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Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval Appropriations Legislation for Commerce, Justice, and Foreign Affairs

October 25, 1999

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 2670, the "Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000."

This legislation should embody the continuing commitment of this Administration on a broad range of fundamental principles. First and foremost amongst these tenets is the notion that the United States of America should be the safest country in the world. Our families must feel secure in their neighborhoods. Since 1993, the progress realized toward that end has been impressive and must not be impeded.

Moreover, America must continue to lead the community of nations toward a safer, more prosperous and democratic world. This guidepost has for generations advanced the cause of peace and freedom internationally, and an erosion of this policy is untenable and unacceptable at this critical moment in history.

This great Nation serves as example to the world of a just and humane society. We must continue to lead by our example and maintain a system that vigorously protects and rigorously respects the civil rights of individuals, the dignity of every citizen, and the basic justice and fairness afforded to every American.

Unfortunately, this bill fails to uphold these principles.

Specifically, and most notably, the bill fails to adequately fund the proposed 21st Century Policing Initiative, which builds on the success of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. I requested $1.275 billion in new appropriations, and this bill provides only $325 million. To date, the COPS program has funded more than 100,000 additional police officers for our streets. The 21st Century Policing initiative would place an additional 30,000 to 50,000 police officers on the street over the next 5 years and would expand the concept of community policing to include community prosecution, law enforcement technology assistance, and crime prevention. Funding the COPS program required a bipartisan commitment, and it paid off; recently released statistics show that we have the lowest murder rate in 31 years and the longest continuous decline in crime on record. I strongly believe we must forge a similar commitment to support the COPS program's logical successor.

The bill would also threaten America's ability to lead in the world by failing to meet our obligation to pay our dues and our debts to the United Nations. This is a problem I have been working with the Congress to resolve for several years, but this bill fails to provide a solution.

Though the bill does include adequate funds to support our annual contribution to the United Nations regular budget, it conditions the funding on separate authorizing legislation, continuing an unacceptable linkage to an unrelated issue. For this reason, because of additional provisions, and because the bill is inconsistent with provisions agreed to by the authorizing committees, the bill would still cause the United States to lose its vote in the United Nations. It would undercut efforts that matter to America in which the U.N. plays an important role, from our fight against terrorism and proliferation, to our efforts to promote human rights, the well-being of children, and the health of our environment. It would undermine our ability to shape the U.N.'s agenda in all these areas and to press for reforms that will make its work more effective. All this is unacceptable. Great nations meet their responsibilities, and I am determined that we will meet ours.

In addition, the bill includes only $200 million for International Peacekeeping Activities, a reduction of almost 60-percent from my request. The requested level of $485 million is necessary to meet anticipated peacekeeping requirements in East Timor, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. In each of these places, the United States has worked with allies and friends to end conflicts that have claimed countless innocent lives and thrown whole regions into turmoil. In each case, the U.N. either has been or may be asked to help implement fragile peace agreements, by performing essential tasks such as separating adversaries, maintaining cease-fires, enabling refugees to go home, training police forces, and overseeing civilian institutions. In each case, as in all U.N. peacekeeping missions, other countries will pay 75 percent of the cost and provide virtually all the military personnel.

It is clearly in America's national interest to support an institution through which other countries share the burden of making peace. Refusing to do our part would be dangerous and self-defeating. It could undermine fragile peace agreements that America helped forge, and spark new emergencies to which we could only respond later at far greater cost. It would leave America with an unacceptable choice in times of conflict and crisis abroad: a choice between acting alone and doing nothing.

The bill includes a number of provisions regarding the conduct of foreign affairs that raise serious constitutional concerns. Provisions concerning Jerusalem are objectionable on constitutional, foreign policy, and operational grounds. The actions called for by these provisions would prejudice the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian permanent status negotiations, which have recently begun and which the parties are committed to concluding within a year. The bill also includes a provision that could be read to prevent the United States from engaging in diplomatic efforts regarding the Kyoto protocol. Applying restrictions to the President's authority to engage in international negotiations and activities raises serious constitutional concerns. Other provisions that should be deleted from the bill because they would unconstitutionally constrain the President's authority include provisions on Haiti, Vietnam, and command and control of United Nations Peacekeeping efforts. My Administration's objections to these and other language provisions have been made clear in previous statements of Administration policy regarding this bill.

This bill does not contain a needed hate crimes provision that was included in the Senate version of the bill. I urge the Congress to pass legislation in a timely manner that would strengthen the Federal Government's ability to combat hate crimes by relaxing jurisdictional obstacles and by giving Federal prosecutors the ability to prosecute hate crimes that are based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability, along with those based on race, color, religion, and national origin.

