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Four Administration officials who testified against the proposal at hearings the subcommittee completed last Wednesday "presented a blueprint for Presidential rule of the Government," Mr. Edmisten said in an interview.
He said that Mr. Ervin and other subcommittee members had been “alarmed by what they viewed as the intransigent attitude of Joseph T. Sneed, the Deputy Attorney General ; Earl L. Butz, the Secretary of Agriculture; Roy L. Ash, the Director of Management and Budget, and William D. Ruckelshaus, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The officials all defended President Nixon's refusal to dispense $8.7-billion that Congress had appropriated for a variety of domestic programs and contended that Mr. Nixon had an implied constitutional right to disregard Congressional directions on spending.
Senator Ervin's draft proposal, co-sponsored by a majority of the Senate. would have allowed the President to continue to withhold funds but would hare required him to release the money in 60 days unless Congress consented to the 'impoundment of the funds.
STIFFER BILL FORESEEN
Mr. Edmisten said that the Senator was now considering amending the bill to demand that the President obtain the advance approval of Congress before each specific effort to withhold appropriations.
The committee aide said that other alternatives were also being looked at, but that the end result in any case would be to stiffen the original legislation.
One possibility Mr. Edmisten mentioned would be to require the President to release funds in 30 days rather than 60 days and to stipulate that the Senate or the House of Representatives could vote immediately—the same day that the White House reported having impounded the funds—if Congress chose to order that the money be spent.
Mr. Sneed testified Tuesday that the Ervin bill, even in its more lenient original version, would be "wholly impractical, profoundly unwise and of very doubtful ·constitutionality.” He said that the President had “substantial latitude to refuse to spend or to defer spending for general fiscal reasons, such as control of inflation."
ISSUE TERMED 'POLITICAL The Deputy Attorney General also challenged whether Congress had a right to impose its interpretation of the Constitution on the President. He said that the issue was not "justiciable"--subject to determination by the Supreme Courtand that it could only be resolved in "the political realm."
Senator Lawton Chiles, Democrat of Florida, told Mr. Sneed that he appeared to be granting the President “the power of divine right” to decide, by withholding appropriations, which Congressional spending laws he would negate. Arthur S. Miller, a professor of law at Georgetown University and a subcommittee -consultant, told Mr. Sneed that he was "impressed by your facility to rewrite the Constitution."
Mr. Ervin was said to be eager to act swiftly in reshaping his proposal, in part because of concern that Congress might cloud its constitutional challenge by getting involved in a series of skirmishes over specific programs that the White House has refused to fund.
BOTH CHAMBERS ACTED
The House voted Wednesday to insist, for example, that the Department of Agriculture release $210-million for the Rural Environmental Assistance program. The Senate voted Monday to re-enact an airport development bill that Mr. Nixon had pocket-vetoed after Congress adjourned last year, and it added a rider to demand that the money be spent.
Neither bill received the two-thirds vote that would be necessary to override a Presidential veto, however, and some members of Congress said they feared that such a piecemeal approach to the issue would dilute support for a more basic challenge to the President.
[From the News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 9, 1972]
HIGHWAY FUND SUIT PONDERED
Deputy Atty. Gen. R. Bruce White Jr. said Tuesday he hasn't reached "a definite conclusion” on whether to recommend that the State Highway Commission file suit against the U.S. government to recover $25 million in federal highway funds.
Fourth District Rep. Nick Galifianakis disclosed Monday that he has written to Gov. Bob Scott urging him to seek such a suit because “the loss of this $25 million will hamper our state's highway construction efforts."
Galifianakis said the fund cut, ordered by the Nixon administration, would particularly affect completion of 270 miles of interstate highway in North Carolina.
The administration's action means the Highway Commission will receive only $75 million in federal aid this year. Of that amount, $47 million will be used for interstate highways.
White said suing the government to recover withheld funds would be a lengthy-four to six years—process.
According to White, congressional action probably would be the best way to resolve the dispute over withheld funds.
White said he has been studying a Missouri suit brought to recover federal funds withheld from that state's highway program.
The suit was successful in U.S. District Court, but has been appealed by the U.S. Justice Department. South Carolina has filed a similar suit against the government.
NO CONCLUSION YET
According to White, he has been receiving statistical data on highway expenditures from Assistant State Highway Administrator Billy Rose.
"I've come to no definite conclusion yet,” White said, referring to the possibility of recommending to the State Highway Commission that it file suit.
White said he has been in personal contact with Robert Hyder, chief counsel for the Missonri Highway Department, about Missouri's suit.
"I plan to see him again in the next few weeks,” White said. He added that he has all the documents pertinent to Missouri's suit.
[From the News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 12, 1973]
ERVIN MULLS STIFFER IMPOUNDMENT STATUTE WASHINGTON.-The Nixon administration's claim to inherent authority to refuse to spend money appropriated by congress has persuaded Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr. to move toward an outright ban on the impoundment of funds by the President.
