THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
I am pleased that Congress today passed a VA/HUD bill that will open the doors of opportunity in America for those who need it most, improve veterans' medical care, build on our agenda for national energy security and strengthen our commitment to the environment.
This legislation builds on my opportunity agenda with increased funding for economic development through Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities and Community Development Financial Institutions -- all part of my New Markets Initiative -- and with 79,000 new housing vouchers for low-income families. This agreement also increases support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's emergency food and shelter programs, which work with states and communities to help the homeless and hungry. We are also strengthening our commitment to national service with additional support for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the first increase since the inception of this critical volunteer agency in 1993.
With this legislation, we also support the significant expansion of cutting-edge basic scientific research at the National Science Foundation. This includes research in nano-technology -- the manipulation of matter at the molecular and atomic level -- which holds the promise of scientific breakthroughs in a wide range of fields. It also advances scientific research through support for space exploration at NASA. Especially at this time of elevated fuel prices, I am also pleased that this bill provides resources for technologies to increase fuel efficiency, an essential part of our long- term strategy to reduce dependence on oil.
This bill also contains increased funding for enforcement of the nation's environmental laws and for the cleanup of polluted waterways. In addition it drops or fixes several objectionable riders that threatened to harm our environment. Yet, while we were able to ameliorate the impact of the remaining riders, we were not able to rid this bill entirely of objectionable provisions, in particular the rider relating to ozone.
This legislation also provides the additional $1.5 billion I requested for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest increase ever requested by any Administration. This funding will support efforts to improve veterans' medical care and the delivery of key services, including disability benefits.
I also am pleased that, in response to my veto, Congress has dropped a rider on the Energy/Water bill that would have undermined key environmental protections by preventing a return to more natural flows on the Missouri River. These forward steps are clear proof of the progress we can achieve when we work together to address the nation's priorities.