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Omnibus Appropriations Conference Report

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I rise to discuss the Omnibus appropriations conference report that I guess will be before this body at the pleasure of the members of the Appropriations Committee.

I call my colleagues' attention to the size of this bill. There are 13 agencies of government, all appropriations bills, and none of this, because of the pressing issues of the calendar, will be open to any amendments--no amendments regarding all these functions of government and a cost of, in this particular bill, it is $915 billion. These are 9 appropriations bills of the 12. This contains $915 billion that we will probably be considering, and because of the fact that we all have to get out of town--and I am one of those--we will vote sometime tomorrow, and we will be able to tell our constituents we have completed our task for the year, at least as far as funding the government to continue--as we seem to threaten to do every year, although I am not sure people are as frightened as they used to be.

This bill before me is 1,221 pages long and contains funding for nine of the annual appropriations bills, for a grand total of $915 billion. If you add the three appropriations bills already enacted, we are going to spend $1.043 trillion. That is a fantastic improvement because last year it was $1.1 trillion. So I am glad our constituents, whom we promised, when some of us, such as myself, ran in 2010 for reelection, that we would get this $15 trillion debt under control--and we go back to Washington and eliminate the reckless and out-of-control spending, I am sure they will be pleased to know that instead of $1.1 trillion, we are now down to $1.043 trillion--a reduction of approximately 5 percent. We can get a better deal than that at the Macy's Christmas sale. Of course, not to forget the earmarks--here it is.

I am confident no average Member of the Senate--what I mean by that is not a member of the Appropriations Committee has had a chance to peruse this hernia-inducing piece of legislation. If it sounds like I am a little cynical and a little angry, it is because I am, and the American people are cynical and angry.

There are 535 Members of Congress. All of us are sent by our constituents to represent them. But I think the American people and our constituents should know this is a report on a bill that is signed by 37 Members of the House and 17 Members of the Senate. There are 535 Members, and these are the ones who put this together. It is full of hundreds of earmarks, pork, unnecessary spending, and projects in the defense portion of the bill, which I will be talking a fair amount about, which are neither requested nor needed by the men and women serving in the military. It is full of things I will talk about later on, such as artifact museums for Guam, medical research--this is in the Defense appropriations bill and has nothing to do with defense.

Then we begin to wonder why the American people have such a low opinion of our performance in our Nation's Capital. I saw a poll that says it is as low as 9 percent. Hopefully, that is not representative--maybe it is a 10-, 11-, 12-percent approval rating. We were debating a bill last year that had $1.1 trillion and contained 6,488 earmarks that totaled $8.3 billion. Now we have a bill that is $915 billion, and this year we have no traditional earmarks, but there is $3.5 billion in unauthorized spending in the Department of Defense portion of the bill alone--the Defense appropriations part of it is $3.5 billion, on which there has never been a hearing, and it has never been considered by the Armed Services Committee. If it was, it was rejected. So we have $3.5 billion just in the defense part of the bill. Nobody wanted it or asked for it, neither the military, nor the services, nor was there a hearing. They added $3.5 billion in the Department of Defense alone.

I think the men and women in the military deserve better than some of these earmarks that I will talk about. Here we are, we are going to rush and beat the clock, and we haven't even moved to this piece of legislation yet. In case some of our constituents don't know, a call will be made to everybody saying please agree to a few hours' time agreement so we can vote tomorrow and we can all go home, and we will. There will not be a single amendment debated and voted on, on this bill on this floor. I would like to say we didn't see it coming, but the fact is we did see it coming.

In keeping with the regular order and legislating requirements of the Senate, the Armed Services Committee--of which I have been a proud member for many years--scheduled and conducted more than 70 hearings, vetted the President's budget request, and reported a bill out. Seven months later, we moved to the floor of the Senate and we did authorize funding and hundreds of millions of dollars and the appropriators decided they knew better. We have a fundamental problem in the Senate, and we are unable to engage in the process of authorizing prior to the regular appropriations. What is the outcome? A handful of people--all good, honest, decent people, I am sure--and unelected staff disburse hundreds of billions of dollars, often in a manner that directly contradicts the will of the authorizers--those who are entrusted in their Committee assignments to authorize what is necessary to defend this Nation.

So here we are at the eleventh hour ramming through a measure so we can get out of town for the holidays. I will talk about some of the provisions, most of which are in the Defense appropriations portion of this conference report.
Section 8083 of the bill permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer operations and maintenance funds. Operations and maintenance funds are supposed to buy the gas and the spare parts--the things that keep the military machine moving. That is what it is. So $33 million goes to Guam, and this funding is in direct contradiction of the explicit direction that was in the conference report that prevented this because we knew it was coming.

