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Departments Of Transportation And Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 - Conference Report

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I rise to speak on the pending bill before us, one of the great porkbarrel, earmark-filled pieces of legislation I have seen come before this body.

I would like to quote from ABC News, by Jonathan Karl and Devin Dwyer, ``Tis the Season of `Pork': Congress Gifts $4 Billion in Earmarks.''

Just weeks before returning to their districts for Christmas, Congress is poised to give the gift of pork--roughly $4 billion of it.

More than 5,000 earmarks were included in the $447 billion omnibus spending bill passed yesterday by the House, funding ``pet projects'' of key members of Congress from both parties and all regions of the country. The Senate will vote on the bill this weekend. .....

Independent analyses of the bill reveal a whopping 12 percent increase in government spending for 2010 while the inflation rate in the country remains near zero.

Really, isn't that remarkable? A 12-percent increase in spending when people are out of jobs, out of their homes. They cannot afford, basically, what they need to sustain their lives, and we have increased spending by 12 percent and 4,500 earmarks, about $4 billion of it.

``This Congress has not shown that they are at all serious about the budget deficit in any way,'' said Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation. ``The spending spree is continuing even as the deficit escalates to $2 trillion.''

The earmarks are all explicitly listed in the bill--right next to the members of Congress who inserted them: $800,000 for jazz at New York's Lincoln Center, for Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Harkin, and Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, got $750,000 for exhibits at the World Food Prize Hall in Iowa. Hawaii Democratic senators Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka helped get $3.4 million for a rural bus program in Hawaii.

``The country needs to be tightening its belt, just like the rest of America,'' said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Republicans have criticized the spending package, but many Democrats say it funds key priorities.

Two of the biggest earmarks are from Republican senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi at a cost of $8 million for improvements to four rural State airports. One airport serves fewer than 100 passengers a day and another--the Mid-Delta Regional Airport--sees even less.

By the way, I have seen the pork extended to both of those airports over the years.

The new funds would come on top of $4.4 million the airports just received from the stimulus package.

I am not making this up.

``We obviously have huge aviation and transportation needs in this country and stuffing millions of dollars in small, little-used airports in Mississippi is not a wise use of funds,'' said Ellis.

President Obama had promised to curb the inclusion of earmarks in government spending bills but he has yet to issue the threat of a veto.

My friends, do not wait for the threat of a veto.

In March, Obama signed a $410 billion spending package that contained nearly 8,000 pet projects.

``I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it's necessary for the ongoing functions of government,'' Obama said at the time. ``But I also view this as a departure point for more far-reaching change.''

What has changed? What has changed? Nothing. Nothing has changed.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said about the last omnibus: We have a lot of issues we need to get to after we fund the government--something we should have done last year but could not because of the difficulty we had working with President Bush.

Difficulty working with President Bush? Whom did the majority leader have trouble working with this time?

Again, I repeat, a 1,350-page Omnibus appropriations conference report, 6 bills, spends $450 billion, 4,752 earmarks totaling $3.7 billion, and a full 409 pages of this conference report are dedicated to listing congressional pork-barrel spending. Spending on domestic programs in this bill is increased 14 percent over the last fiscal year, while spending on military construction and care for veterans has increased by only 5 percent.

Let's look at a little bit of it. Transportation, Housing and Urban Development contains 1,400 earmarks totaling over $1 billion. Commerce-Justice-Science contains 1,511 earmarks totaling $715 million. The list goes on and on. Here we are with a deficit of $1.4 trillion, a debt of $12 trillion, unemployment at 10 percent, nearly 900,000 families lost their homes in 2008, yet there is every indication that the aggregate numbers for 2009 will be worse. With all this, we continue to spend and spend and spend. Every time we pass an appropriations bill with increased spending and load it up with earmarks, we are robbing future generations of Americans of the ability to obtain the American dream. Forty-three cents out of every dollar spent in this bill is borrowed from our children and our grandchildren and, unfortunately, generations after theirs. This is the greatest act of generational theft committed in the history of this country.

Let me go through a few of these, if I might, and remind people of the context this is in. In my home State of Arizona, 48 percent of the homes are ``underwater,'' meaning they are worth less than the mortgage payments people have to pay. We have small businesspeople losing credit everywhere. Instead of trying to fix their problems and helping them out, it is business as usual in the Senate of the United States of America and the Congress.

