March 17, 1999
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on S. 544, a bill making FY 1999 emergency supplemental appropriations, as
reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill as reported by
the Committee provides urgently needed funding to assist in Central
America's recovery from recent natural disasters, to provide resources to
promote stability in Jordan, and to fund the President's request for the
emergency needs of farmers and ranchers in the United States.
The Administration appreciates the Senate Committee's prompt action to ensure that urgently needed funding is provided quickly. Providing essential assistance to victims of natural disasters and helping our farmers at home with vital financing clearly fall in the category of needs that are urgent, unanticipated, and essential -- that is, emergency requirements. Therefore, they clearly deserve to be funded quickly, fully, and without requiring offsets that could force unacceptable reductions in important programs. In addition, it is essential that this bill remain free of extraneous provisions that could slow its progress. Unfortunately, the Committee bill includes a number of such provisions.
Were the bill to be presented to the President with the Senate Committee's proposed offsets and several objectionable riders discussed below, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill. We urge you not to take actions that could result in gridlock and delay, and that would be detrimental both to our allies abroad and our citizens at home in their time of need.
Emergency Relief for Central America
The bill provides $977 million for Central America, $21 million more than the President's request. The President's request for International Assistance Programs, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice would provide essential emergency disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, which inflicted severe damage on several Central American nations. The package also provides aid to the Caribbean nations struck by Hurricane Georges, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Administration commends the Committee for its prompt action in approving the President's request.
Regrettably, the Majority Leadership of the Senate has decided that these funds must be offset. Hurricane Mitch, the worst natural disaster in the history of the Western hemisphere, left more than 9,000 dead and drove millions from their homes. Serious economic dislocation has resulted from the destruction of schools, hospitals, businesses, farms, and roads. Together, Hurricanes Mitch and Georges have caused $10 billion in damages. The President's Central America package is urgent, unanticipated, and essential and should be funded as an emergency request.
Funds must be provided swiftly to prevent the spread of disease and to buy seed and plant crops in the fast-approaching Spring planting season, thereby providing food and jobs to many communities, and to demonstrate to Central Americans that they can find jobs and security in their own recovering economies. Much of the rural road system farmers and small merchants depend on for their livelihoods was destroyed. Water and sanitation systems have been disrupted, which can result in disease. Economic destruction and dislocation threaten to undermine the region's achievements of the past decade, as these nations have made tremendous strides toward settling conflicts, strengthening democracy, promoting human rights, opening economies and alleviating poverty. Emergency assistance for reconstruction aid will ensure that their transformation continues and will deter illegal migration by assuring that Central Americans have cause to view their own futures in the region with hope.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's providing the full $100 million for Jordan, fully funding the FY 1999 request. These funds will provide financial support to help promote stability in Jordan and the region during the period of transition subsequent to King Hussein's death. While the Administration appreciates the full funding of the FY 1999 request, we are disappointed that the $200 million requested in advance appropriations for FYs 2000 and 2001 has not been provided. In the context of promoting peace in the Middle East, the Administration will continue to press for these advance appropriations.
Department of Agriculture
The Committee bill provides $308 million in emergency funds for the Department of Agriculture (USDA), $156 million above the President's request. The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the President's request for emergency farm loans and administrative costs. This loan authority would provide vitally needed financing for the Nation's farmers in light of the significant increase in demand for USDA loans, due to projected continuing low commodity and livestock prices. The Administration is reviewing the other farm-sector funds included in the Committee bill.
The President has proposed that this package of essential emergency disaster assistance be funded consistent with the budget rules that apply to emergency spending. Regrettably, the Majority Leadership has decided that the funds for Central American disaster aid and agricultural assistance must be offset. The proposed offsets would result in unacceptable reductions in funding in areas of crucial importance to Americans, including: disaster relief funds in response to Hurricane Georges and other domestic disasters; funds for anti-terrorism to protect U.S. citizens at our embassies overseas; funds to fight the war on drugs; and, with only 289 days before December 31, 1999, funds to solve the Y2K problem.
Some examples of the reductions that would result from the Committee's action include the following:
Unfortunately, the Committee bill includes a number of strongly objectionable provisions, including the following:
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