Clinton signs omnibus budget bill into law

President Clinton Monday signed the $385 billion fiscal 2000 omnibus spending bill into law, providing funding for agencies covered by the Labor-HHS, Commerce-Justice-State, Interior, Foreign Operations and District of Columbia annual appropriations bills.

The final legislation also includes a delay in the paychecks of some military and civilian workers who would normally get paid on Sept. 29 or Sept. 30. Those workers will instead be paid on Oct. 1. The move shifts about $3 billion in salary and benefits costs into fiscal 2001 to help keep the fiscal 2000 budget within spending caps.

Also tucked into the omnibus bill is a provision allowing the Agency for International Development to offer its employees buyouts of up to $25,000 next year.

While Clinton said the package "leaves some challenges unmet," he said it "maintains fiscal discipline" and invests in priorities such as education, community policing, protecting the environment, biomedical research, defense and diplomacy.

But he did not waste the opportunity to run down a laundry list of legislative initiatives he hopes Congress will pass next year, including a patients' bill of rights, gun safety legislation, hate crimes prevention, extending the life of Social Security trust funds, shoring up Medicare, and raising the minimum wage.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Clinton had his first meeting Monday on the fiscal 2001 budget, which by some estimates will carry roughly $18 billion in advanced fiscal 2001 spending used this year to keep the fiscal 2000 bills from tapping Social Security surplus money.

Although Lockhart said the meeting was mainly to give Clinton "a lay of the land" in terms of economic assumptions and forecasts and that no decisions were made, one White House official indicated that by mid-January Clinton will have to decide whether the on-budget surplus estimates are sufficient to propose lifting the statutory budget caps that so hamstrung the fiscal 2000 budget cycle.

A handful of members of Congress joined Clinton for the mid-day Rose Garden signing ceremony, among them some who played prominent roles in the final budget negotiations-notably Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M.; Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula, R-Ohio; and Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

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