Gerald R. Ford photo

Veto of the Appropriations Bill for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare.

September 29, 1976

To the House of Representatives:

Just before adjourning for the final weeks of the election campaign, the Congress has sent me H.R. 14232, the Departments of Labor, and Health, Education, and Welfare appropriations for fiscal year 1977 which begins October 1. This last and second largest of the major Federal appropriation bills to be considered by this Congress is a perfect example of the triumph of election-year politics over fiscal restraint and responsibility to the hard-pressed American taxpayers.

Contained in this bill are appropriations for numerous essential domestic programs which have worthy purposes. My budget for these purposes totaled $52.5 billion, $700 million more than this year. Since 1970 expenditures for these programs have increased at a rate 75% greater than the rate of growth in the overall Federal Budget. Therefore, my 1977 proposals included substantial reforms in the major areas covered by these appropriations designed to improve their efficiency and reduce the growth of Federal bureaucracy and red tape.

The majority in control of this Congress has ignored my reform proposals and added nearly $4 billion in additional spending onto these programs.

The partisan political purpose of this bill is patently clear. It is to present me with the choice of vetoing these inflationary increases and apt)caring heedless of the human needs which these Federal programs were intended to meet, or to sign the measure and demonstrate inconsistency with my previous anti-inflationary vetoes on behalf of the American taxpayer.

It is to present me with the dilemma of offending the voting groups who benefit by these government programs, or offending those primarily concerned with certain restrictions embodied in the bill.

I am sympathetic to the purposes of most of these programs. I agree with the restriction on the use of Federal funds for abortion. My objection to this legislation is based purely and simply on the issue of fiscal integrity.

I believe the American people are wiser than the Congress thinks. They know that compassion on the part of the Federal Government involves more than taking additional cash from their paychecks. They know that inflationary spending and larger deficits must be paid for not only by all Federal taxpayers but by every citizen, including the poor, the unemployed, the retired persons on fixed incomes, through the inevitable reduction in the purchasing power of their dollars.

I believe strongly in compassionate concern for those who cannot help themselves, but I have compassion for the taxpayer, too. My sense of compassion also says that we shouldn't ask the taxpayers to spend their money for a tangled mess of programs that the Congress itself has shown all too often to be wasteful and inefficient--programs which all too often fail to really help those in need.

The Congress says it cares about cutting inflation and controlling Federal spending.

The Congress says it wants to stop fraud and abuse in Federal programs.

The Congress says it wants to end duplication and overlap in Federal activities.

But when you examine this bill carefully you discover that what the Congress says has very little to do with what the Congress does.

If the Congress really cared about cutting inflation and controlling Federal spending, would it send me a bill that is $4 billion over my $52.5 billion request?

If the Congress really wanted to stop fraud and abuse in Federal programs like Medicaid, would it appropriate more money this year than it did last year without any reform?

If the Congress really wanted to end duplication and overlap in Federal activities, would it continue all of these narrow programs this year--at higher funding levels than last year?

If the Congress really wanted to cut the deficit and ease the burden on the taxpayer, would it ignore serious reform proposals?

The resounding answer to all of these questions is no.

Our longtime ally, Great Britain, has now reached a critical point in its illustrious history. The British people must now make some very painful decisions on government spending. As Prime Minister Callaghan courageously said just yesterday, "Britain for too long has lived on borrowed time, borrowed money and borrowed ideas. We will fail if we think we can buy our way out of our present difficulties by printing confetti money and by paying ourselves more than we earn."

I cannot ask American taxpayers to accept unwarranted spending increases without a commitment to serious reform. I do not believe the people want more bureaucratic business as usual. I believe the people want the reforms I have proposed which would target the dollars on those in real need while reducing Federal interference in our daily lives and returning more decision-making freedom to State and local levels where it belongs.

I therefore return without my approval H.R. 14323 [14232], and urge the Congress to enact immediately my budget proposals and to adopt my program reforms.


The White House,

September 29, 1976.

Note: With the votes in both the House and Senate on September 30 to override the President's veto, H.R. 14232 was enacted as Public Law 94-439 (90 Stat. 1418).

Gerald R. Ford, Veto of the Appropriations Bill for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives