GOP Presses Clinton on DoD Bill

September 5, 1996

GOP Presses Clinton on DoD Bill

Citing developments of recent weeks, House Republicans are urging President Clinton to accept an upcoming conference agreement on the FY97 Defense appropriations bill, a measure that will contain as much as $10 billion the administration would like to spend on domestic programs.

House Speaker Gingrich Wednesday said the situation in Iraq should deliver a "clear sign" that the president should sign the Defense spending bill. And House Appropriations Chairman Livingston is expected to send a letter to White House Chief of Staff Panetta echoing those sentiments. "It's a different world in September than it was in July," a key House Appropriations Committee Republican aide said Wednesday, referring to recent terrorism activity, as well as the situation in Iraq.

The Defense appropriations bill is in conference, but both the House- and Senate-passed versions spend between $9 billion and $10 billion more on defense programs than Clinton called for in his FY97 budget request. On the other hand, Republicans have spent far less than the administration requested for key domestic programs.

The Appropriations Committee aide Wednesday said there is a "huge disconnect" between what the White House says it wants for defense programs and what Pentagon officials privately say they need for such programs, adding that Defense officials want more money than the administration wants. In addition, the aide said, Clinton administration officials have indicated a willingness to support the FY97 Defense authorization bill, a measure the aide said calls for the level of spending contained in the GOP version of the Defense appropriations measure.

The aide said before final decisions can be made about key domestic spending measures, the White House has to determine what level of defense spending it is willing to accept. He said White House officials have said they are willing to specify where defense cuts should be made.

GOP leaders began preliminary talks with the administration on appropriations measures before the August recess, and Livingston Wednesday said he expects those talks to continue this week. House and Senate Republican leaders Wednesday said they want to complete as many of the 13 FY97 appropriations measures as possible before having to resort to a continuing resolution or omnibus spending measure later this month. FY97 begins Oct. 1.

House GOP leaders hope to appoint conferees on the Energy and Water, Transportation and VA-HUD spending measures this week, and to quickly move to conference, a House aide said Wednesday.

During Senate action on the VA-HUD bill Wednesday, Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., lost for the fifth consecutive year in his bid to eliminate funding for NASA's space station. Senators voted 60- 37 not to kill the costly program. The House during its VA-HUD bill debate this year did not vote on whether to eliminate the program. Meawhile, Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he still wants his subcommittee to mark up its FY97 funding measure, even though it is extremely late in the appropriations process for a subcommittee to act.

Specter and Senate Appropriations Chairman Hatfield have been searching for additional money for the bill and Specter said that search continues. "We're trying to get the money," he said Wednesday.

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