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Public Statements

A Deeply Flawed Process

By:
Date:
Location: Washington DC

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
SENATE
Nov. 20, 2004

A DEEPLY FLAWED PROCESS
Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, my only question to the Senator is, is he really surprised that something egregious should be in this long package that none of us have seen or read until a few hours ago? Does it really surprise the Senator when we find it packed full of goodies for special interest and policy changes and all kinds of things that are passed into law that otherwise would not bear scrutiny? Is he really surprised that all of a sudden now we just pass some other barrier?
Isn't it also the fact this is in a bill that none of us have seen or read? Should it surprise us that finally happened when we have a system that is broken? The system is broken. This is 9 of the 13 appropriations bills that have never seen a debate or discussion or amending. None, never. So now we find something that-thank God for somebody's staffer who found it buried on page-what did the Senator say, page 1,000-something?
Mr. CONRAD. Madam President, I say to my colleague, my friend, you cannot even tell what page number it is because on these pages there are three different page numbers. Page 802, page 1112, page 85-take your pick.
Mr. McCAIN. If I can finally ask my colleague, doesn't it really argue again that we have to fix a system that is broken? Here we are, everybody trying to get home for the Thanksgiving recess, and we are going to debate and vote on this "as quickly as we can" and anybody who extends the debate is being terribly unfair to their colleagues. I have already had four colleagues who have airline reservations come up to me and say: Please don't talk too long this time; you're not going to hold up this bill, are you?
I am not the one who caused this bill to not appear before us when we have been here for the entire year without acting on nine of the appropriations bills. The system is broken, and sooner or later we better fix it.
I am going to identify billions of dollars of pork that are in this bill that have had no scrutiny, no competition, no nothing except a testimony of the influence of some member of the Appropriations Committee.
I ask my colleague if he is surprised this should happen.
BREAK IN TEXT
Mr. McCAIN. Would this not be, the explanation just provided by the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, incredibly disturbing, that we would have a bill before us, that we would have a few hours of debate, and if it had not been for the alert staff, one of the staffers over here, this would have been passed into law?
This would have been passed into law. Now we find out how it happened. One staffer had an agreement with another staffer, and it was placed into a multithousand-page document that none of us had ever seen or read.
Doesn't the Senator from Iowa find this incredibly disturbing, that there will be all kinds of pressure we vote as soon as possible on this bill because we all want to get out of here, that it is just discovered, but it was done by two staffers?
Has this system broken down completely here in the U.S. Senate?
BREAK IN TEXT
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, beginning this year, during consideration of the fiscal year 2004 Omnibus appropriations bill, I stood on the floor and spoke about how our economic situation, our vital national security concerns, required us to take greater effort in prioritizing our Federal spending and we could no longer afford business as usual. Little has changed since January. Here we are again, nearly 2 full months into fiscal year 2005 and we have before us another appropriations monstrosity. Let me remind my colleagues that because of our inability to get much done under the regular order, this is the third year in a row we have had to pass a mammoth consolidated appropriations bill. In fact, we have been forced to consider huge Omnibus appropriations bills for 6 of the last 8 fiscal years.
This is a remarkable package. This is a remarkable thing. I would argue that not one Member of the Senate or our loyal staffs is physically capable, even if they wanted to, to read this many-thousand-page document. This system cannot continue.
Another thing that is very dispiriting, it always is considered at the last minute before we go out or the last hour or the last 2 hours. Why? Because the members of the Appropriations Committee know it will not bear scrutiny.
We were able to uncover an egregious action on the part of the committee that has been fully ventilated, but if we were going to go out next Monday night, we would be debating this Omnibus bill next Monday night. If we were going out Christmas Eve, we would be debating Christmas Eve. It is in the appropriators' benefit for us to do it at the last minute.
This many-hundred-page document deserves a lot more than my half-hour and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee's 20 minutes. Why? Why are we going to talk so little about it? I would like to talk for hours about it, but I do not have the courage to hold up the travel plans of all of my colleagues. So I am only going to talk for half an hour about a $388 billion, 1,632-page document. That is disgraceful. We are not doing what we should do for our constituents. We have an obligation to oversee their tax dollars.
