HR 4194 -- 07/15/98

July 15, 1998
(House Rules)


H.R. 4194 - DEPARTMENTS OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
AND HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT,
AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS
BILL, FY 1999

(Sponsors: Livingston (R), Louisiana; Lewis (R), California)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on H.R. 4194, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 1999, as reported by the House Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.

The Administration appreciates efforts by the Committee to accommodate certain of the President's priorities within the 302(b) allocation. However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in programs funded by this bill. As a result, critical programs are not funded or are underfunded, in particular, key Presidential priorities such as funding for National Service, Superfund, and climate change. Furthermore, the Administration is very concerned that the Committee has included problematic language regarding the Kyoto Protocol and other issues. Finally, the Administration understands that an amendment may be offered to include unacceptable provisions now contained in H.R. 2, such as income targeting. If the bill were presented to the President without responding to these concerns, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.

The only way to achieve the appropriate investment level is to offset discretionary spending by using savings in other areas. The President's FY 1999 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending for FY 1999 that conform to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. In the Transportation Equity Act, Congress -- on a broad, bipartisan basis -- took similar action in approving funding for surface transportation programs paid for with mandatory offsets. We want to work with the Congress on mutually agreeable mandatory and other offsets that could be used to increase high-priority discretionary programs, including those funded by this bill.

Below is a discussion of our specific concerns with the Committee bill. We look forward to working with the House to resolve these concerns as the bill moves forward.

Corporation for National and Community Service

The Administration strongly objects to the termination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, one of the Administration's top priorities. Eliminating funding for the Corporation would deny more than 49,000 Americans the opportunity to serve as AmeriCorps members in projects such as America Reads, the Administration's effort to raise student literacy through the use of tutors to supplement the school day activities. In addition, over one million students of all ages would forego the chance to participate in service learning activities in their schools and neighborhoods. The funding level in the Committee bill for the Corporation for National and Community Service is unacceptable.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Administration has several major concerns with the Committee's mark for the Environmental Protection Agency. In particular, the Administration strongly objects to the $593 million, or 28-percent, reduction to the President's request for Superfund, which would delay cleanups at sites nationwide and needlessly jeopardize public health. In addition, the Administration opposes the $16 million, or 18-percent, reduction to the request for brownfields funding as well as restrictive bill language that would hamper achievement of brownfield cleanups by preventing their use for removals, cleanups, and revolving loan funds. The Administration urges the House to restore Superfund to the requested level and to delete the restrictive brownfields language.

The Administration strongly opposes the Committee's $106 million reduction in EPA funding for the Climate Change Technology Initiative. This high-priority program should be funded fully to cut energy usage, save consumers money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We will work with the Congress to restore requested funding as the bill moves forward.

The Administration strongly opposes bill and report language relating to the Kyoto Protocol that applies to the EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality. While the Administration could not and would not implement the Protocol until it is ratified, the bill language could be interpreted broadly to prevent activities that limit greenhouse gases -- for example, through enhancing energy efficiency -- but that are authorized under current law. The report language also inappropriately purports to prevent the Executive Branch from engaging in educational and outreach activities related to treaty negotiations and other aspects of climate change. The Administration opposes this and other riders because they inappropriately use the legislative process by denying the public and Members of Congress the opportunity to examine and debate these proposals openly.

The Administration appreciates the Committee's providing full funding for the President's Clean Water Action Plan, which is designed to prevent pollution run-off and protect public health. The Administration urges the Committee to provide the full $50 million request to help improve water quality in Boston Harbor and prevent beach closings.

The Administration is concerned with the large number of unrequested, earmarked projects in the Committee mark for EPA, particularly when the Committee has reduced several other high-priority Administration initiatives, including right-to-know programs, Montreal Protocol, GLOBE, and Mexican border wastewater treatment funding.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Administration is concerned about the funding levels provided for key programs of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, particularly for welfare-to-work housing vouchers and other programs, such as the Community Empowerment Fund, that would expand job opportunities.

The Administration appreciates the Committee's decision to fund 17,700 incremental "Welfare-to-Work" housing vouchers. With millions of families needing to make the transition from welfare to work, and in light of recent studies that show historically high unmet housing needs among very low-income Americans, the Administration believes it is critical for the Congress to fund the entire 50,000 welfare-to-work housing vouchers provided for in the President's request. Welfare-to-work housing vouchers will support implementation of welfare reform by assisting those welfare recipients who need housing assistance to get or keep a job.

The Administration also encourages the Congress to fund fully the President's request for $400 million for an Economic Development Initiative Community Empowerment Fund to generate jobs in distressed communities. The Committee has cut the request by $350 million, providing only $50 million, as a set-aside within the existing CDBG program.

