EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR DEFENSE, THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, AND TSUNAMI RELIEF, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 15, 2005)
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Mr. HOYER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin, and I thank our new chairman and congratulate him on his new position.
Mr. Chairman, I intend to vote for this supplemental appropriations bill, because I believe it is imperative to support our men and women in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan and to continue our Nation's important work there. Our Nation must finish what it has begun. We cannot disregard the bravery of millions of Iraqi citizens who turned out to vote in January. Failure there, in my opinion, is not and should not be an option.
This legislation also is a recognition of the bravery and courage of our service men and women, more than 1,500 of whom have given the ultimate measure of sacrifice for freedom.
As Tom Friedman pointed out in the New York Times in February: ``There is no single action we could undertake anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of terrorism that would have a bigger impact today than a decent outcome in Iraq.'' I share that view.
Mr. Chairman, I believe it is more than mere coincidence that over the last several months the winds of democratic reform have begun to blow, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority. But we must harbor no illusions about the prospects for democratic reform in lands that have never known it. However, I believe that it is in our Nation's interests to encourage and promote it.
Mr. Chairman, I also want to note that this legislation includes funding for food and humanitarian assistance in Sudan, as well as tsunami relief.
However, despite these important funding requests, I would be remiss if I did not point out that this bill is far from perfect. In many respects it is troubling.
This Congress has a constitutional obligation, a duty, on behalf of the voters who elected us to serve here to hold the administration accountable for such expenditures. We have asked for a report. We have not gotten that report yet.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) mentioned that in our markup. The gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis) mentioned that in our markup.
The American public wants to support this effort but wants to do so in an effective, honest and efficient manner. It is our responsibility to ensure that.
It is clear that the administration has included many measures in addition that are not emergencies. We understand that practice. It has happened before. But I believe with all due respect that we have not met our oversight requirements.
This bill is approximately $82 billion. In talking to staff, and maybe I stand to be corrected, but I believe that there are only two appropriations bills, Defense and Labor and Health that are larger than this $82 billion bill. Now there may be another one. I think VA-HUD used to be but we do not have VA-HUD. What does that mean? That means we are passing the third largest appropriations bill that we will pass in the Congress.
What does that mean? We are passing the third largest appropriations bill through this House without a single hearing, not one. There was no hearing in subcommittee, any of the subcommittees. There was no hearing in the full committee. We had 2 1/2 hours of consideration in the full committee.
Mr. Chairman, as you know, we literally hold hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of hearings on the individual bills. As a result, individual Members have the opportunity to ask questions, to make sure themselves that the money that is asked for is being spent appropriately.
As I said, I will support this bill. I do not hold our new chairman responsible for this. This is a supplemental. It came down relatively late. Our men and women are at risk. We need to get this money moving. I understand that. But I suggest to my colleagues that oversight is critical, and I would urge the gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis) and the ranking member, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey), that as we proceed with further consideration of these items that we exercise oversight carefully in the coming months to assure ourselves that this money is being spent as we intend it to be.
Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.
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