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Statement on Signing the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001

October 23, 2000

I am pleased to sign into law today H.R. 4475, the "Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001." The Act provides over $58 billion in funding for the Nation's vital transportation safety and infrastructure investment needs. The transportation safety improvements contained in this legislation will save lives on our highways and other transportation systems, and the record level of infrastructure investment will help improve the conditions and performance of the Nation's transportation system in support of a strong economy.

The legislation provides critical transportation safety funding and also contains related legislative provisions. Of particular importance is a provision that will help set a national impaired driving standard at 0.08 Blood Alcohol Content and thus reduce drunk driving on our Nation's roads. As I have previously said, this is a reasonable, commonsense standard that could save 500 lives a year, while still permitting adults to drink responsibly and moderately. I wish to commend Senators Lautenberg and Shelby, Congressman Wolf, and Congresswoman Lowey for their bipartisan efforts in seeking inclusion of this provision. The legislation also includes a compromise measure that will enable the Department of Transportation to proceed with all stages of rulemaking, short of a final rule, on "hours of service" concerning the amount of time drivers of large interstate trucks and buses can spend behind the wheel. It also permits the Department to move forward with its proposal for rollover ratings on cars and light trucks while the National Academy of Sciences studies this issue. In addition, the legislation contains funding increases requested by my Administration for motor carrier safety, pipeline safety, and the automotive defect investigation program.

I am pleased that H.R. 4475 provides the funding levels required by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard. I am particularly pleased with increased funding for modernization of our aviation system envisioned in the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century.

I am disturbed by the provision of H.R. 4475 that blocks the Department of Transportation from evaluating the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Recent data indicate that motor vehicle fuel economy efficiency has declined. I believe that the Department should be allowed to analyze this issue, and I expect the Department to work with the National Academy of Sciences to carry out the CAFE study authorized by the bill to develop workable approaches to energy conservation. The Act provides important funding for Job Access grants that will help hard-pressed working families, including former welfare recipients, get to work. I am disappointed, however, that the bill provides $50 million less than our request for these grants, earmarks 75 percent of the program, and does not include my Administration's proposal to allow Native American tribes to apply directly for this funding.

I am pleased that H.R. 4475 contains $600 million for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. When added to the $900 million already appropriated, this will complete the Federal Government's contribution to this bridge. Likewise, I am pleased that the bill includes an additional $25 million for Indian Reservation Roads.

Our transportation investment must continue to be intermodal and applied to critical needs. Excessive earmarking can undermine this goal, which is why I am disappointed with the widespread earmarking of vital highway, airport, and transit construction and research programs contained in the Act. This earmarking is without regard to criteria established to ensure that these are sound investments. Many earmarks are aimed at projects that have not advanced in the local planning process, and the funding will often lie unused for a long period of time. This deprives ready-to-go projects of needed Federal assistance. I ask the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to work with the Department of Transportation to see that essential projects that can quickly utilize Federal funding are able to move forward.

I am pleased that H.R. 4475 includes additional requested resources for the Internal Revenue Service to implement the bipartisan IRS reform legislation enacted in 1998. The Act also responds to my request for additional resources for counterterrorism programs in the Department of the Treasury, thereby enhancing the Federal Government's efforts to deter and detect terrorist activity and to continue the high level of effort undertaken during Millennium celebration events.

I am pleased that H.R. 4475 includes funding the Unanticipated Needs account, which can be used by the President to meet needs in furtherance of the national interest, security, or defense. I am especially pleased this account includes the funding I sought to assist the people of Puerto Rico in deciding their islands' future status, an issue that the Puerto Ricans have long asked us to clarify. Other Presidents and I have sought legislative action, and there has been some, but this is the first piece of legislation passed by both Houses of Congress that supports Puerto Rico choosing its future status. The account also provides funds to educate Puerto Ricans on the available options, relying on the Office of the President to ensure the options presented to the voters are realistic in light of the Constitution and the basic laws and policies of the United States. Once the options have been presented, the account also funds a vote by the Puerto Rican people to choose what their status should be. I am already working to clarify the options, and I am also working to ensure that the next President will continue the effort to resolve this issue.

I also note that language purporting to require congressional committee approval for a plan to spend certain funds is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court's holding in INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983). In addition, section 347 purports to restrict the contents and form of the President's budgetary proposal. This provision would interfere with the President's constitutional power to recommend legislation and will accordingly be construed as advisory.

Overall, H.R. 4475 makes a positive contribution to meeting the transportation and other needs of this country. I am pleased to sign it into law.


The White House, October 23, 2000.

NOTE: H.R. 4475, approved October 23, was assigned Public Law No. 106-346.

William J. Clinton, Statement on Signing the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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