Clinton Promises A Quick Veto
Both sides accuse the other of playing politics with disaster relief bill
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 6) -- President Bill Clinton, promising a quick veto, accused Republicans of loading a badly needed disaster relief bill with unacceptable "political provisions."
Clinton wants the disaster relief money contained in the $8.6 billion emergency spending bill that Congress approved on Thursday. But he objects to two unrelated provisions that Republicans have added to the bill: a process for avoiding government shutdowns in future budget disputes by continuing basic appropriations, and a ban on the use of sampling methods in the 2000 census.The White House says he'll reject the measure as soon as he gets it, probably late on Sunday.
Democrats say the shutdown measure would cut funding below what was agreed to in the just-completed balanced budget deal. On the census dispute, Republicans believe the sampling technique would mean a greater urban population and could hurt them during reapportionment and redistricting.
In a sharply worded statement released Thursday night, Clinton said Republicans added provisions to the bill that have no place in disaster relief legislation.
"By attaching a political wish list to the much-needed disaster relief legislation, the congressional majority has chosen politics over the public interest," Clinton said.
To counter Clinton's bully pulpit on the issue, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is launching a radio ad on Saturday challenging president to do the right thing and sign the bill, the RNC tells CNN.
The ad will run in the Dakotas and Minnesota for an undisclosed amount of time, according to RNC Press Secretary Mary Crawford. Crawford would not disclose how much the party is spending on the ad buy.
Republicans say Clinton is breaking his word to the people of the flood-ravaged upper Midwest. Clinton toured the area earlier this spring.
"He has a simple choice," said Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican. "He can choose the people or he can play party politics."
House Speaker Newt Gingrich said if Clinton vetoes the bill, "then the president should explain to the people of the Dakotas, the people he visited and he promised he would set aside politics to help, why he is breaking his word."
Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said the Republicans had stepped over the line, though, in trying to force the president to agree to unacceptable proposals simply to get disaster dollars in place.
"I haven't seen politics played to this degree on a bill this important to this many people as long as I have been here," Daschle said. "I have to say this is probably as egregious as I have ever seen. So I just think they crossed the line here. This is wrong. I think a lot of them know it is wrong and I am disappointed that we have found ourselves in this position."
Disaster money already is in the pipeline from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but some long-term projects, including relocating housing and replacing dead livestock, cannot begin without the money in the bill. The legislation -- which has not yet reached Clinton's desk -- also includes $1.9 billion for the Bosnia peacekeeping mission and $1 billion for veterans' benefits.
Republicans showed no signs of backing off. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott vowed the disputed budget and census provisions would be in the next version of the bill, too. (160K wav sound) That brought a threat from Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Democrat from Minnesota, where there was serious flood damage, to "stop the process here" if an acceptable bill does not pass.
Lott's comments also brought a quick response from White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, who said if Congress sends the same bill back, Clinton would veto it as well.
Of Lott, McCurry said: "People beat their heads against brick walls all the time. They usually don't run major institutions of democracy."
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