Clinton signs $15 billion spending bill for Kosovo, storm victims, farmers
May 21, 1999
Web posted at: 3:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 21) -- President Bill Clinton signed a bill Friday that provides $15 billion in emergency funds for the U.S. strikes in Yugoslavia and refugee relief, aid for the victims of deadly storms and farm aid.
Clinton signed the legislation Congress sent him Thursday despite reservations about the extra items added by lawmakers, because the money is badly needed for military operations and disaster victims. But the president warned that veto battles with the Congress over upcoming budget bills may lie ahead.
"We have a real emergency here," White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said. "The president believes it's unfortunate that Congress has sent down legislation that isn't clean."
Following months of wrangling, the Senate approved the appropriations bill Thursday on a 64-36 Senate vote. The House approved the measure on Tuesday, 269-158.
The $12 billion allocated in the bill for Kosovo operations is double the amount that Clinton requested. Republicans added the extra funding, arguing that the military needs it for increased readiness, recruitment, munitions, pay raises and benefits.
The money will fund the U.S. airstrikes against Serb targets in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, aid Kosovar refugees and the Balkan countries sheltering them and be used to build-up the nation's defenses.
On top of Kosovo funding, the legislation contains $574 million in emergency aid for farmers hurt by falling commodity prices, and $2 billion to fund disaster relief, including $900 million to help the Midwest recover from tornado disasters; aid to Central American countries hit by hurricanes Mitch and Georges; and $100 million to aid in stabilizing Jordan.
Fueling accusations that the bill contains to much pork, sprinkled throughout the 'emergency' measure are projects lawmakers won for home-state interests such as $26 million to aid fishermen in Alaska's Glacier Bay, where commercial fishing has been banned. And Alaska's Stevens also inserted $3 million to aid reindeer herders.
The bill had some detractors in Congress. Some complained it was too large while others were upset that all but $2 billion of the funding would come out of this year's expected $111 billion federal budget surplus -- a majority of which comes from Social Security.
Meanwhile, Clinton criticized a provision forbidding the federal government from claiming any of the $246 billion the states have won from tobacco companies in a legal settlement. The adminstration hoped to use some of that money for health care and anti-smoking initiatives.
In a written statement after the vote, Clinton said Thursday that he opposed congressional provisions "that reward special interests, weaken environmental protection and undermine our campaign to stop teen smoking."
He added, "I call on Congress to end these stealth attempts to weaken environmental and public health protections. I have vetoed bills in the past because they contained anti-environmental riders and, if necessary, am fully prepared to do so again."