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Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008--Continued --

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


CONSOLIDATED APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Continued -- (Senate - December 18, 2007)

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Mr. DeMINT. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. LEAHY. You want to stay here for the next hour and a half and vote and the next hour or so for the judge and vote.

Mr. DeMINT. Will the Senator yield? I think there are a few of us who would like to make comments on the omnibus, but I don't think we are going to use all of our time.

Mr. LEAHY. I recommend that the Senators, for those who wish to go home, may want to make speeches after the vote. If they would like to make them before, of course. If they would like to make them before, they have that absolute right, and we would not yield back any time.

Mr. DeMINT. That is my preference, to make some comments.

Mr. LEAHY. Then I will not yield back.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who yields time?

The Senator from South Carolina.

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, hopefully, we can cut the time short. We insist on some comments about this bill because it is probably the largest bill that has ever passed in the Senate. It is sitting in front of me tonight. It amazes me we are willing to take this lightly. This is the bill we are getting ready to vote on, probably the biggest spending bill that has ever passed in the Senate. It was received yesterday. Normally it is a courtesy in the Senate that the bills we are debating are placed on every Senator's desk so that we can at least have the pretense that we have looked at them. But you will notice that this bill is not on any desk in the Chamber because there is not one single Senator here tonight who can say they have read this bill.

Mr. DURBIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. DeMINT. No, sir, I am going to make my statement. I know we are all tired and ready to go home. I do appreciate the work of my colleagues. I wish them all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful time with their families. But this is the last bill of the year. It is not just any bill. We began the year, all of us, very hopeful. Oftentimes a change is helpful as we rethink how we do things. In fact, I began this year introducing one of Speaker Pelosi's bills that provided more transparency to earmarks that I thought was better than ours. I introduced it on the Senate side. But, unfortunately, as we have gone through the year, we haven't been able to get our work done.

We like to say we are the world's greatest deliberative body. I have to ask my colleagues tonight, on the largest bill we have ever considered, the most expensive bill we have ever considered, what deliberation?

We don't even know what is in this bill. We haven't had any real debate. We are going to try to cut it off in an hour or so. This is a couple of times bigger than the Bible. It is bigger than Webster's Dictionary. It has some of the most important provisions to direct our country over the next year that we could possibly consider. We don't even have a desk copy.

I would like to make a few things clear about this bill. This does not include the Iraq and Afghanistan money. We voted on that separately. It is done. It is going to go back to the House. A vote against this bill is not a vote against our troops, but it is a vote against how this has been done and the mismanagement that has occurred. To bring this much spending and this many provisions, 3,400 pages plus in 24 hours, and ask us to vote on it is irresponsible.

There should be no confusion tonight. We are not going to vote on the Iraq funding, which we passed. I am here to encourage my colleagues to consider for many reasons voting against this omnibus spending bill. I am afraid it is indicative of the way we have run this year, as we look at this big bill sitting in front of us.

I am afraid the new majority has attempted to cater to so many special interests with so many diverse interests that we have really become dysfunctional and have not been able to get our work done. They cannot really support the funding of the troops or they will irritate the antiwar left. They cannot vote for fiscal responsibility or they will irritate the special interest lobbyists who need a lot of the special projects and earmarks in this bill.

So instead, we have come up with this arcane procedural process. This is not really a bill; it is some form of message. And we are going to pass it separately so that we can have it both ways and no one can be blamed for the mismanagement. But there should be no mistake. Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House, and HARRY REID is the Senate majority leader. The Democrats are in charge of Congress. This is their process. It is their bill. And I am afraid, my colleagues, it is a disgrace.

This is the bill. As I have said, it might be the largest bill in the Nation's history. It is the most expensive bill in America's history--3,400 pages-plus; 24 hours to consider its contents. It took over 6 hours just to print this out. There is one copy in the cloakroom on both sides. We have not even read it. It contains over 9,000 earmarks. If we can see this chart over this large stack of legislation: 9,100 earmarks, plus the 2,100 that have already been passed.

