September 4, 1997
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's
views on H.R. 2264, the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services,
Education, 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. We are pleased that the Committee has fully funded Bilingual and Immigrant Education, School to Work, Head Start, Technology Literacy Challenge, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the targeted portion of the Title I formula, and education statistics and assessment. The Administration is also pleased that the Committee has limited the number of appropriations riders, consistent with the terms of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. The House is urged to continue this practice.
As discussed below, the Administration will seek restoration of certain of the Committee's reductions. 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, the Committee bill provides nearly $1 billion more than the President has requested for more than two dozen authorities in the Department of Education, while cutting the President's request by over $1 billion. We strongly 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, particularly, as noted below, those contained in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement.
Unfortunately, the Administration understands that a number of controversial amendments may be offered, such as an amendment to halt the President's national testing initiative, an amendment to prohibit the use of funds in the Act for supervising the Teamster's election, and another amendment to prohibit the Education Department from enforcing federal laws against discrimination in public education admissions through affirmative action or preferences in any State where affirmative action or preferences are prohibited by State law. In addition, certain provisions of the Committee bill, such as the lack of funding for the President's America Reads Challenge, are contrary to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. If such policies were adopted, particularly in light of other concerns raised in this Statement of Administration Policy, the President's senior advisers would be forced to recommend that the President veto the bill.
Department of Education
The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to provide substantial new funding for education activities. Unfortunately, the Committee has failed to provide the $260 million necessary for the President's America Reads Challenge in the Department of Education, and the bill provides only $10 million of the $42 million requested for America Reads in the portion of the Corporation for National and Community Service budget funded by this bill. The Committee has provided advance funding for America Reads to the Department of Education for FY 1999, pending new authorization, which would produce a full year's delay in getting needed reading assistance to millions of children. The Bipartisan Budget Agreement specifically calls for funding a literacy program, "consistent with the goals and concepts of the President's America Reads program" at the levels proposed in the President's FY 1998 Budget. America Reads is one of the Administration's highest funding priorities. The Administration believes that full FY 1998 funding for this initiative should be restored to both the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service activities funded in this bill and in the VA/HUD Appropriations bill.
The Administration is working closely with the authorizing committees to develop legislation effective for FY 1998. There is ample time to enact legislation, as needed, by April 1 for a program that would begin on July 1, in time for summer activities and the 1998-1999 school year. The Administration also strongly urges the Congress to include in this Act a provision to make the funds available on April 1 under existing authorities, in the event that final action on the authorization bill is not completed in a timely manner.
The Administration is strongly opposed to amendments that would bring a halt to the President's national testing initiative. The national tests proposed by the President are critical because they will, for the first time, provide students, parents, and teachers the opportunity to measure how well students are performing in comparison to other students nationally and internationally and, as a result, they will help hold schools accountable to parents and communities for the performance of all students. The Department of Education has the authority to develop these tests under the Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE). We support the bill's requirement that the Department of Education contract with the National Academy of Science to conduct a study and report on the testing initiative. In addition, we support legislation to place overall responsibility for the testing initiative with the independent, bipartisan National Assessment Government Board.
The Administration urges the House to provide adequate funding for the FIE program that finances this testing initiative, so that sufficient funding will also be available for continuations, new awards, and congressional directives.
The Bipartisan Budget Agreement specifies funding at the levels proposed in the President's budget for Pell grants, which supports both a $3,000 maximum award and expanded eligibility for independent students. The Committee bill cuts the Pell request by over $197 million, and does not authorize the Administration's proposed independent student policy. This authorization is no different from the Committee's annual procedure of authorizing the maximum Pell grant award. We urge the House to fully fund Pell grants and to authorize both the maximum award and the independent student change.
The Committee bill funds Education Reform at $1.13 billion, $110 million below the level agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. Within the total, Goals 2000 is funded at only $475 million, $145 million below the request. Goals 2000 funds provide essential support to every State's education improvement strategy. We strongly urge the House to restore full funding for Goals 2000.
