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Deficit Reduction Act of 2005--Conference Report

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCAIN. I applaud the Senator from Oklahoma for not only his statement but also for his continued commitment to fiscal discipline here and in trying to identify much of the wasteful and unnecessary spending.

I wonder if the Senator from Oklahoma has had a chance to look at the Defense appropriations bill we are going to consider tomorrow and see some examples of the interesting earmarks out of a conference report. Is the Senator aware of $500,000 to teach science to grade school students in Pennsylvania or $3.85 million for the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Foundation or $4.4 million for a Technology Center in Missouri or $1 million to a Civil War Center in Richmond, VA, or $850,000 for an education center and public park in Des Moines, Iowa, or $2 million for a public park in San Francisco or $500,000 for the Arctic Winter Games, an international athletic competition held this year in Alaska?

Museums are popular this year, including $1.5 million for an aviation museum in Seattle, $1.35 million for an aviation museum in Hawaii, $1 million for a museum in Pennsylvania, $3 million for a museum in Fort Belvoir.

There are more, I say to my friend from Oklahoma, and we are at war. I wonder how many MREs, flak vests, or bullets we could buy with all this money.

I appreciate the Senator's support for this budgetary measure, but how do we tell people we are going to cut food stamps and reduce eligibility for welfare while we are taking the money that is for defense, in the tens of millions of dollars on this Defense appropriations bill, put in a conference report that none of us ever saw or read until right now, I ask the Senator from Oklahoma.


Mr. McCAIN. Will the Senator yield for one more question?

Mr. COBURN. I will.

Mr. McCAIN. Not only do we have the earmarks in outrageous and disgraceful pork-barreling on this bill--again, that none of us ever saw until my staff went through this bill--but there is also a great deal of legislation. Remember, this is the Department of Defense appropriations bill. So it is not just the money, it is also policies and major policy decisions.

There are avian flu vaccine limitation of liability provisions. I tell the Senator from Oklahoma, I do not know if that is worthwhile or not, but it has been jammed into a Department of Defense appropriations bill.

There is funding for farm conservation. There is a provision protecting jobs in--guess where--Hawaii and Alaska. And there is a provision that transfers, as a direct lump-sum payment to the University of Alaska, the unobligated and unexpended balances appropriated to the United States-Canada Railroad Commission.

Does the Senator from Oklahoma have a clue what that is all about?

Mr. COBURN. No, I do not.

Mr. McCAIN. Here we are again, I say to my colleague from Oklahoma, when everybody wants to get out of town examining bils that have all kinds of things in them that we never saw or heard of.

In the Statement of Managers, there is $1.6 million for the Lewis and Clark bicentennial activities. The list goes on. There is $7 million for the Alaska Land Mobile Radio.

I ask my friend from Oklahoma, don't you think the American people are fed up with this kind of stuff? And don't you think it is time a group of us, who have been meeting and talking about eliminating some of these practices, get together and make things tough on the floor of this Senate next year to reign in this out-of-control, disgraceful, obscene conduct that goes on on these appropriation bills?

Mr. COBURN. As the Senator knows, I believe we do a disservice to our country in the way we manipulate appropriations. I have been very vocal on that. But I also know it requires courage to stand up. And the American people are expecting that. They are going to see that this next year on the floor of the Senate. They are going to see a process by which every earmark is challenged in the bills that come before us and in the bills that come out of conference.


Mr. McCAIN. If I may continue, Mr. President, America is at war. We all know that, and that is why the measure we are debating today, the conference report to H.R. 2863, the 2006 Defense appropriations bill, is so very important. This conference report provides critical financing for our fighting men and women, the brave individuals we sent to fight in our name. We must support them, and, for that reason, I will vote in favor of its passage. But I do so under protest.

The conference report appropriates nearly $408 billion, plus an additional $50 billion in emergency funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The non-emergency portion is approximately $4.5 billion under the administration's request, but is several billions higher than the Senate bill. As is the case with so many of the appropriations bills that come to the floor, this conference report and the joint explanatory statement contain earmarks and pork projects that were neither requested nor authorized.

War means sacrifice--any student of history knows that--and Americans have sacrificed throughout our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers and their families have sacrificed, and this year other costs have spread throughout the Nation. Whether it is the victims of Hurricane Katrina, or those that have come to their aid or simply all those Americans who are paying higher gasoline prices, we see sacrifices of many kinds. And so in these difficult times, the American people are right to expect their elected leaders to sacrifice as well.

But then we see a bill like the one on the floor today, and I am sure many Americans wonder if the spirit of sacrifice stops on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. During a war, in a measure designed to give our fighting men and women the funds they need, the Congress has given in to its worst pork-barrel instincts.

