Statement of Senator John McCain on the Fiscal Year 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Conference Report

January 21, 2004

Mr. President, here we go again. Another omnibus appropriations bill - and this one really takes the cake. Obviously the New Year’s Eve parties didn’t end for Congress on January 1st. We’re on a spending bender and this bill proves it. Americans have heard much about the growing problem of identity theft. Mr. President, what we have before us is perhaps the most costly case of identity theft imaginable. It appears that the big spenders in Washington have all but stolen the credit card numbers of every hard-working taxpayer in America and gone on a limitless spending spree for parochial, pork-barrel projects, leaving the taxpayers to pay and pay. These big spenders view the federal budget as a virtual shopping mall where they can buy their way to re-election. Please join me as we walk through this shopping mall. On the right we have $1.8 million for exotic pet disease research in California. On our left you’ll find $50 million for an indoor rainforest in Iowa, and directly in front of us, you can see $250,000 to build an amphitheater at a park in Illinois. It’s high time that we put an end to this rampant “theft.” I’m sorry to have to call it theft - but that’s how I see the situation - the sum of these political indulgences is enormous and growing and amounts to the theft of our future and the theft of our economic recovery. Nearly one year ago, I stood here and spoke about the FY 2003 omnibus appropriations bill. At that time, I said that ‘our current economic situation and our vital national security concerns illustrate that we need more than ever to prioritize our federal spending.’ I might as well have been talking to a brick wall. Let me remind my colleagues that we are nearly four full months into fiscal year 2004 and we are still without seven of the 13 annual appropriations bills. This is becoming an unacceptable practice. Less than a year after passing one monstrosity - we are poised to do it yet again, as if this should now be our standard operating procedure. But far worse, than the breadth and timing, we have before us a bill loaded with special interest pork-barrel projects and legislative riders that have no business in this or any other spending bill. It’s no accident that we’re dealing with this bill in an election year. In fact, I strongly suggest that we change the name of this bill to “The Incumbent Protection Act of 2004.” Forget about the Patriots vs. the Panthers in the Super Bowl next weekend. We’re already right in the middle of the Super Bowl of Pork, Mr. President, and C-Span viewers have seats at the 50 yard line. It’s Congress vs. the American taxpayer and, sadly, we already know the outcome of this game - the taxpayer will be the big loser. We have before us today a bill that incorporates seven of the 13 annual spending measures, totals a whopping $820 billion, and is chock full of pork-barrel spending. As the Kansas City Star recently reported, “enough pork is layered into the spending bill . . . that even the Missouri Pork Producers Association is in line for $1 million.” Mr. President, there is over $11 billion in unrequested, unauthorized, run-of-the-mill pork projects contained in the 1,182 pages of this conference report. Let’s go through some of the more interesting provisions: • $200,000 to the West Oahu campus of the University of Hawaii to produce the “Primal Quest” film documentary. • $225,000 to the Wheels Museum in New Mexico. • $7.3 million for Hawaiian Sea Turtles. • $6 million for Sea Lions in Alaska. • $450,000 for the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center in Ohio. • $100,000 to the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines for the development of the World Food Prize. • $200,000 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, for the Rockin' the Schools education program. • $1 million for Mormon cricket suppression in Utah. • $450,000 for an Alaska Statehood celebration. • $225,000 for an Hawaii statehood celebration. • $175,000 to a city in Missouri for the painting of a mural on a flood wall. • $90,000 for fruit fly research in Montpellier, France. • $225,000 to Traverse City, Michigan, for the restoration of an Opera House. • $250,000 for the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. • $200,000 to the Town of Guadalupe, Arizona, for the construction and renovation of a shopping center. • $325,000 to the City of Salinas, California, for construction of a swimming pool. • $100,000 to the city of Macon, Georgia, for the renovation of the Coca-Cola building. • $100,000 to the City of Atlanta for the renovation of Paschal’s restaurant and motel. • $900,000 to an economic development association in Idaho to continue the implementation of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial commemoration plan. • $175,000 to the City of Detroit for the design and construction of a zoo. • $238,000 to the National Wild Turkey Federation. Speaking of Wild Turkey - you almost need a bottle of it in order to swallow the lack of fiscal discipline in this bill. • $200,000 for the City of North Pole, Alaska, for recreation improvements. I guess Santa had a tough year and the elves need a little help from the American taxpayer. • $100,000 for restoration of the Jefferson County Courthouse Clock Tower in Washington State. I’m sure that this is a beautiful clock tower, but probably not what most taxpayers have in mind when they think of economic development, as this project is characterized. • $220,000 to the Blueberry Hill Farm in Maine for renovations. For $220,000, I can only presume that somebody will be getting their thrill on Blueberry