Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
REGARDING MY VOTE ON THE DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS BILL FOR FISCAL YEAR 2000
(Extensions of Remarks - November 19, 1999)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E2500-E2501] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] REGARDING MY VOTE ON THE DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS BILL FOR FISCAL YEAR 2000 ______ HON. RON KIND of wisconsin in the house of representatives Thursday, November 18, 1999 Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, when I returned to Congress for my second term last January, I came with the hope that I could believe the House leadership when it said things would be different in the 106th Congress from the experience of my first term in the 105th. We were told that the appropriations process would follow the rules; 13 separate spending bills [[Page E2501]] brought to the floor for consideration with reasonable time and access for debate. We were told that the bills would be straight-forward, without tricks or gimmicks. We were mislead. The House leadership has continued to play tricks with the budget process. This fall, it did so at the expense of the men and women in our armed forces. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the American men and women who serve in uniform. My brother is currently serving a tour with his Reserve unit in Europe, and I have made two trips to the Balkans to visit our troops there. The young soldiers with whom I spoke were bursting with pride and confidence, and universally voiced their commitment to peace, freedom and their duty. With those men and women in mind, I was pleased to see my colleagues on the defense authorization and appropriations committees provide funding our military personnel with long overdue raises and improved benefits. I was also glad to see readiness issues appropriately addressed. Accordingly, I voted in favor of the Department of Defense Appropriations bill when considered by the House, even though I had some reservations concerning other provisions of legislation. It was my hope that, during the conference committee process, the bill would be strengthened and framed in an honest and responsible manner. Sadly though, I could not vote for the Department of Defense Appropriations Conference Report. Instead of making a sincere commitment to our troops and an honest accounting to the taxpayers, the Congressional leadership in both houses resorted to budget tricks and gimmicks to hide the fact that it had failed to make the needed difficult decisions during the entire budget process in order to stick to the 1997 balanced budget agreement. The defense report designated $7.2 billion of routine operation and maintenance appropriations as ``emergency funding'' and exempts an additional $10.5 billion from the federal budget caps. Through that bill, the Congressional leadership tried to convince the public that a $267 billion budget only costs $249 billion. I simply could not support that tactic. The budget caps were set by Congress to keep federal spending in check and to help reach the goal of a balanced federal budget. House Republican leaders, in an attempt to circumvent the budget caps, have repeatedly designated traditional budget items as emergency funding. Any spending in excess of the budget caps threatens our ability to insure the long term solvency of Social Security and Medicare and to pay down the national debt. To call routine operations and maintenance an emergency item is an insult to every American. It is the same kind of budget trick the House leadership used when they say the upcoming 2000 Census is an emergency. The taxpayers should not, and will not, be fooled by this accounting slight-of-hand. Furthermore, pork-barrel projects permeated the bill, including $1.5 billion for a ship to be built in Mississippi that the Navy did not request, and $275 million for F-15 aircraft not requested. As Senator John McCain said on the floor of the Senate: ``I would have liked to have been able to . . . support the defense appropriations bill. Unfortunately, the smoke and mirrors budgeting at the core of this bill is too pervasive, the level of wasteful spending . . . is too irresponsible for me to acquiesce in its passage.'' The House should find the cuts needed to keep spending within the budget caps, rather than using money that should be spent paying down our national debt and preserving Social Security and Medicare for future generations. These budget gimmicks only serve to erode public confidence in the process and threaten the future of Social Security and Medicare. It was fitting that the vote on the defense conference report came just before Halloween. Congressional leaders tried hard to trick the public into believing the government's budget is all treat. Ultimately, I am very glad our troops are getting their pay raises, and I am very glad needed investments were made in the infrastructure which maintains our military readiness. I only wish I could have voted in favor the defense appropriations conference report as a symbol of my support for our troops and our national security interests. But such a symbolic act, when in my heart I believed the American people were being deceived, would have flown in the face of the very ideals for which our men and women in uniform carry out their duty. ____________________