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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 9, 1997


I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 1469, the "Supplemental Appropriations and Rescissions Act, FY 1997." The congressional majority -- despite the obvious and urgent need to speed critical relief to people in the Dakotas, Minnesota, California, and 29 other States ravaged by flooding and other natural disasters -- has chosen to weigh down this legislation with a series of unacceptable provisions that it knows will draw my veto. The time has come to stop playing politics with the lives of Americans in need and to send me a clean, unencumbered disaster relief bill that I can and will sign the moment it reaches my desk.

On March 19, 1997, I sent the Congress a request for emergency disaster assistance and urged the Congress to approve it promptly. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees acted expeditiously to approve the legislation. The core of this bill, appropriately, provides $5.8 billion of much-needed help to people in hard-hit States and, in addition, contains $1.8 billion for the Department of Defense related to our peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Southwest Asia. Regrettably, the Republican leadership chose to include contentious issues totally unrelated to disaster assistance, needlessly delaying essential relief.

The bill contains a provision that would create an automatic continuing resolution for all of fiscal year 1998. While the goal of ensuring that the Government does not shut down again is a worthy one, this provision is ill-advised. The issue here is not about shutting down the Government. Last month, I reached agreement with the Bipartisan Leadership of Congress on a plan to balance the budget by 2002. That agreement is the right way to finish the job of putting our fiscal house in order, consistent with our values and principles. Putting the Government's finances on automatic pilot is not.

The backbone of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement is the plan to balance the budget while providing funds for critical investments in education, the environment, and other priorities. The automatic continuing resolution would provide resources for fiscal year 1998 that are $18 billion below the level contained in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, threatening such investments in our future. For example: college aid would be reduced by $1.7 billion, eliminating nearly 375,000 students from the Pell Grant program; the number of women, infants, and children receiving food and other services through WIC would be cut by an average of 500,000 per month; up to 56,000 fewer children would participate in Head Start; the number of border patrol and FBI agents would be reduced, as would the number of air traffic controllers; and our goal of cleaning up 900 Superfund sites by the year 2000 could not be accomplished.

The bill also contains a provision that would permanently prohibit the Department of Commerce from using statistical sampling techniques in the 2000 decennial census for the purpose of apportioning Representatives in Congress among the States.

Without sampling, the cost of the decennial census will increase as its accuracy, especially with regard to minorities and groups that are traditionally undercounted, decreases substantially. The National Academy of Sciences and other experts have recommended the use of statistical sampling for the 2000 decennial census.

The Department of Justice, under the Carter and Bush Administrations and during my Administration, has issued three opinions regarding the constitutionality and legality of sampling in the decennial census. All three opinions concluded that the Constitution and relevant statutes permit the use of sampling in the decennial census. Federal courts that have addressed the issue have held that the Constitution and Federal statutes allow sampling.

The enrolled bill contains an objectionable provision that would promote the conversion of certain claimed rights-of-way into paved highways across sensitive national parks, public lands, and military installations. Under the provision, a 13-member commission would study the issue and provide recommendations to resolve outstanding Revised Statute (R.S.) 2477 claims. R.S. 2477 was enacted in 1866 to grant rights-of-way for the construction of highways over public lands not already reserved for public uses. It was repealed in 1976, subject to "valid, existing rights."

This provision in the enrolled bill is objectionable because it is cumbersome, flawed, and duplicates the extensive public hearings conducted by the Department of the Interior over the last 4 years. In addition, the proposed commission excludes the Secretary of Defense, but military installations are among the Federal properties that would be affected by the recommendations of the commission. Furthermore, there is no assurance that the proposed commission would provide a balanced representation of views or proper public participation. Under the provision, the Secretary of the Interior can disapprove the commission's recommendations, preventing their submission to the Congress under "fast-track" procedures in the House and Senate. I believe -- and my Administration has stated -- that a better approach would be for Interior to submit a legislative proposal to the Congress within 180 days to clarify R.S. 2477 claim issues permanently, with full congressional and public consideration.

The enrolled bill contains an objectionable provision that funds the Commission for the Advancement of Federal Law Enforcement. I agree with the Fraternal Order of Police and other national law enforcement organizations that certain activities of the Commission, such as evaluating the handling of specific investigative cases, could interfere with Federal law enforcement policy and operations. This type of oversight is most properly the role of Congress, not an unelected review board. If external views about law enforcement programs are needed, a better approach would be to fund the National Commission to Support Law Enforcement.

I also object to two other items in the bill. One reduces funding for the Ounce of Prevention Council by roughly one-third. This reduction would substantially diminish the work of the Council in coordinating crime prevention efforts at the Federal level and assisting community efforts to make their neighborhoods safer. The Council is in the process of awarding $1.8 million for grants to prevent youth substance abuse and of evaluating its existing grant programs. The Council has received over 300 applications from communities and community-based organizations from all across the country for these grants. In addition, the bill reduces funding for the Department of Defense Dual-Use Applications Program. That program helps to develop technologies used and tested by the cost-conscious commercial sector and to incorporate them into military systems. Reducing funding for this program would result in higher costs for future defense systems. The projects selected in this year's competition will save the Department of Defense an estimated $3 billion.

Finally, by including extraneous issues in this bill, the Republican leadership has also delayed necessary funding for maintaining military readiness. The Secretary of Defense has written the Congress detailing the potential disruption of military training.

I urge the Congress to remove these extraneous provisions and to send me a straightforward disaster relief bill that I can sign promptly, so that we can help hard-hit American families and businesses as they struggle to rebuild. Americans in need should not have to endure further delay.



June 9, 1997.

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