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Public Statements

Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2003

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I strongly support the amendment offered by Senator Mikulski that would prevent Federal agencies from establishing, applying, or enforcing any numerical goal, target, or quota for the contracting out of Federal jobs. The Mikulski amendment is identical to language that passed the House by a large, bipartisan margin and was included in the House fiscal year 2003 Treasury appropriations.

I was very troubled by the Office of Management and Budget's directive to contract out 850,000 jobs over the next 3 years. I was concerned because the OMB privatization quotas encourage agencies to privatize Federal employee jobs without public-private competition, which is unfair both to the affected employees as well as the taxpayers. In fact the OMB quotas force agencies to privatize Federal employee jobs that even Federal managers believe should continue to be performed by reliable Federal employees.

Senator Mikulski's amendment is reasonable and fair. It allows for the contracting out of Federal employee jobs, but it prevents jobs from arbitrarily being privatized. Instead it will ensure that thoughtful criteria are established before Federal employee jobs are given away. This is an issue of fundamental fairness, and about establishing a fair and reasonable process.

I strongly support Senator Mikulski's amendment and I urge my colleagues to vote for it.

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I offer, on behalf of myself and Senators SNOWE, LANDRIEU, LIEBERMAN, and LEVIN, an amendment to H.J. Res. 2, the fiscal year 2003 Omnibus Appropriations resolution. The purpose of the amendment is to reverse severe budget cuts to the SBA's largest small business lending program, commonly referred to as the 7(a) loan program. As part of the administration's fiscal year 2003 budget request, the President under-funded the program by 56 percent, leaving small businesses short than $6 billion in critical loan dollars.

In order to restore over a billion dollars of that short-fall, this amendment would transfer unused funds from SBA's STAR loan program to the 7(a) loan program. As my colleagues may recall, the STAR program was a temporary loan program that I established with Senator BOND to help small businesses across the Nation hurt by terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Thousands of small businesses nationwide were helped by the $3.6 billion in loans already made available through the STAR program, and I thank Senators HOLLINGS and BYRD for helping me to secure the funding.

The authorization for the STAR loans has expired and rather than let the remaining money lapse, we should re-allocate it to help small businesses have access to regular 7(a) loans. Just as we took care of small businesses hurt by 9/11, it is time to turn our attention to those who need financing in this down economy when banks are restricting capital to small businesses. Not only is the 7(a) loan program SBA's largest lending program to small businesses, but it is also the single, largest source of long-term capital available to small businesses in this country. As banks have cut back on lending to small businesses, demand for SBA's loan programs have grown by more than 16 percent, and this is one of the few sources for working capital loans. As I said a few minutes ago, by reprogramming this money, we will be able to leverage over a billion dollars in loans to small businesses, thereby stimulating the economy and creating and preserving jobs. Further, transferring this money would be budget neutral and has the support of OMB.

There is much at stake for small businesses in all of our States. In my home State of Massachusetts, if we implement the President's budget as requested, small businesses stand to lose $121 million in loan dollars and almost 3,700 jobs. As a nation, we would lose $6.2 billion in loans, which translates into 189,000 jobs either lost or not created. In this economy, we can not afford to lose any more jobs or hinder job creation.

This amendment was part of a more comprehensive proposal that Senator BOND and I put forth last Congress. One part was to use more accurate data and a more predictive cost model, and the other was to transfer money from the STAR program to the 7(a) loan program. That legislation had the bipartisan support of then-Budget Committee Chairman CONRAD, then-ranking Member DOMENICI and Senators LANDRIEU, SNOWE, HARKIN, HOLLINGS and BYRD. It was approved by the Office of Management and Budget and voted out of the Senate by unanimous consent. Unfortunately, politics kept it from passing the House. This Congress, our incoming Chair, Senator SNOWE, has quickly taken up where Senator BOND left off, re-introducing last year's bill, now S. 141, to correct the program's subsidy rate model. I thank her for her swift work and for joining me today in offering this amendment. I ask all my colleagues to vote in favor of this amendment.

In closing, I want to thank Chairwoman SNOWE, Senator BOND, Senator CONRAD, Senator DOMENICI, Congressman MANZULLO, and Congresswoman VELAZQUEZ for their previous and continued efforts in this fight for small businesses. In addition, I would like to thank the countless small business groups, from NAGGL and NADCO to the small business coalition lead by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which included among many others, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Small Business United, and the American Bankers Association, for their hard work and support with regard to this matter.

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I strongly support the amendment offered yesterday by Senator Bill Nelson and several others to increase funding for emergency relief in Africa by $600 million in fiscal year 2003. I could not be present for the vote on this amendment, but I would have voted for it if I were able to. This additional funding is urgently needed to address a mounting famine that has put an estimated 38 million people at risk for starvation in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and six southern African countries.

