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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004 - Continued

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Location: Washington, DC

DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2004—CONTINUED

Mr. DAYTON. Madam President, I rise to speak on another matter related to health care. I commend the distinguished Senators from Maryland and Maine for their legislation which I will be proud to cosponsor.

It is a matter I wish to address regarding the health and safety and well-being of thousands of people in the area of my State of Minnesota surrounding the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization conference report which was signed before the recess by 24 Republican conferees and none of the 14 Democrat conferees from either the Senate or the House contains some very significant measures that were not provided for in either the Senate or the House legislation. One of those which directly affects my State very adversely would prohibit the use of airport improvement program funds for the insulation of homes and apartments surrounding the metropolitan airport that is in a DNL decibel range of 60 to 64 DNL. That is a technical term. But it basically means that those who are most severely impacted, most of whom have received some mitigation over the last few years through a pool of funds, including airport improvement funds, passenger facility funds, as well as the Metropolitan Airport Commission's own fees and the like, achieved a certain measure of mitigation. But there are many thousands—over 8,000 homeowners and an estimated 3,200 apartment dwellers—who are in the next phase scheduled to be insulated. And since the airport's location decision was made, the Federal Aviation Administration, as a matter of its record and decision, insisted that this program continue.

At the last minute, in a measure that was not considered by or voted on by either the House or the Senate in this conference report, a Senate conferee reportedly inserted this language into the report. Now it comes back and is scheduled to come at some near date before this body to be voted up or down, which is, of course, the purpose of these circumventions of the legislative process. They do not go through committee for up-and-down votes nor a public debate back and forth. They don't go to the Senate floor for debate back and forth and a vote up or down. Instead, they are stuck in at the last minute in secret proceedings with not even all of the conferees present—certainly not all of the Senators present—and then it comes back in a matter that adversely affects thousands of people in my home State; a measure inserted without any notification to me, without any discussion by a Member of this body at the behest of a lobbyist for Northwest Airlines, which opposes this mitigation measure, and has done so and is within its rights to do so but is responsible for altering an agreement that has been reached; a record of decision made by the FAA as part of the approval of this airport expansion which, if Northwest Airlines wants to alter or eliminate, as they say they do, it is responsible for doing so in a public process before a public body, and not by sneaking in an amendment or language into a conference report that was not considered or voted on by either the Senate or the House.

I find it highly objectionable that a Senator from another State would act in such a way as to adversely affect, to cause potential harm, if this were to go through, to thousands of constituents in my State without consultation, without discussion or forewarning.

Regretfully, this is not the only instance in this legislation of matters that were added to it in conference that received no consideration in either the House of Representatives or in the Senate, language that runs directly contrary to what the Senate adopted. I speak specifically of the Senate adopting the Lautenberg amendment which prohibited privatization of our air traffic control system.

Despite that amendment being added to the Senate bill, being the official position of the Senate, despite the fact that the House did not consider the matter, as the House bill was silent on it, out of this conference committee comes a report which would immediately, upon enactment, provide for partial privatization, for the privatization, first, of smaller airports around the country.

Curiously enough, certain States, those that are proponents of this measure, were exempted from inclusion because I suspect they recognized that this is a highly speculative, highly risky, highly irresponsible action, taken with no debate or forethought but simply to fit some groups' rigid ideological biases that the private sector does everything right and the public sector does everything wrong.

The trouble is, when they get elected with that ideology, they then go about running Government so as to prove themselves right, and they systematically dismantle functions, such as air traffic control, which in this country is about as perfect as a human system can be, which has a nearly impeccable record of performance over the years, by far and away the best, most safety conscious, life-protecting, life-preserving air traffic system anywhere in the world.

Yet this administration wants to start to dismantle it for no cause whatsoever other than, as I said, to fit its own ideology.
Rather than coming to this body and having that debate, rather than going to the House of Representatives and having that debate, they would rather wait and have conference committee time where they can sneak back in with 24 of their caucus Representatives and Senators and put this matter before 535 elected representatives of the people, myself being one, who don't have then any opportunity to delete it but simply to vote it up or down.

I find this to be an egregious abuse of the legislative process, one that consistently excludes Members such as myself who don't have the necessary years of seniority to be appointed to these conference committees. It is bad enough that the process is so skewed in favor of those who simply, by the basis of having been here for more years than others, get to dominate that critical phase of the process. But it is intolerable to me, to this Senator—it is intolerable—when that authority is abused and those conferees contrive to write legislation that supersedes the legitimate authority of 100 Senators to decide upon—by voting, by majority rule decisionmaking—what will and what will not become part of those reports which then, if they are passed and signed by the President, become law.

That is fundamentally a violation of the trust that the American people put equally in each 1 of the 100 Members of this body. The people of Minnesota, who sent me here, and who sent my colleague from across the aisle, have the same rights to full representation from us as do the constituents of the Senators from any other State regardless of whether they have been here a longer or lesser time than I.

