This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Bill, FY 2000, as reported by the House Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to accommodate the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation. Within the 302(b) allocation, the Subcommittee made difficult choices to produce a balanced bill. Unfortunately, the Committee has adopted an amendment that reduces the bill below the levels necessary to provide services that our citizens need and expect.
The President's FY 2000 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending that meet important national needs while conforming to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings proposals in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. Congress has approved and the President has signed into law nearly $29 billion of such offsets in appropriations legislation since 1995. The Administration urges the Congress to consider such proposals as the FY 2000 appropriations process moves forward. In particular, with respect to this bill, the Administration urges the Congress to consider our proposals for Customs user fees.
The following discussion highlights our specific concerns with the Committee-reported bill. We look forward to working with you to resolve these issues as the bill moves forward.
Committee Reductions to Internal Revenue Service and General Services Administration
The Administration strongly opposes the House Committee reduction to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) programs. The Committee has reduced IRS resources by $139 million from levels requested in the President's FY 2000 Budget. These cuts would seriously jeopardize Commissioner Rossotti's critical efforts to modernize the IRS and improve service as mandated by the Restructuring and Reform Act (RRA) of 1998. This landmark, bipartisan legislation established 71 new taxpayer rights provisions and mandated an entire new direction for the IRS. Implementing these provisions will require additional staff time and technology changes. Program reductions forced by the Committee cuts would significantly impair the ability of the IRS to implement the reforms that were mandated by the RRA and that have been embraced by both the Congress and the Administration. These program reductions would also threaten to make it more difficult to ensure a compliance effort robust enough to maintain taxpayer confidence in the fairness of the tax system.
The Administration strongly opposes the Committee's $100 million reduction to the request for building repairs and alterations in the General Services Administration's Federal Buildings Fund. This 15-percent reduction from the President's budget would postpone critically needed life, safety, and building systems repairs and would impede GSA's ability to maintain and modernize its aging inventory of Government-owned buildings.
Possible Additional Cuts to Program Funding Levels
We understand that an amendment may be offered on the House Floor proposing significant additional cuts to this bill. The Administration would strongly oppose such an amendment. Funding levels provided in the President's budget for programs funded though this bill meet important and essential national needs. Additional cuts could further hamper IRS efforts to implement successfully reforms mandated by the Restructuring and Reform Act; endanger basic tax processing; weaken important crime-fighting programs that target drug, financial, and violent crimes; possibly slow trade and passenger processing at Customs stations nationwide; and, further reduce needed funding for Federal building repair and modernization.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
The Administration is concerned that the House Committee has not included the requested $15 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm's (ATF's) headquarters site acquisition. The current location of ATF's headquarters does not meet the minimum security guidelines as described in the Department of Justice's 1995 Vulnerability Assessment and is less secure than many Federal buildings that do not house a law enforcement agency. To ensure adequate security for ATF employees, we urge the Committee to fund the President's request for ATF's site acquisition.
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
The Administration strongly opposes sections 509 and 510 of the bill. These provisions would restrict Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) coverage for abortions except in situations where the life of the mother is endangered or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. While the President believes that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, the Administration does not believe that Federal employees and their families should be precluded from choosing to purchase health insurance that includes broader coverage. The Administration believes that the decision to cover abortion should be left to each health plan participating in the FEHBP. Federal employees who wished to purchase health coverage that does not include abortion services would have that choice. The provision in the Committee bill does not allow Federal employees and their families to make that choice.
The Administration supports the provision of the Committee bill (section 635) that continues current law requiring coverage of prescription contraceptives by health plans participating in the FEHBP and would strongly oppose an amendment to strike or modify it. We support improvements in the basic health care coverage for women and the goal of the provision: to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the need for abortion.
Salary of the President
The Administration commends the action of the Committee to raise the President's salary, effective with the beginning of the next Presidential term on January 20, 2001. The President's salary has not been increased for 30 years and, as a result, has declined significantly relative to inflation and wage growth in the economy. An increase would restore an appropriate relationship between the President's salary and the salaries of other senior Government officials and, in addition, would bring the salary of the President more in line with the duties and responsibilities of the Office.