Let's take a look at some of the earmarks that are in this Defense appropriations conference report: $500,000 to teach science to grade school students in Pennsylvania; $3.85 million for the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Foundation; $4.4 million for a technology center in Missouri; $1 million to an Civil War center in Richmond, VA; $850,000 for an education center and public park in Des Moines, IA; $2 million for a public park in San Francisco; and $500,000 for the Arctic Winter Games, an international athletic competition held this year in Alaska. And museums are popular this year. There is $1.5 million for an aviation museum in Seattle, $1.35 million for an aviation museum in Hawaii, $1 million for a museum in Pennsylvania, and $3 million for the museum at Fort Belvoir. There is also $1.5 million for restoring the battleship Texas.

We are at war. How many MREs, flak-vests, or bullets could we buy with all this money? How many dollars could we return to the taxpayers? I would note that these are just a small sampling of the many, many unrequested earmarks that fill this bill.

But perhaps we are being too hard on ourselves. After all, the conference report includes a number of provisions that will rescind unobligated balances in Federal accounts, so we are offsetting a small portion of some of these needless costs. But wait a minute. There is always a catch. While the conference report rescinds $10 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Operations account, it also includes language to prevent any cuts to the projects and activities identified on pages 84 to 87 of the House report that accompanies the Agriculture appropriations bill. And if you review that report, you will find 108 earmarked projects totaling more than $103 million. A few examples of the projects that the appropriators are committed to protecting from any reductions, even for the sake of fiscal responsibility, include:

$242,000 for a wildlife habitat education program in conjunction with the National Wild Turkey Federation in Illinois, which is dedicated to conserving wild turkeys and preserving our Nation's hunting heritage.

$100,000 for the Trees Forever Program in Iowa--an organization with a laudable mission statement--it claims to be an organization that not only plants and cares for trees, but also addresses the challenges facing our communities and the environment--but hardly one that should be funded in a Defense appropriations bill.

$400,000 for dairy waste remediation in Louisiana.

$600,000 for conservation related to cranberry production in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. Conservation related to cranberry production. Remarkable.

$200,000 for Weed It Now--Taconic Mountains--MA/NY/CT. Weed It Now, I am told, is an effort to remove invasive plants from the forest habitat of the Berkshire Taconic plateau. I am a strong supporter of the global war on weeds, Mr. President, but this earmark does not belong in this bill.

Clearly, such projects should not be asked to spare a dime.

Beyond the earmarks, Mr. President, it is a violation of Senate rules to legislate on an appropriation bill, unless, as is the case with several sections of the detainee provisions in title 10, they are added pursuant to a rule 16 defense of germaneness. And yet this rule is flouted far too often. This bill not only contains numerous authorizing provisions, but it also features dozens of provisions, both authorizing and appropriating, that are wholly outside of the scope of defense policy. Some of these are included to pursue laudable policy objectives; some are not. A sampling of the non-germane provisions includes: the hurricane supplemental: $29 billion for hurricane victims; the Gulf Coast Recovery Fund; avian flu vaccine limitation of liability provisions; a provision that directs funds from the Digital Transition and Public Safety Fund that are in excess of $12 billion to be spent on, among other things, the Tucson, Arizona Border Patrol sector, $30 million, the San Diego sector fence, $20 million, and to carry out the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, $50 million; 1.5 billion for home heating energy assistance; funding for farm conservation; a provision protecting jobs in Hawaii and Alaska; a provision transferring as a direct lump sum payment to the University of Alaska the unobligated and unexpended balances appropriated to the United States-Canada Railroad Commission; and, of course, the ANWR provisions, which I will discuss in a moment.

Mr. President, some of these provisions are very important. Others clearly are not. But whether or not they are important, we should follow the standing rules of the Senate. We should debate these provisions and have the opportunity to offer amendments.

Division C of this conference report authorizes the exploration, leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and gas in and from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR. This provision does not belong in an appropriations bill to fund our troops who are fighting the war on terror.

Drilling in ANWR is, of course, the reason we are here today. When conferees tried to add these provisions to the reconciliation measure, they could not get the votes to include it in the final agreement without putting passage of the whole package in jeopardy. So instead the conference managers have circumvented Senate rules and added this unrelated and controversial measure to the Defense conference report.

Thanks to this additional language, enactment of the Defense funding bill has been needlessly delayed and continues at this moment to be the target of a filibuster. I strongly oppose this inclusion of this language in the DOD appropriations conference report, and I am appalled by the tactics that have been used to arm-twist and pressure Senators to choose between a drilling provision that they know is wrong and providing desperately needed funding for our Nation's troops.

And the ANWR provisions didn't come free, of course. The proponents had to come up with a slew of sweeteners in an effort to win support for drilling in the Arctic. Let's look at a few of these.

