THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
LETTER FROM WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF LEON PANETTA TO HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH
Honorable Newt Gingrich
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
At last week's White House meeting with the joint leadership, President Clinton expressed his desire to avoid a shutdown of government if Congress does not complete its work on the fiscal 1996 appropriations bills by the October 1 deadline. He was gratified that the leadership expressed willingness to work with him on a continuing resolution that would prvent a shutdown.
We remain committed to working with you. Consequently, I was disappointed that I had to read in the newspaper this morning about your proposal for a continuing resolution instead of hearing it from you directly. I am encouraged, however, that you and the Republican leadership are focusing on this issue. With that in mind, I want to state clearly the Administration's position when it comes to a short-term continuing resolution.
Presuming that Congress will not finish its work on time, the President wants to sign a short-term continuing resolution that is "clean" -- free of legislative language -- and that does not prejudge the outcome on unfinished appropriations. We are pleased that you plan a clean bill, but disturbed by the spending formula that you want to impose. You apparently want to provide programs with the lowest of the House-proposed, Senate-proposed, or enacted 1995 levels of funding, while providing minimal funding for programs that would otherwise receive nothing. Such a formula would, indeed, bias spending decisions against the President's priorities, particularly because the Republican majority has targeted key presidential priorities, such as education and the environment, for elimination or deep cuts.
For purposes of the continuing resolution only, the President would accept the savings level established by the 602(a) allocation for discretionary spending in the Congressional Budget Resolution, but he wants an across-the-board formula for spending levels that treats programs equally, leaving final judgments about specific spending levels and priorities to each of the 13 appropriations bills.
That is a formula that makes sense. It accepts, for purposes of the continuing resolution, the overall level of discretionary spending that you proposed in your budget resolution. But it does not lean toward anyone's specific priorities -- those of the Congress or those of the President.
Finally, the President would prefer a short continuing resolution.
You have proposed one that lasts some six weeks. We believe Congress should be able to complete its work more quickly.
Again, we pledge to work with you on a fair short-term continuing resolution that will avoid a shutdown and give Congress time to complete the work that remains on appropriations bills.
Leon E. Panetta
Chief of Staff
Identical letters sent Honorable Bob Dole, Bob Livingston, Mark Hatfield.