« PreviousContinue »
In a legal sense, these bills may get nowhere, but their propaganda value is substantial. And the ultimate result of the fears aroused by the current dispute could be defeat of revenue sharing. Sen. Charles McC, Mathias (R-Md.) gave voice to a rather widespread apprehension among some urban groups which favor revenue sharing when he told an Ervin subcommittee that revenue sharing—which he cosponsors—must contain an absolute prohibition against executive impoundment.
(From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Mo., Mar. 17, 1971)
WANING POWER OF THE PURSE Under a constitutional provision which states that "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law," Congress is deemed to exercise a decisive influence on the course of the country. But it often does not work that way, as history has shown. On occasion the Executive refuses to spend money Congress appropriates; and at other times Congress is in effect forced to appropriate to discharge commitments made by the Executive.
The latter has been a part of the Vietnam story. Theoretically, through its power of the purse, Congress can tell the President what he may and may not do with respect to military adventures. To stop a war, Congress can cut the military budget. But as we have seen, when, without asking Congress, the President commits American men and prestige, Congress is powerfully impelled to provide the financing.
And the process operates in reverse, too. Earlier this month Senator Sparkman charged that the Nixon Administration has refused to spend more than eight billion dollars in funds previously appropriated by Congress, most of it for domestic programs. The Administration excuse is that it is fighting inflation, but Mr. Sparkman calls the impoundment "a serious breach of faith" with Congress.
Senator Ervin is concerned over "the use of the impounding practice to avoid or nullify congressional intent," and so has scheduled three days of hearings next week before his judiciary subcommittee on separation of powers. Presumably this will publicize the extent to which the Administration may be holding up expenditures for housing, public works and other needed urban programs without adequate reason.
Regardless of the congressional findings, what is illustrated here is the historic struggle between the Legislative and the Executive branches of the Federal Government; if Mr. Ervin could come up with conclusions that might point the way to change, the hearings would be more than worth-while. But in truth the situation seems to confirm that the Government is one or both laws and men. In 1885 Woodrow Wilson wrote that "Congress is fast becoming the governing body of the nation," and shortly afterward James Bryce said the President had lost ground to Congress because "Men come and go, but an assembly goes on forever. . True, Congress is a continuing body, but so is the Executive bureaucracy ; for example, it is far from clear whether the President can control the Pentagon. It takes a strong President to manage the constantly growing federal agencies, and a strong President is likely to try to bend Congress to his own policies, either refusing to spend or in effect spending what he does not have.
Particularly involved in the Executive-Legislative struggle today is the need to redefine national priorities. The President requires for his war the money that Congress wants to spend at home. So there is a fundamental conflict that transcends the matters that Senator Ervin will investigate. But it remains true that the President has no legal right to withhold funds Congress has appropriated, and Congress ought to exert what leverage it can to see that this money is spent. Congress cannot expect to retain the power of the purse if it will not constantly try to exert it.
V. S. News and World Report, April 19, 1971
WHY NIXON REFUSES TO SPEND BILLIONS VOTED BY CONGRESS
It's a basic dispute between The Democratic leaders are getting
strong support from many Governors President and Congress—who
and big-city mayors. controls spending? At stake:
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, meet
ing recently in Washington, charged that nearly 13 billions in projects
Administration withholding of about 1 sidetracked by Mr. Nixon. billion dollars in money earmarked for
urban areas is having a crippling effect
on vital big-city projects. Controversy is boiling up in Wash In a joint statement to the Senate ington over who controls the Govern Subcommittee on Housing and Urban ment purse strings.
Affairs early in March, Mayor Thomas President Nixon, Democrats charge, J. D'Alesandro of Baltimore, and Mayor is freezing funds that Congress has voted Lee Alexander of Syracuse, N. Y., said: and should be spent now for highways, “Of the fiscal-year-1971 funds already urban renewal, public housing, irriga- made available by Congress, the followtion projects and other public works. ing program amounts have been frozen:
Democratic leaders maintain that hun 192 million dollars in public-housingdreds of communities and millions of contract authority, 200 million dollars people would benefit if the President in urban-renewal funds, and 200 million would release more money to spur local dollars for water and sewer grants-a economies and create jobs at a time when unemployment is a worry.
The White House makes no secret about the "frozen funds." Its Office of
FEDERAL Management and Budget lists 12.8 billion PROGRAMS dollars appropriated by Congress but still
CAUGHT not committed to specific projects. Major categories of funds withheld are shown
IN THE in the chart on this page.