Hill! While many of these projects may sound comical, they illustrate a badly broken system in need of serious and comprehensive reform. The HUD portion of this bill contains an account that is perhaps the best evidence that this process is out of control. The appropriators included $278 million in this bill for so-called “economic development initiatives.” Mr. President, every single dime of that $278 million was served up as pork. In 40 pages of report language, the appropriators dished out 902 earmarks for everything from theater renovations in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, to quarry upgrades in Nome, Alaska. Sadly, the EDI account in the HUD appropriations bill has become nothing more than a slush fund for the appropriators - completely eliminating any competitive or merit based determinations by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The only word that comes to mind to describe this practice is “shameful.” At the same time, I want to comment about some language in the statement of managers language accompanying this conference report that offers a more appropriate approach. Many of the accounts throughout the Department of Justice portion of this bill contain language that allows federal officials, governors and other state and local representatives some discretion in awarding the appropriated funds. While the statement of managers names specific entities in connection with DOJ grants, it also states that funds should be awarded if they are warranted after a proper review. I certainly hope that the agency officials charged with reviewing these proposals will employ a modicum of fiscal restraint, as some projects mentioned, such as $2 million for the “First Tee” program, which teaches youths how to play golf, may not be the best use of our resources at this time. POLICY CHANGES As inappropriate as these earmarks are, I am perhaps even more dismayed at the inclusion of some major policy changes in this bill. Mr. President, every member of this chamber knows that it is a violation of Senate Rule 16 to legislate on an appropriations bill. Moreover, every member knows it is a violation of Rule 28 to add new provisions in conference that haven’t been included in either House or Senate bill sent to conference. And, sadly, every member knows this omnibus violates these rules. Simply put, Mr. President, the inclusion of special interest legislative riders on a must-pass spending measure is not only a corruption of the proper process, it is also irresponsible and an affront to good government. Media Ownership Provisions I would like to turn to Section 629 of the Commerce, Justice, State Division of the omnibus. This provision would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) June 2 decision to incrementally raise the national television broadcast station ownership cap from 35% to 45%. Instead, the provision would set the ownership cap at 39%. I strongly object to the inclusion of this provision for both procedural and substantive reasons. Procedurally, the inclusion of this authorizing provision is a blatant attempt by the appropriators to usurp the jurisdiction of the authorizors. I have never supported the use of the appropriations process to legislate policy, and I will not do so today. Substantively, this provision is objectionable because, while purporting to address public concerns about excessive media consolidation, it really addresses only the concerns of special interests. It is no coincidence that 39 percent is the exact ownership percentage of Viacom’s CBS network and one percentage point higher than the reach of the Fox network. As I have stated before, I am not certain about where the exact line should be drawn, and whether a 45% cap is correct. It is clear, however, that the choice of 39% has nothing to do with analytical data, and everything to do with not unduly upsetting the status quo. While the inclusion of the 39% cap is evidence of the power of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), what is not included in the provision is ultimate proof of their influence. Pubic concern with the FCC’s action on media ownership did not focus solely on the reach of broadcast networks. Of at least equal and perhaps greater concern was the FCC’s relaxation of cross ownership restrictions: its permitting newspapers, multiple television stations, and radio outlets within the same market to all be owned by the same company. Despite this justifiable concern, the rider in this bill does not address cross-ownership. Why? Perhaps because the concern was one expressed by the public, and not one shared by the NAB and other special interests. This is not the first attempt by Congress to undo the FCC’s new media ownership rules. In September, the Senate voted 55-40 in support of Senator Dorgan’s congressional disapproval resolution, which sought to declare all of the FCC’s new media ownership rules “null and void.” However, an Omnibus Spending bill is not the appropriate legislative vehicle to undo the Commission’s new 45% television broadcast station ownership cap. If the Congress wishes to take action on the issue of media ownership, it ought to do so in authorizing legislation from the Committee of jurisdiction – the Commerce Committee. The issue of media ownership is far broader than the limited scope of this provision. As William Safire wrote in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, itself a large owner of several media outlets: “The effect of the media’s march to amalgamation on Americans’ freedom of voice [is a] far-reaching political decision [that] should be made by Congress and the White House, after extensive hearings and fair coverage by too-shy broadcasters, no-local-news cable networks and conflicted newspapers.” The Commerce Committee has begun to do just that. After participating in multiple hearings examining media ownership, several Committee members introduced S. 1046, “The Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity, and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003.’’ This bill would establish explicit, sustainable media ownership limits, and provide Congressional guidance to the FCC for its future review of these limits. S. 1046 was promptly debated, amended, and reported out of the Commerce Committee and now awaits action on the Senate calendar. The limits that would be established by Section 629 of the Omnibus have not been considered or debated in any committee, much less the authorizing committee. Now, if we could have a little straight talk here today. While NAB is unhappy with only part of the FCC’s new rules, there is no valid public policy reason why both of the FCC’s rules should not be considered together. In fact, if only one rule could be addressed, it should be the more serious rule: the broadcast/newspaper cross ownership rule. In an October hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, the entire panel of academics and analysts agreed that the FCC’s new newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule would have a significantly greater impact on media ownership concentration than the new 45% national television broadcast ownership cap. One of the panelists, Dr. Mark Cooper, provided the example of Tallahassee, Florida, where the top TV station has a 70% market share and the daily newspaper has 60% penetration. If they merge, according to Dr. Cooper, they would employ almost 2/3 of all local journalists in that community. A September article in Business Week recognized this and stated: “The 45% cap has become a rallying symbol, but the regulations that would truly reorder America’s media landscape and affect local communities have flown under the radar. These would allow companies to snap up not only two to three local TV stations in a market but also a newspaper and up to eight radio stations. If the courts and Congress are worried about the dangers of media consolidation, they’ll have to resist calling it a day after dispensing with the network cap and go after the rules with real bite.” In opposition to the National Association of Broadcasters’ selective advocacy, all four television networks have quit their memberships in NAB. In a resignation letter submitted last year, ABC/Disney wrote: “Almost two years ago, the other major broadcast networks resigned from the NAB. The issue was the patently hypocritical NAB position favoring deregulation of newspaper cross-ownership and duopoly while simultaneously advocating continued regulation of the national station cap. The NAB and the public policy process in Washington should not be abused to advance the business interests of one broadcaster over another.” I submit to you, Mr. President, that ABC/Disney’s suggestion is exactly what is going on here. This provision is not about public policy; it is about advancing the interests of the National Association of Broadcasters. To summarize, standalone legislation like S. 1046 that was reported out of the authorizing committee is the correct vehicle to address these difficult and complex issues involving media ownership. Attaching a rider to selectively address the concerns of special, nonpublic interests, is not the way to make good policy. Instant Check / Gun Provision Mr. President, let me state from the outset that I take a backseat to no one in my support for Second Amendment rights, and I have supported nearly every law that protects the rights of law abiding gun owners since first coming to Washington. But there is a special interest rider included in this Omnibus appropriations bill that’s absolutely appalling. The House sponsor of this provision has argued that it benefits gun owners, but the only gun owners it seems to help are those who have broken the law! This rider has three major provisions – all of them unnecessary for gun owners and none of them helpful for law enforcement. First, it requires that background check approval records be destroyed within 24 hours instead of the current policy of 90 days. Proponents argue that keeping these records for 90 days constitutes a national firearm registry. I want to be very clear that I oppose federal registration of firearms. I also want to be equally clear that our current policy of keeping these records for 90 days does not constitute in any way, shape, or form a national registry. It’s a phony issue. The 90 days retention allows the NICS system to correct mistakes that occur when they accidentally approve someone who should have been denied a gun in the first place. This happens about 500 times a year, according to GAO. Nearly all of these false approvals are because of missing domestic violence records. So, as far as I can tell, this provision benefits no one except those who should have been denied a firearm, but were not. The second provision prevents ATF from conducting an inventory audit of licensed gun stores. This means that ATF auditors will have no way of knowing if a gun store is missing firearms – a sure sign that they are selling guns illegally and without the proper background checks. Mr. President, in Tacoma, Washington, ATF auditors discovered 233 firearms missing from Bull’s Eye Shooters Supply store. One of those weapons was used by the accused DC-area snipers. Why are we putting special language in a must-pass federal spending bill to protect a store like Bull’s Eye? Consider the potential consequences. And a third provision prohibits the public release of crime gun trace information. This information is not top secret