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Public Statements

U. S. Troops Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007 -- (Senate - March 29, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, this emergency supplemental appropriations bill contains $121.7 billion in funding, approximately $19 billion above the President's request, and is replete with earmarks and other nonemergency spending. Additionally, this bill would establish a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions there. Such a mandate would have grave consequences for the future of Iraq, the stability of the Middle East and the security of Americans at home and abroad. For these reasons, I do not support this bill.

I support full funding for our troops in this time of war, and I believe that Congress, which authorized the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is obligated to give American troops everything they need to prevail in their missions. Unfortunately, the must-pass nature of this bill has proven all too tempting for Senators who could not restrain their profligate impulses to pile on spending unrelated to fighting the global war on terror.

This bill exhibits little evidence that Congress respects the solemn responsibility to be custodians of the taxpayers' dollars. In a time of war, with large Federal budget deficits, at a time when Americans deserve to keep more of their earnings at home, any rational observer would counsel restraint. Yet this emergency supplemental bill is stuffed with scarce dollars for the special interests, just as the measure approved by the House last week.

The Dallas Morning News editorial board wrote last week with respect to the House-passed bill that ``turning the President's $100 billion supplemental war spending request into a $124.6 billion, pork-laden mess'' is no way to show support for the troops, adding that ``support for the troops takes the odd form of $25 million for spinach growers . . . $1.48 billion for livestock farmers . . . and $74 million `to ensure the proper storage of peanuts.' ''

Unfortunately, the Senate has chosen to follow the House's misguided lead by adding a host of nonemergency and unrequested provisions to the measure pending before us--a measure that is desperately needed to fund the ongoing military missions.

Let me mention some of the unrequested items contained in this bill:

There is $3 million for sugar cane growers, of which the entire amount will go to one Hawaiian cooperative. Just last year Congress provided up to $40 million for Florida sugar cane growers in an emergency supplemental bill. I suppose no ``emergency supplemental'' bill is complete without a sweetener for sugar cane growers.

There is $165.9 million for fisheries disasters. Just last year Congress provided $95 million in another emergency supplemental bill to assist fishermen in recovering from fisheries disasters and to aid oyster bed and shrimp ground rehabilitation. This year, Congress's generous aid moved from the eastern seaboard to the west coast with over $60 million alone to assist salmon fishermen in Oregon and California.

There is $3,500,000 for the Capitol Guide Service and Special Services Office, to be available until September 2008. I was unaware that we had emergency tour guide needs in addition to our emergency troops' funding needs.

There is $13 million for research to develop mine safety technology. Congress provided $35 million in last year's emergency supplemental bill to hire an additional 217 mine safety inspectors, and $10 million for mine safety research, so I must question why this latest funding cannot wait for the regular appropriations process.

There is $22.76 million for geothermal energy research. While I support renewable energy research to reduce our dependency on oil, this funding was not part of the administration's budget request. Does geothermal energy research qualify as an emergency spending need? No, it does not.

There is $7 million for water quality research at pig farms in Missouri. Specifically, the bill directs the EPA to provide a $7 million grant to Water Environment Research Foundation in Alexandria, VA, to research water quality issues related to pig farms in Missouri. As many of us have stated, there is true ``pork'' in this bill as this earmark illustrates.

There is $2 million for the University of Vermont's Educational Excellence Program. This project is essentially identical to an earmark that was proposed last year. It was rejected in last year's final bill, and should not be included again this year.

There is $40 million for a ``Tree Assistance Program,'' to aid ``fruit and nut tree producers'' and other producers of a ``Christmas tree'' or ``potted shrub'' or ``ornamental tree.'' This bill is not only a big Christmas gift to special interests, but it also comes with a Christmas tree.

There is $95 million to dairy producers.

There is $20 million for reimbursements to Nevada, Idaho and Utah for ``insect damage'' from grasshoppers, crickets, and others. These pesky insects are now richer than most residents in those States.

There is $24 million to sugar beet producers as compensation for production losses. These producers should be ``beet red'' over this handout.

There is $13 million for the Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Program. Under this program, eligible livestock owners receive $18 for each qualifying ewe lamb.