I am going to talk about a number of the provisions. Some are fairly entertaining: The Clemson University, South Carolina Call Me Mister Program. We are going to spend money on the curriculum development on the study of mariachi music. I am going to go over some of them. They are remarkable.
The good old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is back. We are going to give them some money again. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is hurting badly.
It goes on and on and on: beautification projects, libraries. We are back to the old snake management in Guam. That is only $515,000; $175,000 for research into tree fruits quality. All of them, of course, have a specific location. We are going to spend $443,000 to research and develop baby food containing salmon; $3 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in Geneva, NY; $2.3 million for an animal waste management research laboratory in Bowling Green, KY; $100,000 for the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in the Bronx; $100,000 for the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation. By the way, the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation proudly proclaims on their Web site that they receive no Government funding and will continue to operate as an independent organization.
Then there is $100,000 for the Belle Grove Plantation, an 18th-century grain and livestock farm. Here is a great one, $1 million for the Norwegian American Foundation to fulfill its charter. What is the charter of the Norwegian American Foundation that they need $1 million of my taxpayers' money?
It goes on and on. The energy and water, of course, is $1.796 billion for construction of inland waterway projects; $12.5 million for the Dallas floodway extension; $24 million for portions of the Big Sandy and Upper Cumberland River Project. A couple of these projects that caught my eye are because they direct the Corps to continue with the construction of harbor projects in accordance with "the economic justification." In other words, no cost-benefit analysis but economic justification. Then there is $324.5 million for Cape Girardeau, MO; $12 million, if it is going to continue, another one of the worst projects ever conceived by Congress, the Yazoo Basin, Yazoo Backwater Pumping Plant in Mississippi, in which the Clarion Ledger, a Mississippi newspaper, had to say in an editorial, "Death of This Boondoggle Long Overdue":
So why does the Yazoo Pump Project survive-very few people would benefit and the plan is so costly . . . running it would be an ongoing destruction of wealth and wildlife. Yet pump proponents were at it again trying to resurrect this Frankenstein monster.
Core support for the International Fertilizer Development Center, $2.3 million. I had no idea we had an International Fertilizer Development Center, much less that it needed $2.3 million for core support of it.
I guess $500,000 for Idaho weed control; $2 million for Atlantic salmon grants; $790,000 for the Bering Sea Fisherman's Association. I guess the Bering Sea Fisherman's Association cannot raise their dues enough to sustain themselves. We have to give them $790,000. We go through this every year. Three million for Wheeling Jesuit University for the National Technology Transfer Center for a coal slurry impoundment pilot project; $20 million to Project GRAD-USA in Houston, TX, for continued support and expansion of the program focusing on school reform; $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland for music education programs. Being a fan of rock and roll myself, I guess that is well justified.
The fact is we are looking at a deficit of enormous proportions where Alan Greenspan as recently as the day before yesterday warned us about the impact on our economy. Some of these, such as what is being done on NASA funding, is harmful to the mission and capabilities of NASA itself. According to information compiled from the Congressional Research Service, the total number of earmarks has grown from 4,126 to 14,040 in fiscal year 2004. In terms of dollars of earmarking, it has gone from $26.6 billion to $47.9 billion. That is in the space of 10 years.
If you extrapolate that, we are really on a remarkable path. I was shocked when I read a recent report "Is Pork Barrel Spending Ready to Explode? The Anatomy of an Earmark" by Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., published by the Heritage Foundation, which details a new scheme by lobbyists to sell earmarks.
[Page S11726]
I ask unanimous consent that article be printed in the RECORD.
BREAK IN TEXT
Mr. McCAIN. I quote:
That Congress once showed budgetary restraint and fiscal continence suggests that the propensity to earmark is not some inherent flaw in American democracy, but rather a willful irresponsibility now embraced by too many members.
We now have a deficit of $413 billion.