The bill freezes the funding level for the Legal Services Corporation. Adequate funding for legal services is essential to ensuring that all citizens have access to the Nation's justice system. I urge the Congress to fully fund my request, which provides an increase of $40 million over the FY 1999 enacted level. Also, funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is frozen at the enacted level. This level would undermine EEOC's progress in reducing the backlog of employment discrimination cases.

Similarly, inadequate funding is provided for the United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The bill does not fund my requested $13 million increase for the Civil Rights Division, including increases for law enforcement actions related to hate crimes, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and fair housing and lending. I ask the Congress to restore requested funds for these law enforcement enhancements.

The bill contains adequate funding for the decennial census, but I oppose language that could inhibit the Census Bureau's ability to actually conduct the census. The bill would require the Census Bureau to obtain approval from certain committees if it chooses to shift funds among eight functions or frameworks. This approval process would impose an unnecessary and potentially time-consuming constraint on the management of the decennial census. It is imperative that we move forward on the census; this legislation could impede it.

The United States has recently entered into the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Agreement. The agreement ends years of contention between the U.S. and Canada regarding expired fishing harvest restrictions and provides for improved fisheries management. This bill includes extraneous legislative riders that would hinder the implementation of that important Agreement. These riders would prohibit the application of the Endangered Species Act to Alaskan salmon fisheries and would change the voting structure of the Pacific Salmon Commission, the decisionmaking body established by the Agreement. In essence, the voting structure rider would prevent the Federal Government from negotiating agreements that balance the interests of all States. In addition to the riders, the bill provides only $10 million of the $60 million requested to implement the Salmon Agreement. Similarly, funding for the Salmon Recovery Fund falls far short of that needed to work cooperatively with the States of Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska and with Treaty Tribes to help them mount effective State-based plans to restore Pacific coastal salmon runs. These shortfalls together would severely inhibit our ability to recover this important species.

In addition, the enrolled bill does not provide my request for a number of other environmental programs, including my Lands Legacy Initiative, Endangered Species Act activities, the Clean Water Action Plan, and the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program. The additional funds required to bring these programs to my requested levels are small compared to the benefits they provide to our natural resources.

The bill does not include $100 million in new funding for the Drug Intervention Program, which would have provided critical assistance to State and local governments developing and implementing comprehensive systems for drug testing, drug treatment, and graduated sanctions for drug offenders. These resources are critical to reducing drug use in America.

The bill does not provide additional requested funding to the Justice Department for tobacco litigation. Smoking-related health expenses cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year through Medicare, veterans' and military health, and other Federal health programs. The Department of Justice needs the $20 million I requested to represent the interests of the taxpayers, who should not have to bear the responsibility for these staggering costs.

This bill would also hurt our Nation's small businesses. The level provided for the Small Business Administration's (SBA's) operating expenses would inhibit my Administration's ability to provide service to the Nation's 24 million small businesses. The bill also fails to provide sufficient funds for the Disaster Loan program within the SBA. Without additional funding, the SBA will not be able to respond adequately to the needs arising from Hurricane Floyd and other natural disasters. In addition, the bill does not include funds for my New Markets Initiative to invest in targeted rural and urban areas.

The bill fails to include a proposed provision to clarify current law and protect taxpayer interests in the telecommunications spectrum auction process. Currently, $5.6 billion of bid-for-spectrum is tied up in bankruptcy court, with a very real risk that spectrum licensees will be able to retain spectrum at a fraction of its real market value. The requested provision would maintain the integrity of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction process while also ensuring speedy deployment of new telecommunications services. The bill would also deny funds needed by the FCC for investments in technology to better serve the communications industry. Also, the bill does not provide sufficient funds for the continued operations of the FCC. The Commission requires additional funds to invest in technology to serve the communications industry more effectively.

In conference action, a rider was added that would amend the recently-enacted Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act to expand the prohibition of discrimination against individuals who refuse to "prescribe" contraceptives to individuals who "otherwise provide for" contraceptives (all nonphysician providers) in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. As an example, this language could allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptive prescriptions. This action violated jurisdictional concerns and is also unacceptable policy.

The bill underfunds a number of high-priority programs within the Department of Commerce. My Administration sought an additional $9 million to help public broadcasters meet the Federal deadline to establish digital broadcasting capability by May 1, 2003. The bill would provide less than half of last year's funding level for the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office. The bill also fails to fund the Department's other programs to protect critical information and communications infrastructures. The Congress must restore these funds if the Department is to continue performing its important and emerging role in coordinating activities that support our economic and national security.

The bill does not include any funds to reimburse Guam and other territories for the costs of detaining and repatriating smuggled Chinese aliens. These entities deserve our support for assisting in this interdiction effort.

I look forward to working with the Congress to craft an appropriations bill that I can support, and to passage of one that will facilitate our shared objectives.


The White House, October 25, 1999.

NOTE: This message was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on October 26.

William J. Clinton, Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval Appropriations Legislation for Commerce, Justice, and Foreign Affairs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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