Statement on Signing the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1985

August 30, 1984

Today I am signing into law H.R. 5712, a bill to provide appropriations in 1985 for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and related agencies.

I am grateful for the successful efforts of the Senate and the House of Representatives in keeping the total level of spending in this bill at an acceptable level.

I am, however, concerned about section 510 of the bill, which is intended to prohibit the Federal Trade Commission from spending appropriated funds to enforce certain provisions of the substantive antitrust laws. First, this provision raises questions pertaining to the separation of powers among the branches of government, because it seeks to permit unwarranted intrusion by Congress into pending law enforcement proceedings brought by an administrative agency. Second, by including a rider on an appropriations bill rather than by amending substantive law, Congress has attempted to prevent the Federal Trade Commission from carrying out the constitutional duty of executing the substantive antitrust laws. I am hopeful that, at the earliest possible date, appropriate legislative action will be taken to amend existing substantive law so as to specify the intention of Congress regarding the Federal Trade Commission's authority under the antitrust laws.

I am also concerned about the bill's provision relating to the Legal Services Corporation, which purports to mandate continued funding for current grantees of the Corporation at essentially the same level of funding as in fiscal year 1984, unless action is taken prior to January 1, 1985, by Directors of the Corporation who have been confirmed by the Senate. To the extent that this provision may be intended to disable persons appointed under the Constitution's provision governing Presidential appointments during congressional recesses from performing functions that directors confirmed by the Senate are authorized to perform, it raises troubling constitutional issues with respect to my recess appointments power. At my request, the Attorney General is looking into the question whether this provision can, consistent with the Constitution, effect this intent.

In this regard, I urge the Senate to avoid any constitutional issues by acting promptly on the confirmation of the Board members I have nominated, who have been the subject of extensive hearings and action by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 5712 is Public Law 98 - 411, approved August 30.