A good place to find fiscal redemption is in the appropriations bills that will soon come to the President's desk. The first step in the process should be a sharply worded veto threat. It will be a welcome change if that veto threat included excess earmarks as one of the many items that would merit a presidential rejection.
Here is the stark reality of our fiscal situation. According to the Government Accountability Office, the unfunded Federal financial burden, such as public debt, future Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments, total more than $40 trillion, or $140,000 per man, woman, and child.
To put this in perspective, the average mortgage which is often a family's largest liability is $124,000, and that is often borne by the family breadwinners, not the children, too. But, instead of fixing the problem, and fixing it will not be easy, we only succeeded in making it bigger and more unstable, more complicated and much more expensive.
I point out that it is well known that the President very soon will come over and ask for an additional $70 billion to fight the war in Iraq. I believe-and I said this a long time ago, and it is true today and it will be true when I say it again a year or two from now-we are going to be in Iraq for a long time. I pray every day that we prevail. I pray every day for the young men and women who are serving and in harm's way. But there is no doubt in my mind that we will have many billions of dollars yet to spend on Iraq and Afghanistan. All of us are aware we now face a growing threat from North Korea and a recent very serious one from Iran.
There is no one I know who is an expert outside the administration who does not believe we are going to have to spend a lot more money on defense, one reason being that our military is too small. We need as many as 80,000 more men and women in the Army. We need 20,000 to 30,000 more men and women in the Marine Corps. It is all going to cost money. But, instead, we are going to spend tens of billions of dollars in wasteful and unnecessary spending and increase this debt on future generations of Americans.
We can't afford to do this. We cannot afford to continue a broken system such as this, where the night we are going out of session we have a 1,630-page bill that none of us have seen or read and in which a particularly onerous provision which, if it hadn't been for the Senator from North Dakota bringing to our attention, would have been an unprecedented invasion of the American family's privacy. But there are other provisions in this bill which no one has seen or read.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The time of the Senator has expired.
Mr. STEVENS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the Senator have additional time, if he desires it.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, The Conference Report, once again, contains earmarks of $10 million for the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board-is there something wrong with these fish that warrants such an expensive program to convince us to eat them? And now it also has $1 million for the Wild American Shrimp Initiative. I am hoping that the appropriators could explain to me why we need $1 million for this-are American shrimp unruly and lacking initiative? Why does the US taxpayer need to fund this "no shrimp left behind" act?
[Page S11727]
At the Department of Justice, Section 619: $100,000 for the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in Bronx, NY for outreach and programs. This theater has produced 104 plays in both English and Spanish, and is not community based; $100,000 for The Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation. It preserves lands where battles were fought, reenacts battles. It proclaims on their website that "the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation receives no government funding and will continue to operate as an independent organization."
Then $100,000 for the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association. This association presents a comprehensive tourism guide to attractions, lodging, restaurants, shopping and other services.
And $100,000 for the Belle Grove Plantation. Belle Grove is a preserved 18th-century grain and livestock farm.
And $1,100,000 for the MountainMade Foundation for outreach and promotion, the education of artists and craftspeople, and to promote small businesses, artisans and their products.
And $1,000,000 for the Norwegian American Foundation to fulfill its charter. This foundation promotes further cooperation among all Norwegian American organizations.
Mr. President, while I understand that the omnibus before us is a glaring and wasteful sign of the Senate's failure to consider and pass individual appropriation bills, I had hoped that the bill would succeed in hold the line against wasteful and unnecessary pork following a vote to raise the debt limit. My colleagues have become accustomed to my railing against pork-barrel spending, but if there was ever a time when we all needed to rally against it for the good of our country, our economy, and our current commitments and security priorities, it is now.
This bill in no way reflects the fiscal realities of our times. One can go directly to the energy and water appropriations section of this bill to take a quick read of the pork fantasies that federal taxpayers will be plagued by.
Senator Feingold and I sent a letter to leadership last week urging the exclusion of Water Resources Development Act provisions because of the costly and wasteful water projects included as well as the neglect of much-needed Army Corps reform. I am heartened to see that the bill with the full compliment of costly water projects was not included. However, there are billions of dollars earmarked for a host of water projects.