For my constituents' own vital interests to be harmed by a contrivance of the process that has nothing to do with its integrity but simply is a reflection of who has the power, who has the money, who has the ability to hire full-time lobbyists to hang around these Chambers and to slip into conference committees, at the last second, where no one else is looking or can do anything about it, measures that abrogate the public process in my State—I think in any State, but certainly in my State—that is unacceptable and intolerable.

With all due respect to this institution, I cannot and will not allow that measure to proceed. As I stated just before the beginning of the August recess, I will do whatever I must do to prevent the proceedings of this body leading up to the consideration of that measure. I hope we can find 41 Members of the Senate who will oppose the conference report for the 2 reasons I have just cited here and other measures that were also added in conference that have an adverse effect, such matters as regional airline operations.

It also adversely affects one city, Thief River Falls, in my State of Minnesota. It imposes an additional $70,000-a-year funding requirement on them. Again, it is not something that this body adopted. It is not something that the House adopted. It is something that somebody else decided they wanted to add for whatever reasons.

If this bill is not sufficient reason for the Senate to stand up and put a stop to this kind of legislative freelancing through conference committees, then I think the fundamental premise of equal representation and the equal rights of each one of us as Members has been fundamentally decimated, if not nearly destroyed—in some instances is destroyed. And I, for one, am not going to be able to go back and explain to the people of Minnesota why I sat quietly by while their rights in this process were abrogated by somebody else usurping that power and abusing it.

So, Madam President, I will be heard from on this matter again. I don't know when the majority leader intends to bring this matter, the conference report, to the Senate, but prior to that time, if this matter is not satisfactorily resolved, then I am going to have to continue to assert the rights of my constituents to the process that this body established and should be following rather than some kind of legislative freelancing, at the last split second, which totally abrogates their rights and my responsibilities to protect those rights.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AMENDMENT NO. 1554 TO AMENDMENT NO. 1542

Mr. DAYTON. Mr. President, this amendment would meet a 27-year-old promise made by the Federal Government to the States and to the school districts when IDEA was established. The promise was that the Federal Government would provide for 40 percent of the costs, the additional costs of providing special education services to every eligible schoolchild.
It is one of the most important commitments the Federal Government has made for public education, especially at the elementary and secondary levels, and the money could not be better spent on behalf of leaving no child behind.

Sadly, at least in the State of Minnesota—and I know, from the observations of other Senators, in many other States—the funding presently is seriously inadequate to provide all of those services.

In Minnesota, some $250 million a year shortfall exists in funding for special education which results in education dollars having to be shifted from regular programs and services to special education to meet the statutory requirement of school districts to provide services to every qualified schoolchild. The result is that in Minnesota all the students are harmed by the underfunding of special education, those who are the recipients of those services, as well as those who see dollars shifted from other programs for their benefit.

IDEA funding for part B for States in the current legislation before us is set at $9.858 billion. To bring that funding up to the 40-percent level, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would require an additional IDEA part B funding of $11.082 billion. It is noteworthy that the increase exceeds the appropriated amount. Another way of looking at that is that the current level of appropriated dollars is less than half—less than half—of what is necessary to meet that 40-percent level that was committed to by the Congress 27 years ago.

I heard the distinguished Senator from New Hampshire earlier on the Senate floor reference the increases in funding for special education that President Bush has proposed, and I commend the President for doing so. I have not served during the period of time which the Senator from New Hampshire referenced, so I do not have the basis for comparing the period of time during the 1990s that he referenced under the former administration with the circumstances that this President is faced with, but it is enough for me that President Bush has proposed in each of his budgets an increase in funding for special education, and he should be credited for doing so.

But the fact remains that even with those increases up until this year, the Federal share of funding for special education nationwide is approximately 17 percent of those total costs. In other words, still, despite those increases over the last 3 years, it is less than half of what the Federal Government promised over a quarter century ago.

I recognize that the distinguished Senator from Pennsylvania, with his responsibilities to the budget and to an allotment for the subcommittee's appropriations, has to or is likely to object to this amendment, despite it being inserted just before the 3:59 deadline. I recognize this is an amount that goes way beyond the current mandate of the subcommittee. But as my colleague from North Dakota said so eloquently just a few minutes ago, what we are really talking about as we consider these different amendments in a broader sense is, What are our priorities as a Senate?

What are our priorities as a Nation? Do we really mean what we say, that no child shall be left behind? Are we willing to put forward the necessary resources to accomplish that? Or is that just a rhetorical statement without proper attribution from the Children's Defense Fund and, whereas that esteemed organization has championed the resources and the commitments that would be necessary to actualize that statement, we in this Congress and, with due respect, the administration have still fallen short of that responsibility.