If you remember, a lot of the culture of corruption we talked about at the beginning of this year was attributed to the earmarks--trading earmarks for bribes and earmarks for campaign contributions. The new majority promised the American people, with my support, that we would reduce the number of earmarks significantly.

One of the last acts of the Republican majority was to stop the big omnibus last year and to force a continuing resolution where the result was only 2,600 earmarks.

Those who say this large number of earmarks has always been a part of the Senate do not know our history. All you have to do is go back to 1995: 1,400 earmarks. If you go back past then, there were fewer than that.

This is not a constitutional function. It has not been part of the history of the Senate. This growth in earmarks is a perversion of the purpose of this Congress, where we have changed our focus from national interests, the future of this country, to parochial, special interests that we work on every year and hardly even talk about those issues that challenge our Nation--such as a Tax Code that is sending jobs overseas; entitlement programs, where we do not have a clue how we are going to pay for them; health care, when people cannot receive it in our country. We are fighting over bike paths and museums and little special projects all year long.

This year, with the new majority, we are back up to the second highest level in history of the number of earmarks, special project earmarks, that we are supporting in this bill right here, and we do not even know everything that is in it as yet. It contains at least $20 billion in budget gimmicks and so-called emergency spending. I could go down the list. It would put a lot of people to sleep. There are a number of ridiculous provisions that we are just finding.

The serious debate over immigration came down to at least one starting solution: that we are going to secure our borders. We voted the money to build fence and barriers on our borders. But this bill changes what we have already passed. It allows for only a single-layer fence and takes out the requirement for the location of the fence in States, that the money cannot be released until 15 new requirements authored by the Appropriations Committee are satisfied. It is just designed to delay what the American people made clear to us earlier in the year. They want us to have a country with secure borders. This bill changes that. It also provides $10 million to pay for lawyers for illegal aliens.

The English requirement. The Senate passed language earlier in the year to ensure that employers are not subjected to Government-funded lawsuits if they require English in the workplace. This bill takes that protection away from employers and exposes them to lawsuits because they need English spoken in the workplace.

Sanctuary cities. The prohibition against sanctuary cities was taken out.

There are special earmarks for the AFL-CIO, a number of others.

We could go down the list. Again, we are just starting to find out what is in the bill. I know very few Senators here tonight know what is really in it.

The organizations that are watching this Congress to try to identify waste are going to be key voting this tonight. I think my colleagues know they consider that a very serious issue. The Citizens Against Government Waste are saying vote no. The Club for Growth says vote no. The American Conservative Union says vote no. The Americans for Prosperity: No. Americans for Tax Reform: No. National Taxpayers Union. We can continue to go down the list. All the organizations that downloaded this off the Web last night and began looking through it within an hour or two found things that made it unacceptable.

It is an unacceptable bill, and it should not be part of the world's greatest deliberative body tonight. But I think we agreed--I think the American people asked the new majority to end business as usual. I hope we can do that tonight. I hope we can give the American taxpayers a real Christmas present and stop wasting their money, stop breaking the promises. While we are making all the new promises in here, we are not making provisions to keep the promises we make.

I know most of my colleagues believe this is not the way we should be running the Senate and that they would like for there to be a better way. We do not have to vote against the troops to vote against this bill. I would encourage my Democratic colleagues, many of them who have stood with us this year on earmark reform, that is one reason alone to vote against this bill: the policy changes, the moving more money to Planned Parenthood, the compromising of our border security. The list is getting longer and longer, and we are not even a quarter of the way down the bill yet.

I encourage my colleagues to join the American people and help us stop wasteful spending. This is the last bill of the year. It is the last vote. It is going to say a lot about this Congress and what we have accomplished. This is our chance to at least say: No more business as usual. We are not going to do business this way, where we pile 3,400-plus pages on a desk, in 24 hours, and ask the Senators of this country to vote for it without even knowing what is in it. It is not the way to run a Senate. It is not the way to run a country.

I plead with my colleagues, let's leave this year on a positive note. Vote against this omnibus and give Americans a real Christmas present.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield back.

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