President Clinton yesterday vetoed the $314 billion appropriations bill to pay for education, health and labor programs, again demanding that Congress agree to hire 100,000 new teachers and 50,000 new police officers, among other administration proposals.
While the day featured a new exchange of accusations between the White House and the Republican-led Congress, there were some signs of progress toward completing a spending package for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. The president said he had a "very good talk" with the House speaker and Senate majority leader, and then sent his budget director back to Capitol Hill last night to seek accord on the bill to finance foreign operations. But that session broke up without a deal.
In a Rose Garden appearance, Clinton denounced the appropriations bill for schools, health and other programs as "a catalogue of missed opportunities" and "mindless cuts." The bill also included funds for the District of Columbia, as well as a 1 percent cut in the budgets for all federal agencies.
At issue, among other things, is Clinton's plan for the federal government to help hire 100,000 new teachers. The president wants $1.4 billion for the next installment of the program; the Republicans are offering $1.2 billion and have said the states should be able to use the money as they see fit.
Congressional Republicans demanded that Clinton propose more spending cuts before they settle their differences. "As soon as the president shows us how to pay for his spending, we can talk about whether we agree to the spending he wants," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). "If the president wants more money, he has to come up with a way to pay for it."
The president has now vetoed four of the 13 appropriations bills, and behind the scenes, the focus of negotiations yesterday appeared to be the measure funding foreign aid. Administration officials are eager to resolve this issue soon so that the president's concerns are not disregarded in the rush to adjournment.
After initially proposing no funds for the Middle East peace agreement forged at Wye Plantation on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the Republicans are now willing to go along with $1.8 billion. But Democrats said the GOP's latest version of foreign aid legislation would undermine several of their priorities. The White House sought to restore $956 million last night but was turned down.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the top Democrat on the foreign operations appropriations subcommittee, criticized GOP leaders for refusing to fully fund initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America while targeting several key Democratic-backed projects. She noted that money for environmental, human rights and other international programs was eliminated as part of the revised bill.
"They've made it personal," Pelosi said. "They're saying, 'You didn't support the bill, so now we're taking away your projects.' " For example, she said, GOP leaders declined to fund a program of tax credits meant to spur urban environmental cleanups.
Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.), who chairs the foreign aid panel, said while Pelosi might see the changes as "a slap in the face," they were more like "a pinch on the arm." He said he cut $1 million from the bill and targeted some projects to send a message to the president.
"This is not a one-way street up here," Callahan said, adding that the House originally had offered the administration some spending flexibility. "When I fight his battles for him, he's got to show more appreciation."
Callahan inserted several provisions known as "earmarks" into the new legislation, including $8 million in aid to Costa Rica that was not originally requested by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Former congressman Greg Laughlin (R-Tex.) now lobbies for Costa Rica, and arranged for that nation's president to have dinner with Callahan last month.
"This is not new money and this is money U.S. AID said they were going to spend anyway" to help deal with Costa Rican refugees displaced by Hurricane Mitch, Callahan said.
Staff writer Eric Pianin contributed to this report.