Because the President submitted his fiscal year 2003 budget request nearly a year ago—before the famine reached its current magnitude—the omnibus appropriations bill we are now debating does not provide adequate resources both to counter this humanitarian crisis and to fund ongoing programs in Africa to assist poor and displaced persons. The United States has generally provided more than half of the food aid required to address this kind of crisis. The proposed $600 million in additional funding is needed to reach the one-half mark and forestall further destruction in southern and eastern Africa.

The ripple effects of this kind of famine go far beyond the millions of Africans who are directly affected. Because severe famine can force families to leave their homes—sometimes even their countries—in search of better conditions and to resort to other desperate measures, it can cripple economic progress and threaten political stability throughout the affected regions. Ultimately, a crisis of this magnitude can imperil even our own security. We have an obligation to the people of Africa and to our own citizens to provide the resources necessary to address this emergency.

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I oppose the passage of H.J. Res. 2, the Omnibus Appropriations Resolution, because it does not provide appropriate levels of funding for the important priorities facing our Nation. First, the Republican majority and the Bush administration have set an arbitrary cap on spending that is inadequate to meet the needs of our Nation with respect to homeland security, education, veteran's health care, housing, highway funding, Amtrak, and other important domestic priorities. Second, the Republican majority forced a $9.8 billion reduction in domestic spending made available in the Senate Appropriations Committee-passed bills last year.
Finally, this legislation includes a provision which would impose a 1.6 percent across-the-board reduction on all domestic spending and Senator Gregg's amendment increased that across-the-board cut to 2.9 percent. Together, these actions will dramatically reduce domestic spending and will force punitive cuts in many programs crucial to the future of our low- and moderate-income families, our children, and our economy. It is obvious that the Republican majority has been forced to impose these dramatic spending cuts in order to hide the huge costs of the tax legislation enacted in the 107th Congress—the benefits of which will accrue primarily to the wealthiest in our society.

I strongly believe that the level of funding included in the omnibus appropriations resolution to improve our homeland security is not sufficient and that additional funding is necessary for several critical initiatives aimed at strengthening our efforts to protect America and its interests. It is unbelievable to me that the President can propose an additional $674 billion tax cut, but can't make a sufficient investment in homeland security, which should be our first priority. Vulnerabilities exist in our homeland security infrastructure and we should not squander a single day addressing them. An independent task force, chaired by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, recently advised that "America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil." We must act to ensure that the functions needed to better protect our borders, coasts, cities, and towns have sufficient resources to do so.

Specifically, I believe this bill should have provided more money to states and localities to implement President Bush's smallpox vaccination plan, to make the radio equipment of first responders interoperable, and provide emergency planning and training for terrorist attacks. This bill should have made critical investments in our preparedness for biological attack. It should have included more funding to fortify our borders by funding such things as additional Coast Guard patrol boats and improvements to the INS entry and exit system.

Last year I was very involved in the development of the new port security law, which included new rigorous security requirements for our ports. I also worked hard to enact the Aviation Security Act to provide increased security at our airports. Given the vulnerabilities that we know exist in our port and airport security, I am deeply disappointed that the Senate would opt to provide insufficient funding to address these problems. The need to fully fund the TSA cannot be overstated; installing baggage screening equipment in the top 40 U.S. airports alone is expected to cost billions, and to date only one major airport has installed the necessary equipment mandated by the Aviation Security Act. We cannot hope to maintain the confidence of the American people in our ability to secure the nation's transportation system if we fail to adequately fund the legislation we've passed to achieve that goal. These investments are essential if we are to be fully protected from those who threaten our freedom.

I am also concerned that the omnibus appropriations resolution eviscerates the Byrne program. The Byrne program provides a flexible source of funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to help fight crime by funding drug enforcement task forces, more cops on the street, improved technology, and other anti-crime efforts. Massachusetts received over $11.5 million in Byrne funding last year. On countless occasions I have heard from law enforcement officers from Massachusetts about the value of the Byrne program to their crime fighting efforts.

The war against terror has placed unprecedented demands on State and local law enforcement to prevent terrorist attacks and to respond to an attack should one occur. But fighting the war on terror is not the only job that we expect police officers to do. We also expect them to combat the prevalence of drugs in our cities and rural communities, we expect them to keep our homes and families safe from thieves, and we expect them to make us feel secure when we walk through our neighborhoods. We're well aware that the States are facing a severe fiscal crisis—some $75 billion collectively—what priority does it reflect to cut back on support to local law enforcement in this budget and security environment? A wrong-headed one, in my estimation.

The increased accountability and teacher quality requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act necessitate a significant investment in our schools, but the omnibus appropriations bill before the Senate falls short of the needed investment. We must do everything possible to ensure that all children can learn to high standards, which is the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act. States, districts, schools, and teachers are diligently working to meet the stringent requirements of the new law at a time when they are facing shrinking education budgets due to the state fiscal crisis. Twelve states cut K-12 education spending last year and another eleven are poised to do so this year.

