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Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2006

Location: Washington, DC




Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I ask that division II of my amendment No. 3641 be in order at this time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has a right to ask for the regular order with respect to his amendment. Division II is pending.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I thank the chairman for protecting my right to be back on the floor in regular order. But I want to go through again with the American people what is supposed to be an emergency bill by our own rules: It is a bill that is necessary, essential, and vital; sudden, quickly coming into being, not building up over time; it is an urgent, pressing, and compelling need requiring immediate action; it is unforeseen, unpredictable, unanticipated, and not permanent but temporary only in nature.

This second division of my amendment is an amendment that removes $15 million. It is simple. In this bill is $15 million for the promotion of seafood. Seafood consumption in this country is at an all-time high. If you look around the country, look on television, look at magazines--the beef producers do this, but they get no Federal money. The pork producers do this, but they get no Federal money. The poultry producers do this, but they get no Federal money. The milk producers do this, but they get no Federal money in terms of their promotion. They pay individually to have a promotional sequence. As a matter of fact, there is a Louisiana Seafood already in existence.

So what we are going to do is take and give $15 million to a private entity of the seafood producers to spend to increase demand for seafood. That may be all right, but that is certainly not an emergency. It is certainly not something that should be in an emergency bill that isn't going to be paid for by us but by our children and grandchildren.

I am not objecting to the fact that we want to try to increase the demand for seafood, but if you look at the facts, the real problem our fisheries are having, especially with shrimp and those kinds of things, is with foreign competition. As you look at the problems associated with it, there are more in terms of competition than there are in terms of lack of supply.

This is real simple. Why should we be subsidizing for one industry what we don't subsidize for any other industry? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is where this money is going to go. There is nothing in the bill to tell them what to do with it. According to them, ``We have no plans for how to spend this money.'' That is what NOAA said. They have no plans. It is not in the report language or in the bill. So what will happen is the committee will tell them how to spend the money. We won't know how it is; it is not published now. If we don't make a decision, we are not going to know.

Is there going to be oversight? Is somebody going to take a million-dollar salary out of this $15 million? We don't know. We don't have a mechanism in place to manage it. That is the problem. If this had come through an authorizing committee, studied by our peers, and they said this is something in the long-term best interests of our country, then I probably would not be raising this issue.

But I don't think that is what has happened here.

Mr. INHOFE. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. COBURN. I will be happy to yield.

Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, I appreciate the Senator yielding. My fellow Senator from Oklahoma has done a yeoman's job of trying to remind people that this is supposed to be an emergency supplemental. In every case about which he has spoken, there is nothing emergency about them.

I appreciate the fact that he talks about going through the authorization process. We have a process that has been working for some time that has a lot of checks and balances. I happen to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. We go through authorization and the appropriators come along.

I applaud him for reminding people what is an emergency and what is not. Let me remind my fellow Senators that we have a President of the United States who agrees with the Senator from Oklahoma. The President has said he is going to veto this bill on the items that are not emergencies and have nothing to do with national security, defense, or with the emergency Katrina. We already have enough signatures on a letter saying we will sustain that veto. So we are going to end up doing this.

I think a lot of this is an exercise in futility. People cannot resist the opportunity to come forward where they can be seen offering more and more of the taxpayers' money for something that is not an emergency. I only wanted to say I applaud him for doing this. I think he is being overworked. Hopefully, we will have this solution with the President's veto. We should not be in a position where we are having to do that.

I applaud the Senator for what he is doing. That is my question.

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, reclaiming my time, the other point I wish to make is the proponents say this is to create a new niche market to reestablish the shrimp sales of the gulf coast. I want to help the gulf coast. I want to help them recover, but I want to do it in a way that builds a long-term, satisfactory, strong fishing industry down there.

We are at an all-time high in the consumption of seafood. Where our shrimp industry has been hurt is through globalization. The fact is, the real damage done to that industry, besides what has happened as a result of the hurricane, is they are getting beat in the world market.

I ask the Members of this body to think: Do we want to start this, and should we be doing it when cattle prices are down and producing more beef? Should we do it for the beef producers? Should we do it for the chicken farmers? In other words, should they not participate in paying for this rather than everybody else in America paying for it?

I would portend this is something that is not what we should be doing and it is not just about not wanting to help those people. I want to help them, but I don't believe this is the way to do it. This is a small amount of money in this $104 billion-plus bill, but it is a principle as we walk down the line: how do we say no to all these other agricultural interests when we have said yes to one.

I am very worried with the wording in the report language that requires the committee to run this rather than requires the bureaucracy to run it when there is no instruction for the bureaucracy, which means it is not going to have sunshine and it is not going to have oversight. I think that is part of our problems with spending as well.

I see the distinguished Senator from Alabama is here. I will be happy to yield time to him for debate on this issue.


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