Statement on H.R. 4899 – Supplemental Appropriations
Senator Michael B. Enzi
May 26, 2010
Mr. President, I rise to express my opposition the Fiscal Year 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act. It represents what is reprehensible about the conduct of the federal government—unchecked, unpaid for, deficit spending. After a trillion dollar “stimulus,” a trillion dollar health care bill, and huge increases in the budgets of the bureaucracy, Americans are fed up with Congress’ out-of-control spending. Our constituents have had enough, and they have asked us to rein in spending. Unfortunately, rather than listen to their cries, we have another appropriations bill that represents the same old same old.
Of the nearly $59 billion spending in this bill, all but $103 million is designated “emergency” spending. What does “emergency” spending actually mean and what are these “emergencies” our nation is facing?
Emergency spending means deficit spending. It means we are spending money that we, as a nation, do not have. An emergency designation relieves Congress of the burden and the responsibility of coming up with ways to pay for the spending. We are continuing to make purchases on the taxpayer’s credit card, knowing full well we have no plans to pay back the loan.
Some programs under this bill may be considered true emergencies. There are unforeseen disasters such as flooding and oil spills. But there are also disasters that occurred years ago that would receive funding under this legislation. Funding may be needed for these programs, but the lack of funding was certainly not unexpected and should have been in last year’s and this year’s regular budget and appropriations process. But appropriations and budgeting have been so disfigured, contorted, abused and ignored by lawmakers in recent years that the system has broken and you have a series of omnibus and “emergency” or supplemental bills.
Even in the write up of this legislation, the Senate Appropriations Committee noted that the $5.1 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund is necessary to pay for known costs for past disasters, such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, and Gustav, the Midwest floods of 2008, and the California wildfires and as well as needs that emerge from new disasters.
The bill also provides $13.4 billion in mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation to Vietnam veterans to implement a recent decision by the VA to expand the number of illnesses presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange. There is no doubt that Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange should be properly compensated but Congress and the Administration must find a way to pay for these programs without spending money we do not have.
I want to make very clear my strong support for our nation’s veterans and the current members of our armed forces and the vital work they are doing around the world every day. I have the greatest admiration for today’s service members and veterans for their commitment to preserving our freedoms and maintaining our national security. I must question, however, using their sacrifices to justify irresponsible spending by this Congress.
To be fair, the Appropriations Committee found some offsets for the spending in this bill. Unfortunately, the offsets only account for 0.17 percent of the total cost of the bill, and it is possible that we will see amendments that will increase the cost of the bill – and the deficit – even more.
As the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, I have particular interest in an amendment that would add $23 billion in educational spending to this bill. In theory, these funds help prevent schools from laying off teachers, but it simply takes the approach of throwing more money at the problem. States and schools have spent beyond their means, and now they are asking the federal government to bail them out. The hope of this program may be to ensure stability in states’ educational systems, but there is no guarantee that this will work. We allocated billions of dollars to this matter in the stimulus, and now, a little more than a year later, groups are back asking us for more money that we don’t have. The approach I expect the amendment to take pumps money into school systems without addressing the root of the problems school systems are facing. Putting aside a debate on the merits of the program, why should we consider additional educational bailouts on this bill which is supposed to deal with funding our troops and funding agencies that deal with unexpected disasters?
Why? Because this bill is considered “must pass” legislation. Congress must pass this bill to keep the necessary resources going to our military. America has deployed our young men and women to defend our nation’s interests and they deserve no less than having the funding and equipment necessary to carry out their missions. But some in Congress do not see this as just about the military, they see it as an opportunity to add their pet programs to the shoulders of our Armed Forces. No one wants to leave our military operations unfunded, so our military needs are being used to leverage support for non-emergency, deficit spending.
The American people have made clear that Congress needs to be fiscally responsible. They have made clear that they do not support our spending billions of taxpayer dollars with little or no debate. We have been asking Americans to tighten their spending belts and take responsibility for their personal debt. It is about time that the representatives of the people do the same.
In April 2009, when making an emergency supplemental appropriations request, President Obama said “We should not label military costs as emergency funds so as to avoid our responsibility to abide by the spending limitations set forth by the Congress. After years of budget gimmicks and wasteful spending, it is time to end the era of irresponsibility in Washington.” I couldn’t agree more. Congress and the Administration need to find a better way to fund current military operations. Most of these funds are expected and should be addressed in the regular budget process.
Again, I want to provide our troops with the funding and the resources they need to be successful as they work to protect America
.. I do not, however, want the brave men and women of our Armed Forces nor the families of America who have been truly impacted by unforeseen disasters to be used as justification for unchecked and, in some cases, unrelated spending.
The men and women of our Armed Services deserve better than this spending bill. The people of the United States deserve better.
I yield the floor.