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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the amendment of my good friend from Oklahoma. He and I were elected to the House together and we fought many battles over there, not unlike what he has brought to the Senate, and I wound up voting with him a number of times. But in this case I must oppose him, mainly because I think he has the facts wrong.

I want to say to the chairman and ranking member, since my days on the House side when I had to go to the then-chairman of the Appropriations Committee over there, who has jurisdiction of CDC, after I would talk with him I would come over here and visit with Senators because this has been such an important project that we have embarked on. Both Senator Specter and Senator Harkin have been very supportive of the work down at CDC, not just the construction program, which I want to talk a little bit about but also of the ongoing work down there.

Nobody, even my friend from Oklahoma, would disagree that the work being done at CDC is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Were it not for the great support of Senator Harkin and Senator Specter, I am not sure we would be in this position today. I can only emphasize how important that work is by telling the American people, as we talk about this issue and talk about CDC, that on September 11, after the terrorists struck New York City, there were two planes that were authorized to be in the air. One was Air Force One. The other was an airplane commissioned by the CDC to carry CDC medical workers to New York City. That is how important a priority it is in our country. That is why it is important that we make sure the employees at CDC have the availability of working in first-class facilities.

Most of the laboratory facilities at the Chamblee, GA location of CDC are in a state of extreme disrepair and require immediate repair or modernization. Perhaps the laboratories in the worst condition are 60-year-old wooden former temporary military barracks from the World War II era and previous to that, that are on the verge of collapse and could be repaired only at an expense greater than the value of the facilities. I want to show you a couple of examples of what it looks like at the CDC if we take money away from the CDC building program to put it towards the ADAP program, as this amendment calls for. These are some of the facilities that will go lacking and the construction project will be delayed for the buildings which will house these facilities.

Here is a main environmental health lab at Chamblee, in a World War II barrack. If you will notice, there appears to be a shield of some sort here. This shows the roof above this shield that extends all the way up to the roof. The reason it is there is because there is a leak in the roof. When the water comes through, it leaks into this funnel, which is this shield, and you will see a pipe connected to that shield and it takes the water to the outside.

Here is a typical infectious disease lab at the Roybal Campus adjacent to Emory University. This shows not just the crowded conditions in which the most sophisticated scientists in the world operate, but it also shows you it is not adequate for the type of work that needs to be carried out to prevent every kind of infectious disease that exists in the world today. That is because the CDC is not called on by simply other States in America; it is called on by every country around the world when illness occurs.

This is a pretty typical facility. These are not facilities that have been replaced. These are facilities that exist today.

A quick personal anecdote. I will never forget the first time I went to the Chamblee campus a few years before we embarked on this building program. I walked into what then was a World War II barrack. It now has been replaced. There was a shower curtain, and it wasn't one of those $540 shower curtains. This had been purchased by the individual scientist working in that building. That shower curtain was put over a piece of equipment and it was about 5 feet, I guess, above the equipment itself. When I asked what that was for, they pointed to a hole in the roof and said, The roof leaks and there is nothing we can do about it. Here we have a piece of equipment worth about $1.5 million that sits right under there. It has to be there because of the design of the lab inside the building. That shower curtain was purchased by the individual scientist to make sure that not only the equipment was not damaged but, obviously, that the working papers on that scientist's desk were not destroyed by water coming in and leaking on it.

But we have since torn that building down and we have replaced it.

Expensive and sensitive equipment has literally fallen through the floors at some of these facilities. In addition, most of the remainder of the CDC's laboratories are more than 40 years old and are incapable of handling the dangerous viruses encountered over the last 25 years, such as Ebola virus, hantavirus, and Dengue fever. This raises concerns that these facilities will be severely outmatched in the future by undiscovered biological threats, which we have most recently experienced with the threat of anthrax in the past years, and the disasters that occurred on September 11. The Asian bird flu or any other highly pathogenic avian influenza is currently an issue for agricultural health and animal disease experts, but should this virus mutate to allow for human-to-human transfer, the control and efforts to limit its spread will fall squarely under the purview of the very entity that this amendment would seek to cut, the CDC.

The three prongs critical to managing an animal-borne pandemic--DHS, CDC, and USDA--must all be equipped with the necessary resources to effectively address potential outbreaks in a timely and efficient manner. This amendment will jeopardize a critical element in this effort.

During the 1997 Hong Kong avian flu outbreak, CDC was forced to create emergency laboratory space by displacing researchers working on other diseases. With additional funding, CDC will be much better prepared to respond to such emergencies as a terrorist attack using smallpox virus, anthrax, a worldwide flu pandemic or a large-scale exposure to deadly toxic chemicals. A delayed or slow response from CDC may increase public panic or anxiety in an emergency situation and cost human lives.

One of today's most serious potential threats to our national security is bioterrorism. The CDC is an integral part of the homeland defense because of its ability to identify, classify, and recommend courses of action in dealing with biological and chemical threats. The CDC master plan will address the current and future needs for surge capacity for responding to large public health emergencies.

In addition to working in asbestos-laden facilities, many highly trained scientists perform their research in facilities that lack safety features, such as sprinkler systems and adequate electric and airflow systems. The poor conditions of the facilities have damaged the Agency's ability to recruit and retain the world-class scientists upon which CDC relies to serve the American public.

