MAKING EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 2006 -- (Senate - May 3, 2006)
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AMENDMENT NO. 3616
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I call up amendment No. 3616 and ask for its immediate consideration.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. That amendment is now pending.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, this amendment would strike $74.5 million for grants to States based on their production of certain types of crops, livestock, and dairy products, which were not included in the administration's emergency supplemental request.
Let me point out again a statement of administration policy where it says:
The administration is seriously concerned at the overall funding level and the numerous unrequested items included in the Senate bill that are unrelated to the war or emergency hurricane relief needs.
Obviously, this and others have been put into this bill in a very unacceptable fashion. It has been a longstanding policy in the Senate to prohibit the practice of adding authorizing language to an appropriations bill. Nevertheless, this bill includes a massive $3.94 billion agricultural assistance program. None of this funding under this agricultural title is included in the administration's supplemental request.
Interestingly, this nearly $4 billion add-on, title III of the underlying bill--remember, this is a $4 billion add-on--received a one-paragraph mention in the entire committee report accompanying the bill; one paragraph to describe 31 pages of legislative language with a $4 billion price tag.
Let me read it for the benefit of my colleagues.
The committee recommends $3.944 billion for emergency agriculture disaster assistance. These funds will help farmers and ranchers in States affected by recent hurricanes, drought, flood, wildfire and other natural disasters recover from resulting production losses. These funds will also assist in the removal of debris from watersheds in order to minimize the threat of flooding from future storm events. In addition, the funds will provide economic assistance to producers to compensate for high energy costs relating to agricultural production.
That last sentence is interesting. This will help farmers who have high energy costs related to agricultural production. I wonder what we are doing for the airlines, the trains, the American automobile owner, any other industry in America. We aren't doing anything for them in this emergency supplemental, but we are going to give the farmers nearly $4 billion additional.
I am all for helping the appropriate farmers and other victims battered by hurricanes, but the agricultural assistance added in this bill is far more expansive than merely offering to help areas hit by the 2005 hurricanes, and at least the limited report language doesn't hide that fact. As my colleagues know, the USDA currently has a range of disaster assistance programs, including crop insurance programs, that are already available. Yet this bill is going to add nearly $4 billion on top of the existing programs. In my view, the agricultural assistance funding is being used more as a vehicle to fill a voter wish list than it is to meet the urgent needs of the victims of the 2005 hurricane season. Taxpayer dollars are being allocated for agricultural subsidies and bailouts which in some cases have nothing to do with hurricane recovery.
This recovery would strike an earmark which provides $74.5 million in agricultural assistance for grants to States, based not on the hurricane damage, not on any emergency, but based on their production of ``specialty of crops, livestock and dairy products.''
Why is this necessary? Have the hurricanes wiped out the specialty crop industry? What even is a specialty crop, and why does it need $74.5 million of taxpayer funding? I hope that a specialty crop is a money tree because that is what is going to be needed to pay for this bill.
My colleagues may be interested to know that the bill defines specialty crops as anything but wheat, feedgrains, oilseeds, cotton, rice or peanuts--anything but. Why do we exclude those commodities from receiving this funding? Is sugarcane made ineligible? Are my colleagues aware that the USDA already has a specialty crop block grant program which was authorized in 2004? Under the existing program, specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops including floriculture. The program is funded at $17 million for the current fiscal year, and it provides for $100,000 for each State that applies. Is there a problem with that program that I am not aware of that gives it just cause to providing it with an emergency supplemental appropriation to the tune of more than 1,000 percent above its annual appropriation?
This bill provides $74.5 million that is to be used to award grants based on ``the share of each State's total value of specialty crop, livestock, and dairy production of the United States for the 2004 crop-year, multiplied by $74.5 million. That means the more you produce, if your crops have not been hit by a natural disaster or flooding or drought, the more money you get. That is the polar opposite of what the USDA disaster assistance programs are about.
Doesn't that fly in the face of what an emergency supplemental is for? An emergency supplemental is supposed to be about addressing needs and not about providing rewards for productivity. More importantly, why is what obviously is designed to be a nationwide agricultural funding assistance program, a program not requested by the administration, singled out in the statement of administration policy as objectionable, being included in a must-pass emergency spending bill that is supposed to address the global war on terror and hurricane recovery?
My colleagues may be interested to know that under this legislation, States can use the grant to ``promote the purchase, sale or consumption of agricultural products.''
I am not making this up. I am not making this up. Under this emergency supplemental bill, States can use the grant to ``promote the purchase, sale, or consumption of agricultural products.'' Last week, I mentioned that Federal dollars had been used to paint salmon on airplanes. Maybe that $74.5 million will be used to paint vegetables on airplanes or maybe a pretty flower.
