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Energy And Water Development And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, D.C.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, as we take up the conference report to accompany the fiscal year 2010 Energy and Water appropriations bill, it spends approximately $33.9 billion. Let's not forget Congress has already appropriated over $92 billion to energy and water-related projects between the emergency appropriations provided in the 2009 supplemental, the continuing resolution, and the stimulus bill.

Equally as important is what this bill doesn't fund. The bill provides only $197 million for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, putting this project on life support.

The Department of Energy has spent billions of dollars and decades studying the suitability of Yucca Mountain as the Nation's repository for spent nuclear fuel and defense waste. Consistently, the science has borne out that Yucca Mountain is the best site to dispose of nuclear waste. The President has made a point of telling all who would listen that his administration would be guided by science and not politics. At the same time, the President and the Secretary of Energy are saying that Yucca Mountain is no longer an option, even though science has proven that Yucca is safe.

The fact that this administration has political problems with moving forward with the Yucca Mountain storage facility doesn't change the fact that the government has a legal obligation to take this spent waste and that the licensing process is already underway. Shelving the Yucca Mountain facility will slow the deployment of new nuclear generating facilities, constrain our most abundant clean energy source, and hinder efforts to combat climate change.

The conference report that accompanies this bill contains 1,116 congressionally directed spending items--a fancy term for earmarks, which is a fancy term for porkbarrel spending, which is a fancy term for corruption--totalling over $1.05 billion and almost doubling the number of earmarks that were included in the Senate-approved bill. Get that: 1,116 earmarks in this bill--over a $1 billion.

I know that is not much when we consider we have already run up a $9 trillion deficit over the next 9 years, but a lot of Americans would be surprised and think it is a fair amount of money.

None of these projects were requested by the administration. Many of them were not authorized or competitively bid in any way. No hearing was held to judge whether or not these were national priorities worthy of scarce taxpayer's dollars. They are in this bill for one reason and one reason only--because of the self serving prerogatives of a select few members of the Senate--almost all of whom serve on the Appropriations Committee. Sadly, these Members chose to serve their own interests over those of the American taxpayer.

During Senate consideration of this bill I filed 24 amendments to strike these earmarks. The American people are tired of this process, and they are tired of watching their hard-earned money go down the drain. Not surprisingly, my amendments were defeated at every turn by appropriators and Members on the other side of the aisle.

``Here are some examples of the earmarks contained in this bill: $2 million for the Algae Biofuels Research, WA; $750,000 for the Algae to Ethanol Research and Evaluation, NJ; $1.2 million for the Alternative Energy School of the Future, NV; $6 million for the Hawaii Energy Sustainability Program, HI; $6 million for the Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture, HI; $2.25 million for the Montana Bio-Energy Center of Excellence, MT; $10 million for the Sustainable Energy Research Center, MS; $450,000 for the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, VT; $1.2 million for the Hydrogen Fuel Dispensing Station, WV; $1.25 million for the Long Term Environmental and Economic Impacts of the Development of a Coal Liquefaction Sector in China, WV; $1 million for the Alaska Climate Center, AK; $5 million for the Computing Capability, ND--whatever that is; $1 million for the Performance Assessment Institute, NV; $1 million for the New School Green Building, NY.

This bill also includes a $106 million increase in funding over the President's request for hydrogen fuel cell research. The Secretary of Energy had pushed for the elimination of this funding but has since changed his mind after bullying from Senate appropriators. Before his change of heart, Dr. Chu explained his reasoning for cutting the funding by stating, ``We asked ourselves, `Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?' The answer, we felt, was no.'' Unfortunately, Dr. Chu caved to demands and has decided to no longer object to funding research investments that many call a ``dead end.''

This bill dedicates $5.3 billion to the Army Corps civil works program, which is $180 million higher than the President's request. As my colleagues know, the Corps is burdened with a $60 billion backlog as a result of years of abusing the energy and water appropriations bills and the Water Resources Development Acts as hot tickets for loading up new pet projects. As one would expect, this year's appropriations process was no different from previous years as the Senate Appropriations Committee received 256 requests to fund new projects. Imagine our surprise when we learned that the committee rejected every single one of these requests for funding new projects--a nod, albeit a modest one, to the tenets of fiscal responsibility.

While I applaud appropriators for attempting, in a way, to address our current backlog, we can't deny that our system for funding existing Corps projects is not working. Currently, there is no way to know which projects warrant taxpayer dollars because the Corps refuses to give Congress any kind of idea of what it views as national priorities. In fact, even when Congress specifically requests a list the Corps' top priorities, they are unable to provide them. That leaves it up to politicians on Capitol Hill to blindly throw money at flood control, hurricane protection, navigation and environmental restoration projects--in some cases matters of life or death--without knowing which projects may or may not benefit the larger good. We owe it to the American people to do better.

Our current economic situation and our vital national security concerns require that now, more than ever, we prioritize our Federal spending. But our appropriations bills do not always put our national priorities first. It is abundantly clear that the time has come for us to eliminate the corrupt, wasteful practice of earmarking. We have made some progress on the issue in the past couple of years, but we have not gone far enough. Legislation we passed in 2007 provided for greater disclosure of earmarks. While that was a good step forward, the bottom line is that we don't simply need more disclosure of earmarks--we need to eliminate them all together.

The time has come to get serious about how we are spending hardworking American's tax dollars and there is no better way to prove we're serious than by ending the wasteful practice of earmarking funds in the appropriations bills. The process is broken and it is long overdue to be fixed.''

Madam President, we are here in this postcloture motion period, consuming it because of the simple fact that the Senator from Oklahoma had an amendment which required greater transparency. The Senator from Oklahoma, while wanting a recorded vote, was assured by the managers of the bill that a transparency provision would be added to the final conference report which would then be passed by both Houses of Congress and for the President's signature. Unaccountably, that provision, which was simple transparency so that all Members of the Senate would know what information the Senate appropriators received, would be shared by all, was dropped in conference. Understandably, the Senator from Oklahoma, Senator Coburn, whom I view in many ways as the conscience of this body, is upset and concerned that the American people--much less now their Representatives--are not able to obtain information which is obviously very important in the decisionmaking process that goes on here.

It is unfortunate and it shows, again, what has happened here in the process of legislation, that the Appropriations Committee now seems to override not only the wishes of the American people with projects such as those I outlined but also even the other Members of the Senate.

The good news, probably, for Members of the body and for the citizens of this country--but bad news for the appropriators--is that we will be back. We will be back again and again and again. The American people all over this country are having tea parties, they are having uprisings. They know the debt and deficit that we have laid on future generations of Americans and they are not going to stand for it. They are going to find out whether we need to spend $450,000 for the Vermont energy investment corporation; whether we need $1 million for a performance assessment institute in Nevada; and whether we need to spend $1 million for the new school green building in New York, not to mention all those projects that abound that will send our tax dollars to the State of Hawaii as well as Mississippi.

I can warn my colleagues again, we will be back. We will be back. We will talk not only here on the floor of the Senate but across this country about this egregious practice of the waste of their taxpayers' dollars, of their hard-earned dollars, and the way this earmark and pork-barreling process is still completely out of control and a disgrace.

I yield the floor.

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