For example: $200,000 for the Washington National Opera, Washington, DC, for set design, installation and performing arts at libraries and schools; $13.9 million on fisheries in Hawaii--there is always Hawaii--nine projects throughout the islands ranging from funding bigeye tuna quotas, marine education and training, and coral research; $2.7 million--one of my favorites--to support surgical operations in outer space at the University of Nebraska. As I have said many times--the common theme--you will always have a location designated for these projects. That is why some of them may be worthwhile, but we will never know because they don't compete them. They earmark them for the particular place they want to help. Unfortunately, that shuts out other people. There may be other places besides the University of Nebraska that can support surgical operations in outer space. I suggest we get Dr. Spock and Bones out there to help at the university. I don't know if they live in Omaha or not. I am sure to them and all the others on ``Star Trek,'' surgical operations in outer space may be one of their priorities. It certainly isn't a priority of the citizens of my State.

One of the great cultural events that took place in the 20th century was the Woodstock Festival. In order to do a lot more research on that great cultural moment, we are going to spend $30,000 for the Woodstock Film Festival Youth Initiative; $200,000 to renovate and construct the Laredo Little Theater in Texas--people from all over America are flocking to the Laredo Little Theater, and they want to invest $200,000 of their tax dollars into the Laredo Little Theater. The money would be used to replace worn auditorium seating and soundproofing materials. Anybody got a little theater that warrants soundproofing? Maybe they should apply to the Senator from Texas.

Continuing: $665,000--I am not making this one up--for the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for equipment and supplies for the Institute for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Research. I have a lot of comments on that issue, but I think I will pass so as not to violate the rules of the Senate. There is $500,000 for the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth. I am sure the Botanical Research Institute in Fort Worth is a good one. I would like to see other botanical research institutes able to compete. There is $600,000 for water storage tower construction in Ada, OK, population 16,008; $200,000 for a visitor center in Bastrop, TX, the population is 5,340; $292,200 for elimination of slum and blight in Scranton, PA--that may have been put in by the cast of the office--$229,000 for elimination of slum and blight in Scranton; $200,000 for design and construction of the Garapan Public Market in the Northern Mariana Islands; $500,000 for development of a community center--$ 1/2 million--in Custer County, ID, population 4,343; $100,000 for the Cleveland Municipal School District--they just picked one and gave them $100,000--$800,000 for jazz at the Lincoln Center; $300,000 for music programs at Carnegie Hall; $400,000 for Orchestra Iowa Music Education, Cedar Rapids, IA, to support a music education program; $2.5 million for the Fayette County Schools in Lexington, KY, for a foreign language program; $100,000 to the Cleveland Municipal School District in Cleveland, OH, to improve math and language skills through music education; $700,000 for the National Marine Fisheries Service for the project Shrimp Industry Fishing Effort Research Continuation; $1.6 million to build a tram between the Huntsville Botanical Garden and the Marshall Flight Center in Alabama--how many places need $1.6 million to build a tram, it will probably go out to the statue of Vulcan--$250,000 for the Monroe County Fiscal Court for the Monroe County Farmers Market in Kentucky; $750,000 for the design and fabrication of exhibits to be placed in the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Iowa; $500,000 to support creation of a center to honor the contribution of Senator Culver, an Iowa State Senator, at Simpson College; $400,000 to recruit and train closed captioners and court reporters at the AIB College of Business in Iowa; $250,000 for renovating the Murphy Theatre Community Center in Ohio.

There is a lot more, and I will go through them briefly. The point is, you will notice several things. One, the preponderance of these pork-barrel and earmark projects is allocated to members of the Appropriations Committee, which is fundamentally unfair. Second, you will find these are designated to a certain place, to make sure none of that money is spent somewhere else where the need may be greater. Third, it breeds corruption. It is a gateway drug. What we are talking about is a gateway drug. It is especially egregious now.