Rufus L. Edmisten, the staff director of the senate judiciary subcommittee on separation of powers, said Ervin, D-NC, who heads the subcommittee, had instructed him to "tighten up" a bill that would have limited, but not ruled out entirely, the President's authority to withhold appropriations.
Ervin's draft proposal, cosponsored by a majority of the Senate, would have allowed the President to continue to withhold funds but would have required him to release the money in 60 days unless Congress consented to the impoundment of the funds.
ADVANCE OKAY Edmisten said the senator was now considering amending the bill to demand that the President obtain the advance approval of Congress before each specific effort to withhold appropriations.
The committee aide said other alternatives were also being looked at, but the end result in any case would be to stiffen the original legislation.
One possibility Edmisten mentioned would be to require the President to re lease funds in 30 days rather than 60 days and to stipulate that the Senate or the House of Representatives could vote immediately--the same day that the White House reported having impounded the funds--if Congress chose to order that the money be spent.
Four administration officials who testified against the proposal at hearings the subcommittee completed last Wednesday "presented a blueprint for presidential rule of the government,” Edmisten said.
He said that Ervin and other subcommittee members had been "alarmed" by what they viewed as the intransigent attitude of Joseph T. Sneed, the deputy attorney general; Earl L. Butz, the Secretary of agriculture: Roy L. Ash, the director of management and budget, and William D. Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the Environment Protection Agency.
The officials all defended President Nixon's refusal to dispense $8.7 billion that Congress had appropriated for a variety of domestic programs and contended that Nixon had an implied constitutional right to disregard congressional directions on spending.
Sneed testified Tuesday that the Ervin Bill, even in its more lenient original version, would be "wholly impractical, profoundly unwise and of very doubtful constitutionality." He said the President has “substantial latitude to refuse to spend or to defer spending for general fiscal reasons, such as control of inflation."
The deputy attorney general also challenged whether Congress had a right to impose its interpretation of the Constitution on the President. He said that the issue was not "justiciable"-subject to determination by the supreme court—and that it could only be resolved in "the political realm.”
Sen. Lawton Chiles, D-Fla., told Sneed that he appeared to be granting the President "the power of divine rights to decide, by withholding appropriations, which congressional spending laws he would negate. Arthur S. Miller, a professor of law at Georgetown University and a subcommittee consultant, told Sneed that he was "impressed by your facility to rewrite the Constitution."
Ervin was said to be eager to act swiftly in reshaping his proposal, in part because of concern that Congress might cloud its constitutional challenge by getting involved in a series of skirmishes over specific programs that the White House has refused to fund.
[From the New York Post, Feb. 6, 1973)
NIXON AIDE SAYS CURBS ON SPENDING ARE LEGAL Washington (AP).-President Nixon's top domestic adviser says White House refusal to spend funds approved by Congress is legal and necessary for the good of the country, despite what critics say.
Congressional "appropriation isn't the last word" in the spending process, John D. Ehrlichman said in an interview yesterday. “Whenever it's possible for the Executive to save money, it's incumbent upon him to do so."
Such refusal to spend-impoundment, it is called is under attack in Congress and under investigation in Senate hearings. But Ehrlichman said it “has been the Presidential prerogative ever since Thomas Jefferson.”
"And every President”, he said, "has felt obligated to exercise control, in the national interest, over the expenditure of moneys."
In a report to Congress yesterday, the White House said the Nixon Adminis. tration is withholding $8.7 billion appropriated by Congress during the present fiscal year. But that figure, the report said, does not include $6 billion in waterpollution funds the President has refused to allocate.
Senate hearings on the impoundments begin today in the Senate's subcommittee on separation of powers, headed by Sen. Ervin (D-N.C.).
Sen. Byrd (D-W. Va.) said in remarks for the hearings, that the Nixon Administration is using impoundment powers not just to save money but was a bald instrument of economic policy."
[From the New York Times, Oct. 27, 1972)
POWER OF THE PURSE
Despite the refusal of Congress to grant the President power to make whatever cuts he wanted in spending programs to hold the Federal budget under a $250-billion ceiling, Mr. Nixon's aides say that he still intends to impound funds on his own to reach the same objective.
Congress has never conceded that Presidents have the power to ignore laws it has enacted or to reverse the priorities it has set. The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility of raising funds and determining how they shall be spent, and it charges the President with faithfully executing the laws. The President's veto powers are spelled out, and limited. When Presidents have withheld authorized expenditures, because economies could be effected or because the outlays were no longer required (as when a war ended), usually Congress has insisted on giving its specific approval and legislative sanction to such Presidential actions.
However, it is certainly true that Presidents and Congresses have sometimes done battle over particular Administration refusals to spend funds. That issue has not been clearly resolved because successive Administrations kept it out of the courts until 1970. In several cases, the right of Presidents to impound funds has now been challenged; in the first important test—the Missouri State Highway Commission v. Volpe-a Federal judge in Missouri ruled this year that it was illegal for the Nixon Administration to impound highway funds. The Government has appealed this verdict.