The Administration appreciates the Committee's decisions to fund a number of programs at the levels requested, including the Partnership for Advancing Technologies in Housing (PATH) initiative, and to renew all expiring Section 8 contracts. The Administration is encouraged that the Committee has provided funding for half the President's request for Regional Opportunity Counseling, a voluntary effort to expand the housing and employment opportunities available to low-income families. We urge full funding of the President's request for this program. We are also pleased by the Committee's decision to provide $80 million for the Office of Lead Hazard Control, to reduce the risk of childhood lead poisoning and other health hazards. The Administration encourages the Congress to fund fully a number of other areas -- Homeless Assistance, Brownfields, and Regional Connections--and to end the ninety-day delay in reissuing of Section 8 certificates/vouchers on turnover.

The Administration is very concerned that the Subcommittee has not included language extending the repeal of one-for-one replacement for public housing. Without this language, the bipartisan goal of demolishing 100,000 of the worst public housing units by FY 2003 may not be achieved.

The Administration is pleased with the Committee's decision to support an audit-based enforcement initiative for the Fair Housing Initiatives program. We urge the Congress to fund fully this critical fair housing initiative to reduce the level of housing discrimination.

The Administration urges the Congress to adopt the Administration's proposal to reform HUD's single-family property disposition program, which would produce substantial savings by improving the efficiency of FHA's property disposition processes and would permit the Committee to provide additional resources to critical Committee programs. In addition, we support providing greater homeownership opportunities by increasing the FHA loan limit to the GSE "conforming" limit.

Council on Environmental Quality

The Administration appreciates the modest increase over the FY 1998 level provided for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). However, we strongly believe that in order to allow CEQ to carry out its environmental mission and reinvention efforts, the full requested level should be provided, and language prohibiting use of detailees should be deleted.

Community Development Financial Institutions Fund

The Administration strongly urges the Committee to fund the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund at the requested level. The Committee's decision to reduce the request by $45 million would severely reduce the Fund's ability to leverage investments, loans, and financial services in the country's most distressed communities.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The Administration is concerned with the Committee's reductions to the requests for the International Space Station, Space Shuttle, and Earth Science programs. Full funding in FY 1999 for Space Station is critical as the United States and our International Partners are in a peak period of development and integration, and proceeding toward First Element Launch later this year. Further, the Administration is particularly concerned about bill language prohibiting the use of funds for the Triana project. Triana offers a unique opportunity to educate and engage students in all phases of the mission. Its observations could potentially be used in meteorology and environmental monitoring, as well as for commercial purposes. The Administration will work with the Congress to enable restoration of funding for these priority programs as the bill proceeds. The Administration is also concerned over the large number of unrequested, site-specific earmarks, which would have the effect of circumventing the competitive, peer review process and are paid for, in part, with serious reductions to priority programs.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Administration appreciates the level of funding provided by the Committee for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, we believe that the $20 million reduction to the President's request for pre-disaster mitigation grants is shortsighted. These grants would help reduce the cost of future disasters by leveraging local and private-sector support for enhanced mitigation efforts at the State and community level. We urge the Committee to fund fully the President's request for this important initiative. In addition, we urge the Committee to approve our recent request for funding to help States and communities prepare for potential terrorist incidents involving chemical and/or biological weapons.

National Science Foundation

Given the budget constraints facing the Committee, the Administration appreciates the effort to provide a $268 million increase over the FY 1998 level for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Nevertheless, the Administration is concerned with the reduction to the request for education and human resources and the elimination of funds for the proposed Polar Cap Observatory and NSF funds for the GLOBE program. The Administration is firmly committed to NSF's research and education activities, which not only promote scientific advancement but also contribute to economic development. We strongly urge the Congress to provide the full increase requested for NSF for its research, equipment, and education activities.

Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation

The Administration is pleased by the Committee's decision to provide the President's full request for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NRC). The NRC has a proven, successful record of leveraging private sector resources to promote homeownership and helping strengthen America's communities. This funding would provide an additional $25 million for a homeownership initiative that seeks to create 10,000 new homeowners through FY 2000.

Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Administration opposes bill language that would block the Consumer Product Safety Commission's ability to promulgate rules to reduce the flammability of upholstered furniture. This language intrudes upon CPSC's ability, as well the ability of other agencies, to carry out their responsibilities. Furthermore, these efforts to block the development of a new safety standard represent a threat to public health.

Potential Amendment Related to Peer Review

The Administration strongly opposes an amendment that may be offered mandating peer review of "scientific data" supporting final regulations. The Administration is committed to using the best possible science and peer review for rule-making. However, this amendment is unnecessary, inappropriate, and wasteful. Peer review is currently incorporated in the Government-wide rule-making process, where it is needed, through extensive outreach, public comment, and scientific advisory boards. As drafted, this amendment would mandate a one-size-fits-all requirement that would serve only to delay important government action, in particular, rules designed to protect health safety and the environment. It would impose a costly additional step in the regulatory process and could cover a large, heterogeneous set of rules, as diverse as meat and poultry inspection rules, airplane and automobile safety standards, FDA drug and device approvals, and rules to ensure safe drinking water and clean air. This would impose an undue burden on numerous final rules by requiring substantial personnel and other resources and could result in significant delays on important public health and safety rules.