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Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010 -- (Senate - September 16, 2009)

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AMENDMENT NO. 2410

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and call up DeMint amendment No. 2410.

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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I will take a few minutes to talk about this amendment to the transportation-HUD bill we are on this week. I think if there is one expenditure by the Federal Government over the last 10 years that has drawn the attention of the American people more than the ``bridge to nowhere,'' it is probably the $200 million that has gone to the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, PA.

Americans are greatly concerned about the level of spending and debt, particularly the spending they consider wasteful or maybe even corrupt. There have been a number of media documentaries on the John Murtha Airport.

I would like to talk about it a little bit today because my amendment would disallow the use of any funds in this bill to be used to administer any additional subsidies or grants to this particular airport.

We disagree a lot on Federal spending; here and there are different things, different priorities we can debate about. But if there is any such thing as waste, it is this airport. I will tell you why. Over the last 10 years, or actually 20 years, this little airport in Johnstown, PA, has received about $200 million in Federal funds, $150 million of that was steered directly by Congressman Murtha himself, who uses the airport to come back and forth to Washington and for campaign stops.

It only has three commercial flights a day to one destination and that is to Washington, DC. Only an average of about 20 passengers a day use this airport. The American taxpayers are on the hook for about $1.5 million a year in Federal subsidies. Every ticket to Washington and back is subsidized for about $100, which means the American taxpayers pay almost as much for the ticket as the passenger does, not just for one trip or two but continually year after year.

In spite of the fact that major media outlets for a number of months have used this as an example of the fleecing of America, this continues to go on. In effect, when the stimulus bill was passed with all the promises of transparency and priority use, $800,000 of funds went to this airport to repave an alternate runway which is seldom, if ever, used.

A lot of us in the Congress and the Senate have worked for years on small rural airports to try to get some money to extend a runway so corporate aircraft could come in, so maybe businesses could locate in areas where there was not commercial air traffic. Getting $100,000 for an airport is a major accomplishment sometimes, but $200 million for an airport that averages 20 passengers a day, that many times there are more people handling security at this airport than there are people going through the lines, is something we need to stop.

If we cannot stop it, we cannot stop anything. Last Saturday in front of the Capitol, hundreds of thousands of people gathered. It was not a Republican gathering, I can tell you that because I was there. It was average Americans, moms and dads with their children, grandmas, grandpas, people who had never been involved in politics before who were very concerned about the level of spending, not just this administration.

This is not a criticism of this administration. We are talking about the last 15 or 20 years. People are concerned about the level of spending and borrowing and debt, taxes and government takeovers in all areas of our economy.

Health care is certainly something that brought it to a head, but these people are here concerned by the fact that they believe our country is on the edge of the cliff. They would like to see us in the Congress begin to move back away from the cliff and take some of the things that are not necessary here in Washington and begin to trim them back.

But I think we can say here, if we cannot cut the funding for this little airport in Pennsylvania named after the Congressman who has helped to get $200 million, if we cannot stop funding it, stop subsidizing tickets, if we cannot look at the facts in this particular case and decide as a Congress to stop this, then there is nothing we can cut. Then there is no such thing as waste, and there is no such thing as fraud and corruption throughout this Federal Government. If we cannot agree, as Members of the Senate, to stop this--we are not taking away the $200 million they have already gotten, the $800,000 for the alternative runway which they have there, which did not need repaving in the first place, we are not closing down the airport or stopping any air travel there. We are just saying: Enough is enough.

We have bought equipment there, radar equipment, spent millions of dollars that is not even being used. It is not being staffed. It is time we at least focus on one thing and say that we can begin the process of moving this country away from a cliff of economic and financial disaster.

I hope on this bill, with this amendment, that we can, in a bipartisan way, agree this is one thing we do not have to have at the Federal level, that we can begin to shift priorities to those things we are supposed to do at the Federal level. It is certainly not to fund a pet project of one Congressman to the tune of $200 million.

I encourage all my Senate colleagues, Republican and Democratic, to
support an amendment that would simply disallow the use of any funds in this bill to be used to continue the administration of subsidies or grants to this airport.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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