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Public Statements

Energy And Water Development And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, this amendment is very simple. It would prohibit funds from being spent on any of the hundreds of earmarks listed in the committee report that accompanies this bill--I emphasize, that are listed in the committee report, not part of the basic legislation. It would prohibit those funds from being spent on any of the hundreds of earmarks unless that project is specifically authorized.

As we all know, committee reports do not have the force of law. They are meant to serve as explanatory statements for what can often be complicated legislative bill text. Unfortunately, around here Appropriations Committee reports now are treated as if they were law and are routinely loaded up with millions, if not billions, of dollars in unrequested, unauthorized, unnecessary, wasteful earmarks.

When Congress establishes its funding priorities, it should do so decisively, without cause for subjective interpretation or reference to material outside the bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. These funding priorities should have the binding force of law subject only to the President's veto power. Yet here we are again, with a committee report that contains 622 ``congressionally directed spending items''--that is a great name: congressionally directed spending items--totaling over $985 million. None of these projects were requested by the administration. Many of them were not authorized or competitively bid in any way. No hearing was held to judge whether these were national priorities worthy of scarce taxpayer dollars, and they are in the bill for one reason and one reason only: because of the self-serving prerogatives of a few select Members of the Senate, almost all of whom serve on the Appropriations Committee. Sadly, these Members chose to serve their own interests over those of the American taxpayer.

Earlier this year, in response to criticism about the number of earmarks in the Omnibus appropriations bill, one of the Senators stood on the floor and proclaimed:

Let me say this to all the chattering class that so much focuses on those little, tiny, yes, porky amendments: The American people don't really care.

If the American people don't really care, then on behalf of the American people, I suggest we remove some of the ``little, tiny, porky'' items that are listed in this report. Here are just a few:

There is $1 million for the Bayview Gas to Energy Project in Utah. My colleagues and people who pay attention to these processes will know that almost every one of these projects has a location. Again, usually they are located in the home State of a member of the Appropriations Committee. So $1 million for the Bayview Gas to Energy Project in Utah. I have never heard of the Bayview Gas to Energy Project. I have never heard a thing about it. I have never read about it. I am sure that maybe it is known in Utah, but I have no way of knowing whether it is a worthwhile project or not. The most important thing: Are there other gas to energy projects in other parts of the country? Maybe so. Maybe not. These are earmarked.

We have $500,000 for the Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Pennsylvania--the Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Pennsylvania. From the reading of that, I have not a clue, nor would anyone else know, what the Ben Franklin Technology Partners is all about.

We have $600,000 for biodiesel blending in Wisconsin; $1 million for the Black Hills State Heating and Cooling Plant in South Dakota; $250,000 for a gas heat pump cooperative training program in Nevada; $1.5 million for the genetic improvement of switchgrass, not in South Carolina but in Rhode Island; $1 million for a high-speed wind turbine noise model with suppression in Mississippi; $5 million for an offshore wind initiative in Maine; $2 million for the Algae Biofuels Research in Washington; $750,000 for the Algae to Ethanol Research and Evaluation in New Jersey; $1.2 million for the Alternative Energy School of the Future in Nevada--the Alternative Energy School of the Future. We have $6 million for the Hawaii Energy Sustainability Program, Hawaii; $6 million for the Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture, Hawaii; $2.25 million for the Montana Bioenergy Center of Excellence, Montana; $10 million for the Sustainable Energy Research Center in Mississippi.

My colleagues may get a little thread that runs through this: Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, et cetera--it goes on and on.

We have $10 million for the Sustainable Energy Research Center, Mississippi; $450,000 for the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation in Vermont; $1.2 million for the Hydrogen Fuel Dispensing Station, West Virginia; $1.25 million for the Long Term Environmental and Economic Impacts of the Development of a Coal Liquefaction Sector in China, West Virginia; $1 million for the Alaska Climate Center, Alaska; $5 million for the Computing Capability, North Dakota; $1 million for the Performance Assessment Institute in Nevada; $1 million for the New School Green Building in New York.

It goes on and on. There are 22 pages worth, and my colleagues might be interested at some of the innovative names and may be interested in trying to find out what those projects are. You won't find an explanation in the report.

So let me be clear on one point. I don't question the merits of these projects. There is no way to find out what the merits are. Many of them may be very worthy of Federal funds. If that is the case, one should wonder, if they are national priorities in desperate need of scarce Federal funds, why they haven't been authorized by a congressional committee. Why haven't we had a single hearing to talk about the desperate need for a hydrogen fuel dispensing station in West Virginia? If genetically improved switchgrass was such an imperative at this time of economic crisis, why was the funding not requested by the administration?

I just wish to point out again, contrary to popular belief, contrary to what members of the Appropriations Committee will continue to tell us, earmarking funds in an appropriations bill is not the way the Congress has operated historically.

It is similar to any other evil--it has grown, grown, and grown larger every time, just about. After various scandals, it has leveled off or decreased some, but after the scandal dies down, the earmarks return. Yes, 9,000 of them were in the Omnibus appropriations bill and, of course, the stimulus package as well.

So there was a time when earmarks were nonexistent, or at least very rare. Guess what. We didn't have $1.8 trillion worth of deficit for the year. I am proud to have served in the House with a man by the name of Congressman William Natcher, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services. He prevented earmarks in his committee. I am sorry there are not more William Natchers still in the Congress of the United States.

Citizens Against Government Waste has tracked the growth of earmarks since 1991. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, in 1991, there were 546 earmarks, totaling $3.1 billion. In 2008, there were 11,106 earmarks, totaling $17.2 billion. That is an increase of 337 percent in 17 years.

Obviously, it is not pleasant for my colleagues from the Appropriations Committee, and it is not particularly pleasant for some of my other colleagues, for me to come down here to, day after day, year after year, fight against these earmarks and porkbarrel projects. The fact is, they have bred corruption. It wasn't inadequate disclosure requirements that led Duke Cunningham to violate his oath of office and take $2.5 million in bribes in exchange for doling out $70 million to $80 million of taxpayers' funds to a defense contractor. It was his ability to freely earmark taxpayer funds without question.

So here we are with a $1.8 trillion deficit and 22 pages of earmarks, most of which have a State earmark next to them so there is no competition, there is no revealing of the details of the project and, meanwhile, we have places being raided by the FBI around the country due to the allegations that criminal activity has taken place, which can be traced back to this earmark porkbarreling process.

I don't expect to win this vote, but I intend to keep up this fight until such time as the American people rise and demand that we exercise some kind of fiscal discipline. I will tell my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee the reason why I think the chances are better and better, because they are having trouble staying in their homes, educating their kids, and the unemployment rate is now 9.5 percent and predicted to go higher.

The present President of the United States campaigned and said he would change the culture in Washington. One of my deep disappointments is that the President has not fulfilled his commitment to go line by line, item by item, in every appropriations bill and not allow this porkbarreling earmark practice to continue. The American people will not stand for it forever.

I ask for the yeas and nays.


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