Continuing: $300,000 to monitor and research herring in Maine; $200,000 to study Maine lobsters; $250,000 for a Father's Day rally parade in Philadelphia. I scoff and make fun of a lot of these but $250,000 for a Father's Day rally parade in Philadelphia. There is $100,000 for the Kentler International Drawing Space, an art education program in Brooklyn. Here is a deprived area, $75,000 for art projects in Hollywood Los Angeles Park; $100,000 for a performing arts training program at the New Freedom Theater in Philadelphia; $100,000 to teach tennis at the New York junior tennis league in Woodside, NY; $2.8 million to study the health effects of space radiation on humans at the Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA; $200,000 for the Aquatic Adventures Science Education Foundation in San Diego; $100,000 to archive newspaper and digital media at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, MS; $3.9 million on researching weaving and knitting at Clemson University, Raleigh, NC, Philadelphia University, UC Davis in Davis, CA; $90,000 for a commercial kitchen business incubator at the El Pajaro Community Development Corporation in Watsonville, CA; $500,000 to study vapor mercury in the atmosphere at Florida State; $1 million to examine sea scallops fisheries at the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries in Bedford; $300,000 for seal and stellar sea lion biological research; $300,000 for Bering Sea crab management; $500,000 to upgrade the Baldwin County Courthouse security in Fairhope, AL; $900,000 for the operational costs and capital supporting the Alien Species Action Plan cargo inspection facility in Maui; $2 million to streetscape the city of Tuscaloosa, AL; $100,000 for an engineering feasibility study of a bike connector in Hiran, OH; $400,000 for a pedestrian overpass in Des Moines; $300,000 for a bike path in Cuellar, TX; $900,000 for a river freight development study in Missouri; $800,000 for a scenic trail in Monterey Bay, CA, another deprived area; $750,000 for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Transportation Improvement Program, Brady, PA; $500,000 for park-and-ride lots at Broward County, Meek, FL; $487,000 to restore walkways in Newport Cliff, RI, another low-income area; $974,000 for Regional East-West and Bikeway in Albuquerque.

The list goes on and on and on, up to nearly $4 billion. The problem is, among other problems, in the last campaign, the President campaigned for change, change you can believe in. There is no change here. It is worse. It is worse because of the conditions Americans find themselves in--out of their homes, out of jobs, high unemployment, tough economic conditions. It is business as usual, spending money like a drunken sailor, and the bar is still open.

I tell my colleagues, again, what I keep saying over and over: There is a peaceful revolution going on. They are sick and tired of the way we do business in Washington. They don't think their tax dollars should be spent on these pork-barrel earmarked projects. They are mad about it. We are not getting the message. We are not hearing them. We are not responding to the problems and the enormous challenges the American people have. We are continuing this kind of obscene process, which not only is wrong on its face but breeds corruption in Washington.

I ask unanimous consent that the AP story ``Senate Set to Advance $1.1 trillion Spending Bill'' be printed in the Record, as well as the ABC News story and the FOX News story ``Watchdogs Cry Foul Over Thousands of Earmarks in Spending Bills.''

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD

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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I am sorry to be repetitive. I know my colleague is waiting, so I will end with this: This is wrong. We all know it is wrong. The American people know it is wrong. People who vote for this kind of porkbarrel spending are going to be punished by the voters, and we are going to end this obscene process, and we are going to end it soon, as early as the next election.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

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Mr. McCAIN. I wish to say to my colleague, first of all, as is well known, side-by-sides have been one side of the aisle and the other side of the aisle. If the Lautenberg amendment were in order on the Dorgan amendment as a side-by-side, that would obviously be a change from what we have been doing.

Basically, what my amendment does is make some perfecting changes to the underlying Dorgan amendment. It has some sense-of-the-Senate provisions and several other provisions which I think would help make it more effective. I have to be very honest with my friend from Illinois, it doesn't undermine the Dorgan amendment. I think it supplements the Dorgan amendment, just as the Bennet amendment to Medicare costs supplemented the position we had that Medicare benefits wouldn't be cut.

So side-by-side amendments aren't necessarily in contrast with each other; sometimes they perfect, and I think my amendment makes it a better amendment--makes the Dorgan amendment a better proposal.

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Mr. DURBIN. I wish to ask, as I understand it now, when it comes to--and let's set aside Crapo-Baucus and assume there is commonality in that. As I understand it now, the Dorgan amendment, which would allow for the importation of pharmaceuticals and drugs into the United States, has been offered on our side as well as a Lautenberg amendment, which has some history in the Senate. It was previously offered by Senator Cochran of Mississippi and establishes a standard for certification of safety of the drugs coming in.

Could the Senator from Kentucky describe to me what the new McCain amendment No. 3200 does?

Mr. McCONNELL. Well, fortunately, Senator McCain is on the floor at this time, and I will ask him to describe it.

Mr. McCAIN. I wish to say to my colleague, first of all, as is well known, side-by-sides have been one side of the aisle and the other side of the aisle. If the Lautenberg amendment were in order on the Dorgan amendment as a side-by-side, that would obviously be a change from what we have been doing.