data that jeopardizes our national security, or hinders law enforcement. We cannot have a government that operates in secret and refuses to release information that shows where criminals have obtained a gun. This provision has no support from the law enforcement community, and was even opposed by Chairman Young and Subcommittee Chairman Wolf. Yet, here it is today, included in this terrible bill. Mr. President, this language is an embarrassment to law abiding gun owners and is a slap in the face to law enforcement. Crab Processor Quota Rider One of these policy riders is language that authorizes the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries rationalization plan, which would divide 90% of that crab market among just a small group of processors. Under the provision, fishermen could only sell this crab to those few processors and, in turn, only those processors would sell to consumers. This legislative language has not been considered by the authorizing committees of jurisdiction, nor requested by the Administration. Mr. President, this provision raises serious antitrust concerns. Again, it would require -- not simply allow, but require -- that crab fishermen sell 90 percent of their crab harvests to pre-determined processing companies. This precedent-setting action would vitiate anti-trust laws, limit competition in this seafood sector, and ultimately hurt fishermen and consumers. Fishermen around the nation have expressed strong opposition to this provision, as have at least a dozen newspaper editorial boards. Before I go any further, I want to clarify the difference between “fishing quotas” and “processing quotas.” Fishing quotas are allocation tools that allow fishermen to catch a certain portion of the overall allowable harvest. Fishermen could determine when and under what conditions to fish with such quotas, and fishing quotas have been widely recognized to benefit fishermen, the environment, and consumers. In contrast, processing quotas would allocate buying rights for the crab catch among a handful of processing companies, so that each would be guaranteed to receive a certain percent of the overall harvest. Regardless of how efficient these processors are or what kind of price they are offering, they would have guaranteed market share. Under this plan, it would be illegal for fishermen to take their crab to other processors. Mr. President, this language could have far-reaching consequences yet it was included in this “must pass” bill without ever having been considered or debated by the committee of jurisdiction, the Commerce Committee. Fishermen throughout the nation object to the crab plan’s individual processing quotas (IPQs) because the precedent-setting nature of this action could lead to IPQs in the processing sector of other fisheries. Indeed, crab boat owners and crew from all over the country – even from Arizona – have voiced their opposition to this proposal. I am aware of at least one crab fisherman who owns a fishing boat and a “catcher-processor” boat. He objects to this policy rider because it would make it illegal for him to sell his own catch to himself, so that the catch from his fishing boat could be processed on his processing boat. According to the National Research Council (NRC), the General Accounting Office (GAO), and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, fishermen’s concerns about IPQs are clearly justified. The 1999 NRC publication, Sharing the Fish, found no “compelling reason to establish a separate, complementary processor quota system” to accompany an Individual Fishing Quota program. These findings were echoed by the GAO in its December 2002 report on IFQs, which failed to find that IFQ programs resulted in harmful impacts on processors in the halibut and sablefish fisheries that would warrant creation of an IPQ program. Furthermore, on August 27, 2003, the Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division wrote a letter to the General Counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in which he opposed the IPQ provisions of the crab plan, stating “processor quotas are not justified by any such beneficial competitive purpose” and that “The Department urges NOAA to oppose IPQ.” While the fisherman are up in arms, the processors are already counting their chickens, or in this case, crab harvests, and in turn, their profits. That is because the percent of the harvest that they will be able to process in the future is based on how much they have processed in the past under the free market environment. Regardless of future operational efficiency, supply and demand, or any other real-world factors, these processors will be guaranteed their allocation into perpetuity. Consider, for example, one company that recently has processed roughly 20 percent of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab. This provision will assure that company continues to receive 20 percent of future harvests – worth on the order of tens of millions of dollars annually. Mr. President, for centuries, fishermen have used market forces to negotiate their dockside prices, and this has had the effect of maintaining competition and benefitting consumers. Processor quotas throw and enormous wrench in the free market machinery. In addition to affecting the price-setting process, the crab IPQ plan also would effectively prevent new processors from entering the industry. If anyone wants to enter the processing sector, they would need to buy the processing rights from the few processors who would have processing quota. Considering all these facts, the Administration has officially stated its opposition to IPQs, as reported in the Sacramento Bee, Kodiak Daily Mirror, Anchorage Daily News, and Seattle Times. The