The multiyear master plan has received wide bipartisan support in the House and Senate. In the past, addressing these deficiencies has greatly benefited all Americans by enhancing CDC's ability to respond to emergencies as well as providing the desperately needed facilities required for the day-to-day public health and research activities.

The fiscal year 2006 funding will continue to substantially enhance the CDC's ability to build the new infectious disease laboratory, which will include greatly needed biosafety level 4 ``hot lab'' construction of a new environmental toxicology lab and greatly needed security updates.

Let me tell you about the master plan to which I referred a couple of times.

Back in 2001, probably at about the time Senator Specter said he went to CDC--and I am sure Senator Harkin was there about that time--they observed the condition of the facilities at CDC, both at the Chamblee Campus, as well as the Roybal Campus. Those buildings were in total disrepair, and in bad need of replacement.

Again, the examples which I alluded to, the personal anecdote as well as what I have shown in pictures, still exist, particularly throughout the Chamblee Campus.

Under the leadership then of Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, and subsequently under Dr. Gerberding, the CDC developed a master building plan. What they did was unique to any governmental agency that I have ever engaged with since I have been in Congress for 11 years now; that is, they went out and had an architect draw a master plan for a specific set of buildings. It involves a number of buildings where we are going to consolidate laboratories as we tear down these World War II barracks. That master plan not only had the buildings drawn, but they also went further than this and had the plans and specifications themselves sent out for bid. And they now have a contract on each one of these buildings. That is the master plan.

Originally, we were scheduled to complete that $15 billion master plan over 10 years.

Senator Isakson, who was then a Member of the House, and myself, along with our entire delegation, in a bipartisan fashion, came to our leadership in the House and to the leadership in the Senate and said, rather than doing this over 10 years following September 11, we need to consolidate this to five years and let our scientists have the ability to do a better job in a first-class facility.

So we decided to go with a 5-year plan as opposed to a 10-year plan.

Each year, we have asked for $300 million to try to complete that plan. We have been successful for a number of years in getting $250 million.

I have to say that every year--the Senator from Oklahoma is right--the budget that comes over from the President is very low because they know we are going to plus-up that amount of money; we have done it every year because we need the facilities. Every year we have had $250 million, beginning with fiscal year 2002. In 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005, we funded $250 million for CDC in Atlanta, to speed up this master plan. This year, because of the tight budget conditions that we are in, Senator Specter and Senator Harkin allocated $200 million instead of $250 million for this master plan.

Let me respond very quickly to this Japanese garden issue. I will tell you what the Japanese garden is. In parts of Georgia, if you drill a hole in the ground when building, you sometimes hit granite rock. In this case, part of the area on the Roybal Campus where we are carrying out the master plan, there is rock under the surface. It was necessary to blast that rock out. When they blasted the rock out, instead of hauling that rock off, Dr. Gerberding said, Let's take that and develop an area for our employees to utilize during the day, to exercise, as Senator Harkin referred to, and go out and eat lunch. I guess what we have out there is a gardedn of some sort that must have a Japanese ``tinge'' to it, and that is why it is referred to as ``the Japanese garden.'' It looked to me like a nice place where employees could go out in the open air and have lunch. I have seen them out there doing this.

I am going to let Senator Isakson address a couple of other specific items that have been suggested as being somewhat wasteful spending. They are hard-working, dedicated employees. If we are going to continue to recruit the very finest that the world has to offer, we ought to at least be able to spend a little bit of money and take advantage of the contours of the land to give them a nice place to go out and sit on their break and at lunchtime.

I sympathize with the Senator from Oklahoma when he says that we need to continue spending money on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. We have responded to that in the Congress. We have maintained a level amount of spending for CDC in Atlanta, for the completion of our master plan over the last 5 years. The ADAP appropriations for 2001 was $589 million. In 2002, that rose to $639 million; then $714 million; then $748 million; and in the 2005 appropriations, it was $793 million. In 2006, we expect $797.5 million.

It is not like we haven't been increasing the funding for ADAP. We have, and we need to continue to do so, but not at the expense of providing the most premier medical scientists and researchers in the world with a facility within which to work.

I urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment.

Again, I say to Senator Specter and Senator Harkin that under their leadership, we do have the most premier medical research facility in the world located in Atlanta, GA, today, and we need to continue to provide the funding for this master plan, which we will now complete in another couple of years. We should be able to continue to attract the very finest and best that the world has to offer. We also need to ensure that Americans are safe, when the avian flu presents a threat, that our scientists are able to respond, as they are doing today, and that they have the habitat within which to work, allowing them to do the very best job they can do to protect Americans and to protect the world from the health hazards that exist.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to this amendment. While I agree with the need to continue to fight AIDS, the program to which this money is transferred----

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, the fund to which Senator Coburn seeks to transfer this money is already funded in this bill to the tune of almost $800 million. It is not as if we are ignoring the very noble issue he is seeking to improve, but the fact is that we embarked on a multiyear plan at the CDC to improve the quality of the buildings where our most sophisticated and important researchers and scientists work on critical issues. It is imperative that we continue with this plan.

I yield to my friend from Georgia for the remainder of the time.

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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