STATEMENT FROM SENATOR MCCAIN ON YEAR-END BUDGET BILL
December 15, 2000
WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today entered the following statement into the Congressional record regarding the Department of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill:
"Mr. President, 70 days and 20 continuing resolutions after what was supposed to be our October 6 adjournment date, the 106th Congress is coming to an end. Let us hope the upcoming New Year brings with it a renewed spirit of bipartisan cooperation.
"This year, such cooperation took a back seat to partisan bickering and ill-advised parliamentary tactics that had the effect of further polarizing this body. How many mornings did Americans awake to newspaper headlines reporting that Congress and the president still, weeks and months after we were to adjourn, had not finished their work?
"Mr. President, there are many good provisions in the legislation soon to be sent to the President and I want to thank all those who put in long hours to bring this Congress to a close. I am particularly supportive of the Medicare changes that will strengthen the quality of health care for our seniors.
"In 1997, Congress made some difficult, but necessary, changes in the financial structure of the Medicare system as part of the Balanced Budget Act. These changes were needed to preserve and protect the system and delay its impending bankruptcy from 2001 until 2015, while also increasing choice and expanding benefits for beneficiaries.
"I am also pleased that Native Americans will not be overlooked in this legislative package, but instead will receive an economic boost through equitable treatment of tribal governments for unemployment tax purposes, a change to the tax law that I have been advocating for nearly a decade. An important stimulus to economic development in Indian country is to provide employment tax credits and incentives, including unemployment compensation benefits. This change to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) will correct an uneven interpretation in the tax law by finally including tribal employees in the nation's comprehensive unemployment benefit system.
"Unfortunately, Mr. President, I must oppose this legislation for a variety of reasons. Once again, I must object to the pork barrel spending in this year-end legislative package and in all of the appropriations bills that have become law. Regrettably, the process that got us to this point led to what a New York Times headline aptly characterized as "The Politics of the Surplus." In other words, we paved our way home by spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars on budget items that never went through a merit-based review process.
"In the run-up to this final agreement, over $24 billion in pork barrel spending (a list of this spending may be found on my Senate Web site) was doled out and that figure will surely climb once we get a good look at the bills before us. Mr. President, our appetite for pork barrel spending was so large this year, in fact, that NBC News highlighted our feast on their Nightly News segment, "The Fleecing of America."
"Who among us will ever forget the 1.5 million taxpayer dollars we’ve already approved to restore "a 56-foot iron rendition of the Roman god of fire and metalworking, Vulcan"?
the $1.5 million for sunflower research?
the $400,000 for the Southside Sportsman Club?
the $250,000 to develop improved varieties of potatoes?
the $100,000 for the "Trees Forever Program"?
the $176,00 for the Reindeer Herders Association?
Or the $5 million for insect rearing?
"But, Mr. President, there’s more to come in this year-end budget deal, which has at least $1.9 billion in pork. For instance, in the Conference Report for the Commerce, State, and Justice Appropriations bill, some examples of earmarks having never undergone the appropriate merit-review process include:
$3 million for Red Snapper research
$1 million for Hawaiian coral reef monitoring
$500,000 for the California Ozone study
$200,000 for the Kotzebue Sound test fishery for king crab and sea snail
$600,000 for fall chinook rearing for the Columbia River hatcheries program
$750,000 for bottle-nosed dolphins
$3,338,000 for sea turtles
$1 million for winter pollack survey in Alaska
$1 million for the implementation of the National Height Modernization (NHM) system in North Carolina
$300,000 for research on the Charleston bump
$150,000 for lobster sampling
"Mr. President, the pork barrel spending adds up. Look at the numbers.
"Last spring, Republicans outlined our spending plans calling for about $600 billion in so-called discretionary spending–that is, spending on programs other than Social Security, Medicare, and interest on our $5.7 trillion debt. The President’s budget requested about $623 billion in discretionary spending. We’ll end up spending in the neighborhood of $650 billion--some $100 billion over the discretionary spending caps set by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.
"Mr. President, according to Robert Reischauer, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, this will be the third year in row in which the budget, excluding Social Security, "has been in surplus." The last time this happened, Reischauer says, was over 70 years ago. This is why I believe, Mr. President, we should take advantage of our robust economy and make significantly paying down our national debt one of our top priorities.
"Mr. President, I must also once again express my disappointment over the narrow scope of the immigration provisions contained in this bill. I support the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act (LIFA). Negotiations between the White House and the leadership, which endorsed more limited immigration reform, have resulted in a compromise that makes progress but falls far short of the Fairness provisions we never had a chance to vote on.
"I remain optimistic, Mr. President, that we will be able to work together in the 107th Congress to accomplish great things.
"Mr. President, we all should be proud of the recent election. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. Democracy never is. Yet, major issues important to all Americans were discussed and debated. In fact, a post-election survey by Pew Charitable Trusts found that a high percentage of voters believed there was "more discussion of issues than four years ago." And 83 percent of voters said they learned enough "to make an informed choice."