Administration’s proposed language for amending the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act clearly specifies that processors could own fishing quota, but does not propose a separate quota system divvying up processor quotas. As I said earlier, let me also mention that the editorial boards from at least 12 major newspapers – the Washington Post, Washington Times, Boston Globe, Oregonian, Anchorage Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Honolulu Advertiser, Daily Astorian, Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Portland Press Herald in Maine, and the Tampa Tribune – have come out against IPQs. Note that these newspapers include the entire west coast – even Alaska and Hawaii. I am submitting these for the record. Other Fish Provisions Additionally, the conference report would authorize a similar processor quota program for Gulf of Alaska rockfish. Even though IPQ proponents had previously indicated that IPQs are needed for crab only, they are now proposing authorizing such a program for a different Alaskan fishery. Further, the conference report also would authorize the North Pacific Counsel to open an areal currently closed to fishing, but open it only to the Aleut Corporation, which would also have the exclusive right to process the fish. This new fishery could be worth more than $10 million, yet the proposal has not undergone the proper Congressional authorization and oversight process that we demand for other important policy issues. Mr. President, obviously this proposal makes fundamental changes to our fisheries policies. This rockfish and pollock language was not requested by the Administration nor the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and it hasn’t been reviewed by the authorizing committees. At a minimum, all of these new quota provisions merit thorough review and debate prior to their enactment. New England Groundfish Rider The tacking of fisheries riders onto appropriations bills extends all the way to North Atlantic fisheries as well. Last-minute language was added that would prevent the Administration from implementing a groundfish management plan required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Not surprisingly, the Administration did not request this change, nor has the authorizing committee of jurisdiction held any hearings on this proposal. In the Northeast, fishery managers must comply with a court-ordered implementation date of May 1, 2004, for putting a groundfish management plan into effect, and the Administration is now seeking public comment on and finalizing regulations to do this. Even before we know what the final plan is, the language would prohibit the Administration from spending any money to implement this plan. The legislative rider would authorize funding for only a certain set of management rules – which have already been determined by a court to be out of compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. So, under the language in the omnibus, itt would be illegal for the Administration to comply with federal fisheries law as set out in the Manguson-Stevens Act. If this provision is enacted, there is a real risk that the fishery could be ordered closed by a federal court. Again, this significant policy change was not considered by or debated in the Commerce Committee. I am more than willing to discuss ways to re-design the fisheries management council process, along with the rest of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, if indeed, it is as flawed as some seem to think it is. This rider, however, is not the appropriate way to make policy. State Department Restructuring Section 626 of the omnibus broadly requires the Secretary of Commerce to "negotiate or reevaluate, with the consent of the President, international agreements affecting international ocean policy." Under 22 U.S.C. Section 2655a, however, international ocean policy issues are currently handled by the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, or OES. Several marine resource conservation laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, grant the Secretary of State the authority to negotiate international agreements on these matters. Clearly, this language conflicts with the Secretary of State's statutory responsibility for carrying out a coherent foreign policy. When appropriators first proposed such a transfer of responsibility in the FY04 CJS appropriations bill, Secretary Colin Powell explained, "Such a provision would significantly hamper the Department's ability to address important foreign policy issues (e.g., oceans policy, marine pollution, global overfishing) to which the United States can ill afford to give short shrift." Considering the important role that the U.S. needs to maintain as a leader in the international community on ocean policy matters, I am dismayed that the appropriators would attempt to transfer these powers between government agencies without any public or expert review and debate. This is clearly a matter that needs the full attention of the Commerce and Foreign Relations Committees, and this has not happened. Small Engine / Briggs and Stratton Provision Mr. President, a provision in the EPA portion of the VA-HUD section of this bill prohibits all states, with the exception of California, from exercising their existing authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate “non-road” engines to improve air quality. This language will effectively tie the hands of the state air pollution control agencies by preventing them from addressing the 120 million small-engines which are a substantial and growing source of smog and soot pollution nationwide. This provision was originally put in the VA-HUD bill at the request of a single