If this omnibus bill were subject to amendment, I would immediately seek to strip the funding from this bill. Let me be clear. This funding I am talking about for Guam is a ``bridge to nowhere.'' The money, in part, is to provide the Government of Guam funds to buy 53 civilian schoolbuses. They put money in the Defense bill for 53 schoolbuses and 53 repair kits for the buses for $10.7 million. That is to buy schoolbuses and repair kits for Guam. Why? Why would we want to do that? Their reasoning is because we are

redeploying marines from Japan. But we have paused that redeployment in the authorization bill because we don't know exactly how to do it. So we are pausing the redeployment of marines; meanwhile, the appropriators move forward and put $10.7 million in to buy civilian schoolbuses, and not one single marine, sailor or airman has been assigned to Guam as part of the intended buildup that would justify in any way using that money.

What else are we buying with this $33 million? Well, $12.7 million is intended to be used for a cultural artifacts repository. I am not making that up--$12.7 million of your tax dollars is buying a cultural artifacts repository in Guam, in the name of the redeployment of the U.S. marines from Japan, which is not taking place. They claim it is related to artifacts that will be dug up during the major military construction projects that have been planned for Guam as part of the buildup. But with the agreement of the Pentagon, we have put it on hold.

I guess it is important when you are doing a military construction project to preserve the artifacts. The money intended for this cultural artifacts repository is, at best, early, and much less if it were ever needed. So here we are with an investment of at least $33 million on a ``bridge to nowhere'' to hold artifacts that will never be dug out of the Earth.

The money in this Defense appropriations bill for this cultural artifacts repository is actually going to be spent to build a 20,000-square-foot museum, most of which will be used for the storage of existing artifacts and existing administration, completely unrelated to the major military construction projects associated with the buildup on Guam.

They get the benefits of $12.5 million in Federal largess for a new museum, which otherwise they could not get. I would like to say there are many citizens of Arizona who are out of work, whose homes have been lost, and who would benefit from any sort of action by the Federal Government--the holiday season is approaching in my State and all over America where there is not enough money to fund the food banks, and we are going to spend money on schoolbuses and cultural repositories in Guam.

That is not the end of the story. This initial funding grant to Guam of $33 million includes $9.6 million for the first phase of a mental health facility.

They claim that is somehow related to the proposed military buildup on Guam. I am still trying to sort that one out. Without one additional marine or his family being stationed on Guam, how does a proposed buildup not happening for years help with a mental health facility on Guam?

It might not surprise you to learn this money for a new mental health facility has nothing to do with any marines coming to Guam but is required to satisfy a current Federal injunction that mandates the construction of a new facility. So take it out of Defense. Take it out of the hardware and the operations and maintenance our men and women in the military need.

Our committee did the research for these projects. We reviewed the working papers of the Department of Defense's Economic Adjustment Committee and found this funding would not go to its priorities and decided, as a conference, not to support the authorization.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the Working Papers Excerpt of DOD's Economic Adjustment Committee.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, this is not the way Congress is supposed to work. Authorizing committees exist to provide specific congressional approval of Federal spending. Appropriations committees and subcommittees exist to take the available Federal dollars and allocate them to programs consistent with the authorizations that have been provided by the authorizing committees. In no way do appropriations committees have the legitimate authority to override the specific direction of authorizing committees when those authorizing committees have spoken to a matter and denied authority for a specific type or level of funding.
This is why the approval rating of Congress is in single digits. The American people have seen through this. They see this kind of abuse and waste and they have had enough of it. If you don't understand the rise of the tea party, you can start by looking right here.

It is not as if this issue was somehow hidden from the leadership of the Appropriations Committee. I wrote to the chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. Let me give a few examples of what the Appropriations Committee has done.

There is a program called MEADS--the Medium Extended Air Defense System. The program was supposed to have been terminated as originally proposed in the Senate version of the bill. The Defense appropriations portion of the bill is at $390 million, nearly the entire $406 million requested. We found out the Appropriations Committee was going to fund the program, and I felt compelled to ensure the final Defense authorization conference report prohibits any funding beyond 2012. Under the requirements imposed by the Defense authorization conference report, this year's funding will be restrained by prohibiting the Department from spending more than 25 percent until the Secretary of Defense provides a plan to either restructure the program in a way that requires no additional funding or terminates the program. So we wanted to get this report from the Secretary. But what did the Appropriations Committee do? The full $406 million.

I think my colleagues should understand, they have decided to never put this system--the Medium Extended Air Defense System--into operation. They want to have a corporate memory, a memory of what they have learned in spending what ends up to be a couple of billion dollars.

The Next-Generation Bomber. The President asked there not be money proposed for the Next-Generation Bomber, but the appropriators chose to add $100 million--$100 million. This is money for the Next Generation Bomber that was not requested by the Air Force nor was there any testimony by the Air Force leadership, either civilian or military, in support of this additional huge addition in funding. It magically appeared here.