Let's start at the top of the big ticket list-$1.796 billion is provided construction of inland waterway projects. I was relieved to see that funds are provided for the rehabilitation of specific locks in the Upper Mississippi-Illinois Waterway, but not for the incredibly wasteful $2.3 billion locks expansion project.
This project has received attention in papers throughout the country because it is such an extreme example of a very expensive and unnecessary water project that some members are determined to foist on American taxpayers. A New York Times editorial from November 18th discussing the possible riders to be attached to the omnibus bill stated, "but the worst by far is a proposed $2 billion expansion of the lock system on the upper Mississippi River, a project that the National Academy of Sciences has twice reviewed and twice declared a waste of money."
After a conscientious economist at the Corps blew the whistle on this project and heads rolled, the National Academy of Sciences undertook a study of the project and then a second oneI guess just in case Congress was ignoring the first one- and both conclude that this project cannot be justified by current or projected barge traffic and there are inexpensive and effective alternatives available.
And in spite of this irrefutable, objective information, there have been concerted efforts to get Congress to approve spending $1.8 billion dollars to satisfy special interests instead of the public interest. It's wrong and its shameful. Speaking of interests, the interests of your own state would also be affected by this project because it will suck up such a significant percentage of the Corps program funding there just won't be enough to go around in years to come.
Next to the mother of all wasteful Corps projects, other earmarks look downright insignificant: $12.5 million for the Dallas Floodway Extension, $24 million for portions of the Big Sandy and Upper Cumberland River Project, and a not too surprising number of Alaska projects. A couple of these caught my eye as they direct the Corps to continue with the construction of harbor projects in accordance with "the economic justification" contained in the Engineers report. I've not seen the cost-benefit analysis of these projects but this language ensures that there won't be any question regarding their justification.
The rest of this section of the bill is a litany of multi-million dollar projects earmarked for Missouri, California, Hawaii and other states and I hope that these are all worthy projects. There is $324.5 million provided for flood damage reduction in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and I don't know where all that money is going but $12 million of it is going to continue another one of the worst projects ever conceived by Congress. This is the Yazoo Basin, Yazoo Backwater Pumping Plant, Mississippi which I've spoken against on the Senate floor before. Well, its back.
Again, this is another of those projects that newspapers like to write about in pointing out the folly of congressional spending. Here's what the Clarion Ledger, a Mississippi newspaper had to say in an editorial titled "Death of this Boondoggle Long Overdue", "So why does the Yazoo Pump Project survive-very few people would benefit and the plan is so costly . . . running it would be an ongoing destruction of wealth and wildlife. Yet pump proponents were at it again trying to resurrect this Frankenstein monster". The New York Times concurred, "Yazoo Pump ranks among the most indefensible projects undertaken at Congressional behest. It would drain 200,000 acres of valuable wetlands . . . and would benefit nobody except a relatively small number of big growers, who already drink copiously from the public trough".
I highlight this egregious project among others to make the point that this bill clearly reflects that we are not doing our essential job of expending public funds wisely and responsibly and if not now then when will we ever take this duty seriously?
The report language earmarks up to $2,000,000 for Water Missions International to develop clean water treatment projects in developing countries; At least $4,000,000 for the International Fertilizer Development Center; $1,000,000 directed for support of the United States Telecommunications Training Institute; $1,000,000 for the International Real Property Foundation; $3,000,000 for Internews, to promote freedom of the media in Indonesia; $3,000,000 for the Foundation for Security and Sustainability; and $2,000,000 for Zanmi Lasante.
