October 25, 2001
Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration,
and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2002, as reported by
the Senate Committee. The Administration appreciates the manner in
which the Congress has worked to consider the FY 2002 appropriations
bills. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress
to ensure that the policy and program content of each of the thirteen
appropriations bills is acceptable to the President and that the bill
totals are within the recently agreed upon aggregate funding level
of $686 billion.
A number of the agencies and programs funded within this bill may have modified requirements as a consequence of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Administration is continuing to review these new requirements and will continue to work with the Congress to ensure the highest priority needs are funded through the FY 2001 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Recovery From and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States.
The Administration appreciates the Senate's efforts to fund agencies and programs contained in this bill at the President's request. For example, the Administration is pleased that the Senate provided the full budget request for the Food Safety and Inspection Service's meat and poultry inspection activities and for the Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) rural housing, business, water and wastewater programs, which will increase the number of rural Americans that have access to safe, affordable housing, clean water, and economic development opportunities.
We would like to take this opportunity to share some specific concerns with the Committee-passed version of the bill, as noted below.
The Senate Committee bill provides increases far exceeding the President's budget in a number of areas, while reducing funding for the Food Stamp reserve and the pest eradication program. For example, the Committee bill includes approximately $270 million in unrequested projects, including $80 million in funding for unrequested research construction projects at 16 sites. In addition, funding was provided for two rural utility programs, the High Energy Grants program and a new Local Television Loan Program, that are not critical to the support and improvement of rural citizens' quality of life. The Committee bill also provides $79 million for the boll weevil eradication program, $45 million above the Administration's request. Last year, Congress provided this level of funding as a one-time program to help affected farmers reduce debt. The Administration believes that it is unnecessary to increase funding for these programs and urges the Senate to restore needed funding to the Food Stamp and pest eradication programs.
Food Stamp Program Reserve
The Administration is concerned that the Committee fails to provide the requested level for a $1.0 billion reserve in the Food Stamp Program. A reserve of this size is an important and prudent way to plan for unanticipated program needs and ensures that food stamps are available under all circumstances for those who need them. For example, between 1991 and 1995 the reserve appropriation was $1.5 to $2.5 billion, and in 1991 and 1992, the program used $1.5 billion and $900 million of the reserve, respectively. We urge the Senate to fund the reserve at the President's requested level.
Unrequested Projects in Agricultural Research and Education Programs
The Administration has serious concerns with the level of funding provided by the Senate for specific agricultural research and education activities. The Senate included approximately $190 million in unrequested research project funding, $50 million higher than the level provided last year. The Administration believes that peer-reviewed competitive grant programs offer the best opportunity to perform high-quality research targeted at national needs. We urge the Senate to reduce funding for unrequested research projects.
Plant Pest and Diseases
The FY 2002 Budget proposed that ongoing projects to combat plant pest and disease infestations be funded through the normal discretionary appropriations process. The Committee chose not to accept this approach and instead recommended that the majority of the funding be provided through transfer from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Authority to transfer funding from CCC is intended for use in emergency situations. Using this emergency authority for eradication efforts, which can be predicted, planned for, and will continue for several years, is inconsistent with the clear intent of the provision authorizing these transfers. Therefore, using emergency funding for anything other than truly unforeseen crises can be viewed as backdoor financing that avoids the discipline of the discretionary budget caps. We urge the Senate to adopt the proposals contained in the President's request and look forward to working with the Senate on this issue.
Rural Electric Loans
The Administration is concerned that the loan levels provided for USDA's rural electric programs have been increasing at an unprecedented rate and the Senate Committee's proposed $1.5 billion increase continues this trend. The loan levels in the bill would increase the Government's direct competition with private financial institutions. In addition, it is unclear whether the Rural Utilities Service's staff can adequately administer this level of loans, which could increase the risk to the Government for future losses. We urge the Senate to adopt the loan levels contained in the President's request.
The Administration opposes the Committee action that provides funds and creates a new program for the rehabilitation of aging locally-owned dams constructed with USDA assistance. Requiring USDA to finance rehabilitation work on these dams would set a costly and objectionable government-wide precedent. These dams are a local responsibility, and the Federal Government should not rehabilitate these or other locally-owned dams built with assistance from Federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Potential Amendments: Prescription Drug Reimportation; Cuba Sanctions; and, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
We understand that an amendment regarding the importation of prescription drugs may be offered during Senate floor debate. There are a variety of legal and safety issues surrounding such proposals. The Administration would oppose any amendments to this appropriations bill that could result in unsafe, unapproved, or counterfeit drugs being imported into the United States. The Administration is concerned about the cost of prescription drugs and is working to address that issue. Provisions such as the one included by the House during floor debate are not the appropriate solution to the drug affordability problem, and could have a negative effect on drug safety.
The Administration is aware of several amendments that could be offered on the Senate floor that would weaken existing sanctions against the Cuban government. The Administration believes it is important to uphold and enforce the law to the fullest extent with a view toward preventing unlicenced and excessive travel, enforcing limits on remittances, and ensuring that humanitarian and cultural exchanges actually reach pro-democracy activists in Cuba. Therefore, the Administration would strongly oppose any amendment that weakens sanctions against the Castro regime.
We also understand that an amendment regarding the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) may be offered during Senate floor debate. The Administration would strongly oppose any amendment that would restrict the FCC's ability to assign, via competitive bidding, spectrum licenses that could be used by terrestrial (i.e., non-satellite) services. Such a provision would interfere with the efficient allocation of Federal spectrum licenses, provide a windfall to certain users, and reduce Federal revenues.
Infringement on Executive Authority/Constitutional Responsibilities
The Administration objects to sections 718 and 726 of the Committee bill that infringe upon the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities. Section 718 could impede communications within the Executive Branch to a degree that undercuts the President's ability to exercise his constitutional authorities while section 726 would purport to restrict his authority to make legislative or policy recommendations to Congress.
The Administration also objects to a number of provisions in the Senate Committee-passed bill that would require Committee approval before Executive Branch execution. The Administration will interpret these provisions to require only notification of Congress, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS v. Chadha. We also note that the word "minority," under the heading, "Rural Cooperative Development Grants," should be deleted. The equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment requires that such provisions be narrowly tailored to further a compelling Government interest.