"No doubt voters have different opinions on how we should deal with these issues. But, Mr. President, they did not disagree on which issues need to be tackled by Congress and our President.
"In national pre-election polls, Americans consistently ranked Social Security, health care, and education among the issues they worry most about. But they also know that little gets done because too much special-interest money is infecting our political process, resulting in the kind of gridlock we have witnessed over the last year. A Newsweek poll found nearly 60 percent of Americans agreeing with the statement that political contributions have "too much influence on elections and government policy." Only ten percent disagreed.
"Mr. President, the way we do business must change.
"If we have the will, we can begin to repair Americans’ cynical perception of our government by working together, in bipartisan fashion, on campaign finance reform, a real Patient’s Bill of Rights, Social Security reform, and badly needed reform of the tax system.
"Mr. President, we must also do our work in the open with due process and appropriate discussion.
"This is why, Mr. President, I must also object to a provision inserted by Senator Inouye, who has once again gone to great lengths to provide protectionist legislation to the lone U.S. operator of large cruise ships in Hawaii. In the 106th’s closing hours, the Senator has had a legislative provision inserted in the final appropriations measure that will prohibit any cruise ship operator from allowing gaming on board any vessel that departs from and returns to Hawaii. This provides American Classic Voyages with the protection they need to keep other cruise operators who depend on gaming to attract passengers and provide an additional revenue stream from entering the Hawaii market and prohibit other vessels currently departing from other U.S. port cities from sailing among the Hawaiian islands. In the end, the American consumer is the loser.
"While Hawaii law currently prohibits any gaming within the state, including its waters, U.S., state, and international law allows gaming on vessels more than three miles from shore. I have no argument against Hawaii’s gambling prohibition. But the amendment authored by Senator Inouye is aimed at keeping planed operations by international cruise operators out of Hawaii and preserving the monopoly created for American Classic Voyages as part of special interest legislation he sponsored and which became law in 1998. The language will result in fewer large cruise ship operators serving the Hawaiian Islands and drastically restricting consumer choice for cruise vacations in Hawaii.
"What is most amazing is this measure, like so many others in this bill, was never discussed publicly, with the administration, or with any Committee of jurisdiction in Congress. This type of closed door, special interest legislation should concern every Member. To deny the American public the freedom of choice in cruising vacations and restrict international trade without one moment of debate is very troubling.
"In light of this and other such inappropriate legislating, we must enact institutional reforms to put an end to the rampant abuse of the budget process.
"Mr. President, if we are to hold any hope for reforming the budgetary process in this body, fundamental changes to the rules governing the appropriations process must be made. The two Rules of the Senate designed to impose discipline on the appropriations process are Rule 16, and Rule 28. Rule 16 is designed to block legislative riders on appropriations bills coming out of Committee, and Rule 28 is designed to accomplish the same goal on Conference Reports. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Rule 16 points of order only require a simple majority to over-rule the Chair, it has proven ineffective in stripping riders. And, as we all know, Rule 28 is effectively moot at this point.
"As such, when the Senate reconvenes next year, it is my intention to offer an amendment to the Rules of the Senate designed to toughen Rule 16, and to reaffirm and toughen Rule 28. This amendment would do the following:
"Rule 16 would be modified to require a three-fifths vote to over-rule a point of order against a legislative item inserted into a general appropriations bill by the appropriations committee. Further, a single point of order may be raised against each legislative item, and each point of order would be debatable and subject to a roll call vote.
"Rule 28 would be modified, blocking Conferees to a general appropriations bill from inserting in their Report any matter not committed to them by either House, or striking from the bill matter agreed to by both Houses. Conferees to a general appropriations bill would be prohibited from increasing an appropriation for any item committed to them by either House to a level exceeding the highest appropriated level for such item presented to them by either House, and reducing an appropriated level for any item committed to them below the lowest appropriated level for such item committed to them by either House.
"Further, Conferees to a general appropriations bill would be restricted from modifying any item committed to them by either House where such modification is not germane to the item being modified. In any case, no matter may be inserted into the Report that is not germane to the general appropriations bill committed to the Conferees.
"The result of these changes would be to impose a strict "scope of conference" rule on appropriations Conferees.
"A point of order may be made by any Senator against any general appropriations bill Conference Report for any violation of the restrictions set forth by this rule. In such cases where a single restriction has been violated more than once within a Conference Report, or where more than one restriction has been violated within a single Conference Report, each violation may be treated individually, and may be subject to a specific point of order. In the event that a single, or multiple points of order, are made against a general appropriations bill Conference Report for reasons set forth under these new restrictions, a three-fifths vote of the Senate is required to over-rule the Chair. Each appeal of the ruling of the Chair of each respective point of order is debatable and must be voted on separately.
"Mr. President, before I end, I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season and New Year."