Federal Buildings Fund
The Administration is concerned that the Committee has not provided the requested $94 million for new construction projects in the Federal Buildings Fund, including the design and construction of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) headquarters (phase I), the design and/or construction of five border stations, and the demolition of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Postponement of these projects would result in inefficient space utilization by housing the FDA in 48 buildings at 20 locations and the U.S. Mission in a building that is too small to meet its needs. Postponement would also adversely affect public safety at five border stations because the transportation infrastructure is inadequate to accommodate increased traffic volumes. We would support efforts to include funding for these projects.
Separation of Powers
Section 622 of the bill raises substantial separation of powers concerns because it could be read to limit the ability of the President and his appointed heads of departments to supervise and control the operations of and communications of the Executive Branch, including the control of privileged and national security information. We therefore object to this provision.
There are numerous provisions in the bill that purport to require congressional approval before Executive Branch execution of aspects of the bill. Specifically, these provisions purport to condition the spending of already appropriated funds on less-than-full legislative action. The Administration will interpret such provisions to require notification only, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS v. Chadha.
Additional Administration concerns are contained in the attachment.
TREASURY AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT
(AS REPORTED BY THE HOUSE COMMITTEE)
General Services Administration
- Policy and Operations. The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill does not include $10 million for "Accessibility for People with Disabilities," which implements section 508 of the Workforce Investment Partnership Act (P.L. 105-220) passed by Congress on August 7, 1998. This reduction would eliminate $8 million to fund a coordinated, inter-agency effort and $2 million for an underwriters laboratory to ensure interoperability and standardization of information technology hardware and software for use by people with disabilities. This initiative would promote and support employment by people with disabilities as envisioned by the Americans with Disabilities Act and ensure that participation by Americans with disabilities will become integral to the digital transformation of American society.
National Archives and Records Administration
Records Declassification. The Administration objects to the proposed $5 million reduction to the request for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to accelerate the declassification of Federal records. Pursuant to Executive Order 12958, "Classified National Security Information," agencies must review all records 25 years old or older for declassification by April 17, 2000. As the agency responsible for oversight of the Government's entire classification and declassification program and one of the four agencies most heavily involved in records declassification (others include CIA, Defense, and Energy), NARA would use the additional funding to support 50 additional declassification experts as well as to strengthen the Information Security Oversight Office to help it meet this deadline.
Office of National Drug Control Policy
- Funding Priorities. The Administration is concerned about the Committee's funding of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). While aggregate funding exceeds the Administration's request, there are several components that are under-funded. The Committee has decreased funding for policy research; has cut back the necessary funding for maintaining clearinghouse services; has eliminated funding for performance measures data collection; and, has cut funding by $250,000 to reduce the Office of Legislative Affairs by four FTE. The Administration requests that these cuts be restored.
Morris K. Udall Scholarship Fund
- General Funding. The Administration urges the Committee to restore funding for the Morris K. Udall Scholarship Fund to the requested level. The Scholarship Fund took a one-time reduction last year in order to finance start-up operations for the Udall Foundation's new Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution. This reduction should be restored in order to continue capitalization of the Scholarship Fund to increase the number of scholarships awarded to promote studies in the natural environment and in Native American health and tribal policy.
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
- The Administration opposes inclusion of section 514 in the bill, which would extend the one-year moratorium enacted in last year's bill on the application of Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) to experience rated contracts awarded under the FEHBP. The provision is unnecessary in light of the waiver on application of CAS to the FEHBP awarded last year by the Cost Accounting Standards Board under its existing authority. The affected parties have been working to address the range of issues presented. Any new statutory waiver would cut short this work prematurely, before long-term solutions are achieved, costing the Federal Government millions of dollars annually, based on CBO estimates.