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Congressional Priorities

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Location: Washington, DC


Congressional Priorities

Mr. CULBERSON. Mr. Chairman, I am not sure what standard the gentleman from Arizona follows, but as a member of the Appropriations Committee, as a guardian of the public Treasury, representing the people of Houston, I have approached all spending requests from the perspective as someone who has a second mortgage on the house and all the credit cards are topped out. My starting answer on all spending requests is "no,'' and "yes'' has to be earned.

I have published all of my appropriations requests on my Web site for many years. I published both my request letters as well as the final result of those requests that the members of the committee have graciously agreed to support because they know that any request coming from me and my office has already been carefully screened. I won't submit requests that haven't already passed my very careful scrutiny.

Again, I approach the request from the perspective of there is not enough money in the Treasury to do it; the starting answer is "no,'' and "yes'' has to be earned; the request has to fall within the functions of the Federal Government, and it has to be something for which there is no other source of revenue.

I am proud to represent the Texas Medical Center. I am proud to represent the Houston Zoo. This $300,000 will be used by the zoo. They are matching it, providing a 3-1 private match to these dollars that are going to go exclusively into providing live video feeds to critically ill children and children that are dying of cancer who otherwise would have no interaction with the outside world.

The Texas Medical Center is recognized around the world as probably the greatest concentration of medical talent anywhere in the world. God forbid anybody within the sound of my voice comes down with cancer or a dreaded disease; but if they do, there is no better place to find a cure for that than at the Texas Medical Center.

If you are a child with terrible burns, trapped in your room and unable to get out and visit the zoo personally, there is no television channel in Houston for you to see what goes on at the zoo. The zoo is going to use these dollars to construct dedicated transmission facilities to these dying children, critically ill children in their hospital rooms so they can talk to the feeders, people actually working with the animals, observe the animals around the clock. And, certainly, your mental attitude is a tremendous part of getting well and recovering.

This request was the only one that I submitted on behalf of the Houston Zoo. They submitted a lot of requests to me. In fact, I think the appropriators will find that most of the requests from me will take about one page, because I am very careful and only submit a very few. I am proud of all of them. They are all on my Web site. And I can tell you, this is one that I am very grateful to the chairman Mr. Olver and to the ranking member Mr. Knollenberg for supporting. They know they don't get many requests from me, and this one certainly is one that is appropriate to help these dying and critically ill children revive their spirits in interacting with and seeing what marvelous work the Houston Zoo is doing, which is, of course, right next door to the Texas Medical Center.

Finally, I want to encourage Members to vote against this amendment based on the merits, but then also because the amendment doesn't save any money. I am one of the most fiscally conservative Members of this House and proud of it. I voted against all of these big new spending programs over the last many years, whether it be the farm bill; I voted against the farm bill, billions of dollars for AIDS in Africa as money we don't have; voted against the No Child Left Behind because that is an intrusion of the 10th amendment sovereignty of the States and money we can't afford to spend; voted against the Medicare prescription drug program. I have voted against most of the big spending programs that have been driven through this House, because I truly believe that I have got a responsibility to my daughter and future generations to try to keep Federal spending at a minimum, diminish the size, power, and cost to the Federal Government.

As Mr. Jefferson, my hero, said, apply core republican principles, with a small ''R,'' keeping most power and responsibility at the local level. If you apply core republican principles, the knot will always untie itself.

So I am always looking for ways to save money. So I would ask Members to vote against this amendment first on the merits; and then, secondly, because unfortunately, once again, Mr. Flake's amendment doesn't save any money. He is not reducing the overall 302(a) allocation of the bill. So this is another phantom savings that is not going to result in a savings of one nickel for taxpayers by cutting out the live video feeds to these dying and critically ill children in the medical center.

And I am sick and tired of phony amendments that act like they are going to save money. I have already scrutinized this, along with every other request from my office. I am proud of the work the zoo is doing and the work the medical center is doing. And you can expect me to be out here vigorously defending the work of this committee investing in the sciences.

I thank you, Chairman Obey. The chairman of my Subcommittee on the Sciences, Mr. Mollohan, is here. Our ranking member, Mr. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. God bless them for the investments they are making into sciences and NASA and medical and scientific research. That is our Nation's insurance policy. I will be out here vigorously defending them against anyone attempting to cut those investments into sciences or NASA or in medical research. That is this Nation's insurance policy.

And I especially resent somebody coming out here and offering a phony amendment that is not going to save one nickel of taxpayer money; because this $300,000 is not being taken out of the overall spending, it is just going to be spent by bureaucrats.


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