SLOWDOWN In addition, another 10 billion dollars in revolving funds for programs such as mass transit and urban renewal is un
The White House has ordered committed
delays in spending nearly 13 President Nixon's budget managers
billion dollars of funds approsay that this money is not actually frozen, but rather that it is "budget au
priated by Congress. Among thority reserved." Presidents, they say,
major programs involvedhave long followed this practice. They hold that the reserved funds are being Highway released as fast as prudent fiscal man
$ 6.3 billion agement permits and that if the federal
Navy shipbuilding........ $957 million money spigot is opened too wide, it will
Low-rent public housing $942 million feed the forces of inflation. "Executive fiat" hit. Top Demo
Airports, aviation crats in Congress take issue with this.
facilities .......... $862 million They say the amounts being withheld Model cities ............ .....$583 million by President Nixon are unprecedented.
Foreign aid, military House Speaker Carl Albert has com
and economic......... $415 million plained that the President is thwarting
Military construction ...... $370 million the will of Congress by "executive fiat" and that "the Administration should live
Farm Credit up to its own rhetoric and release these
Administration loans $260 million important funds forthwith."
Forest roads and trails...$217 million On April 5, Senate Majority Leader
Highway safety ................. $208 million Mike Mansfield said that the House, which initiates appropriations bills,
Water and sewage should go to court to force President
facilities ...... .... $200 million Nixon to release the impounded funds. Senator Mansfield stated that a "grave Source: Office of Management and Budget constitutional question is involved.
total of nearly 600 million dollars funds which could be utilized today
At the same hearings, B. B. Stok general manager of the San France Bay Area Rapid Transit District,
"The Urban Mass Transportation sistance Act of 1970. authorized : billion dollars over five years. The effect of reducing the first year author zation to 269.7 million dollars by the White House] is tragic for it vir invalidates the contract-authority ture of the 1970 act."
"Unprecedented size." Complain also poured in from private industria Said John A. Stastny, president of the National Association of Home Builders
"The number of programs affected and the amount of funds involved a of unprecedented size. Never before ha HUD (Department of Housing and U ban Development) or its predecessor the Housing and Home Finance Agency in terms of dollar amounts, failed to soch an extent to use the funding authorita granted to it by Congress.
Officials of the National Housing Co ference said on April 8 that pubbe hos ing projects all across the country ar being stopped by the White Hou hold-down on funds.
In San Antonio, Tex., for example said Housing Conference officiak 98 housing units and apartments for income families, elderly people handicapped persons are caught in the slowdown. Because the housing prore stalled, they say, a 2-millmodel-city plan cannot move ahead
"It is impossible to explain to tu lies awaiting these units that Congres has provided the money, but the ministration is holding it up and official of the Housing Conference
Among many other cities where ing or urban-renewal projects are according to the National Housing C ference, are Knoxville, Tenn: low Oh Rochester, NY, Houston, TexS Francisco; and Los Angeles
Senator Allen). Ellender, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 30, said the President showing a complete and utter de gard for the expressed will of CODOR
Senator Ellender also published in The Congressional Record a long list of ects from which he said President was withholding appropriated funds
On the Ellender list was a hur protection project for New Orleans
PRESIDENT'S “FROZEN FUNDS"
-A LONG TRADITION
Amount of congressional appropriations impounded by the White House as of June in each year
1959..............$ 6.9 billion 1960.............$ 8.0 billion
1961 ........... $ 7.6 billion 1962........ ...$ 6.5 billion 1963............. $ 4.5 billion
of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House, told Congress that it is the duty of the President to regulate the flow of money appropriated by Congress.
"A balance must be struck between bringing inflation under control and meeting other national needs," said Mr. Weinberger. "One way of doing this is by being selective in applying fiscal restraints."
The largest single category of money in the present budget reserve is 5.9 billion dollars in federal aid for highway construction. A White House aide says that releasing large amounts of this money now would be of little help to the States, because many do not have the matching funds on hand that are required to be eligible for federal highway grants.
Roosevelt quoted. Presidential withholding of funds is not new. It goes back at least to Franklin Roosevelt, according to Mr. Weinberger. He said that Mr. Roosevelt, in a 1942 letter to a congressional leader, said that "the mere fact that Congress by the appropriation process has made available specified sums for the various programs and functions of the Government is not a man date that such funds must be fully expended."
