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Public Papers - 1992 - October

Statement on Signing the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1993


I have signed into law H.R. 5427, the ``Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1993.'' While I regret that the Congress has rejected my proposal for a 33 percent reduction in congressional staffs, I need not repeat here the compelling reasons for such a reduction. However, I am compelled to comment upon two troublesome features of this bill.

First, I object to section 315, which establishes a ``Task Force on Senate Coverage'' for the purpose of ``studying'' whether various statutes that now apply to the private sector and/or the executive branch should also apply to the United States Senate.

This is not the sort of complex, difficult question that requires deliberation by a blue-ribbon panel. The Congress need not look beyond James Madison's warning in Federalist Paper No. 57 that ``[i]f [the American] spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the Legislature as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.'' Rather than ``study'' the issue, the Congress should quickly eliminate this unseemly practice by passing the Accountability in Government Act that I proposed in April.

I would also note the limitations placed on the Task Force's authority to take even the small step of examining this issue. Although the bill mentions several statutes by name, it ignores the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act, and other civil rights laws. The current ``coverage'' of the Congress by these laws is a sham, since it denies congressional employees the same rights to trial before a judge or jury enjoyed by other Americans. The bill also excludes consideration of whether the Congress should be covered by the Independent Counsel provision of the Ethics in Government Act, if that statute is reauthorized. And even as to the small number of laws remaining for consideration by the Task Force, the Task Force's mandate reaches only the Senate, not the House.

Second, provisions establishing the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Capitol present constitutional concerns. Even though the voting members of the Commission will all be Members of Congress, section 324(a) of the bill, if broadly construed, could be interpreted to allow the exercise of significant governmental authority by the Commission. So construed, this provision would be unconstitutional under the Appointments Clause of Article II, section 2, and the Incompatibility Clause of Article I, section 6. To avoid this constitutional infirmity, I will interpret section 324(a) of the bill as authorizing the Commission to perform only ceremonial and advisory functions within the legislative branch.

George Bush

The White House,

October 6, 1992.

Note: H.R. 5427, approved October 6, was assigned Public Law No. 102 - 392.

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