Basically, what my amendment does is make some perfecting changes to the underlying Dorgan amendment. It has some sense-of-the-Senate provisions and several other provisions which I think would help make it more effective. I have to be very honest with my friend from Illinois, it doesn't undermine the Dorgan amendment. I think it supplements the Dorgan amendment, just as the Bennet amendment to Medicare costs supplemented the position we had that Medicare benefits wouldn't be cut.

So side-by-side amendments aren't necessarily in contrast with each other; sometimes they perfect, and I think my amendment makes it a better amendment--makes the Dorgan amendment a better proposal.

Mr. DURBIN. I ask unanimous consent to expand the colloquy to include Senator McCain.

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

Mr. DURBIN. Does the amendment of the Senator from Arizona, No. 3200, include the existing language of the Dorgan amendment?

Mr. McCAIN. Yes, plus some perfecting language, as far as the Senate is concerned, about other procedures that would expedite the Dorgan amendment as well.

Mr. DURBIN. Is the Senator from Arizona prepared to offer the Lautenberg language in his amendment?

Mr. McCAIN. No, obviously not, because I don't agree with the Lautenberg language in my amendment, as you know. But what we are trying to do is, obviously, make the Dorgan amendment better, just as other amendments that are side-by-sides have tried to make amendments better. They do not necessarily cancel them out but make them better.

Mr. DURBIN. Is the Senator from Arizona a cosponsor of the Dorgan amendment?

Mr. McCAIN. Yes, a proud cosponsor.

Mr. DURBIN. Would the Senator from Arizona consider offering whatever is different in 3200 as a separate amendment to the Dorgan amendment?

Mr. McCAIN. I guess what I am not sure--if I understand my friend, I am offering an amendment as a side-by-side in order to, in my view, improve the Dorgan amendment; again, in all candor, not to undermine but to make it better.

Mr. DURBIN. Well, Mr. President, I have an obligation to not only my leader but obviously to Senator Lautenberg, who is being dealt out of the picture here with this unanimous consent request, and he has been offering an amendment which is well known and has been offered previously by Senator Cochran of Mississippi, a Republican. At this point, if Senator Lautenberg is offering--I think at this point I am constrained to object based on this new McCain amendment, and we will discuss it with Senate leadership as to whether we can find a path through this.

This is the third day we have been struggling with this. It appears there is a lot of credence put in the belief that we have to have exactly the same number of Republican and Democratic amendments, and I understand that from the minority point of view.

Mr. McCONNELL. Maybe I have a solution to the problem. It actually involves my side agreeing to a procedure we have not followed throughout this bill, but let me suggest the following, which I think would get us out of this conundrum we seem to be in: that even though we have alternated from side to side, we would agree to both Dorgan and Lautenberg in conjunction, right after Crapo and Baucus; and then we get in the queue our next two--which I believe you are already familiar with, because they have been discussed on the floor--the Hutchison-Thune amendment, and then a Snowe amendment.

Mr. McCAIN. And I withdraw, with great reluctance and great anger, my amendment, because I think the Lautenberg amendment would be in violation of what we have agreed to.

Mr. McCONNELL. In other words, Mr. President, putting it another way, we are basically conceding to what the Senator had earlier proffered as a way to get moving on the bill, and then we would get back into our process of going side to side. And we want you to know that our next two--as we have been letting each side know what the other side was going to offer--our next two would be the Snowe amendment and the Hutchison-Thune amendment.

Mr. DURBIN. Let me suggest this. I will formally object to the original unanimous consent request, and I will then take what I consider to be a good-faith offer from your side as to the next two amendments to the majority leader. We will review the amendments, and I hope even today we will be back to Senators and suggest whether that is a path out of this.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I be clear with the Senator from Illinois that what this means is we would move forward with the side-by-side Dorgan and Lautenberg--we would agree to that--and then we would also expect agreement on following amendments so that we could lock those in for debate and votes?

Mr. DURBIN. May I ask whether the two amendments the minority leader mentioned, which would be Thune and Hutchison, and the other amendment, Snowe, we would be allowed to have side-by-sides to those?

Mr. McCONNELL. Of course.

Mr. DURBIN. If you would be kind enough----

Mr. McCONNELL. If you so chose.

Mr. DURBIN. If you are kind enough to give us time to review that proposal, we will be sure to get back to you.

Mr. McCONNELL. I understand capitulation when we do it, and we have essentially said to the majority we will go along with what you had earlier requested and we would like for you to take ``yes'' for an answer and for us to wrap this up and have a sense of where we are going from here.

Mr. DURBIN. I promise we will get back in a timely fashion.

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