The omnibus appropriations bill includes an increase of only $1 billion for the Title I program—the education program that provides resources for the most economically disadvantaged students in the country. This amount is $4.65 billion short of the level authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act. The Department of Education announced that 8,652 schools will begin the 2002-2003 school year "in need of improvement." How will these schools be able to perform if they are not provided with the resources to attract and retain high-quality teachers and to implement reforms that will ensure all children can learn to high standards? As I stated many times during debates on the No Child Left Behind Act, tough accountability requirements without sufficient resources to meet the requirements is cruel to students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Ultimately it will undermine the success of this education law.

I strongly believe we must include additional funding in the omnibus appropriations resolution to increase the maximum Pell grant award from $4,100 to $4,500. Pell grants are extremely important in helping financially needy students enroll and stay in college, many of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college. According to "Empty Promises", a report released in June 2002 by the congressionally mandated Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance:

    .    .    . this year alone due to record-high financial barriers, nearly one-half of all college-qualified, low- and moderate-income high school graduates—over 400,000 students fully prepared to attend a four-year college—will be unable to do so, and 170,000 of these students will attend no college at all.

If we are to reduce income inequality in this country, then we must support students who are academically prepared to attend college, but do not have the financial means to do so on their own. Unfortunately, this funding was not included in the spending bill we are considering today. Our Nation's schools and our children deserve better.

Today, we are not meeting our promises to our veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs—VA—has consistently received inadequate resources to meet rising medical costs and a growing demand for its health services. In November 2001, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Principi identified a $400 million funding shortfall for fiscal year 2002. As a result of this shortfall, more than 300,000 veterans throughout the country are on waiting lists for medical care, and many must wait 6 months or longer for an appointment to see medical staff. Although Congress provided $417 million for veterans health care as part of the FY 2002 emergency supplemental spending bill, passed in July 2002, the President agreed to spend only $142 million of the approved funds. In addition to the fact that the VA health system must now overcome the severely inadequate amount provided in fiscal year 2002, the VA has also been operating at last year's funding level since the onset of the 2003 fiscal year in October.

This funding crisis has forced the VA health system to resort to short-term fixes, such as discontinuing outreach activities in an effort to reduce enrollment, instituting new regulations that require the rationing of health care, and most recently excluding priority eight veterans from care. Moreover, the VA has already reduced services at a number of facilities throughout the country and has closed some facilities altogether. It is crucial for the VA to receive an appropriate increase in fiscal year 2003 medical care funding. For this reason I circulated a letter co-signed by 39 of my colleagues, urging the appropriations committee to assure that the $23.9 billion previously provided in both the Senate and the House Appropriations Committee bills—a $1.2 billion increase over the President's request—was not decreased. Instead, the Republican majority has decided to impose a 2.9 percent reduction to this funding level. Our nation's veterans deserve better.

Today, our nation is also facing an affordable housing crisis. For thousands upon thousands of low-income families with children, the disabled, and the elderly, privately owned affordable housing is simply out of reach. Recent changes in the housing market have further limited the availability of affordable housing across the country, while the growth in our economy in the last decade has dramatically increased the cost of the housing that remains.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, estimates that more than 5 million American households have what is considered "worst case" housing needs. Since 1990, the number of families that have worst case housing needs has increased by 12 percent—that's 600,000 more American families that cannot afford a decent and safe place to live.

Earlier this month, HUD also announced plans to dramatically reduce the amount of funding available for the operation of public housing by up to 30 percent. This would cost the city of Boston approximately $13 million in housing funding during fiscal year 2003. This additional across-the-board cut would impose even further cuts in the operation of public housing. This is simply unacceptable to those who depend upon housing assistance.

I am also very disappointed at the inclusion of Section 213 in VA-HUD and Independent Agencies section of the omnibus appropriations resolution. This provision repeals of Section 9(n)(1) of the United States Housing Act and Section 226 of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 1999. Repealing this important law will stop 7,000 locally developed housing units in the State of New York and 5,000 housing units in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from being eligible for public housing operating and capital funds from HUD. Those who receive public housing assistance in Massachusetts and around the Nation deserve better.

Above and beyond those issues, I have significant concerns about the anti-environmental riders in this package. The Tongass Rider, a prime example, locks citizens out of the courts, thwarting legal challenges to the Bush administration's rewrite of the Tongass' land management plan and its failure to recommend any new wilderness in the nation's largest intact temperate rainforest. The Yazoo Pumps rider expedites construction of the largest water pump project in the world right on the Lower Mississippi River Basin, destroying as much as 200,000 acres of ecologically rich wetlands—not even the administration recommended funding for the Yazoo Pumps in its fiscal year 2003 budget. These are serious riders affecting our Nation's wild lands in serious ways and they do not belong in any legislation passed by the Senate, much less tacked on in a sneaky manner as riders to this omnibus bill.

The funding levels included by the Republican majority in the omnibus appropriations resolution and supported by the Bush administration are simply inadequate to meet our Nation's education, homeland security, veterans and housing needs. Our Nation deserves better. That is why I will oppose this legislation and I ask all of my colleagues to oppose this bill as well.

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