This morning, I tried to find out if this money would be wisely spent, and the answer is no. We called the Air Force Chief of Staff. They said they didn't request the funding. They do not want it. The money is ahead of need, meaning it could not be applied to the program in an effective or efficient manner.

The analysis of alternatives, which helps determine what the capability of the bomber should be, will not be completed for another year and a half. The capabilities requirement document, which is key to ensuring the new bomber design is stable--which is needed to determine if increased taxpayer dollars should be invested in the new bomber--is not complete and will not be complete for a couple of years. Finally, they wanted to use this money to sustain the bomber force they have.

So why? Why? Why would we add $100 million when there is absolutely no way it could be used? Well, I can only say there are reasons for it. I will not make allegations, but it is not magic. It is not something that appears out of thin air.

There is a program called Combat Dragon. Of approximately 100 unrequested and unauthorized additions above the President's budget request found in the appropriations bill, one of the more interesting ones is a $20 million allocation for an obscure aircraft program called Combat Dragon II. The name is interesting. Sounds pretty exciting. You won't find it in the President's budget request. It didn't appear in our authorization bill. So I asked my staff to find out what happened.

The purpose of the program: Combat Dragon II is to lease up to four crop-duster-type aircraft and to outfit them with machine gun pods, laser-guided bombs, rockets, and air-to-air missiles. I asked if this request was justified, vetted, approved in any way. The answer was no, no, no. There is no urgent operational requirement for this type of aircraft.

After a little investigation, we found this aircraft lease will not be--surprise, surprise--competitively awarded. As such, it is effectively earmarked for a particular aircraft manufacturer that has the corner on this particularly obscure part of the aviation market.

The C-17. The Defense appropriations bill adds $225 million--only $225 million--for an unrequested, unauthorized C-17 aircraft that no one in the U.S. Air Force or the Pentagon thought we needed. According to every strategic planning document, the Air Force has an excess capacity of large cargo aircraft, and the Air Force already has 222 C-17 cargo aircraft and more than 80 C-5s.

The key reason for an overage of large cargo aircraft is because the Appropriations Committee over the past several years added 44 C-17s that were not authorized--that we neither needed nor could afford--at a cost of $14 billion above the Department's request.

The OMB, five Secretaries of Defense, the Commander of Transportation Command, and the current Secretary of the Air Force have all unanimously stated they do not need nor can they afford to operate any more C-17 aircraft. In fact, the President appealed to the Congress and said the Nation cannot afford any more. You would think after $14 billion and 44 C-17s, averaging over $250 million each, that would be enough of an earmark. Obviously, not so for the Appropriations Committee.

There are others in here. Some of my old favorites. There is $25 million for unrequested helicopter upgrades, an increase to the Civil Air Patrol Program of $7 million, unrequested, unauthorized; $273 million in unrequested, unauthorized research on everything from Parkinson's disease and HIV to alternative energy and nanotechnology.

Speaking of alternate energy, the appropriators tucked unrequested, unauthorized funding throughout a certain division of the bill, and $130 million in ambiguously named ``alternative energy research'' is scattered for the same sort of programs that brought us the recent achievement of the

Department of the Navy, which proudly announced the purchase of 450,000 gallons of alternative fuels for $12 million. My friends, that equates to $26 a gallon. I am certain our constituents will be glad to know their tax dollars are now going toward paying $26 a gallon for aviation fuel.

But, no, no, they need more money--$262 million in unauthorized Navy research and development programs. The list of Navy adds is eerily similar to the Army's, and as you would expect, it covers a familiar set of Member interest items--nanotechnology, alternative energy, and giveaways to home-State interests.

There are increases for Space Situational Awareness.

I repeat, $50 million in increases for Space Situational Awareness in two funding lines--just two lines--with no justification. No argument for it. Maybe it is good. It may be good, but we won't know. We won't know for months and months and months, and maybe years.

For those who are interested in the compelling national security issue of space situational awareness, you will be glad to know $50 million of your tax dollars is going to be spent there.

The budget requested $86 million for Operationally Responsive Space. This bill adds $26 million more, just for fun.

The Armed Services Committee authorized, and the Congress will soon appropriate, some $290 million for research into post-traumatic stress disorder, prosthetics, blast injury, and psychological health. These are critical to improving our actual battlefield medicine. Yet once again, the appropriators inserted unrequested money for medical research, this time to the tune of $600 million.

Let me remind my colleagues that these unrequested projects are funded at the expense of other military priorities. I agree that research on multiple sclerosis is necessary, and Alzheimer's and cancer. But why should it have to come out of the Defense funding?
I will tell you why it does. It is the same reason why Willie Sutton robbed banks. When they asked him why, he said, that is because the money is there. So this money, which may be meritorious to spend on Alzheimer's and cancer and other medical issues, should not come out of the Defense appropriations bill.

