. The Administration would support such an amendment and strongly urges its adoption.
The Administration is concerned that the Senate's reduction in funding for priority Army Corps of Engineers projects would result in significant delays for certain critical construction projects. Of particular concern is a reduction to the ongoing Everglades restoration projects from the House level of $118 million to $95 million. The Administration supports the House level, which is needed to avoid delays in restoring the Everglades ecosystem, home to 68 threatened and endangered species. The Administration is likewise concerned about the reduction to the Columbia River Fish Mitigation project (Washington, Oregon, Idaho), from $91 million to $81 million. The full amount requested is needed to meet requirements to save endangered salmon and other species. The Administration supports funding for the construction of an emergency outlet at Devil's Lake, North Dakota, and, based on the critical need for this project, urges the Senate to provide funding in the bill. The Senate Committee bill would delay providing the flood protection that the Devils Lake area urgently needs. The Administration also requests that the Senate provide full funding for the Kill Van Kull project, which the Committee has reduced to $44 million, from the request of $53 million.
The Administration urges the Senate to fund the limited number of priority new projects and programs in the President's budget, including the "Challenge 21" program for environmentally friendly flood damage reduction projects; modifications to Folsom Dam on the American River, California; the Hillsboro and Okeechobee Aquifer Storage and Recovery pilot project in the Florida Everglades; and, the program to modernize Corps recreation facilities.
We are disappointed that the Senate has not yet addressed the Administration's Harbor Services Fund proposal, which would provide a stable source of funding that would allow port and harbor activities to be funded on an efficient schedule. This proposal would also free up funds that could be used for the priority projects and programs noted above, as well as for important new navigation projects, including projects to deepen Baltimore Harbor in Maryland and the Arthur Kill Channel (New York and New Jersey harbor), which have not been funded by the Senate Committee.
Section 705, "Kyoto Protocol," which purports to prohibit implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is unnecessary, as the Administration has no intention of implementing the Protocol prior to ratification. To the extent that these provisions could be read to prevent the United States from negotiating with foreign governments, it would be inconsistent with the President's Constitutional authority.