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Public Statements

Deficit Reduction Act of 2005--Conference Report

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEFICIT REDUCTION ACT OF 2005--CONFERENCE REPORT

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Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, many of my colleagues have been on the floor talking about the importance of the votes tomorrow, and I want to remind my colleagues that I do think that these votes are important for the Senate process. I am very disturbed, as are many of my colleagues, that we have moved forward with the Department of Defense appropriations bill that includes language to open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as a provision allowing drug manufacturers to be protected from liability from lawsuits for vaccines that they make.

I think most of my colleagues thought we were going to vote on a Department of Defense appropriations bill tomorrow that was going to help our troops and give military pay raises and help provide security for our Nation. The last thing I think many Americans think is a nexus to that is drilling in the Arctic Refuge, particularly when many Americans believe we don't have enough energy independence and need to get over our over dependence on fossil fuels.

I hope my colleagues understand how important this issue is. We have been contacted by military leaders, retired military leaders who have said:

..... any effort to attach controversial legislative language authorizing drilling in ANWR to the defense appropriations conference report will jeopardize Congress' ability to provide our troops and their families the resources they need. .....

This coming from retired military personnel who thought it was so important they actually sent a letter saying they were concerned that this legislation would hold up funding for our troops. That letter has previously been printed in its entirety in the RECORD.

We have also been contacted by the Retired Military Officers Association. These are individuals, too, who want to see legislation go through because they want to make sure the men and women in the military receive their increase in pay and take care of the troops overseas and get all the enforcements they need in a Defense bill. But they also wrote to us saying:

We are concerned that the insertion of any divisive, non-defense related issues at the last minute could further delay the enactment of this crucial legislation.

So military leaders from around our country are saying they do not like the antics of putting ANWR drilling, a very divisive issue that has been debated for 25 years, into a Defense appropriations bill. This is coming from the military men and women who want to see a clean defense appropriations bill.

I should say to my colleagues that there are other people watching this issue as well. We have newspapers across the country that are also calling out for Congress to be more responsible on this legislation. They are hearing the complaint, as I am, from many parts of the country about this legislation and the way it has been put together.

The Statesman Journal in Salem, OR, states that some U.S. lawmakers are still trying to scheme and allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

I heard my colleague talk about the vote tomorrow and the process. I just wish to emphasize that while there will be points of order as it relates to the budget and the budget process allowing for a budget point of order and the rules of the budget as it relates to this bill, the Defense appropriations bill, there is language in here that I believe is outside the scope of this legislation and should not be allowed.

I hope my colleagues understand that is one of the possible votes tomorrow--on whether this language on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as my colleague from Michigan said, has no inclusion, neither in the House nor Senate original proposal, has no place showing up in a conference report in the eleventh hour. That is why we are hearing from people all over the country about how absurd it is to include this in the legislation.

I hope, if my colleagues are forced to have a vote on upholding the ruling of the Chair, that they will realize they are really overturning the Senate rules if you disagree with the ruling of the Chair on this issue. This is not the same as the budget process. It is part of our Senate rules. The Senate rules, as the Senator from Michigan read, are very clear. You can't include things in a conference report that were in neither House nor Senate version. But that is exactly what the Senator from Alaska has tried to do.

Alaska will likely get, from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, $5 billion in bid bonuses. I actually think that this proposal, even for an Alaskan, is shortsighted.

America needs to be diversifying into alternative fuels like biofuels, and be focusing on lightweight materials that help us be efficient.

I think that is why this newspaper in Oregon calls this plan shortsighted, that it is disgusting that lawmakers would try to equate oil profits with the Nation's true defense needs. That is what newspapers across the country are saying about this legislation. I believe they are right because we are doing a great disservice to the men and women in the military by continuing to talk about this issue without being specific to the fact that we are adding something that should never have been put in this legislation.

Another Oregon newspaper, the Oregonian also said that Arctic drilling has been thrown into the Defense bill, and it is an emotionally charged matter of supporting the troops at a time of war, and it does not belong there.

This is from another newspaper: It doesn't belong there.

Americans are watching and paying attention to the fact that this legislation was thrown in at the eleventh hour. I believe we should pull it out and get on about our business of passing a Defense appropriations bill.

Let me mention another issue that I am sorry is in this legislation.