engine manufacturer, Briggs and Stratton. The company suggested that the provision would save jobs. I find this argument very disingenuous due to the fact that, in its September 2003 filing with the SEC, the company stated, “Briggs and Stratton does not believe that the CARB staff proposal will have a material effect on its financial condition or results of operations . . .” Our colleague from California, Senator Feinstein, made an effective argument against the language on the Senate floor during consideration of the bill, but she was not permitted to offer an amendment to strike the language. Mr. President, what has come out of the conference may be acceptable to California and to Briggs and Stratton, but it is unacceptable to me and should be unacceptable to almost every member of this body. If you have not heard from your state air agency yet, you certainly will soon. In the state of Arizona, for example, the potential emissions impact of these unregulated engines is equivalent to 1.4 million additional cars on the roads. This is almost certain to worsen the smog problem in the city of Phoenix, and I’m sure it will be the same in many other cities in the nation. Have no doubts, Mr. President, with that worsening smog will come many more cases of asthma and a litany of other health problems. It is simply outrageous that states will be prohibited from exercising their responsibility to protect public health and the environment because one company was able to secure a special deal in a must-pass spending bill. It is a disgraceful practice that, sadly, is all too common in this body. NASA I also am very concerned that for the NASA funding portions, that the Joint Explanatory Statement to the Conference Report contains a list of 144 earmarks that total in excess of $300 million. These earmarks are unauthorized and unrequested by the President. Meanwhile, the International Space Station has been funded at $200 million below the President’s request. This action comes despite news reports that have outlined numerous safety problems aboard the International Space Station. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), which was assigned to determine the causes of last February’s tragic accident, described the results of Congressional earmarking in its August report. According to the CAIB Report: “Pressure on NASA’s budget has come not only from the White House, but also from the Congress. In recent years there has been an increasing tendency for the Congress to add ‘earmarks’ - congressional additions to the NASA budget request that reflect targeted Members’ interests. These earmarks come out of already-appropriated funds, reducing the amounts available for the original tasks.” I must question whether we have learned anything from the Shuttle accident and the CAIB findings. During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last year, I questioned Admiral Gehman about the effects of the $167 million that was earmarked in Fiscal Year 2003 appropriations bill. He responded by saying that “$100 million will buy a lot of safety engineers.” Maybe we should ask what he thinks should be done with over $300 million worth of earmarks. Mr. President, I would like to take a few minutes to discuss the importance of fully funding the International Space Station. Again, the omnibus provides $200 million less than the President’s request at a time when serious safety concerns have been raised about the Space Station. This underfunding could be corrected if we simply eliminated these wasteful earmarks and we’d even have money to spare. William F. Readdy, the NASA Associate Administrator at the Office of Space Flight, testified before the Commerce Committee that the Space Station onboard environmental monitoring system which, “provides very high accuracy information on atmospheric composition and presence of trace elements . . . is not operating at full capacity.” He also testified that the crew health countermeasures, which include an onboard treadmill and associated resistive exercise devices, were “operating at various degrees of reduced capacity and needed to be repaired, upgraded or replaced.” Articles in The Washington Post paint an even more disturbing picture. An October 23, 2003, article describes: “The problems with monitoring environmental conditions aboard the space station have festered for more than a year, some NASA medical officials said. Space station astronauts have shown such symptoms as headaches, dizziness and ‘an inability to think clearly,’ according to a medical officer who asked not to be named. The onboard sensors designed to provide real-time analysis of the air, water and radiation levels have been broken for months, which has made it impossible to determine at any given time whether there is a buildup of trace amounts of dangerous chemical compounds that could sicken astronauts, or worse.” A November 9, 2003, Washington Post article reports that: “A recent NASA study found that the risk of fire aboard the station has grown because the crew is stowing large quantities of supplies, equipment and waste in front of or near 14 portals that would be crucial for detecting and extinguishing a fire in any of the station’s various compartments. There is also concern that a portion of the station’s water stores supplied by the Russians may have high levels of carbon tetrachloride, a toxic contaminant.” “As far back as March, internal studies warned of a host of dangers for six separate systems, including the thermal controls that cool the station’s computers and interiors, that would likely grow out of trying to run the station with limited supplies and a caretaker crew of two instead of the normal complement of three.” Before the recent launch of Expedition 