(Senate - December 09, 2003)

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[Pages S16087-S16089]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                         OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS

  Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, let me begin by thanking my colleague, 
Senator Stevens, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, for the 
excellent work he has done on the bill that is now before the Senate, 
H.R. 2673, the omnibus appropriations bill. It consists of seven 
appropriations bills. Senator Stevens has consistently sought to avoid 
having omnibus appropriations bills. He has zealously tried to have all 
of the 13 appropriations bills pass on time before the beginning of the 
new fiscal year and sent to the President of the United States for his 
consideration. Senator Stevens has at all times been fair--eminently 
fair to me and to all members of the Appropriations Committee. I 
congratulate Senator Stevens. He is an excellent chairman. And I 
congratulate the other members of the committee, both Democrats and 
Republicans, for working together as they have on this bill and as they 
have always done as long as I have been on that committee; and that is 
45 years.
  I share the disappointment of the distinguished chairman of the 
Appropriations Committee. I share his disappointment. He has been 
valiant in his efforts. He has been consistent in his search for ways 
by which we can come together and pass a bill on time. I could ask for 
nothing more.

  Members of this Congress have a duty and a responsibility to the 
American people, to the men and women who send us to represent them in 
this great Capitol. Those men and women who send us to represent them 
in this Capitol do not expect us to rubberstamp legislation. They do 
not expect us to cash our own paychecks without doing the work that we 
were sent here to do. Senators are paid to be in the Capitol when votes 
are taken. Today is such a day, yet few Senators are present.
  The 1,182-page conference report before the Senate totals more than 
$328 billion. I hold my hand on the top of this 1,182-page conference 
report. Here it is. What a mammoth bill, 1,182 pages. Yet we were asked 
to adopt this mammoth piece of legislation by unanimous consent. The 
majority leader asked Senators for their consent to bring this bill up, 
which is in the form of a conference report, and pass it without a 
rollcall vote. Is that the way the American people want their business 
to be conducted?
  This bill totals more than $328 billion. It provides funds for 11 of 
15 Federal Departments. It wraps together the work of seven 
appropriations bills. This conference report funds our Nation's schools 
and highways, our veterans clinics, workplace safety initiatives, and 
medical research. It funds priorities that directly touch the lives of 
every American citizen. Yet Members of this body do not have the time, 
apparently, or the will, to be here at their desks in the Senate and 
vote on this mammoth piece of legislation. Instead of a rollcall vote, 
the majority leader sought unanimous consent to take up and pass this 
legislation by voice. My voice is not so good today but it is good 
enough to say no. I object to passing this bill without a rollcall.
  I announced my intention days ago to object to any unanimous consent 
request to pass this bill without a rollcall vote. I am here, at my 
place, as I said I would be. Senators may have travel plans or schedule 
conflicts. They may prefer to be in their home States or traveling 
around the globe rather than be here in the Capitol. Our responsibility 
is here in this Chamber when we have an appropriations measure of this 
nature, of this size, of this importance.
  Our responsibility is to work. Our responsibility is to debate and 
vote on this conference report. We should not have postponed this 
matter until next year. We should not have put this matter off for 
several weeks. There is no good excuse for putting this debate on hold.
  Now, stop and think for a moment. We have had since April to pass 
these seven bills. The budget resolution was adopted in early April, on 
April 11.

[[Page S16088]]

That gave us our directions and the Appropriations Committees could go 
forward at that time. Here we have been since April 11 and we have only 
passed and sent to the President of the United States six 
appropriations bills. So more than half of the total of 13 
appropriations bills are right here in this conference report and no 
Senator--no Senator and I daresay no House Members, perhaps a few--I 
will leave myself a little wiggle room--I can say no Senator has seen 
everything that is in this massive bill. No Senator, under God's 
heaven, knows everything that is in this conference report. No 
Senator's staff person knows everything that is in this conference 
report. This represents the people's business.
  It is the people's money and Senators are asked to come here today 
and vote no. They were asked to come and pass this massive piece of 
legislation without a rollcall vote. This is an abomination. The 
American people deserve better from us.

