Pubdate: Wed, 29 September 1999
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 1999 The Washington Post Company
Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071


PRESIDENT CLINTON'S first veto of a D.C. appropriations bill was not
unexpected, given the recommendations he received from several local groups
and his own Office of Management and Budget to reject the measure on
home-rule grounds.

In vetoing the bill in its existing form, however, the president now assumes
the burden of working with the Republican-led Congress to fashion a
compromise that retains all the fine features of the budget originally sent
to Capitol Hill by the city, as well as important funding added during
congressional budget markups.

The city's new mayor and a reform-minded council produced a balanced budget
containing a healthy surplus and the largest tax cut in the city's history.
Their efforts to develop a consensus spending plan were aided by Congress's
own local agent, the D.C. financial control board.

House and Senate appropriators should have leaped to shepherd this year's
D.C. budget through Congress. Instead, congressional micromanagers elected
once again to step upon the District's home-rule prerogatives by adding a
number of unacceptable riders.

In doing so, Congress converted a good D.C. budget into presidential veto-bait.

In nixing the bill, President Clinton declared that "Congress has interfered
in local decisions in this bill in a way that it would not have done to any
other local jurisdiction in the country." He's absolutely right.

One disingenuous House GOP critic is accusing the White House of promoting
"a pro-drug agenda" because the vetoed measure contains congressional bans
on medical-marijuana legalization and a needle-exchange program.

The charge is both wrong and unfair.

The veto defends a broad principle, not drugs.

It is, as the president said, "to let the people of the District . . . make
local decisions about local matters, as they should under home rule."

Some Republicans also resorted to the scare tactic of threatening to cut a
new tuition-assistance program for D.C. high school graduates and to
eliminate crime-fighting and children's health funding if the bill is
vetoed. The threat makes little sense.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats already have agreed to funding
levels in the bill. Any attempt to impose spending cuts at this stage would
be an act of pure vindictiveness. The only items warranting outright
elimination are the intrusive riders. The city deserves a clean bill. The
president and Congress should make that happen.

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