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Senator Craig Rises in Support of S. 762

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I come to the floor to speak in support of S. 762, but in doing so, I have been seated here for the last few minutes listening to the senior Senator from Arizona. I must tell you, what he speaks about in relation to this appropriations bill makes a good deal of sense.

I think all of us are looking at debt and deficit at this moment and recognizing the tremendous importance of supporting our men and women in uniform and our President's request for supplemental spending for the operations in Iraq, knowing full well we will fully fund all they need in that area.

We also recognize this may well be a time for some belt tightening. We are creative around here as it relates to our ability to associate certain activities in our State with other activities in a national sense, to build a slightly different image or character of them.

I think we need, at this point in time, to be much more careful than we have been in the past, and deal with our debt and our deficit and recognize that money is very tight, and that we are struggling at this moment as a Senate, as a Congress, working with our President, to do a variety of things that, in the near future, are going to be very critical—not only the operations ongoing in Iraq but the economy itself, and being able to build a stimulus package for this economy that gets it rolling, gets investment back into the marketplace, and builds job opportunities for the men and women in America who are currently out of work. It is certainly true in my home State. It is true across the Nation at this moment.

Our economy is flat. We struggled mightily to put a budget resolution out. That budget resolution is now working its will with the House in a conference to try to resolve our differences, to set the spending trend and limits for the coming fiscal year, and, as importantly, to build a stimulus package to get this economy moving.

This is not a time for extra spending. This is not a time for that extraordinary opportunity, if you will, that clearly has value, certainly in the minds of the Senator and the home State that he or she represents but in the whole of things may not be as important in this moment in time as is funding defense, funding our war effort, making sure we hold our spending down so the deficit does not become unmanageable, getting this economy turned on, and getting the men and women of America back to work. That is really what we all ought to be about at this moment. Certainly this supplemental appropriations bill ought to address just that.

I must tell you, there is a part of this bill I am struggling with: $3.5 billion to benefit the airline industry. I do not question the value of the airline industry. I do question whether it has reorganized, restructured, asked its employees, asked its executives, asked its pilots to reshape their salaries to get them in line with other industries in our country, and, as a result of that, get their act back together instead of asking the American taxpayers to continually bail them out.

I do not, in any way, underestimate the value of the flow of commerce and industry in this country, of tourism and recreation, and business men and women flying around our country, and certainly the average person who just wishes to travel for whatever purpose. I understand the importance of the airline industry.

I will vote for this legislation, but I am struggling mightily at this moment in an industry that just has not faced the reality of the day, the reality of years and years of building a commitment to its employees that it may now not well be able to finance and, therefore, to ask the American taxpayer to bail them out in absence of significant reform.

Some airlines are doing that. Some have already announced major cutbacks, major adjustments in salary, and they are struggling to hang on. Others have not done so. I hope they will follow suit. We have put some provisions in the legislation that I trust will allow for that.

Lastly, let me say, because I have not had the opportunity in the last several days—busy in briefings on the war, busy in committees—to come to the floor and, as one of Idaho's Senators, and 1 of 100 Senators here, tell the men and women in uniform who are currently in harm's way in Iraq how proud I am of them, how proud I am of their leadership and the tremendous work they are doing there on behalf of human freedom, on behalf of the civilian population of Iraq, who for decades have only known the iron fist, the bullet, or the poison of a dictator who has brought that country to phenomenal despair—a country that has lost almost a quarter of a million people in the last decade through starvation or from fleeing their homeland just for the sake of their families and themselves and their well-being.

We are there for a purpose. Yes, it is self-serving in the sense of the stability of our country and the wiping out of terrorism around the world and those who might feed it and those who might cause it to flourish, but it says something about this great country when we are willing to put ourselves, our men and women and our resources, at risk to save others, to free others, to provide them with a better opportunity. That is what we are doing in the nation of Iraq at this moment.

The war, on the whole, goes well, and I am extremely proud of those who execute it and those brave souls who stand in harm's way on behalf of our country and on behalf of the citizens of Iraq.

The supplemental appropriations is about that. And it should be about that and not about a lot of other things that can appropriately come before the Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, and/or the authorizing committees that should be setting the necessary budgets, holding the necessary hearings as it relates to how the public resources of this country get allocated.

So I trust that my colleagues will review this critically, can, in the whole, support S. 762, and recognize its importance as we fight our deficits, work to turn on an economy, work to put the men and women of America back to work, and at the same time assure those who stand in harm's way in Iraq at this very moment that they have the support of a country, an appreciative country, and they have the resources of this country to assure them the material necessary to not only execute their mission but to keep them safe.

With that, I yield the floor.

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