Mr. President, the Interior bill language also includes individual location specific earmarks and provisions in this section of the legislation. Of note: a provision stating that, out of amounts for Resource Management maintenance is provided for the herd of long-horned cattle on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge; a provision stating that, notwithstanding any provision of law including NEPA, nonrenewable grazing permits authorized by the Jarbidge Field Office, Bureau of Land Management within the past 8 years shall be renewed; $1.5 million is earmarked for wood products wastewater treatment plant repairs in Canton, NC; $5.0 million is earmarked, in addition to its normal allocation, to Alaska Region to establish a 3-year timber supply; $18 million is earmarked to continue a multi-year project coordinated with the private sector for FutureGen in Alaska; $50 million is made available for a request of proposals for a Clean Coal Power Initiative for competitively awarded research, development, and demonstration projects; $18 million is made available to carry out naval petroleum and oil shale reserve activities; $500 million, which was not requested by the President, in included as additional funding for wildland fire suppression funds for fiscal year 2005.
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Mr. President, I did not have enough time to count every earmark in division E of the conference report, but it is safe to say that there are well over 1,000 individual location specific earmarks in this section of the legislation. Of note: $500,000 for Idaho weed control; $2 million for Atlantic salmon grants administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation; $500,000 for Lahonton cutthroat trout; $1.8 million for eider and sea otter recovery at the Alaska SeaLife Center; and $250,000 for concho water snake delisting efforts in Texas.
For the Bureau of Land Management there are 32 location specific earmarks for land acquisition, including $3.4 million for the Baca National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado and $2 million for the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii. These 32 earmarks amount to almost $23 million in spending.
The National Recreation and Preservation provisions include $2.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Gateway and $750,000 for the Alaska National Parks. The Historic Preservation Fund is loaded with 84 location-specific earmarks totaling $15 million. There are 78 earmarks in the construction account totaling approximately $192 million. Some of the more egregious examples of these earmarks include: $8.7 million for the Crater Lake National Park in Oregon; $3.0 million for the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina; $7.4 million for Denali National Park in Alaska; $10.8 million for Gettysburg National Memorial Park in Pennsylvania; $10 million for the Lassen Volcanic National Park in California; $15.5 million for Olympic National Park in Washington; and over $15 million for Yellowstone National Park.
Mr. President, every year I marvel at how well the residents of Alaska make out in these appropriations bills. This year is no exception. Throughout the division E, earmarks for Alaska abound. Just a sampling of these projects include: $1.2 million for the Alaska mineral resource assessment program; $100,000 for the Alaska Geological Materials Center; $150,000 for the Alaska Whaling Commission; $900,000 for the Marine Mineral Technology Center; $98,000 for the Alaska Sea Otter Commission; $790,000 for the Bering Sea Fisherman's Association; $346,000 for the Chugach Regional Resources Commission; $750,00 for the rural Alaska Fire Program; and $750,000 for the Alaska native aviation program.
Out of the Employment and Training Administration account the bill provides the following amounts for non-competitive grants: $2,200,000 for the AFL-CIO Appalachian Council, Incorporated; $1,500,000 for the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute; $4,000,000 for the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity; $2,600,000 for the National Center on Education and the Economy.
Out of the Departmental Management Salaries and Expenses account the bill provides: $7,000,000 for Frances Perkins Building Security Enhancements.
Out of Department of Labor project pilots and demonstrations, the statement of managers suggests the following earmarks: $100,000 for 413 Hope Mission Ministries, Philadelphia, PA for employment skills training for disadvantaged adults and ex-offenders; $500,000 for Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Juneau, AK to fund training for gas pipeline workers; $200,000 for Central State University, Wilberforce, OH, to implement a world class modular automation training system; $225,000 for Cook Inlet Tribal Council for the Alaska's People Program in Anchorage, AK; $50,000 for Fashion Business, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, for workforce development and training; $500,000 for Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS, Robotics and Automated Systems for Nursery Industry.
Out of DoL Mine Safety and Health Administration, the statement of managers suggests the following earmarks: $750,000 for infrastructure improvements at the Mine Academy in Buckley, WV; $3,000,000 for Wheeling Jesuit University for the National Technology Transfer Center for a coal slurry impoundment pilot project.
This conference report includes funding for a number of important public health programs and research activities funded through the Department of Health and Human Services (HIS). However, the appropriators were once again unable to allow the Department to allocate funds through merit based grants and took it upon themselves to select projects which they believe to be worthy of funding. The HHS section of the Joint Explanatory Statement includes 53 pages full of more than 1,400 earmarks, totaling over $603 million.
