THOMAS C. DORR TO BE UNDER SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE COMMODITY CREDIT CORPORATION
Mr. INHOFE. Let me first of all say that while I appreciate the comments of the minority leader, I don't believe it is accurate to make some of the accusations in terms of destroying records. It is my understanding that the Farm Service Agencies have said that after examining it, there was no intent to deceive. It was something that was done in error and good faith or however you want to characterize it.
I don't want to see happening here what appears to be happening in a similar way to the nominee to be Administrator of the EPA. Certainly Mike Leavitt was one of the most qualified individuals, and yet his nomination was strung out for days and days and weeks. It ended up at 56 days. I hope we are not going to get so partisan that this happens again in this case.
I believe Tom Dorr has completely resurfaced USDA Rural Development. As Under Secretary, Dorr has set a clear vision for USDA Rural Development as a venture capital firm for rural America. The agency once was thought of as the lender of last resort, but the mindset has been changed to one where employees aggressively seek out investments to make in people and in organizations.
I am really pleased when I see what has happened in the State of Oklahoma. We have never had anyone who has performed like Tom Dorr has performed there. All I hear from Democrats and Republicans all around the State is what a truly great job he has done.
For example, 3 years ago my State had $29 million in guaranteed housing loans but, thanks to Tom Dorr, last year we had $60 million. It doubled, to the people who are really deserving of it, and now we have more and more Oklahomans who own their own homes rather than rent them.
In addition, since Tom Dorr has been the Under Secretary for Rural Development for the USDA, the amount of business loan programs in my State of Oklahoma has doubled. Both housing and loan programs have actually doubled in my State.
I would like also to go back to the people who speak to the real people out there, not the politicians, not people who somehow think they can have some kind of a gain if they can kill one of the President's nominees. Look at the National Corn Growers Association, the board of directors stated in a letter to Senator TOM HARKIN-this is a quote from the National Corn Growers Association; all those farmers out there who grow corn belong to this:
The Department [of Agriculture] needs a leader like Tom Dorr to help breathe life into an agency whose future role will be to positively facilitate change in the farm economy.
The Wheat Growers Association-my State is a big wheat State, and we have an interest in this. You go out and see these people. These people are just trying to survive right now, and yet they are just praising the work of Tom Dorr.
The Wheat Growers said in a letter to TOM HARKIN:
We encourage you to unite behind Tom Dorr as Under Secretary of Rural Development. He encompasses the creativity that can bring hope in stemming the exodus of people from our rural countrysides because of lack of economic opportunity.
That is all we are trying to do in Oklahoma is survive. Our farmers are trying to survive out there.
This is Terry Barr from the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the co-ops-I don't know what we would have done-who said:
We understand the Senate may soon consider the nomination of Thomas Dorr as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development. . . .
Rural development and related programs carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture are of vital importance to farmers and their cooperatives. These include programs aimed at encouraging and promoting the ability of farmers to join together in cooperative efforts to improve their income from the marketplace.
Again, this is the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives:
Mr. Dorr, we believe, has demonstrated that he has the background, experience and understanding necessary for success in this important position of leadership.
We urge the Senate to confirm his nomination.
So you hear from all the users out there and from the farmers-those individuals out there who are trying to survive.
Also, keep in mind one other thing. Thomas Dorr came from a small farmer community. He understands how they think. I think it is critical that we confirm him as soon as possible.
To reiterate, on March 22, 2001, President Bush announced his intention to nominate Tom Dorr of Marcus, IA, to serve as Under Secretary of Rural Development for USDA. Two and a half years later, his nomination is still pending.
This is obstruction. Thomas Dorr is not the only nominee being blocked for confirmation. As chairman of the EPW Committee, I dealt with this same problem-obstruction-with the nomination of Governor Mike Leavitt to be administrator of the EPA.
This is about politics, not nominees. Thomas Dorr is more than qualified to hold the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I don't think anyone has questioned that the motivation for these delays was partisan presidential politics.
Apparently nominations are no longer about a nominee's qualifications and support, but simply about partisan politics.
Americans expect and want the Senate confirmation process to be thoughtful and thorough, but they certainly don't think it should drag on year after year.
Tom Dorr has completely resurfaced USDA Rural Development. As Under Secretary, Dorr has set a clear vision for USDA Rural Development as the venture capital firm for rural America. The agency was once thought of as the lender of last resort, but the mindset has been changed to one where employees aggressively seek out investments to make in people and organizations that will fulfill the mission.
Under Secretary Dorr ran his farm and business from a small town so he understands well the needs of rural America, including the need for technology to allow these communities to compete. He believes that broadband is as meaningful to rural America today as rural electrification was in the mid-20th century. He led the effort to complete the rulemaking process and begin accepting applications for the new broadband program. Through his efforts, $1.5 billion is available this year to help build rural technology infrastructure.
The list of improvements that increased economic opportunity and improved the quality of life in rural America that were spearheaded by Tom Dorr is endless.
He has tackled the very complicated and difficult problems involved in the Multi Family Housing Program, that, according to the one congressional staffer, "were ignored by all previous Under Secretaries"-he believes all rural citizens deserve safe and secure housing.
Dorr initiated an aggressive marketing program to extend the outreach of USDA Rural Development programs to more deserving rural Americans and qualified organizations, especially minorities.
In addition, he is proponent of renewable energy, which led to millions of dollars in grants to develop renewable energy sources; he has greatly boosted the morale of USDA Rural Development employees; has greatly aided in the development of community water/wastewater infrastructure-and the list goes on and on.
For my State of Oklahoma, the strong leadership at the top of Thomas Dorr has resulted in an increase of millions of dollars in rural development.
For example, 3 years ago my State had $29 million in guaranteed housing loans, but thanks to Tom Dorr, this last year Oklahoma had $60 million in guaranteed housing loans. That represents an increase of $31 million worth of Oklahomans that now own their homes rather than renting them.
In addition, since Thomas Dorr has been the Under Secretary of Rural Development of the USA, the State of Oklahoma's amount of business loan programs has doubled from $15 million to $30 million.
Tom Dorr has gained support from a spectrum of organizations and individuals: The National Corn Growers Association Board of Directors stated in a letter to Senator Tom Harkin: "The Department [of Agriculture] needs a leader like Tom Dorr to help breathe life into an agency whose future role will be to positively facilitate change in the farm economy."
In another letter to Tom Harkin, the President of the National Association of Wheat Growers stated: "We encourage you to unite behind Tom Dorr as Under Secretary for Rural Development. He encompasses the creativity that can bring hope in stemming the exodus of people from our rural countryside because of lack of economic opportunity."
However, surprisingly enough, Tom Harkin is one of the main reasons Tom Dorr's application is still pending today.
In a letter to Senator Blanche Lincoln, the USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights points out that Tom Dorr is a leader in the advancement of civil rights: "I have no vested interest in seeing individuals advance in this administration who I fear will hamper the progress of civil rights within the USDA. Mr. Dorr is not such an individual. If confirmed, I believe that Mr. Dorr would continue to work with me to advance civil rights at USDA."
It is obvious that Tom Dorr is the most qualified person for the position of Under Secretary of Rural Development for the USDA. He has completely turned around the USDA office of Rural Development, and has clearly gained praise from all sorts of individuals, agencies, and organizations. Do not let this man fall victim to partisan politics.