The Administration strongly opposes a proposed amendment that would prohibit the investigation of violations by and imposition of penalties upon States that do not comply with the statutory requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 to serve eligible individuals with disabilities age 18 or older in adult State prisons. The Amendments reduced States' burden by reducing the number of eligible individuals and by limiting the types of services that must be provided. Since prison education programs have a positive affect on reducing recidivism and on post release employment success, the requirement to serve this population should be properly enforced.
The Administration urges the House to fund Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFSC) at the President's FY98 request of $620 million, $64 million above the House mark. SDFSC, the largest Federal school-based drug and violence prevention program, serves more than 40 million students in over 97 percent of the nation's school districts and is an essential component of a comprehensive effort to reduce teen drug use.
The Administration is concerned about a proposed amendment that would cut funding for the Statistics program by $14 million, which would mean that the Department of Education would not be able to move forward on a number of studies, including those providing key data on early childhood, student achievement, teachers, and adult literacy. The Administration urges the House to oppose this proposed amendment, and to provide the requested level.
The Committee has included language amending the definition of an eligible lender in the Federal Family Education Loan Program. The language would provide a broad exception to the current limitation on how much of a bank's portfolio can be guaranteed student loans, including loans that a bank holds as a trustee for a third party. It would also allow finance companies, the financial solvency of which is not regulated by a public entity as are banks, to be eligible lenders. Both of these provisions would increase the Federal exposure to financial risk and weaken parts of the statute that have been passed specifically in response to prior abuses. The provision should be stricken from the bill.
We urge the House to fund at the President's Budget level other high priority Education programs, including Adult Education, Eisenhower Professional Development, and Charter Schools.
Department of Health and Human Services
The Administration is deeply concerned that the Committee has failed to provide $21 million for the Administration's new Adoption Initiative. The goal of this program is to double the number of children adopted or permanently placed outside of child welfare systems by FY 2002. The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund this urgently-needed program at the President's requested level.
An amendment has been made in order that would include a prohibition on the purchase of managed care coverage that includes abortion. The President believes that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. However, the amendment would not only maintain, but would further limit the range of conditions under which a woman's health would permit access to abortion. Furthermore, it would require a physician to make a legal determination that these conditions have been met. The Administration opposes this attempt to constrain further the availability of abortion services and strongly urges the House not to adopt the amendment. Nonetheless, it is helpful that the amendment is clear that limitations on the use of Federal funds to provide abortion services under managed care plans do not affect in any way the ability of States to provide such coverage using their own funds, nor the ability of managed care providers to participate in Federally-funded programs while also offering other coverage paid for by State or private funds.
The Administration supports efforts to encourage minors to discuss their health care needs with their families. However, the Administration is concerned about a potential amendment on the House Floor requiring parental consent for minors to receive contraceptive health services in Title X Family Planning clinics. Mandating parental consent for contraceptive services could discourage sexually active minors from seeking health care and reproductive counseling services and, thus, lead to even more unwarranted pregnancies, more abortions, and more sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, among our Nation's youth. As an alternative, the Administration prefers the amendment made in order in the rule that requires clinics to certify that they encourage family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services and that they provide counseling to minors on resisting attempts to coerce minors into engaging in sexual activities. The Administration does not support two likely amendments that would decrease funding for the Title X Family Planning program below the request of $203 million.
An amendment may be offered that would prohibit the use of funds in the Act for needle exchange programs. The Administration opposes such an amendment. Under current law, the Secretary may authorize such programs only after scientific study and a formal determination that they would both prevent the spread of disease and not contribute to drug abuse. The Department is currently engaged in this research. It is premature to foreclose the possible public health benefits before the scientific evidence has even been considered.
The House Committee has not provided funding for the Medicare Transaction System (MTS), noting criticisms of the MTS design. The President's $89 million request would fund consolidation of HCFA's current contractor systems, which needs to occur prior to, and independent of, final resolution of MTS design issues. The Committee also notes that funding for the Medicare Integrity Program, established by the Kassebaum-Kennedy legislation, could be used to fund MTS. We believe that using Medicare Integrity Program funding for this purpose would be inappropriate since that program was established specifically to combat fraud and abuse. To the extent possible, the Administration urges the House to restore funding for MTS to the requested level.
