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Public Statements

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food And Drug Administration, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, this vote will be on amendment No. 1912. The amendment eliminates, as recommended by the President of the United States, the USDA Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, also known as the Small Watershed Program.

This program is the perfect example of how reckless earmarking can devastate a well-intentioned government program. Like the previous four Presidents' budgets, this administration has proposed to terminate this account--four previous Presidents--because ``Congress has earmarked virtually all of this program in recent years, meaning that the agency is unable to prioritize projects on any merit-based criteria, such as cost-effectiveness.''

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Small Watershed Program was 97 percent earmarked in fiscal year 2009, which severely marginalized the ability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to evaluate and prioritize projects.

A 2003 Office of Management and Budget study showed this program has a lower economic return than any other Federal flood prevention program, including those in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The onslaught of earmarks over the years has most certainly contributed to the current backlog of about 300 unfunded authorized small watershed projects, totaling $1.2 billion.

As was originally intended, the Small Watershed Program may be a worthwhile program, but by inundating it with so-called ``congressionally designated projects,'' the program is challenged to function properly to the point where four previous Presidents have recommended its termination. Nevertheless, the Appropriations Committee hasn't given up on plundering it just yet. The bill provides $24.3 million for this program, including $16.5 million in earmarks for various unauthorized projects.

I urge my colleagues to support the President's recommendation. Again, I will quote from the President's recommendation--the President of the United States:

The administration proposes to terminate the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program. The Congress has earmarked virtually all of this program in recent years, meaning that the agency is unable to prioritize projects on any merit-based criteria, such as cost-effectiveness.

So it goes on and on. Every analysis is that it has a lower economic return than any other program. Four Presidents have sought to eliminate it. We will probably lose this vote. But if there is ever a graphic example that once a program is established and once you fund it, it acquires a constituency and a powerful special interest and that funding continues on and on--we are proving, and we will continue to prove as we go through the appropriations bills, that there is no program that, once it exists, is going to be eliminated by this body, and that the appropriators continue to defy not only the President of the United States but logic and good sense as we amass deficits of monumental proportions which are mortgaging our children's and grandchildren's futures.

We cannot even stop a program the President wants terminated, that has no value, that the Office of Management and Budget and any objective observer will say deserves termination. It is only $24.3 million, but the appropriators will join and jawbone others, and we will lose this vote, the same way we lost a vote yesterday that, again, had been recommended for termination by the President of the United States.

I didn't come up with this. It wasn't my idea to terminate it, although I certainly do think we should. It was the idea of the President of the United States. It is also every objective observer's idea. We will prove that not only will we not eliminate that program, but we send the message to the country that this program--even though the President wants it terminated, even though it has a clear record of total inefficiency--we will continue to maintain.

Sooner or later, there will be more tea parties and more protests, and the American people are going to rise up and say: Stop it.

I yield the floor.


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