8, the Chief of NASA’s Habitability and Environmental Factors Office and NASA’s Chief of Space Medicine signed a dissent to the “flight readiness certificate.” The dissent declared that “the continued degradation in the environmental monitoring system, exercise countermeasures system, and the health maintenance system, coupled with a planned increment duration of greater than 6 months and extremely limited resupply, all combine to increase the risk to the crew to the point where initiation of [the mission] is not recommended.” In addition, a December 6, 2003, Washington Post article states that one of the gyroscopes that control the Space Station’s motion failed, and that another was showing vibrations and spikes in electrical current. NASA will be forced to use Russian thrusters onboard the Space Station to shift the station’s position. These are very serious issues that cannot be ignored, yet here we are, about to approve more than $300 million for unrequested earmarks while underfunding more pressing needs. How will these cuts to the President’s budget request affect the safety of the space station? Are we really willing to take any risks? Mr. President, that this practice continues in the face of legitimate safety concerns is simply unacceptable given the tragedies experienced just last year. The Statement of Administration Policy opposed this $200 million reduction in the Senate-passed VA-HUD bill, stating that: “After diligently rebuilding reserves to place the Station on sound financial ground, this reduction would deplete reserves deemed critical by independent cost estimates and limit the program’s ability to address risks in FY 2004, including impacts from the Columbia accident.” In addition, I have been informed that this reduction would place at risk actions that NASA is taking to address the Independent Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force recommendations to ensure a “credible” ISS Program. I know there is a lot of excitement about last week’s announcement by the President proposing a new agenda for human exploration of the Moon, and eventually Mars. However, let us also note that he re-affirmed the United States’ commitment to completing the ISS. The Commerce Committee will hold a series of hearings to discuss the proposal, but we will not lose sight of our responsibilities of ensuring the safety of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. Finally, it is unfortunate that the appropriators, while earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars in NASA, underfunded the Advanced Polarimeter Sensor of the Global Climate Change Research Initiative by $11 million below the President’s request--a 47 percent decrease-yet could sure find funds for thousands of earmarks.. This reduction would significantly impact the development of the sensor, which is designed to measure methane, tropospheric ozone, aerosols and black carbon in the atmosphere. The proposed reduction would delay the purchase of “long-lead” item purchases, which could potentially delay the launch date of the satellite from 2007 to 2008. As my colleagues know, the public is greatly concerned about the impacts of climate change on our environment and economy. Although the Administration and I have a difference of opinion on the need to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are in agreement on the need for research in this area. We should not cut this publicly significant research, so that we can simply fund local pork projects. Technology Administration The bill would appropriate funding for the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) at approximately $152.2 million above the President’s request. The language would ignore the President’s attempt to rein in a corporate welfare program in a time of skyrocketing federal deficits and critical national security needs. For example, the most recent ATP awards included a grant to Aqua Bounty Farms, Inc. to “produce sterile transgenic fish that can be made fertile as needed for reproduction.” I can assure you that the ATP program was never envisioned to fund the production of sterile transgenic fish. I also am concerned about funding for the Scientific and Technical Research and Services account the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This account supports NIST’s scientific research, including Nobel Prize winning research on the Bose-Einstein condensates. This account is funded at approximately $43 million beneath the President’s request, while the appropriators have continued to earmark activities within this account. I would ask my colleagues to ask themselves if it is more important to fund a spreadsheet engineering initiative at Dartmouth University, or research to help our beleaguered manufacturing sector. Should we fund a wind demonstration project in Texas or research to improve the equipment for our nation’s first responders? In the long run, it will be considered a great tragedy that we have wasted our nation’s scientific potential on meaningless parochial projects. This reduction is even more disturbing given the reality that NIST will have to lay-off many of its scientists and engineers due to a lack of funding. Let me remind my colleagues that these are the scientists and engineers that have won two Nobel Prizes for research in the past few years. These lay-offs will occur even as we continue to send funding to industry through the ATP program for research that is inconsistent with the program requirements of being "high risk." That does not send the right message to our award winning scientists and engineers of how we value their work. Port of Philadelphia Marine Cargo Terminal There is also language that redirects $40 million to the Port of Philadelphia