Accusing the Republican Congress of taking its lead from extremists and special interests, President Clinton threatened House legislation with two vetoes, singling out a bill that would gut federal environmental laws and another that would deregulate the telecommunications industry.
“It is clear that this Congress is on the wrong track,” the president said at morning news conference. Environmental bills are being written by “lobbyists for the polluters,” he charged.
Meanwhile, he said, the National Rifle Association is helping direct one congressional investigation while House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., has pledged that no gun-control bills, even a restriction on “cop-killer bullets,” will move forward.
“You can see who’s in control in this Congress, and it’s not good,” the president said.
With the conservative agenda in Congress now gaining momentum and Clinton hard-pressed to advance his own legislative agenda, the threat of vetoes is becoming more commonplace. Before, Clinton has wavered between a strategy of cooperation and confrontation. But this week, as the Republicans used high-profile hearings to revisit the twin 1993 tragedies of White House counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr.’s suicide and the 1993 Branch Davidian conflagration near Waco, Texas, Clinton signaled that he is turning toward confrontation.
He focused his ire on a House Republican vote Monday night to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to enforce anti-pollution standards for drinking water, auto emissions and wetlands.
By the narrowest of margins, the ouse Republican leadership defeated an attempt to keep the EPA regulations in place. The legislation now goes to the Senate, which is expected to look more favorably on the EPA’s regulatory role. Nonetheless, Clinton sounded as though he would be delighted to have the opportunity to veto the House bill.
While Clinton said he opposes the Republican deregulatory approach on the environmental front, he said that he agrees with the general move to deregulate the fast-evolving communications industry. But, he said, the House Republicans’ bill goes too far.
“I do think it would be an error to set up a situation in the United States where one person could own half the televisions stations in the country or half of the media outlets,” Clinton said.
While the president did not mention the “one person” who might stand to benefit from those changes, a White House official in an interview with the Los Angeles Times Monday said the House legislation amounts to “a sweetheart deal” for Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp.
The pending House bill would drop the current rule that limits a single owner to 12 television stations. It also would allow a single corporation to own television stations that reach 50 percent of the national market, up from the current 25 percent.
“The very week they are investigating the sweetheart deal for Gingrich, they are giving a sweetheart deal for Murdoch,” the official said.