WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR) and 19 of his Western state colleagues today sent a letter to President Clinton urging him not to use a federal government shutdown for political gain under the guise of "protecting the environment."
"We are deeply disappointed by reports from Vice President Gore that you intend to veto several spending bills over so-called "environmental riders," the Members wrote. "This would do precisely what you have decried over the past few months: putting politics above people and the environment. It is not good for our country, particularly in these trying political times, and we suggest an alternative."
"If Congress adopts the Vice President's proposal to send you spending bills "free" of policy direction, then a variety of bipartisan initiatives will not reach your desk. These include, for example, provisions in the Interior bill requiring the federal government to "buy American," authorizing the National Endowment of the Arts to solicit and invest private donations, preserving public access to Ellis Island, providing financial assistance to promote the arts and humanities among the poor, and a host of other widely supported provisions," the Members wrote.
"The inclusion of legislative provisions in spending bills to achieve legitimate policy objectives has been practiced for decades — long before Americans elected the current majority leadership in Congress," The Members wrote. "The rhetoric about "riders" is unhelpful to resolving honest policy differences and unnecessarily erodes the public's trust in the legislative process."
Under the guise of environmental protection, the President has threatened to veto spending bills which include billions of dollars of increases for fish, wildlife, recreation, parks, forests, endangered species, public health, and other important priorities including increases of:
$99.3 million for national parks
$20 million for rural communities
$18 million for national wildlife refuges
$919 million for wildland fire management
$20 million for restoration work in the everglades
$147 million for Indian Health Services
"While we may differ in our respective approaches to protecting the environment, such differences are better resolved at the negotiating table than through partisan rhetoric. We urge you to put rhetoric aside and help us complete the business of the People, including doing what is right for the environment, in an honest, constructive and bipartisan way," the Members added.
Members joining Smith in signing the letter include Representatives George Radanovich (R-WA), Don Young (R-AK), Dan Schaefer (R-CO), Bob Schaffer (R-CO), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Richard Pombo (R-CA), Bob Stump (R-CA), John Doolittle (R-CA), Joe Skeen (R-NM), Buck McKeon (R-CA), Ron Packard (R-CA), Wally Herger (R-CA), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), John Peterson (R-PA), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), and Scott McInnis (R-CO).
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District -- which includes most of eastern, southern and central Oregon -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.