  I understand the reluctance of the majority leader. The leadership 
worries there may not be enough votes to pass the conference report and 
send it to the White House. But we would not know that until we voted. 
It is not unheard of to ask Members of the Senate to come back and 
vote. It has been done before. I have done it when I was majority 
leader. It has been done by other majority leaders. I don't criticize 
the current majority leader. He is doing what he thinks he has to do 
under the circumstances. But I think we all could have done better. I 
think the Members should have been asked to come back and do their work 
and finish the job, debate the conference report, have a rollcall vote 
and then go home for Christmas.
  Make no mistake, there are many problems with this conference report: 
contracting out Federal jobs, stripping employees of bipartisan job 
protections, voiding an effort to protect overtime protections 
established by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, taking away the 
right of as many as 8 million employees to earn time and a half for 
extra hours worked. Last minute closed-door changes would postpone 
country-of-origin labeling. Let me say that again: Last minute closed-
door changes would postpone country-of-origin labeling on meat and 
vegetables, robbing Americans from knowing where their food was grown 
for 2 years and breaking the balance crafted as part of the 2002 farm 
  The 1-year limitation on the FCC media ownership rule was turned into 
a permanent cap at 39 percent. The practical effect of changes demanded 
by the White House is to protect Rupert Murdoch's FOX Television 
Network and CBS-Viacom from having to comply with the lower 35-percent 
ownership caps a congressional version of the bill would put in 
place. The White House is boosting special corporate interests at the 
expense of the people's interest for balanced news and information.

  One could go on for quite some time ticking off the problems that are 
in this conference report, problems dictated to Congress by the Bush 
White House.
  There are many provisions within this package that never came before 
the Senate--never. Yet Senators were asked to buy a pig in a poke, to 
vote for a pig in a poke, unknown, unseen, yet vote by unanimous 
consent--no, not vote, but asked to pass this gargantuan piece of 
legislation here by unanimous consent without a rollcall vote.
  Can you imagine, $328 billion and not even a recorded vote? What 
would Everett Dirksen say today? He said: A billion here and a billion 
there and pretty soon you have a lot of money. He should be here today. 
There is $328 billion. That is $328 for every minute since Jesus Christ 
was born. That is a lot of money. We are asked to close our eyes, plug 
our ears--no debate, no questions asked--just hold your nose and vote 
for it. Hold your nose and say: Pass it without a vote. That is what we 
are asked to do.
  Four of the bills contained in this omnibus did not have a recorded 
vote in the Senate. One of the bills, the Commerce-Justice-State bill, 
was never even debated in the Senate, let alone adopted. Scores of 
provisions are included in the so-called Miscellaneous Appropriations 
Act portion of the conference report that were never debated in the 
House or Senate.
  Under pressure from the White House, provisions that were approved by 
both the House and the Senate have been dropped. Under pressure from 
the White House, controversial provisions that were written as 1-year 
limitations when they were before the House or Senate have been mutated 
into permanent changes in authorization law. Now, that is going a far 
piece--going a fer piece, I would say. Houdini was nothing when 
compared with what the conference did here under pressure from the Bush 
White House.
  In fact, the majority leadership created a new appropriations 
authority: the Miscellaneous Appropriations Act. That is a new one on 
me. There are 13 appropriations subcommittees, but I have yet to meet 
the chairman of the Subcommittee on Miscellaneous Appropriations.
  That section, whatever its genesis, is home to administration pet 
projects and priorities. Scores of provisions are included in the so-
called miscellaneous appropriations umbrella that were never debated in 
the House or Senate. Under direct pressure from the White House, 
provisions approved previously by both the House and the Senate have 
been dropped. Under pressure from the White House, controversial 
provisions originally crafted by the House or Senate as 1-year 
limitations, may I say again, have mutated into permanent changes in 
authorization law.
  This conference report includes an across-the-board cut that has 
never been debated in the Senate, an arbitrary cut that would apply to 
legislation already signed into law. It would cut homeland security. We 
are talking about your safety, and your safety, Mr. President, the 
safety of your home, your children, your grandchildren. Homeland 
security is the usual term. It would cut counterterrorism efforts. It 
would cut education and health care. This across-the-board cut would 
reach back into bills signed months ago and say: No, sorry. No, no, 
sorry, but that is just too much money. So we are going to take a 
little off the top.

