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Public Statements

Energy And Water Development And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. McCASKILL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from North Dakota. I wish to agree with my friend, the Senator from Oklahoma, on his amendment on contracting competition. Maybe it is fitting that in the Energy bill, I am probably doing a Don Quixote here, tilting at a windmill.

I have learned during my time in the Senate that there are certain things that are very protected, and one of them is the earmarking process. I think most people would acknowledge that we have billions in noncompete contracts through earmarks, and they are not all for exotic research. Yes, we have noncompete contracts a lot of places and we should try to get rid of all of them, every last one of them. If it is exotic to research, then there are probably not going to be very many people who have bid on it.

So I don't agree with my friend from North Dakota on this issue of carving out earmarks as an area of noncompete. I think----

Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, will the Senator yield?

Mrs. McCASKILL. Yes.

Mr. DORGAN. The Senator is not describing my position. I did not suggest carving out earmarks. The Senator has not heard that this afternoon.

Mrs. McCASKILL. I just listened to the debate.

Mr. DORGAN. You didn't hear that during the debate.

Mrs. McCASKILL. Let me restate what I heard. I heard the Senator from Oklahoma wants to pass an amendment that would require competition for all of the earmarks in the bill. I think that is a good idea. I think competing for all earmarks is a good idea. I think it is not correct that the noncompetitive earmarks are all exotic research or any other kind of earmark that could lend itself to competition. I think there are many that could easily lend themselves to competition. I believe that once we get to competition, it is going to provide transparency the American people are aching for in this area of earmarking.

(Mr. BURRIS assumed the Chair.)

Mr. DORGAN. Will the Senator yield again?

Mrs. McCASKILL. Yes.

Mr. DORGAN. The discussion wasn't just about earmarks. Perhaps it included them, but if the Senator is describing an amendment that only requires competition, or competitive bidding on earmarks, that is not the amendment.

Mrs. McCASKILL. My discussion is about the noncompetitive earmarks. I think whatever amendment gets us to more competition, I am for it. I think there are way too many. I could not be a bigger fan of the Senator from North Dakota and what he has done on contracting relating to the war in Iraq. I followed those hearings before I came to the Senate, and I continue to follow them. He has been a groundbreaker in the area of wanting competition.

If you look at the billions of dollars that were wasted in the Iraq war over noncompete contracts, and if you look at the atrocities committed in the name of noncompetition which the Senator from North Dakota has exposed, he has been terrific on that. Some of us just disagree about whether earmarks should be competed. Although I try to agree on every bill that removes all earmarks, I generally don't go into and pick out an earmark to complain about. I generally don't vote for amendments that do, because in many ways I think the process of picking on one amendment here or there, or one earmark here and one earmark there can be as arbitrary as the process of earmarking sometimes appears to be. So I generally don't do that.

But in this instance, there is an earmark in the bill that I know a lot about. The Senator from North Dakota has done this because he believes very much in having another study on the Missouri River. We have been fighting over water in this country for as long as this country has been around. Water is very important in Missouri. Navigation of the Missouri River is incredibly important to our farmers and to our utility companies.

There was, in fact, a large study undertaken on the Missouri River that
was completed in 2004. It cost the taxpayers $35 million. It took 15 years to complete, and there were all kinds of lawsuits over it between the various States up and down the river. There were a couple of things that came out of the study. One of them was there was an agreement that began the Missouri Recovery and Implementation Committee. It is a committee that includes stakeholders from all along the river who meet several times a year to help develop a long-term management plan for the river. This process has recently begun. It hasn't even had time to work.

I feel strongly that repeating another study is unnecessary, when there is nothing that has dramatically changed since we spent the $35 million on the study done in 2004. And now we are going to begin another $25 million study by the same group, looking at the same issues. That, to me, is wasteful.

I think considering the fact that the Senator from North Dakota did participate aggressively in the long-term management proposal on the MRIC, Missouri Recovery and Implementation Committee, I hope we can give it time to work before we embark on another policy. I know there was a GAO study that talked about navigation, and I know that study showed there are less goods being shipped on the Missouri River. But that GAO study didn't take into account a couple of things. One was that the navigation season has been severely limited by the Corps. That drives away the shippers. The GAO study also didn't include the value of the goods shipped, the jobs associated with the shipments, or the impact on utilities.

We have, in fact, four powerplants located along the river that need the water in the Missouri River to cool their plants. I think this study is not going to end the fight over the river. I cannot fathom what a $35 million study failed to accomplish that a new $25 million study is now going to accomplish. This is a great example of studies to try to impact policy, so that you keep having continuous studies.

The amendment I have offered would remove the money for this study, because I think it is wasteful duplication, and I believe very strongly that, in fact, we should not be embarking on another one of these studies. It is wasteful and it is duplicative, and I want to continue to work with the Senator from North Dakota. Obviously, we don't see eye to eye on who should get all the water on the Missouri River. I look forward to working with him and, hopefully, as we move forward with the MRIC, we can have all the stakeholders at the table and continue to negotiate in a cost-effective way for the taxpayers that doesn't harm the State of North Dakota or any of the other States along the Missouri River.

I thank the Chair and I yield the floor.


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