The chart on this page shows that Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson impounded large amounts of appropriated funds. But the 11.5 billion dollars held back by President Nixon in 1970 was larger than the amount in any year under the three previous Presidents. The 12.8 billion on hand as of February, 1971. probably will be drawn down to about the 1970 level by the end of June, budget officials say.
Mr. Nixon's withholding of funds. however, has been smaller when meas
ured as a percentage of total spending than the sums impounded in some years of previous Administrations. The 1970 reserve was 5.8 per cent of Government outlays for the year.
The amount held back by President Johnson in 1967 was 6.7 per cent of the total spending in 1967 and President Eisenhower's withholding was 8.7 per cent of 1960 outlays.
Political implications of the dispute between President Nixon and Congress are seen as far-reaching. "The Washington Post" stated on April 5:
"Some critics ... hint the Administration is holding back the money as bait for congressional enactment of revenue sharing or as a slush fund to pump up the economy in 1972 and help reelect Mr. Nixon on a wave of full employment."
Hints of loosening. By the end of the first full week in April, there were indications that Democratic complaints probably would bring some thawing of frozen funds. A White House aide said that sizable amounts of the budget reserve probably would be turned loose in the weeks ahead.
This official said that the spending slowdown was making it more difficult for President Nixon to win approval of his program from a Congress controlled by Democrats.
But the basic issue of who controls the Government's purse strings remains unresolved, and many in Congress are determined to bring it to a showdown. Said a Republican Senator, Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., of Maryland:
"The power of the purse--the power of Congress to determine the expenditure of public money ... must be preserved if we are to preserve the fundamental balance between the legislative and executive branches."
1964............. $ 4.2 billion 1965..............$ 5.6 billion 1966.............. $ 8.7 billion 1967 .....$10.6 billion 1968............ $ 9.9 billion
by programent Neaking at the
1969.. ..........$ 9.6 billion 1970 ..........$11.5 billion Latest............ $12.8 billion
Source: Office of Management and Budget
3 million dollars withheld. Another was an irrigation project for California's Central Valley, with an appropriation of 10 million blocked. The Columbia Basin Project in Washington State, involving about 1.5 million in appropriations, also was on the Ellender list.
Administration stand. Presenting the Administration viewpoint, HUD Secretary George Romney told the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Ur. ban Affairs that money was being held back because it could not now be used effectively.
Mr. Romney said that about 1.3 billion dollars for urban programs was in budget reserves, but that much of this would be released in the last half of 1971. His explanation:
"I am not going to be a party to throwing federal funds around just because they happen to be available. We are also looking into the possibility of folding any unused funds into the special revenue-sharing pot."
Caspar Weinberger, deputy director
[From The Washington Daily News, Apr. 2, 1971)
CONGRESS FRYING Nixon OVER FISH
(By Joseph Volz) A $10 million national home for fish has been quietly scuttled by the Nixon Administration touching off Congressional objections that threaten to erupt to a full-scale constitutional issue.
At the center of the controversy is the National Aquarium, a sort of combination Disneyland-Smithsonian Institution of the sea slated for East Potomac Park. Congress appropriated funds for the project five years ago.
But now the Office of Management and Budget has ordered a halt to planning of the aquarium, and disgruntled supporters of the project believe the administration has no intention of ever resuming it.
But can the President not do what Congress has said it wants done? A number of people of the Hill, including Sen. Sam Ervin, D-N.C., and Rep. Julia Hansen, D-Wash., are siding with the fish.
Sen. Ervin, chairman of a Judiciary subcommittee studying separation of powers, thinks President Nixon may have overstepped his executive branch prerogatives.
He will introduce a bill giving the Interior Department a deadline for starting construction, but it is anybody's guess what will happen if the administration doesn't dig the Aquarium.
Rep. Hansen, chairman of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, is equally perturbed. She is known to believe the administration deliberately delayed construction until the aquarium's biggest booster, powerful Rep. Mike Kirwan, D-Ohio, left Washington. Rep. Kirwan died last year.
It was he who won President Kennedy's support in 1962 over the objections of Sen. William Proxmire, D-Wis., who called the aquarium "would be the most extravagant gold-plated fish bowl in world history." The cost was chopped in half and the bill became law.
The aquarium was supposed to have been built in 1967 but there have been numerous delays. Some District residents argued that housing for people was more important than a building for fish.