The Administration is pleased that the Committee has provided the requested increase of $40 million over FY 1997 for Ryan White AIDS Treatment Grants, and an additional $132 million to help States purchase drugs. However, the Committee has not allocated the $40 million increase among the Titles of the Ryan White CARE Act toward primary care as proposed in the FY 1998 Budget. The Administration's proposed allocation targets additional resources to those Titles that emphasize the delivery of primary care, a particularly important priority now that the prospects for medical care for people infected with HIV have improved dramatically. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that the resources provided to the Ryan White AIDS Treatment Grants are distributed in a way that is consistent with the priorities placed on primary care in the President's budget.
The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill does not appropriate a specific amount for AIDS research through a single appropriation for the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) Office of AIDS Research, as requested in the President's budget. The single appropriation would help NIH plan and target NIH research funds effectively, minimizing duplication and inefficiencies across the 21 institutes and centers that carry out HIV/AIDS research.
The Administration is concerned that the Committee has not provided the full increase requested for HIV prevention programs of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Budget proposes a $17 million increase for this activity to target HIV prevention for intravenous drug users at risk of developing the virus. The Administration urges the House to provide the full requested amount to the extent possible.
The President's Budget includes $39 million for welfare research. The Committee has provided only $21 million. In order to gauge the effects of welfare reform, review and monitoring research is needed now more than ever. The Administration urges the House to fund welfare research at the President's requested level.
Department of Labor
The Bipartisan Budget Agreement specifies funding at the levels proposed in the President's budget for Training and Employment Services (TES), including Job Corps. The Committee mark is $233 million below this level. The Committee has provided $100 million in FY 1999 for the Youth Opportunity Area proposal, subject to enactment of authorizing legislation. This program is an essential component of the Administration's Enterprise Zones/Empowerment Communities initiative. It may be carried out under existing legislation, and a separate authorization is not necessary. The House is urged to provide resources for this initiative in FY 1998, without the restriction imposed by the Committee.
We understand that an amendment may be offered that would further reduce funding for the Job Training Partnership Act's low-income adult training grant program by $21 million, and thus deny training and employment services to some 7,000 low-income adults and welfare recipients pursuing economic self-sufficiency. We strongly urge the House to reject the amendment.
The Committee has failed to provide $89 million for spending on UI "integrity" initiatives (e.g., increased eligibility reviews, tax audits). This spending is explicitly assumed in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and would, over five years, achieve $763 million in mandatory savings assumed in the Act. The House is urged to provide this increase.
On July 17, 1997, the President sent to Congress a budget amendment for $6.2 million for the Labor Department to administer the $3 billion Welfare-to-Work program. This program is agreed to by Congress in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, effective October 1, 1997. We urge the House to add these funds.
The Committee has provided $981 million, an increase of $32 million over the FY 1997 enacted level, for the Department of Labor workplace protection programs, about half of the President's proposed increase. Without the requested increase, the Department will not be able to carry out a balanced program of targeted enforcement with expanded partnerships and compliance assistance in the regulated community, or streamline its operations to provide assistance to small businesses in complying with various workplace laws and related executive orders, such as the systems and technical assistance improvements requested for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance. In addition, funding for the independent National Labor Relations Board has been frozen, a cut of $11 million below the request. The Administration urges the House to enact the Administration's request for these programs.
Social Security Administration
The Committee has provided $245 million for additional Continuing Disability Review (CDR) funding and SSI reforms implementation, $45 million less than the President's request. This amount is not subject to the discretionary spending caps. Failure to provide the additional funds would mean that some 15 percent fewer individuals would have their status reviewed in FY 1998, potentially costing hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits to individuals who would have been found no longer eligible. We urge the House to provide the additional $45 million.
Additional Administration concerns with the Committee bill are contained in the attachment.