Division D directs an additional $1.5 billion, designated as emergency spending, for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance. The same division establishes a Gulf Coast Recovery and Disaster Prevention and Assistance Fund, which would be funded largely through ANWR oil and gas revenues. Another set of provisions addresses the Digital Transition and Public Safety Fund, established by the budget reconciliation conference report. The CBO estimates that this ``spectrum fund'' will generate $10 billion, but the conference report we are debating today figures out how to spend revenues in excess of $10 billion. After $10 billion, the next $2 billion will be directed to the Gulf Coast Fund. Already planning how to spend money that exceeds the level the CBO projects we will have. Sound familiar, Mr. President?

So CBO says we can plan on $10 billion from the spectrum fund. If we somehow get to $12 billion in revenue, the excess goes to the Gulf Coast. So you think we would stop there. But, no, we go further, planning how to spend the next $4 billion on the chance that the spectrum fund generates still more money. The conference report directs that distributions over $12 billion be earmarked as: $900 million for conservation programs through the Department of Agriculture; $50 million to carry out the North American Wetlands Conservation Act; $50 million to protect grassland and wetland habitats; $1 billion for Interoperable Communications Equipment to assist State and local government preparation for a natural disaster or terrorist attack; $1 billion to assist State and local government preparation for a natural disaster or terrorist attack; $80 million to the Department of Homeland Security to replace and upgrade law enforcement communications; $30 million to replace Border Patrol vehicles; $490 million for Air and Marine Interdiction, Operations, Maintenance and Procurement to replace air assets, including $40 million for helicopter replacement; $372 million for Air and Marine Interdiction, Operations, Maintenance and Procurement to construct and renovate air facilities; $30 million for Tucson, AZ Border Patrol sector for tactical infrastructure; $20 million for San Diego, CA Border Patrol sector for the sector conference; $30 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to replace detention and removal vehicles; and $17.9 million for Federal Law Enforcement Training Center for construction of a language training facility.

While the border security projects I have just mentioned are important, will they come to fruition? Not until the spectrum revenues exceed the CBO's estimate--first by $2 billion, and then by $4 billion on top of that. So only when the fund hits $16 billion would all these funds actually be distributed. This entire scheme reminds me of the saying by Wimpy, the hamburger-obsessed character from the Popeye comic, ``I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.''

In addition to everything I have described in the conference report, the statement of managers that accompanies it also includes hundreds of earmarks and questionable projects. Here are just a few examples: $1.6 million for Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Activities; $30 million for continued development of the Joint Common Missile--a program that DOD cancelled this year; $10 million to restructure the Advanced SEAL Delivery System--over half a billion dollars has been spent over the last 9 years, with no deployable vehicles yet fielded, U.S. Special Operations Command has cancelled plans for future boats; $3.2 million for Handheld High Intensity Searchlights; and $7 million for the Alaska Land Mobile Radio.

Mr. President, despite high gas prices, despite a swelling budget deficit, despite our military operations overseas, and despite our domestic emergencies, pork continues to thrive in good times and bad. The cumulative effect of these earmarks is the erosion of the integrity of the appropriations process, and by extension, our responsibility to the taxpayer. We must do better, for our soldiers and for the American people.

We have to fix this system, Mr. President. Our system is broken if we cannot pass a Defense bill in wartime without billions of dollars in pork. Our system is broken if we cannot fund our troops without tacking on legislation that opens ANWR to drilling. Our system is broken if our national security is at stake and we carry on spending for the special interests as if nothing were wrong. But there is something wrong, something very wrong. We want to have it all without making any sacrifices, so we simply borrow the money, pushing off the obligations to our children and our grandchildren. ANWR is a perfect example of that. We drill today in the false hope that doing so will solve our energy problems, but in doing so we leave future generations with a degraded environment and the same dependence on oil that we have today.

In his farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reflected on the spending he believed to be excessive. His words then are all the more powerful in today's out of control environment: ``As we peer into society's future,'' he said, ``we--you and I, and our government--must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.''

And yet, I say to my colleagues, if we cannot change, if we will not change, we risk precisely that--becoming the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. I wonder what President Eisenhower would think of this mess. But, then, perhaps others have contemplated the same question. After all, this bill includes a $1.7 million earmark for a memorial on the National Mall that would honor none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower.


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I have brought it up, I say to my friend from New Hampshire, because you cannot take away with one hand and give with the other. What we are doing in this very vital Defense appropriations bill, again, is larded down with unnecessary, unwanted, unessential, disgraceful spending that I find unacceptable. As the Senator from Oklahoma said, we are going to start doing something about it, and the sooner the better.

I thank my friend from Colorado.

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