I have for the RECORD several editorials that I would also like to submit for the RECORD on this issue of immunity for drug and vaccine manufacturers. There are several here that deserve being a part of the RECORD. I ask unanimous consent that they be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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Ms. CANTWELL. For example, the Register-Guard--I don't know why Oregon is paying so much attention to what is happening, but they are on top of things--says in an editorial, ``Unjustifiable protection against lawsuits,'' making sure to protect the drug companies is an immunity deal for vaccine makers that has been slipped into the Defense bill.

They think it is unjustifiable.

Another paper, the Vindicator, a Youngstown, OH, newspaper with the headline: ``Trading on fear by passing legislation is wrong.''

It says that when legislators begin attaching complex legislation with far-reaching effects to must-pass bills, a tactic designed to grease the way for passage with virtually no debate, people should be alarmed.

I ask unanimous consent these articles be printed in the RECORD.

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Ms. CANTWELL. The Toledo Blade editorial said:

Congress and President Bush have acted sluggishly in protecting the nation from public health emergencies, but they can move at lightning speed when it comes to helping their friends in the pharmaceutical industry.

I ask unanimous consent to have that printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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Ms. CANTWELL. The St. Louis-Dispatch, ``Vaccines: Shot in the dark.''

Nor is there any reason to provide extraordinary liability protection for drug companies making bird flu vaccine.

It may be attached to a defense appropriations bill ..... that would be a big mistake.

I ask unanimous consent that be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
[From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Editorial, Dec. 15, 2005]

Vaccines: Shot in the Dark

Shielding vaccine makers from accountability won't speed the development of new drugs to fight bioterrorism. But that's the approach some in Congress seem bent on taking.

Rushing to get home for Christmas vacation, Congress is poised to approve an ill-considered bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. The bill would create a new bureaucracy, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, that would perform many of the functions now carried out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

It's being sold as an essential step in President George W. Bush's pandemic flu plan, and a short-cut to the development of vaccines for other diseases that could be used in a bioterror attack. It is neither.

The new agency would be exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act. And it would have the authority to block civil actions on drugs, vaccines and other medical devices developed for it. That means patients would have no right to compensation if they were harmed, and professional groups could be blocked from getting information about things like complication rates.

The foundation of public health is sharing information, making it as widely available to individuals and local governments as possible. Arguing that an agency designed to help combat bird flu or bioterror should work in extraordinary secrecy is as puzzling as it is wrong-headed.

Nor is there any reason to provide extraordinary liability protection for drug companies making bird flu vaccine. For 20 years, America has had a vaccine injury compensation fund that helps people injured by side-effects of inoculations and protects vaccine makers from excessive liability. It works fine, so why tamper with it?

Most analysts say that recent reductions in the number of vaccine makers are tied to low profit margins and uncertain markets, not to the fear of lawsuits. Now, with guarantees of massive government purchases, the industry is gearing up research and production. It doesn't need these new protections.

Dr. Frist's bill could be voted on by the end of the week. It may be attached to a defense appropriation bill that would be the last thing Congress votes on this year. That would be a big mistake.

Ms. CANTWELL. The Times-Tribune of Scranton, PA, said:

..... the prospect of a pandemic is being used by Congress to pander to the pharmaceutical industry.

And:

Congress should not use legitimate concerns about a flu epidemic as a wedge to protect the manufacturers from liability.

I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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Ms. CANTWELL. Several other articles that I will go through include the Roanoke Times, that this legislation is in pursuit of secrecy around this issue.

The Orlando Sentinel: Drug firms don't deserve virtually unlimited protection against vaccines lawsuits that would shield manufacturers.

The Raleigh, NC newspaper: Wrong way immunity.

One more, the Las Vegas Sun, titled ``Vaccines and accountability: Bush's proposal to shield avian-flu vaccine makers from liability invites health problems.''

I ask unanimous consent to have those printed in the RECORD.

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Ms. CANTWELL. We can see from the editorials there are many people paying attention to what is in this Department of Defense appropriations bill. I should say, because my colleagues all have a copy of the legislation on their desk but they may not have dug deep into these many pages to see, that they should pay special attention to language starting on page 434 about a liability provision exempting drug manufacturers.

It was alarming enough to me to have the ANWR language, but certainly to have additional language that is thrown into this bill as these various editorials have said, at a time without the review and the complexity of the legislation being discussed is wrong.

I hope my colleagues tomorrow will think about their votes on this process and to say that the Defense bill and appropriations should be about the

troops. It should be about protecting our country. It is about giving them resources. It should not be about backdoor attempts or legislative blackmail to say force Members to vote for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or this drug liability provision.

I hope my colleagues will read this legislation carefully.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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