Some particularly large examples include: $10 million for the Medical University of South Carolina Oncology Center in Charleston, South Carolina, for the construction of the Allied Health Technology Tower; $10 million for the Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for the construction of a nursing education facility; $10.25 million for the University of Louisville, in Louisville, Kentucky, for the Baxter III Research Building; $10 million for the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama; and $10 million for the West Virginia University for the construction of a Biomedical Science Research Center.
It shouldn't be surprising to any of my colleagues that the section of the Joint Explanatory Statement for the Department of Education is again loaded up with pork barrel projects designated to schools and organizations which the members of the Appropriations Committees, rather than the Department of Education, deemed worthy of federal dollars. In the 43 pages of the statement, devoted exclusively to pork, the appropriators included an estimated 1,147 earmarks, amounting to well over $392 million.
Among the more egregious examples is: $20 million to Project GRAD-USA Inc, in Houston, Texas, for continued support and expansion of the program focusing on school reform; $18 million to provide assistance to low-performing schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education; and $15 million for the Iowa Department of Education to continue the Harkin grant program.
$350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio for music education programs.
I am sure that many Americans would be surprised to learn that there are even state specific earmarks in the Legislative Branch Appropriations. The appropriations bill that is supposed to fund the work of Congress and its related offices is also being used to "bring home the bacon." The bill specifically earmarks $300,000 in funding from the Library of Congress (LOC) for the University of South Carolina for the preservation of Movietone Newsreels. The Joint Explanatory Statement mandates that the LOC establish a program under its Adventure of the American Mind initiative in Georgia. Clearly both are worthwhile endeavors, but why are the University of South Carolina and the state of Georgia more deserving of these distinctions then any other university or state.
The conference report provides $1.1 billion more than requested by the President for the federal-highway program. All of the extra funding, plus another $100 million, is used to $1.2 billion for 795 earmarked projects. Among the projects deemed worthy of funding are: Access to the Ebenezer Swamp Wetlands Interpretative Center in Alabama ($225,000); The Girl Scouts Golden Valley Council bridge project in California ($150,000); Farm crossings in Ventura County, California ($500,000); and Streetlights and a salt dome for Markham, Illinois ($300,000).
The conference report prohibits the use of funding to implement or enforce any provision of the new hours of service regulations to operators of utility service vehicles, or to the transportation of property or passengers to or from a motion picture or television production site. I find this particularly ironic given the fact that Congress, as part of the 8-month extension of the highway program passed in September, mandated that the new hours of service regulations remain in place for the next year in spite of the decision of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the regulations as arbitrary and capricious.
The conference report provides $1.217 billion for Amtrak, $317 million above the amount supported by the President without significant reform and restructuring, continues strong oversight by the Department of Transportation, and requires Amtrak to begin paying back its $100 million loan from the Federal Railroad Administration. While I am relieved that the appropriators continue to resist Amtrak's pleas for significantly higher funding, I am concerned about that Amtrak will use its appropriation to simply continue operating the same train network, and continue to rack up record operating losses.
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I agree completely with the conclusions reached yesterday in a report by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General on Amtrak's 2003 and 2004 financial performance and requirements. The report states that "The bottom line is that the existing system is not sustainable at current funding levels . . ." and that "Amtrak's management must find ways to reduce its need for operating subsidies and set better priorities for capital dollars." As I have said many times, it is time to restructure Amtrak. Amtrak should focus on short-distance corridors where rail service can compete with other modes of transportation, and the long distance trains should be restructured or eliminated. If Amtrak won't follow implement this strategy, then it is the responsibility of Amtrak's Board of Directors, the Secretary of Transportation, and Congress to make it happen."
The conference report also contains a provision that would expand an existing waiver for the state of New Hampshire from the 80,000-pound truck weight limit on the Interstate System. Trucks would be allowed to operate at up to 99,000 pounds on Interstates 89 and 93 (in addition to I-95 which is current law). Bad, Very Bad.