for construction of a cargo terminal that is designed to support “high-speed military sealift and other military purposes.” Today, these type of vessels do not even exist, nor are they being championed by the military. They are supported, however, by the private investors and their lobbyists who obviously think it makes sense to place the risk of their venture on the backs of the taxpayers. Let me also mention that the design of these vessels is based on unproven technology. And, in reviews of the proposed vessel technology by the Department of Transportation, it was determined that the project did not qualify for government backed financing. It is ridiculous that despite these facts, this legislative rider will risk wasting $40 million of the taxpayers on a terminal to support a certain type of vessel that may never exist. This is a costly example of putting the cart before the horse, Mr. President. Fiscal Realities Mr. President, it’s time to get serious about what we are doing here. We have a deficit of $500 billion - that’s half of a trillion dollars - the largest ever. Our fiscal future can only be described as bleak. Government watchdog organizations and think tanks, both liberal and conservative, have expressed enormous concern about the level of spending in this bill. A recent report by the Heritage Foundation states that, “following increases of 13 percent and 12 percent during the previous two years, 2004 would mark the third consecutive year of massive discretionary spending growth.” It further notes that “altogether, total federal spending in 2003 topped $20,000 per household for the first time since World War II, and is set to grow another $1,000 per household in 2004. It is time for President Bush and Congress to stop playing budget book-keeping games and take a stand against runaway spending by rewriting the omnibus appropriations bill.” Mr. President, I could not agree more. According to a joint statement issued by the Committee for Economic Development, the Concord Coalition, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “without a change in current (fiscal) policies, the federal government can expect to run a cumulative deficit of $5 trillion over the next 10 years.” Mr. President, these figures are shameful and frightening. Another astonishing part of this report states that, “after the baby boom generation starts to retire in 2008, the combination of demographic pressures and rising health care costs will result in the costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security growing faster than the economy. We project that by the time today’s newborns reach 40 years of age, the cost of these three programs as a percentage of the economy will more than double - from 8.5 percent of the GDP to over 17 percent.” I encourage my colleagues to read this joint statement - it is both enlightening and alarming. The Congressional Budget Office also has issued warnings about the dangers that lie ahead if we continue to spend in this manner. In a report issued last month, CBO stated that, because of rising health care costs and an aging population, “spending on entitlement programs - especially Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - will claim a sharply increasing share of the nation’s economic output over the coming decades.” The report went on to say that, “unless taxation reaches levels that are unprecedented in the United States, current spending policies will probably be financially unsustainable over the next 50 years. An ever-growing burden of federal debt held by the public would have a corrosive . . . effect on the economy.” Additionally, CBO has projected a 10 year deficit of $4.4 trillion. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, according to an International Monetary Fund report, “if cumulative budget deficits rise by 15% of gross domestic product, as the Congressional Budget Office expects, world interest rates would be pushed up by one-half to one percentage point over 10 years.” Mr. President, we are already paying price overseas for our reckless spending. The U.S. dollar is tumbling and it’s the result of our lack of fiscal discipline and our enormous deficit. Foreign countries are losing confidence in the dollar. To underscore the point, today the dollar stands at a seven year low - worth only about 80 cents against the euro, a forty cent drop in under four years. In the State of the Union Address just last night, the President called on us to act “as good stewards of taxpayers dollars.” He asked that, when he sends us the new budget plan, we “focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending, and be wise with the people’s money.” Why wait for that budget? Let’s start right here. Let’s strip all of the pork, all of the earmarks, and all of the good deals for special-interests out of this bill and ‘be wise with the people’s money’ right now. Who are we hurting by this outrageous spending, Mr. President? We’re hurting our children, our grandchildren, and who knows how many future generations of Americans. And for what? So that we can go home in an election year and brag about how we’ve been able to bring home the bacon. Or, so that we can be sure that the special interests are happy. It is perhaps my greatest hope, Mr. President, that some day we’ll consider these spending measures with no one else in mind but the American taxpayer. After all, isn’t that who we work for? They deserve a win Mr. President. Let’s astonish the American public by, for once, putting their interests before our own and passing a bill with no earmarks or policy riders. With this monstrosity before us - we should be ashamed of the job we are doing on their behalf. I urge my colleagues to defeat this outrageous measure.