That means this provision would cover up to 722,222 sheep. Perhaps my colleagues think increasing our Nation's sheep stocks is somehow a viable alternative to the President's troop increase in Iraq? I doubt the troops appreciate the priority that we have placed on ewe lambs breeding in this bill. It is a ``baad'' earmark.

There is $6 million for crops damaged by floods in North Dakota. Yet another repeated attempt for funding that was rejected in last year's emergency supplemental.

There is $5 million for irrigation repairs in Montana. Of the $35 million provided to the USDA Emergency Conservation Programs, which was not requested by the administration, the bill earmarks $5 million for repairs to damaged irrigation ditches and pipelines in the State of Montana.

There is $30 million for the Farm Service Agency. On top of all the aforementioned programs, the bill provides $30 million for administration costs at the Farm Service Agency to ensure the Federal Government has enough employees to actually carry out all the new programs and new spending under this agriculture title. Here we see the underreported runaway effect of porkbarrel politics: more pork translates into bigger government, bigger government means larger administrative overhead, and large administrative overhead means greater costs to American taxpayers.

There is $388.9 million for funding a backlog of old Department of Transportation highway projects. The taxpayers just provided over $24 billion in unauthorized highway projects in 2005, but Congress in its infinite wisdom has seen fit to provide another $388 million in this bill.

This appropriations bill also includes numerous authorizing provisions, such as section 3001, which uses the emergency supplemental to authorize certain outdoor signs that were damaged, abandoned, or discontinued as a result of a hurricane in certain regions to be repaired, replaced, or reconstructed within 24 months of enactment. The bill also restricts authorization to the Department of Transportation to implement a provision authorized by Congress in the North American Free Trade Agreement that would allow Mexican and U.S. trucks to operate across the border, thereby facilitating free trade and benefiting the economy.

Once again, the appropriators have included a massive agriculture disaster assistance package in the emergency supplemental. The language before us today is strikingly similar to language that appeared in the 2006 emergency supplemental and to an amendment that was rejected just last December. As my colleagues surely remember, the 2006 Senate-passed emergency supplemental faced a veto threat because of the unrequested agricultural disaster package it contained. It faces the same threat today.

Most shockingly still, the bill actually underfunds the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Defense-Wide Operation and Maintenance accounts by nearly $1.4 billion, withholding funds from accounts directly related to fulfilling the wartime needs of the military. This is disgraceful.

This spending would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. We are at war--a war that has cost us a great deal in blood and treasure and which inevitably will cost us more still. Our troops, who fight so bravely on our behalf and who so love their country that they are willing to sacrifice everything--everything--in order to defend it, show incredible courage in carrying out their duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so it is only right that we, the elected leaders entrusted to preserve the common welfare, show just a modicum of the sacrifice, courage, and restraint that these warriors exhibit every day.

The Baltimore Sun editorialized last Sunday:

President Bush requested that Congress quickly fund the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and debate the war strategy separately. Yet Congress chose to hold troop funding hostage to pork-barrel spending and to provide terrorists with a countdown clock to America's exit from Iraq. Lawmakers must show that [past] promises of fiscal restraint were not meaningless by providing a clean bill for President Bush to sign. The troops deserve no less.

I agree it is time to exercise the fiscal discipline commensurate with the responsibilities entrusted to us by the American people and to provide our troops with the support necessary to win the war in Iraq. This bill, which provides insufficient funding for our Armed Forces and a damaging withdrawal deadline, sends the wrong message to our troops, our enemies, and the American taxpayer. The Dallas Morning News continued in its editorial:

[S]etting an arbitrary date for withdrawal only handcuffs the troops trying to carry out their mission--and gives hope to their eneMies . . . We hope--the supplemental war-spending bill does not prove to be a reminder to Americans why the Constitution invested commander-in-chief responsibilities in one president, instead of 435 members of Congress.

This bill will be vetoed, and I will strongly support sustaining that veto. This bill is a perfect example of why I have long supported a President having line-item veto authority. There is some necessary funding in this bill that is urgently needed to support our troops in Iraq, but, unfortunately, the bill is saddled with too much wasteful spending and a regrettable war strategy to allow me to support it.


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