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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005

Location: Washington, DC


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 754 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 5006.



Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Garrett of New Jersey:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

SEC. __. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to send or otherwise pay for the attendance of more than 50 Federal employees "from that agency" at any single conference occurring outside the United States.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Garrett) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes on the amendment.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Garrett).

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Over the last few days, I have heard colleagues from both sides of the aisle address the financial situation that our government finds itself in with regard to the budget deficits and our level of spending. Mr. Chairman, while people may disagree on each side of the aisle on exactly how we got to this point, how we got here, I think most Members will agree that we are, in fact, spending too much money.

That is why I am proposing today a very simple amendment, a common-sense approach, I think, to help limit the amount of money that the government spends of our constituents' hard-earned tax dollars.

My amendment will simply do this: It will limit the number of Federal employees that are sent to international conferences funded under this bill to 50. Recently there has been a trend, unfortunately, by various government agencies to send far in excess of this number of staff to international conferences, costing taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars. Like all of my colleagues, I understand the importance of staff, both on a personal level and on an agency level, but I think we have an obligation to our citizens back at home to do all we can to rein things in.

Let me just take a moment to cite one example. Back in 2002, a U.S. agency sent 236 people to an international AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain. These employees were sent at a cost of $3.6 million of taxpayers' funds. Someone pointed out after I raised this point earlier how much treatment and how many individuals could have been treated with that $3.6 million had we not sent so many people.

Due to my limited time here right now, I am not going to go into other examples of excesses as far as employees and staff being sent to these conferences; I am just going to urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this amendment, to support the limited number to 50, a number that we have done on voice vote on a previous bill, on the foreign ops bill, a number that was also concurred with by the Secretary of HHS as well as in his own directive to his employees. So I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. REGULA. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I understand my colleague's concern about international travel. I think that Secretary Thompson has done a good job of trying to get guidelines established in the agency. William Steiger, who is the son of one of our former highly respected House colleagues, is a point person in the agency. They are reviewing their travel requirements.

I am not going to object to the amendment, but I think that Secretary Thompson is very much aware of this problem, and I think he will address it certainly in the way in which he administers the Department. He has done a superb job in handling a very difficult agency in HHS. There may be special occasions when it requires more than 50, particularly when many of these meetings are in Canada.

But in any event, we will address this as we go along, and we are not going to object to it today.

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


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