Looking beyond the immediate controversy, we believe that it would be desirable for the President to have carefully limited authority to impound funds either to effect economies in specific programs or to achieve over-all fiscal objectives. Senator Ervin of North Carolina in the last session of Congress introduced a bill that could achieve this objective on the expenditure side, in a way that would not encroach upon the constitutional powers of Congress, by giving the President authority to impound funds for a limited period pending Congressional review.
Both the need for greater economy in Government and better fiscal planning require a greater degree of budgetary flexibility ; but it is equally important that the constitutional responsibilities and authority of Congress not be undermined by undue assertions of Presidential power.
[From the Evening Star and Daily News, Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 1972]
(By Judith Randal) A leading ecologist has accused President Nixon of reneging on his 1970 promise to make our waters clean again" and charged him with misguided paternalism in denying the American people the right "to spend their own funds to save their own environment."
The attack on the President's freeze Tuesday of more than half of the $11 billion Congress had appropriated for municipal waste treatment plants came from Professor Barry Commoner in a luncheon speech at the National Press Club here yesterday.
Commoner, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, is the author of "The Closing Circle," a recent book on environmental problems.
In a reference to a post election Star-News interview with Nixon, Commoner said that in failing to honor his commitment to the improvement of water quality-made in the 1970 State of the Union address-the President “appears to be playing out a scene based on his own recently revealed image of the American citizen (as) the child of the family.
"Here," Commoner said, "we see the stern father teaching the child 'discipline' and responsibility' by cutting his allowance. The scene falls flat, however, when it is noticed that what Mr. Nixon proposes to do is to forbid the American people-despite the considered action of their elected representatives as provided by the Constitution—to spend their own funds to save their own environment."
Commoner predicted that the President “will not escape a portentous legal challenge” to his freeze order and that the water pollution control bill will be “the arena in which the growing constitutional conflict between the Congress and the White House" will be fought.
During the course of the luncheon, Commoner also took on John Maddox, a physicist and author of the British science journal “Nature," who was there to present his view that ecologist exaggerate the threat posed by technology to the environment and are in danger of being ignored because they are “crying wolf."
Said Maddox, whose book “The Doomsday Syndrome" elaborates on this theme: "There must be a trade-off between the wish of all of us that there be a clean environin nt and the wish of all of us for social justice ... Some people are shouting so loud (about the environment) that we may be diverted from other important issues ... such as health care and public schools."
Commoner agreed that social justice is important, but insisted that it is part and parcel of his concern for ecology because the poor "are forced to pay an extra share of the environmental debt to nature."
For example, he said, the poor operate only one quarter of the air-conditioning units in the United States. But since air-conditioning-through using up energy-increases the outdoor temperature, poor people who cannot afford artificial cooling systems in their homes are made to suffer excessively from the heat.
[From the Washington Post, Feb. 2, 1973] HILL STRIKES AT BUDGET ON THREE FRONTS
(By Spencer Rich and Mary Russell) Congress took three major steps yesterday toward a direct confrontation with President Nixon over federal spending priorities.
The Senate passed, 68 to 14, a $593 million water project authorization identical to one vetoed by Mr. Nixon on economy grounds after Congress went home last year. More than two-thirds of the Republicans voted for the popular bill, and Democratic leaders hope to rush it through the House for the first test of their ability to override expected presidential vetoes of spending measures.
The House Agriculture Committee readied for floor action a bill to force Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz to spend $225 million appropriated for the Rural Environmental Assistance Program, which the White House ordered terminated. Approved Wednesday by a 26-to-8 vote, the bill will be formally reported next Monday and House Speaker Carl Albert (D-Okla) promised an early floor debate.
The Senate began debate on a bill to require Senate confirmation of the direc. tor and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget-presidential aides who ride herd on the entire budget and possess enormous powers over federal programs. It is largely on recommendations of the OMB that the President decides where to cut the budget and impound funds. Senators believe requiring confirmation would give them a better handle on control of presidential spending actions. The bill. which applies to incumbent director Roy Ash and deputy director Frederick Malek as well as future nominees, is expected to pass the Senate easily today or Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) said the issue between Democrats and the President isn't the need to hold overall spending within reasonable limits, a point on which he agrees with the President, but what priorities to observe in cutting up the agreed-upon total. Mansfield said he hopes Congress will stay within Mr. Nixon's recommended $268.7 billion spending total for fiscal 1974, but "we'll just reorder priorities-make cuts in defense. foreign aid” and other programs in order to fund needed social programs which Mr. Nixon wants to cut.
A bloc of GOP senators took the floor before the debate on the water projects (rivers and harbors) bill to demand more economy in government. Bill Brock (R-Tenn.) said. “I'd like to commend the President for trying to hold the line on spending.” William L. Scott (R-Va.) said, "The budget is still too high. I do not like the concept of a deficit of $12.7 billion or the concept of a full employment budget," which he said is “just giving another name to deficit financing." James A. McClure (R-Idaho) declared, “With the war over, the number one problem facing this nation is inflation.”