THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Littleton, Colorado) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 20, 1999
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today, the Senate approved the emergency resources I requested to support our mission in Kosovo. Congressional support for this mission means our military forces can sustain the air campaign until we prevail. It sends a clear signal to the Milosevic regime that the Congress and the American people are committed to this mission. And the resources I requested for the Defense Department will keep our military readiness strong.
At the same time the bill includes resources critical to helping the international community and the frontline countries of Southeast Europe cope with the massive humanitarian crisis and other immediate spillover effects of the conflict and Milosevic's brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing.
This emergency funding package will also provide urgently needed resources to help Central Americans repair and rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. With these funds, farmers can plant new crops in the final weeks of the growing season; roads, hospitals, and schools can be rebuilt; and Central Americans can look to the future with hope, knowing that America is standing with them. The legislation will support the improving prospects for peace in the Middle East by providing additional assistance to strengthen Jordan's economy and security. This emergency funding also provides resources for victims of natural disasters at home, and for our farmers in distress due to depressed crop prices.
While I am pleased that Congress has finally acted to fund our mission in the Balkans, to support the Middle East peace process and to help American farmers and the victims of Hurricane Mitch, it is unfortunate that Members tacked unnecessary and ill-advised special projects onto essential emergency legislation. Were it not for the pressing needs in Kosovo, Central America, the Middle East and America's heartland, I would have rejected several of these measures that reward special interests, weaken environmental protection, and undermine our campaign to stop teen smoking. This is no way to do the people's business, and I will not tolerate this kind of special interest meddling as we complete the annual budget process.
This final legislation does show significant improvement upon Congress's earlier versions. Gone are the Congress's proposed cuts that weakened anti-terrorism programs, especially embassy security upgrades; that threatened to undermine global economic stability by denying U.S. funds to multi-lateral development banks; and that imperiled the government's ability to continue fixing its computers for the Year 2000. Congress also removed or modified certain objectionable riders that, for example, would have blocked our efforts to protect the sensitive waters in Alaska's Glacier Bay, and weakened the Endangered Species Act.
It is a mistake for Congress to use this bill as a vehicle for a range of special interest provisions harmful to the environment and to the prudent stewardship of our nation's natural resources. Several highly objectionable provisions remain in the final bill. For example, there are provisions that undermine our ability to ensure that mining on federal lands is done in an environmentally responsible manner. And by extending a moratorium on the Department of Interior's proposed oil valuation rules, the Congress is preventing the collection of fair royalty payments from the oil companies that extract oil from public lands. Again, I want to be clear that were it not for the truly emergency needs to which this bill responds I would be rejecting these environmental riders. I call on Congress to end these stealth attempts to weaken environmental and public health protections. I have vetoed bills in the past because they contained anti-environmental riders and, if necessary, am fully prepared to do so again.
Finally, Congress passed up an important opportunity to protect our children from the death and diseases caused by tobacco. This is wrong. I am also extremely disappointed that the Congress acted against recoupment of funds collected by the States from tobacco manufacturers and does not require States to use even a portion of those funds to prevent youth smoking. Even though 3,000 young people become regular smokers every day and 1,000 will have their lives cut short as a result, most states still have no plans to use tobacco settlement funds to reduce youth smoking. I will closely monitor state efforts in this area and I will continue to fight for a nationwide effort to reduce youth smoking through counter-advertising, prevention activities, and restrictions on youth access to tobacco products.