April 30, 1997
With the FY97 disaster relief and supplemental spending bill due before the Senate Appropriations Committee this afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Daschle and OMB Director Raines both warned Tuesday the measure will be vetoed if it includes a so- called automatic continuing resolution provision.
At least three other provisions Republicans want added to the bill also are being termed "deal-killers."
Senate Democrats sharply assailed GOP attempts to offer the four last-minute amendments during an Appropriations markup that was abruptly canceled Tuesday.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Stevens said Republicans would try to add some of the four amendments to the supplemental bill during the markup today, while others would be pushed on the floor. Stevens said Republicans would try to get the automatic continuing resolution provision added to the bill in committee, and would probably wait to offer an amendment withholding funding for President Clinton's executive order on federal contracts until the bill goes to the floor.
No decision had been made at presstime on when Republicans would attempt to attach amendments regarding right-of-ways on federal land and the 2000 census.
But Stevens said any of the amendments that do not get added to the bill in committee would be offered again on the floor. Regarding the continuing resolution provision, Stevens said "all I'm trying to do is prevent another situation" where the government gets shut down and "people get paid for not working ... That's not going to happen on my watch. We'll have a CR day by day if we have to," Stevens declared in an agitated tone.
Senate Majority Leader Lott said he expects the Senate to begin debate on the FY97 supplemental bill next Monday, and, if necessary, vote on cloture Wednesday. Lott said the aim would be to bring the supplemental to a final floor vote next Thursday and deliver the package to the president by Memorial Day.
On Clinton's threat to veto the supplemental if it contains the continuing resolution or federal contracting language, Lott said, "If the administration wants to veto it, go ahead, then that's their problem."
Lott said Republicans are pushing the automatic continuing resolution idea because they want to avert a "man-made disaster" and the "kind of chaos we usually see at the end of the fiscal year."
Tuesday's scheduled markup of the FY97 supplemental bill was postponed after Senate Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and other Democrats objected vociferously to the four last-minute changes sought by committee Republicans and members of the GOP leadership.
All four of the amendments are considered controversial, but Byrd and Daschle singled out as the most objectionable the amendment providing for an automatic continuing resolution when appropriations bills are not passed prior to the start of a fiscal year.
Daschle's office Tuesday afternoon backed off an earlier statement that a point of order might be raised against the continuing resolution provision. But a spokeswoman said Daschle remains "very much opposed to the CR [amendment] being attached to this bill."
The spokeswoman added Daschle is particularly miffed because he believes Republicans "are playing politics with very much needed disaster assistance."
The bill includes $5.5 billion in emergency appropriations for flooding and other disaster relief in the Ohio Valley, Southeast, Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest, including Daschle's home state of South Dakota.
The continuing resolution amendment, requested by Senate Commerce Chairman McCain, would fund federal agencies and departments at 98 percent of the previous year's level until Congress appropriates money or until the end of the new fiscal year.
White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry said the president would strongly oppose the automatic continuing resolution provision.
"It's a very bad idea and I think would represent something of bad faith on the part of the Republicans' side if they were to try to write a provision into law that said the government may continue to do its work only under terms that Congress specifies," McCurry said.
Meanwhile, negotiations continued Tuesday between the Senate Republican leadership and White House officials to discuss alternatives and changes to the executive order on federal contracts, which the Republicans have charged would favor union contractors.
Senate Republicans late Tuesday were evaluating new information about the executive order on government contracts provided by the White House earlier in the day, but no major progress had been made, GOP aides said.
Republicans also want to include language in the supplemental to block implementation of a new Interior Department policy on road rights of way on federal land.
The policy, issued Jan. 22, asserts that the department has final say on whether the rights of way would be granted to local governments.
Local governments in Western states, particularly Utah and Alaska, are claiming that many of the rights of way contain highways that should be under local control.
However, environmental groups have said that many of the rights of way contain only footpaths or old wagon trails and are being used to prevent designation of roadless areas that could be declared wilderness or national preserves.
--Mary Ann Akers, Steven Cook and Matthew Morrissey contributed to this story.
April 30, 1997