Sen. Ervin called in Caspar Weinberger, OMB deputy director, recently who said the administration has decided "to give Congress another chance to consider the relative importance of the fish in this particular fiscal year."
But nobody in OMB was taking the credit for dumping the aquarium. Dep. Director Sam Cohn revealed: "I do not have any feeling for fish." He said somebody in the Johnson Administration "impounded" the money.
That word "impounded” has been bothering Sen. Ervin, too. It means the President failed to release funds. But Ervin aides say the aquarium is the only case in recent years when the administration has indicated it will never release the funds unless Congress really gets angry.
Interior officials argue this is one federal project which would be self-sup porting. Admission charges would pay off construction and operating costs.
District fish lovers are not completely cut off from aquatic life, tho. There is an aquarium in the basement of the Commerce Building, 14th-st and Pennsylvania-av nw, next to the cafeteria.
[From The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 17, 1971)
REVIEW AND OUTLOOK-SOMEDAY WE'VE GOT TO GET ORGANIZED The recent Senate flap over the withholding of federal funds points up some serious problems. Unfortunately, they weren't the ones that were getting the lawmaker's attention.
Senator John J. Sparkman touched off the dispute when he attacked the administration for 'impounding" more than $8 billion in funds appropriated for various programs, chiefly domestic. In the view of the Alabama Demo crat this action was nothing less than a "serious breach of faith" with Congress.
Well, it quickly became evident that everyone has a little trouble keeping up with what's going on within the vast federal establishment. The $8 billion
figure had been supplied by George P. Shultz, director of the Office of Management and Budget, but it apparently was a month or so out of date. The total "impounded” now comes to around $11 billion, give or take a few hundred million.
Now, this obviously isn't the best possible way to run a government. Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr., a staunch Constitutionalist, was much milder than his Alabama colleague but still was worried: "What concerns me," he said, "is the use of the impounding practice to avoid or nullify congressional intent. All too frequently, when Congress votes substantially more funds for a program that the Executive Branch requested, the President signs the appropriation bill, then directs the Office of Management and Budget not to release the funds."
In this case at least, however, the administration was not merely trying to thwart Congress. Instead, it was merely trying to make a messy "system" temporarily viable.
As the administration noted, Congress itself set a ceiling on federal spending in the current fiscal year. Then, in their own appropriations, the lawmakers paid no particular attention to the ceiling and cheerfully directed the administration to spend merrily away.
The administration, moreover, showed more awareness than the legislators of the fact that the federal government has become such a big spender that it has enormous power to distort the economy. That's of special importance now when the economy is nervously edging through a transition from recession to recovery.
Even the construction unions are aware that inflated costs and prices in their industry are seriously restricting its activity. It so happens that most of the federal funds impounded so far were for various government construction projects and would have inflated demand even more.
In passing it's worth mentioning that the gap between congressional action and administration sometimes reflects only the huge size of the spending task. Under Secretary of Transportation James M. Beggs, for instance, says that "administrative curbs and small staff” chiefly explain why his agency so far has committed only $400 million of the $600 million available for urban mass transit.
The solution to these various problems is not to make the administration a more effective spending robot, shoveling the money out automatically as Congress presses the button. Somewhere someone has to worry about the total impact of federal outlays on the nation's economy.
A first step toward a real solution would be a thorough overhaul of the Congressional appropriations process. Hardly ever does anyone in Congress have even the opportunity to view the year's total outlay; everything is examined in bits and pieces. Appropriations bills often aren't passed until six months or so after the start of the year they're supposed to cover.
Massive collections of unlike things are assembled into single appropriations bills, which the President must either accept or veto in toto. The government spends its money with the care and wisdom characteristic of a sailor on a drunken spree.
Whatever Congress may think of the administration's actions in this instance, the government's overall financial performance certainly does amount to a serious breach of faith with the nation's people.
[From The Washington Post, Mar. 24, 1971)
NIXON Asks $8 BILLION ADDED FUNDS President Nixon asked Congress yesterday for $8.2 billion in supplemental appropriations but at the same time came under attack for not spending money appropriated earlier.
Mr. Nixon said the new money he seeks was already taken into account in computing the budget presented in January and will not add to it.
The biggest item is $4.4 billion to pay for federal employee pay increases. Another $1 billion would cover an increase of 1 million persons in the aid-todependent-children caseload throughout the country.
Meanwhile, appearing before a Senate subcommittee on separation of governmental powers, former Interior Secretary Stewat L. Udall urged Congress