The conferees state that returning the Shuttle fleet to flight should be NASA's highest priority because it's the first step in the Space Exploration Initiative. Just two weeks ago, NASA notified the Commerce Committee that the Shuttle return to flights costs for fiscal year 2005 alone would exceed $762 million. The Commerce Committee awaits NASA's plan for covering these costs. Whatever the plan, it is only further complicated by the fact that the conference report contains 16 pages of earmarks in the NASA budget, including such things as $1,000,000 to the Southern Methodist University to develop multifabrication manufacturing technology, $750,000 for the GeoTREE project at the University of Northern Iowa, and $3,000,000 for our familiar friend, the ultra-long balloon program at New Mexico State University.
The conferees go on to say that if NASA needs more money just send in a supplemental request. It would be given full and fair consideration by Congress. Maybe we should just send the blank check now and ask NASA to fill it out. This type of behavior represents no accountability and actually encourages NASA to spend without regard to budgetary reality.
The liberation of NASA continues by the conferees' granting NASA unrestrained transfer authority between the "Exploration Capabilities" account and the "Science, Aeronautics, and Exploration" account. This was requested by NASA and granted by the Appropriators under the disguise of the need for flexibility to transition to full cost accounting. These two accounts represent over $16 billion. In essence we're saying, "NASA, do what you want with the money." The statement of managers goes on to say that the transfer authority can be used for purposes other than addressing full cost accounting, but that NASA should "do so with restraint." I don't understand-the statement of managers earlier specifically said that would have "unrestrained transfer authority." What's the "do so with restraint" all about?
Inserted in the last section of the omnibus, in a miscellaneous section, is a provision which would modify federal pension laws for multiemployer pension plans covering employees working in the State of Alaska.
Title 6 in CJS, Page 170-prevents FCC from implementing February 27, 2004 recommendation of the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service that universal service fund (USF) support only be provided to primary lines in order to keep the USF solvent.
This section removes the ability of the FCC to act of the recommendation of the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service advocating that universal service funds should be used only toward consumers' primary telephone line.
This is a significant limitation on potential action by the FCC. I object to this provision because it should have been considered, reviewed and acted upon by the members of the Committee of jurisdiction, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, before being enacted into law. No member of the Committee approached me requesting to move legislation on such a limitation. I am unable to state whether this is a good policy decision because, similar to the FCC, the Committee of jurisdiction was not provided the courtesy to review and consider the proposed policy change.
In CJS, missing page 60-which covers funding for NTIA, which is under Commerce jurisdiction, so unknown funding levels.
As Chairman of the Committee of jurisdiction over National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), I regret that I am unable to comment on the appropriations levels for this administration because the levels were not made available in the text of the bill. Although this may be merely a clerical error, it is unacceptable, nonetheless.
In CJS, section 112-Alaska Telecommunications provisions to resolve several pending FCC proceedings involving investigations into Alaska rate tariffs and reviews Alaska telecommunication rates.
This section, slipped into the omnibus under the cloak of darkness, removes the ability of the FCC to act on several pending proceedings affecting the rates of Alaskan telecommunications services.
I object to this provision because it should have been considered, reviewed and acted upon by the members of the Committee of jurisdiction, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, before being enacted into law. Additionally, the FCC was nearing competition of the proceeding and the Committee could have acted in response to the FCC's actions if Congress found the outcome to be detrimental to Alaskan consumers. No member of the Committee approached me requesting to move legislation to end the tariff investigation and other proceedings involving Alaska telecommunications services. While I understand both parties to the tariff dispute support the provision included in the omnibus, I am unable to state whether I support it because the Committee of jurisdiction was not provided the courtesy to hold hearings and mark up legislation on the issue.
I object to the inclusion of this legislation in the omnibus. I actually support the content of this legislation, which is the product of lengthy negotiations among the Judiciary and Commerce Committees of both Houses. The bill ensures that rural consumers will continue to enjoy network programming, and for the first time, provides a means for these same consumers to enjoy high definition network programming via satellite. I nevertheless regret that this important policy was added to an appropriations vehicle.

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