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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCLINTOCK. Madam Chairman, this amendment cuts more than a quarter-billion dollars in unauthorized appropriations from the International Trade Administration.

What does the International Trade Administration do? Well, it's got some legitimate functions in forcing trade agreements and treaties, and this amendment leaves those functions untouched. But ITA also--and this is from their own material--``provides counseling to American companies in order to develop the most profitable and sustainable plans for pricing, export, and the full range of public and private trade promotion assistance, as well as market intelligence, and industry and market-specific research.''

That's all well and good, Madam Chairman, but isn't that what businesses and trade associations and the chambers of commerce are supposed to do with their own money? Why should taxpayers be subsidizing the profits of individual businesses? If a specific business or industry is the beneficiary of these services, shouldn't they be the sole financiers of those services, either individually or collectively through trade associations?

It's true this program has been around for generations, but Franklin Roosevelt--who was hardly a champion of smaller government--had the right idea when he slashed its budget back in 1932 and closed 31 of its offices. The problem is that reform didn't take. Today the ITA has some 240 offices.

The ITA's authorization lapsed way back in 1996. That's 16 years ago. It's not been reviewed or authorized by Congress since then, but we still keep shoveling money out the door at them. Although it hasn't been reviewed by Congress in all of these years, it has been thoroughly weighed by the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and most recently the President's fiscal commission, and they have all found it sadly wanting.

The Simpson-Bowles report summed it up quite nicely when they said:

Services provided by ITA's U.S. commercial services and other divisions directly providing assistance to U.S. companies should be financed by the beneficiaries of this assistance. While the agency charges fees for those services, its fees do not cover the costs of all of its activities. Additionally, it is argued that the benefits of trade-promotion activities are passed on to foreigners in the form of decreased export costs.

Simpson-Bowles goes on to say:

According to a study by the Office of Management and Budget, businesses can receive similar services from State, local, and private sector entities. The CBO option to eliminate ITA's promotion activities or charge the program's beneficiaries saves $267 million in 2010 and $1.6 billion through 2014.

Madam Chairman, if the CBO, the OMB, and the President's fiscal commission agree this is wasteful, and Congress hasn't bothered to reauthorize it since it expired 16 years ago, why do we continue spending money that we don't have duplicating services that the beneficiaries of those services either don't need or are quite capable of funding on their own? If the companies that we are told directly benefit from all of these essential services are not willing to fund them, maybe that's just nature's way of telling us that we shouldn't be fleecing our constituents' earnings to pay for them either. Why would we tap American taxpayers to subsidize the export activities of foreigners, as Simpson-Bowles notes?

Madam Chairman, the rules of the House were specifically written to prevent this type of unauthorized expenditure. And they provide for a point of order to be raised if it is included in an appropriations bill, which is what we're talking about right now. But alas, that rule is routinely waived when these measures are brought to the floor, making this amendment the only possible way of ferreting out this kind of duplicative program and outright waste.

This is a prime example of corporate welfare. We ought to be done with it.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. McCLINTOCK. Madam Chairman, I rise in strong support of the amendment offered by the gentleman from Kansas.

The new House Republican majority was elected last year with the specific charge to bring wasteful spending under control. We can't blame the Senate or the President if there is waste in the budget anymore. Money doesn't get spent by this government unless the House says it gets spent. In a very real constitutional sense, the buck starts here.

Now, here we have an appropriations bill originating in this House that still has outrageously wasteful and indefensible programs in it, and the flagship of that waste is the $182 million in unauthorized--there's that word again--in unauthorized spending for the Economic Development Administration. This is solely and simply a slush fund that gives away money for the most dubious of local projects. Local projects that benefit local communities should be funded locally. We shouldn't be robbing St. Petersburg to pay St. Paul. We have to ask ourselves, if these projects are so important to local communities, why are those local communities unwilling to pay for them?

If the communities that directly benefit from these projects are unwilling to pay for them, why are we spending Federal money that we don't have?

To add insult to insanity, this particular Agency is sitting right now on $845 million. Why on Earth would we provide it with another $180 million? We ought to abolish this Agency and recover the unspent funds, not throw good money after bad.

Tim Carney hit it on the head in The Washington Examiner last October when he wrote this:

Nearly every Republican voted against President Obama's stimulus in 2009, arguing that the deficit was too high, that government shouldn't be in the game of picking winners and losers, and that Washington doesn't create jobs. But the EDA adds to the deficit, picks winners and losers, and purports to create jobs. If Republicans vote to continue the EDA, they flaunt their hypocrisy to critics.

I have to agree.

I appreciate that the appropriations bills are making incremental improvements in the status quo, but these are times that demand much, much more than that. When Members vote for these appropriations bills, they become responsible for the spending in them and for the waste in them. And I, for one, do not intend to explain to my constituents that a ``culinary amphitheater'' was worthy of $2 million of their hard-earned taxes. This spending is simply indefensible. Doling out grants with little, if any, accountability, this ought to be the poster child for waste in government.

I appreciate the fact that the leadership has agreed to an open amendment process, giving us the opportunity to correct this particular oversight on the floor. But the fact of the matter is that the House is ill-equipped to comprehensively address this kind of waste from the floor, and we must do better in both the authorizing and the Appropriations Committees in combing these bills earlier in the process for these kind of unconscionable and indefensible expenditures.

I commend the gentleman from Kansas for offering the amendment. I wholeheartedly support it.

Madam Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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