White House threatens veto of Interior bill over provision

The White House threatened to veto the Interior appropriations bill late Wednesday over a provision that would halt funds for competitive sourcing at the Department of Interior and Forest Service in fiscal 2004.

In a statement of administration policy, the White House said senior advisors would recommend that President Bush veto the Interior bill if it includes the provision, which is Section 335 in the House version of the bill. The full House is scheduled to take up the Interior bill on Thursday. Bush has not vetoed an appropriations bill to date.

"Prohibiting funding for public-private competitions is akin to mandating a monopoly regardless of the impact on services to citizens and the added costs to taxpayers," said the administration.

House Republicans will try to defeat the measure on the House floor tomorrow. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, will offer an amendment to strike Section 335 from the bill on Thursday, according to spokeswoman Gina Vaughn. "Congressman Sessions has a long history of being interested in government efficiency, and one of the primary ways to achieve that is through public-private competition," she said.

Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Charles Taylor, R-N.C., who chairs the appropriations subcommittee where Section 335 originated, also have been active in negotiations over the measure.

Environmental groups, including the National Parks Conversation Association, and federal labor unions support keeping Section 335 in the Interior bill.

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