President Clinton decided Thursday to sign a defense spending bill, which he has said is too costly, because it will provide the money to send troops and other support to Bosnia.
“This legislation is vital to fund our national defense so that the United States remains the strongest force for peace in the world,” Clinton said in a statement Thursday night.
“I made this decision because my administration has reached agreement with congressional leaders to provide funding, out of the funds contained in this bill, for the troop deployment and other efforts to secure peace in Bosnia.”
Clinton repeated his strong reservations about the bill, which he said contains “excessive spending for projects that are not currently needed for defense.”
“I will forward to Congress rescission legislation that would eliminate funding for those projects, and I urge Congress to act on it,” he said.
Clinton’s announcement came hours after budget talks on Capitol Hill broke down, with Republicans saying they would not give the president what he wanted in return for his signature, namely, billions of dollars extra for domestic programs.
“The decision I am making tonight is consistent with our understanding that these discussions will continue with the goal of reaching a satisfactory conclusion as rapidly as possible,” Clinton said.
One administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said talks with congressional Republicans might continue today on the remaining domestic spending bills.
Instead of giving Clinton the money he wants for domestic programs, GOP leaders said they would consider easing planned cuts in education, job training and other administration domestic initiatives only after the two sides strike a budget-balancing deal.
“You can’t divorce the two,” said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. “It’s all the budget.”
The $243 billion defense bill contains $7 billion more than Clinton wants, mostly for weapons programs. The president had until midnight Thursday to veto the bill or sign it, or it would become law automatically.
As he pondered his decision, bipartisan budget negotiators broke off talks until Monday, with each side accusing the other of not bargaining seriously. The negotiations, which began Tuesday, are aimed at finding a compromise plan for balancing the budget by 2002.
The defense bill also contained language banning abortions at overseas military hospitals, except in cases of rape and incest or to save the life of the mother. The language strikes at one of Clinton’s first acts as president, an executive order eliminating abortion restrictions imposed by President Reagan. Clinton had argued that women stationed in countries with unreliable health care services should be able to get safe reproductive services.
Despite its increases over Clinton’s request, the defense bill calls for spending less money than last year when inflation is taken into account.
Against administration wishes, the measure seeks to spend $493 million to begin expansion of the nation’s fleet of B-2 bombers beyond the 20 already in service or on order. The White House has balked at the increases, citing overall budget pressures.
The bill also calls for a 2.4 percent military pay raise, $2.4 billion for eight C-17 cargo planes, $700 million toward a third Seawolf submarine, $2.2 billion for continued development of the F-22 fighter plane, funding for three DDG-51 destroyers, $647 million to cover unbudgeted costs of U.S. monitoring operations in northern and southern Iraq, and $3.4 billion for missile defenses.