Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Urgent Supplemental Appropriations Bill

June 17, 1986

On March 25 the House Appropriations Committee reported the urgent supplemental appropriations bill to the House floor. Seventy-four days have passed since then. The bill is now in conference committee, and both the House and Senate versions are too expensive and contain legislative and policy provisions that do not belong in an appropriations measure. Thus, several provisions before the conference are unacceptable.

It is time for Congress to act quickly and responsibly to spare hardship for Americans who depend on programs made possible by this bill. The Commodity Credit Corporation has ceased getting much-needed payments to farmers because its cash has run out. The Federal Housing Administration can no longer insure home mortgages because its authority has expired, and soon it will be unable to make additional loan guarantees unless its ceiling is raised. The Internal Revenue Service is desperately in need of supplemental appropriations, or up to 6,000 seasonal employees will have to be released immediately, postponing returns to deserving taxpayers and losing valuable revenue for the Federal Treasury. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has virtually depleted its funds, because of the large number of natural disasters occurring in the first half of FY 1986. Additional moneys are contained in the bill to enable FEMA to provide relief if such is needed later this year. The bill includes funds requested by the President for the Federal Aviation Administration to assure safety in the airways. Much-needed safety measures to protect the lives of Americans serving their country in embassies overseas have been unduly delayed.

Thankfully, the conference committee is moving ahead to bring the bill to final resolution. However, several key changes must be made before the President will consider signing the measure. For instance, the House bill contains a provision repealing the President's authority to make deferrals based on policy, an authority used by every administration since 1974. This provision is flatly unacceptable in any form.

The full Senate added a provision which amounts to a windfall for rural utilities by allowing them to escape commitments they made when receiving Federal loans, at a cost of $2.4 billion to American taxpayers. These commitments are the same the vast majority of American homeowners are prepared to accept and honor: to pay a loan prepayment penalty if they wish to refinance their loans. If millions of American families can honor their contractual obligations, why not multimillion dollar businesses? The Senate also added in this appropriations measure a massive expansion of unemployment benefits in the form of trade-adjustment assistance. This provision is so far-reaching we can do little more than guess at its cost.

These provisions, and others too numerous to mention here, threaten the urgent supplemental. It is good that Congress is moving ahead to reach an agreement on this legislation, but it is important that Congress pass it in a form that doesn't incorporate unnecessary spending and bad policy -- so the President can approve the measure.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 9:22 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.