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Public Statements

Fiscal Year 2003 Omnibus Appropriations

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

FISCAL YEAR 2003 OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, my decision to vote for the omnibus spending bill late last night was a difficult one. It is the largest single spending bill ever passed by Congress. It represents work that should have been completed last fall, and crams into one bill what should have been 11 separate bills, each with its own separate debate and deliberation. This is no way to legislate, and the final product reflects that unfortunate process.

I was gratified that many important obligations received funding, but unfortunately many others did not. At the same time, this massive document contains far too many provisions that were never exposed to the daylight of publicity and debate. My vote in favor of this bill was a very close call.

First, the good news. Unlike an earlier version that I could not support, this bill restored funds for Byrne grants that local law enforcement agencies need in these dangerous times. In addition, I was able to add language that permits local police to use COPS money for the many hours of overtime involved as they meet the demands of homeland defense. Law enforcement projects in my State of Delaware, from State to county to local agencies, will receive $3.5 million in funds from that COPS program.

But the bad news is that $3 billion for first responders was cut out of this legislation. Those are funds to support firefighters and police and local emergency response centers. Another $170 million was cut from the Transportation Security Administration, despite the obvious need for additional protection for our Nation's air, highway, and rail systems. Funds for port security and border security were also cut. The debate over these programs will continue soon, as we begin budget debates for the coming year and a security supplemental spending bill, and I will continue the fight to provide the citizens of this country all of the protection they need.

And we must expose those last-minute, back-room deals that litter the thousands of pages of this legislation. Some are clear wastes of taxpayer money in these critical times. Others weaken important environmental protections, and have no place in these spending bills.

On balance, I concluded that this legislation which allows the Federal Government to continue its important functions narrowly deserves my support. But there is much here that needs to be fixed, so the debate that should have occurred on this huge, complicated bill will continue.

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