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Statement on Signing the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act, 1990

November 03, 1989

Today I have signed into law H.R. 2989, the "Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act, 1990." I want to take this opportunity to thank the Congress for addressing objections raised by the Administration and for presenting me with a bill in which funding levels are generally consistent with the Administration's requests.

This Act provides appropriations for a number of critical programs under the Department of the Treasury, the General Services Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Executive Office of the President, and several other agencies. Funding for these central management agencies is essential to carry out the primary financial and administrative functions of the Federal Government.

I am pleased that the Congress provided funding for the Internal Revenue Service that meets the revenue initiative assumptions of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. This funding should assure that the Internal Revenue Service continues to implement the tax code effectively.

In signing this Act, however, I am compelled to note my strong objection to section 618 of H.R. 2989, which purports to forbid the implementation or enforcement of certain nondisclosure agreements required of Government employees with access to classified information. This provision, which is modeled after a provision that first appeared in the omnibus continuing resolution for fiscal year 1988 (Public Law No. 100 - 202), raises profound constitutional concerns. Last year, in a decision that was subsequently vacated by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds, the latter statutory provision was declared unconstitutional by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Article II of the Constitution confers responsibility on me as President and Commander in Chief to conduct the national defense and foreign affairs of the United States. In this capacity, I have the constitutional duty to ensure the secrecy of information whose disclosure would threaten our national security. The Supreme Court has recognized that the authority commensurate with this duty to protect such information falls on me as head of the executive branch and as Commander in Chief. Department of the Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518, 527 (1988). If we are to achieve success in our diplomatic, military, and intelligence activities, it is critical that I be able to protect the secrets upon which those activities depend.

Although the scope of section 618 is subject to conflicting interpretations, it could be construed as limiting, among other things, my ability to enforce nondisclosure agreements to the extent that they prohibit negligent disclosures of information that an employee has reason to believe is classified. Furthermore, section 618 could suggest that I am prohibited from establishing and enforcing appropriate procedures to control the dissemination of classified information by executive branch employees to Members of Congress.

I believe that section 618, thus construed, would jeopardize the Nation's security by unconstitutionally interfering with my ability to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of information concerning our most sensitive diplomatic, military, and intelligence activities. Accordingly, I direct that executive branch officials implement the provisions of section 618 in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

I note that the provisions of H.R. 2989 authorizing appropriations for the Office of Management and Budget forbid the expenditure of those funds "for the purpose of reviewing any agricultural marketing orders or any activities or regulations under the provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (7 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)." These restrictions also raise constitutional concerns because they impair my ability as President to supervise the executive branch.

In addition, numerous provisions of H.R. 2989 purport to condition my authority, and the authority of affected executive branch officials, to use funds otherwise appropriated by the Act on the approval of various committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate. These provisions constitute legislative veto devices of the kind declared unconstitutional in INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983). Accordingly, I will treat them as having no legal force or effect in this or any other legislation in which they appear. I direct agencies confronted with these devices to consult with the Attorney General to determine whether the grant of authority in question is severable from the unconstitutional condition. See Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Brock, 480 U.S. 678, 684 - 87 (1987).

Finally, I encourage the Congress to continue to present me with spending bills that keep funding at acceptable levels.

George Bush

The White House,

November 3, 1989.

Note: H.R. 2989, approved November 3, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 136.

George Bush, Statement on Signing the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act, 1990 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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