Language in budget bill could unravel federal environmental protections

Buried deep in the 2,000-page budget bill President Bush recently sent to Congress is a three-sentence provision that threatens to eviscerate environmental and other protections. Authored by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the provision would, if passed unamended, subject any and all federal programs to the scrutiny of a “Sunset Commission.” The eight-member panel, appointed by the president, would have the power to kill any programs not “producing results.” Programs deemed non-productive would “automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them.” “This is potentially devastating,” warned Wesley Warren, who served in the OMB under President Clinton. “In short order, this could knock out protections that have been built up over a generation.” The provision raises thorny constitutional questions, as it would subject congressional powers to what amounts to executive approval. Still, says Clay Johnson of the Bush OMB, “We just think it makes sense.”