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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished Senator from Texas. As I said earlier on the floor this week, I will miss working with her. We have worked together on a number of things.

I know my distinguished colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham, has already spoken on the amendment of the junior Senator from Kentucky which would offset a portion of the cost of the supplemental by rescinding unobligated funds from the fiscal year 2013 continuing resolution for the Department of State and foreign aid programs and operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development. I agree with him in opposing it.

The fiscal year 2013 CR provides $13.4 billion for these national security programs. Of course, we are only 90 days into the fiscal year and $10.4 billion is not yet obligated. No matter how good an amendment such as this might sound, we need to talk about the reality. These days we seem to have two types of arguments, those that go to symbols and those that go to substance. Let me speak about the substance of what this amendment would do to all of our foreign assistance programs.

It would effectively bring to a halt U.S. foreign aid programs around the world. It would shut down the U.S. Agency for International Development. The distinguished Presiding Officer and his family have experienced how important these programs are throughout the world.

Let me tell my colleagues some of the things this amendment would do. It would force early termination of contracts that are based on the fiscal year 2013 budget request such as military aid for Israel and Egypt, potentially resulting in significant early termination and legal costs to U.S. taxpayers. It also tells these countries not to rely on us: We will make agreements with you, we will give you contracts, but we may change our mind 2 months into the fiscal year. Is this how the greatest, most powerful Nation on Earth should act? Come on.

The amendment would reduce the amount available for these programs during the continuing resolution by 67 percent. The amendment sets a floor of $5 billion for these programs for all of fiscal year 2013; that would be a cut of 81 percent. It is not clear how or when additional funds would be provided. In fact, the lack of clarity would wreak havoc on operations and programs that have bipartisan support. That is why Senator Graham and I both spoke in unison on this. Republicans and Democrats across the political spectrum support these programs.

It might make a good press release back home to say we are going to cut all this money from our foreign aid programs, particularly when no mention is made that these programs are a mere 1 percent of the entire Federal budget, but these programs represent a large percentage of the face of America throughout the world. This amendment represents a myopic misunderstanding of the world we live in, where our economy and our security are intricately linked with those of other countries. Frankly, a lot of countries wish we would do something such as this so they could step in with influence that would be counter to the interests of the United States.

Now is not the time to abruptly end our lifesaving global health programs, including the PEPFAR initiative of the George W. Bush administration, which I and many Democrats and Republicans supported, and which also protects the health and safety of Americans living here and traveling and studying and working overseas.

I would ask: Are we actually going to end anticrime programs in Mexico and Colombia or military and economic aid for Israel, Egypt, and Jordan? If anyone wants to eliminate all those programs, then vote for this amendment. But if colleagues want to keep anticrime programs in Mexico and Colombia and keep military and economic aid for Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, then vote against this amendment.

This amendment would curtail relief aid for refugees and victims of natural disasters, from earthquakes to famines. How many times have we seen a tsunami or an earthquake and the world says: At least the United States of America is there. How about if we said: Sorry, we may be the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth, but we can't help you.

How about the Peace Corps? Of course, this amendment would shut it down. The Millennium Challenge Corporation? It would shut that down. The list goes on and on.

I mention these things because they have all had strong bipartisan support--Republican

and Democratic support, both in Congress and in Republican and Democratic administrations.

Let's not waste our time like this. It is a classic example of recklessly robbing Peter to pay Paul. We need Americans to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy rebuild their lives. But we cannot do it by eliminating programs that are critical to our economy and especially programs critical to our national security.

This amendment also includes a new provision that would prevent all funds within this act from being considered emergency spending.

Can any one of us stand on this floor with a straight face and say the devastating effects of the largest Atlantic hurricane in history is not an emergency?

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, when they say it is not an emergency, look at what happened with this hurricane. We lost 120 American lives. We lost 340,000 homes. We lost 200,000 businesses due to the effects of Sandy. If that is not an emergency, then I have not seen an emergency in all my years in the Senate.

There are 12 States with disaster or emergency declarations in place due to Sandy's wrath. It produced an emergency disaster for our Nation. It should be considered as such through the appropriations process, and I applaud the Chair of the Appropriations Committee for moving this.

I yield the floor.

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