Upon closer reading of the legislative language, I notice that the bill actually creates a $100 million program for specialty crops. In addition to the $74.5 million that this amendment addresses, it provides for $25.5 million to make grants to ``the several States, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, to be used to support activities that promote agriculture.''
I would like to repeat that for my colleagues: ``$25.5 million to make grants to the several States, the District of Columbia. .....''
I admire and respect the District of Columbia enormously. I know of no agricultural enterprise--well, maybe an illegal one, but I never knew of an agricultural enterprise in the District of Columbia. But they are going to be eligible for grants to be used to ``support activities that promote agriculture.'' As I say, I am not making this up.
I hope the sponsors of the legislation will correct me if I am wrong. I would like to be corrected if I am wrong. I am confident they will. But it appears that with respect to the $25.5 million funding, the bill provides that all 50 States will each receive $500,000 of that money, while Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia each will receive $250,000. What specialty crops are grown in the District of Columbia? What specialty crops are grown here? What kind of campaign should we expect?
The funding is not needed. It should be noted that, according to OMB, ``In 2005, many crops had record or near record production, and the U.S. farm sector cash receipts were second highest ever.'' Can an unrequested $74.4 million grant program truly be sold as an urgent emergency spending needed at this time? I know my colleagues have the highest hopes for the success and safety of our troops and for the speedy recovery of the hurricane-ravaged gulf. But when the American people hear of these special interest riders, they are going to question their priorities, and rightly so.
Again, I would like to refer to this poll. A 39-percent plurality of Americans, in a poll the day before yesterday, say the single most important thing for Congress to accomplish this year is curtailing budgetary earmarks benefiting only certain constituents. This amendment certainly fits that concern that Americans have.
I was going to come back and talk before we voted on this bill. I am sure this amendment will be voted down, again, because others have that are similarly outrageous. But I want to say, we are sending a very bad message to the American people. I saw recent polls showing our approval rating at around 22 percent. I am glad to see that there are now some candidates who are running for office against pork barrel projects and earmarks and museums, taking that out of highway funds.
They are sick and tired of seeing their children's futures mortgaged by this rampant, out-of-control spending.
I will vote against this bill. When the President vetoes it, which I am reasonably confident he will, I will vote to sustain his veto.
I believe that once the President vetoes this bill, the American people will strongly support that veto and that the American people will demand that we bring some kind of sanity to this system where, in the name of recovery from hurricane damage, and in the name of funding the war in Iraq, we spend billions--not millions, not hundreds of millions but billions--on unwanted and unnecessary products.
I want to assure my colleagues that I will support anything to help repair the damage caused by the hurricanes. I will do what is necessary to spend my taxpayers' dollars to fight and win the war in Iraq, which I still strongly believe is a noble cause, but I cannot go back to my constituents in Arizona and say that this is anything but a shameful exercise we are engaged in by taking their tax dollars in the name of an emergency and spending them on those projects, many of which we have discussed and debated at some length.
I ask for the yeas and nays on this amendment.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I thought maybe we had done enough pork barreling for one bill, but apparently there is never enough around here, never enough. I would ask the Senator from Hawaii, when is it enough? Another $1.9 million, that is all, just $1.9 million. We are already, for hurricane recovery, $7.7 billion above the President's request; emergency agricultural disaster assistance, $3.9 billion above the President's request; drought emergency assistance, $12.5 million; port security enhancement, $650 million; general provisions, $36 million. It goes on and on and on.
We are going to do something else for the State of Hawaii so we can win the war in Iraq and so we can respond to the hurricanes. One of these amendments is to provide assistance relating to assessments and monitoring of waters in the State of Hawaii--a million bucks for assistance relating to assessments and monitoring of the waters in the State of Hawaii, provided that the amount under this is designated an emergency requirement. What is it that is going on in the waters of Hawaii that designates it as an emergency?
Then we have a $900,000 earmark, all for Hawaii, for assistance with assessment of critical reservoirs and dams in the State of Hawaii. I know something about that. We have a few reservoirs and dams in my State. I have yet to see an emergency that had to do with the war in Iraq and hurricanes that required that, but we are going to give them another $900,000. The sad thing about this is, they will probably get it. I am going to force a recorded vote on both of these amendments, but they will probably get it. Then in conference, there will be more money for Hawaii. And then in the next appropriations bill, there will be more money for Hawaii.
My constituents live in Arizona. A lot of us are getting sick and tired of this--sick and tired, sick and tired.
I ask unanimous consent to ask for the yeas and nays on both amendments and separate votes.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I would like to say that Senator Inouye and I have been friends for many years. I believe the process we are doing--obviously, when I see billions and billions of dollars added to an emergency supplemental--is inappropriate and, of course, I in no way would want to--in no manner would I want to offend my friend, Mr. Inouye. If my remarks did so, I apologize for doing so.
I yield the floor.