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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2008 --Resumed--

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Resumed -- (Senate - October 18, 2007)

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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, amendment No. 3340 is one we have already seen. It is a simple amendment that we all agree on. Both sides accepted it unanimously last week on the last appropriations bill that we considered.

This is an amendment that prohibits Members of Congress from pressuring Federal agencies to designate funds, what we call ``phone marks'' to special projects back home.

All of us have worked real hard to create more transparency and disclosure of earmarks. Last week we added to the last appropriations bill this amendment that would prohibit Members of Congress from going around the earmark disclosure process and pressuring Federal agencies to designate funds.

This is an amendment that I also want to add to this appropriations bill. I understand both sides will be willing to accept this again.

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Mr. DeMINT. I appreciate the concerns. Again, it is difficult when names of Members of Congress are involved. The college already has an education center specifically for the purpose listed for the Charles Rangel Center. It is called the Colin Powell Center. They perhaps added some bells and whistles, archived the papers as well as the personal office we talked about.

To the chairman's objection about this not being in our bill, in this body we regularly disallow funds for various agencies that are not listed in our bill but that as a body we decide it is not the appropriate way for money to be spent.

We should honor Congressman Rangel and others who have served with distinction as he has. CBS brought out that the college had not made the decision or at least would not make the decision as to how to name the center. So there were a lot of questionable things that came up in this report, questions enough that CBS decided to make it news.

My point is, if we get into the practice as Members of Congress while we are still serving of responding to centers being named after us by getting taxpayer dollars back to them and getting personal offices in buildings around the country, this is clearly not our purpose, and it is not one that will be respected by the American people.

I look forward to further debate. I appreciate all the time.

Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, we have in our bill a provision for a Howard Baker Center at the University of Tennessee. I haven't heard the Senator from South Carolina want to go strike the Howard Baker Center. That is in this bill. A couple years ago, we had the provision for the Dole Center at the University of Kansas. I don't remember the Senator objecting to that. This is nothing unusual. This happens all the time. It is up to the university to decide whether they want to name them; it is not up to us.

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, if the Senator will continue to yield, I appreciate the give-and-take. We have made the point many times. We did it with judges. We created a law that would not allow us to name courthouses after active judges, but once they retire, we look at it differently. The same is true for Members. Senator Baker and Senator Dole are not in positions now to direct money to different places because they are named after them, but we are. There is a serious question here, and we should make a distinction between what we do while we are serving and what we do after we have retired.

I thank the Chair and yield the floor.

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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I have been in the Senate about 3 years, and I have become increasingly concerned that many of my colleagues and good friends, whom I deeply respect, now believe it is our purpose here in the Senate to take tax dollars from the American people and then give them to our favorite causes back in our States. There are many wonderful causes back in South Carolina. I could spend a whole national treasury on them if I could get my hands on it, but that is not what I am here for. Americans expect us to work for the good of the country, of everyone and our future as a whole, not to create slush funds for ourselves and give them to our favorite causes back home.

My amendment addresses a particular cause, and my purpose is not to
embarrass a Member of Congress but to point out that it is particularly egregious if we, as Members of Congress, take taxpayer money and give it to some project that has been named after us, and in this case Mr. Rangel has gotten $1 million or $2 million.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for another 30 seconds since no one else is speaking.

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

Mr. DeMINT. My amendment strips this out. Some have said it is not in the Senate bill, so we don't need to do it. We do that all the time; we disallow the use of funds for particular reasons because that is not what a bill is intended for.

Some have said we name things after Senators all the time. But it has only been after they have retired that we have done that. We do it for judges after they retire.

We have to stop this insidious problem of becoming a favor factory where we are giving away taxpayer money for things we are not supposed to do, despite how worthy they might be. Please support my amendment to strike this egregious provision.

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Mr. CONRAD. Mr. President, the only fault I find with the amendment of the Senator from South Carolina is that this provision is not in the bill before us. It is not in this bill. The thing he finds objectionable is in the House bill; it is not in this bill.

Mr. DeMINT. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. CONRAD. I think all time has expired.

Mr. DeMINT. We have done this before. We did it with spinach a while back. It is not unusual for us to disallow the use of funds for things not in our bill. It is important we do it as a Senate; otherwise, it will end up in the final bill.

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