Of course, the Guard and Reserve always come in and get additional money. They got $1 billion in unrequested, unauthorized funding for ``miscellaneous equipment.'' I repeat: $1 billion for ``miscellaneous equipment.'' I am sure certain States on the appropriators' short list will be very pleased to have the money directed their way. I am not so sure about the taxpayers.

Some have merit, some don't. None of the ones I talked about were requested. And this is just in Defense. The tragedy of all this is, except for the Senator from Oklahoma and myself and a few others, all this will slide through and the American people--obviously, the taxpayers--will pick up the tab.

We won't have a chance to address the issue of the bonuses that have gone to the executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that have cost the American citizens so many hundreds of billions of dollars. We are going to let these people--because this won't be appropriated--we are going to let them take home annual salaries of $900,000 and bonuses of $12.08 million, while they ask the taxpayers for more bail-out money. Mr. Edward DeMarco says that is the only way you can get good people to serve the country.

I am sure the men and women in the military would be interested to know that is what is required to serve. The base pay of a four-star general is $179,000. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court makes $223,000. But Mr. DeMarco feels people who are working at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac deserve $900,000, and millions of dollars in bonuses.

After all, they are doing such a great job.

The Alaska Native corporations is one of my favorites. We need to be especially mindful of how taxpayer dollars are appropriated. The Army Corps, in light of a recent Justice Department investigation, revealed what prosecutors called one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. history involving Army Corps contracting officials and the contracting director of Eyak Technology, an ANC-owned company. In the authorization bill, we are trying to have all of these small business funding issues, no matter whether it be in an ANC or others, looked at.

And, of course, we won't be able to address the Solyndra issue. Private investors will collect the first $69 million that can be recovered from the company, with taxpayers placed in second position by the Department of Energy.

If we had been able to amend this bill, I would have worked with my colleague, Dr. Coburn, to restore much needed funding to the Government Accountability Office. In a recent report released by Dr. Coburn, he highlights that ``just this year GAO identified hundreds of billions of dollars of duplicative and overlapping programs that, if addressed by Congress, could both save money and improve services for taxpayers. For every $1 spent on the GAO, the agency provides $90 in savings recommendations. Yet, instead of adopting those good-government reforms, the Senate Appropriations Committee has responded by proposing dramatic budget cuts to the GAO.''

I don't want to go through all this pork that I just described again, but we can afford all that and yet we are going to cut the only watchdog organization that really gives us an objective view of what we do here in Congress. I am sure that it is a coincidence.

So here we are again. Here we are again, the same thing as last year, the same thing for years--a few Members of the House and Senate making decisions on hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps over $1 trillion, and we, the other Members, because of our desire--understandable--to leave this body and return to our homes for the holidays, after a few hours of debate, no amendments, no changes in the bill, not having had the ability to even examine it, we will be voting.

I ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with the Senator from Oklahoma.


Mr. McCAIN. I would just mention, I say to my colleague from Oklahoma, the issue of this cutting of the budget of the Government Accountability Office. It seems rather strange to me. And I would be curious, with this cut to the Government Accountability Office, what will the effect be on our ability to have this watchdog organization give us the reports and information we need as far as the functions of government are concerned?


Mr. McCAIN. I would just mention, I say to my colleague from Oklahoma, the issue of this cutting of the budget of the Government Accountability Office. It seems rather strange to me. And I would be curious, with this cut to the Government Accountability Office, what will the effect be on our ability to have this watchdog organization give us the reports and information we need as far as the functions of government are concerned?


Mr. McCAIN. So the system now has deteriorated to the point where these decisions are made--by the way, I would like to correct the record. There are 37 total Members in the House and Senate, so 37 out of 535 who would be making these decisions.

So we really are in a kind of situation where we come down and all we can do is complain about it.

That seems to me a deprivation of all of us who are not in that group of 37 of the ability to make our input into the future of this country. I do not think the American people are going to stand for it too much longer. I really don't.

I say to my colleague, I think a couple of things are going to happen. I think in the next election--I say this to all my colleagues. I think in the next election no incumbent is safe. But I also say, one way or another there is going to be a third party in the political arena of the United States. We cannot keep doing these things, Republican and Democrat, without sooner or later a response by the very well-informed electorate--thanks to devices like this.

I believe we have done this long enough. For long enough the American people, who now are in more dire economic straits than they have been since the Great Depression, are fed up with spending a few million dollars on schoolbuses in Guam that have nothing to do with our Nation's defense.

I hope the Senator from Oklahoma will not give up. I certainly will not. But I think, frankly, the American people deserve a lot better than they are getting out of this process. If they are cynical and if they are angry and if they are frustrated, they have every reason to be so.

I yield the floor.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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