We had, when I came into office, an incredible opportunity because we were looking at projected surpluses for the next decade of some $5.4 trillion. That is a marked difference from the circumstances which President Clinton faced throughout most of his administration when he was bringing the Nation out of the previous era of deficit spending, when he finally, through collaboration with the Congress—the Senate and the House—during the last 4 years of his administration
succeeded in balancing the combined Federal budget. In fiscal year 2000, he achieved for the first time in 4 years—and probably for the last time in 40 or more years—a surplus in the non-Social Security part of the Federal budget; in other words, education, health care, and the like—everything except for Social Security, which at this point, this year, is running about a $155 billion projected surplus; the rest of the Federal budget was balanced. We had the resources projected that would have kept that operating budget in a surplus mode for each of the next 10 years, according to both the CBO and the OMB when President Bush's administration took office in January of 2001. I thought then, as I offered this amendment at that time, that we had a tremendous opportunity we should not let go by to bring this funding immediately up to the 40 percent promised level.

That year, in a bipartisan and very genuinely committed way, there was an amendment that was adopted by the Senate that would have brought full funding for special education up to the promised 40 percent level over 6 years—5 years too long in my estimation, but it passed the Senate. It went to conference with the House. It resulted in a protracted conference committee of almost 6 months.

My esteemed former colleague, the departed Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, was championing this measure, among others, in that conference committee and insisting that the Senate position of building to 40 percent funding for special education over 6 years be honored and kept in the conference report. The House resisted and was adamant, and, unfortunately, at the very end of the conference, the Senate conferees agreed to the House position, causing my colleague, Senator Wellstone, to vote against that conference report, as did I.

Since then, we have all recognized that the fiscal circumstances of the Federal Government have changed dramatically. I find it a little bit disingenuous for the distinguished Senator from New Hampshire to be taking credit for the spending increases for education, which he ascribes to this administration and this Congress; yet, every time somebody from this side of the aisle proposes also to increase spending for education, suddenly our side of the spending equation is bad spending and his side of the spending equation seems to be good spending. As far as I am concerned, it can be Republican spending, Democratic spending, or independent spending for education, and it is good spending. I don't care which administration, which session of Congress, or which Members of Congress can claim credit for that. I just want the credit to be there to be claimed because I know the beneficiaries are the students of Minnesota and, I suspect, all over the rest of the country.

I am also perplexed when I hear the Senator from New Hampshire, who chairs the HELP Committee of the Senate—his expertise and knowledge of these matters is widely respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. But when he says, in effect, as he did earlier today, we have put so much additional Federal money into public education at the K through 12 level that the school districts aren't able to spend that money fast enough—a couple of months ago, I heard the Senator state on the Senate floor there was a surplus of Head Start positions available nationwide, so there were more slots available than there were people who wanted to get their children into a Head Start program.

I truly hope if those surplus funds are available, be it from New Hampshire or any other State, they will be put into a reservoir that could be drawn from by other States. I know in the case of Minnesota—I heard the Senator from North Dakota state the same and I heard a number of other colleagues, including Senator Pryor of Arkansas—I ask unanimous consent that he be added as a cosponsor to this amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. DAYTON. He also shared the circumstances with me of the State of Arkansas. When I run by the educators in Minnesota the assertion made on the Senate floor that there is a surplus of Federal funding for these programs, I get absolutely incredulous looks. I find far more concurrence with the Senator from North Dakota, who observed teachers in his State who are reaching into their own pockets for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, who go without expenses for basic program materials, educational materials, trips to educational enrichment opportunities, and the like that cannot be funded out of regular budgets.

In Minnesota, there is an estimated $250 million shortfall of special education money because of this underfunding of the Federal commitment, which I can assure my colleagues every one of those dollars would be spent swiftly and necessarily and would benefit students throughout my State if they were made available. So where these surplus dollars are that States and school districts elsewhere don't need, where the additional slots for programs such as Head Start are residing that are not being filled, I guess I would certainly like to see where that exists.

I urge the Secretary of Education, if it is in fact the case, that those funds and those slots be reallocated as swiftly as possible to States like Minnesota, who need them and could benefit from them.

Yes, Mr. President, my amendment exceeds the budget as it exists today. I note that when the budget for this fiscal year began, we were looking at a deficit, we were told, of about $260 billion, if memory serves me. Now we are told that we will exceed $500 billion. We are asked rhetorically where will the money come from for these expenditures. I answer rhetorically, from the same place the other $240 billion that has been added to the deficit this year will come from. And the Senator from New Hampshire is right—that will come from payments made by taxpayers in the future. But if we are going to spend $100 billion, as some experts estimate we will, over the next year in Iraq, if we are going to spend 10 percent or 15 percent of that amount in Afghanistan, if we are going to spend $15 billion to address the AIDS crisis in Africa over the next few years, as the President proposed—and those are all either necessary or very worthwhile humanitarian and strategic expenditures, but if we are talking about additional spending on the magnitude of $15 billion, $100 billion over the course of a year, how is it that we always run out of resources when it comes to children, when it comes to especially schoolchildren with special needs, when it comes to those who will be left behind in Minnesota and I suspect will be left behind in 49 other States if these additional resources are not provided?

I thank the chairman of the subcommittee for the opportunity to offer this amendment. I hope it will be considered in the broader context of the priorities of this body for the children of today and tomorrow. I respectfully suggest it is money that will be extremely well spent. I yield the floor.

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