  Apparently, in the view of the White House, the United States can 
afford $1.7 trillion in tax cuts. When it comes to the Medicare bill, 
we can afford $12 billion for subsidies for private insurance 
companies. When it comes to the Energy bill, we can afford over $25 
billion of tax cuts and $5 billion of mandatory spending for big energy 
corporations. But when it comes to initiatives funded in these 
appropriations bills, initiatives that help Americans every day, the 
President insists: Cut, cut, cut, cut. A cut of 0.59 percent would 
reduce funding for No Child Left Behind programs by more than $73 
million, resulting in 24,000 fewer children being served by title I.
  We are talking about this across-the-board cut now. This across-the-
board cut does not sound like it would be much, a cut of 0.59 percent, 
but what does it do to the No Child Left Behind program? It would 
reduce funding for the No Child Left Behind program by more than $73 
million, resulting in 24,000 fewer children being served by title I. 
Overall, the title I Education for the Disadvantaged program would be 
$6 billion below the level authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act 
that the President signed in January of 2002 with great fanfare--
another promise unfulfilled.
  The across-the-board cut would reduce Head Start funding by $40 
million, resulting in 5,500 fewer children attending Head Start. 
Veterans medical care funding would be cut by $159 million, resulting 
in 26,500 fewer veterans receiving medical care or 198,000 veterans not 
getting the prescription drugs they need.
  I spoke earlier about cuts in homeland security. The across-the-board 
cut would chop funding for homeland security initiatives. How many more 
baggage screeners would be laid off resulting in longer lines and less 
security at our airports? How many flights will have fewer air marshals 
on board? How many fewer flights will have air marshals on board? How 
many more containers will come into this country uninspected? How many 
more illegal aliens will be able to remain in this country or how many 
will be able to come into this country? This is a threat to the 
Nation's security. How many potential terrorists will never be 
investigated because of cuts in the FBI program?
  All this, and the distinguished majority leader sought consent that 

[[Page S16089]]

package be approved without a rollcall vote. That is no way to 
legislate. How would I feel facing my constituents and having to say: 
Well, it was getting close to Christmas and Members had other things 
they had to do; we did pass it; I wish now we would have had a rollcall 
vote but I wasn't there to object?
  That is no way to be accountable to the American people. Taxpayers of 
this country rightly expect Senators to be accountable for funds drawn 
out of the Federal Treasury. It is your money. How many times have we 
heard that? I say to those who are looking at the Senate Chamber today 
through those electronic lenses: It is your money. How can Members be 
accountable when they are scattered to the four winds across the globe? 
What kind of perversion of the appropriations process would result in 
Senators approving this monstrosity without a recorded vote?
  When Members took their oath of office, they pledged, standing right 
there at the Presiding Officer's desk with their hands on the Bible--
``so help me God,'' they said--that they would support and defend the 
Constitution. So we have a responsibility to faithfully discharge the 
duties of the office of U.S. Senator. We took a pledge to do that. We 
took an oath to do that. We took an oath before God and man to do that. 
Senators did not pledge to do so just when it was convenient or when 
the schedule permits.
  The House of Representatives saw fit to return to vote on this 
conference report. Why then could the Senate not do the same? We all 
get the same pay. Senators as well as House Members are paid to work 
for 12 months each year, not 10 months.
  Chairman Stevens and I worked with each Senator on the Appropriations 
Committee to produce 13 individual appropriations bills to send to the 
President. I have commended--and do so again--the senior Senator from 
Alaska for his effort, but the process was hijacked.
  By whom? Who is doing the hijacking? The Bush White House. The White 
House hijacked the process. The process was hijacked by the White House 
and the Republican leadership in both Houses. Instead of sending 13 
fiscally responsible appropriations bills to the President, the Senate 
was asked to close its eyes, plug its ears, and be gagged in order to 
rubberstamp a 1,182-page conference report combining 7 appropriations 
bills for 11 of the 15 Departments of the Federal Government, on an 
unrecorded approval of a unanimous consent request. No vote to it--no 
rollcall vote, no vote by division, no vote viva voce, no vote by 
voice, with only a handful of Senators. You could count the number of 
Senators in this Chamber on one hand this morning. This would be 
legislating without accountability.
  What is the use of having elections if the voters are prevented from 
knowing how their Senators voted on investing $328 billion of the 
people's money, your money? This is wrong. The people have a right to 
know how their elected representatives stand on this legislation which 
will affect the lives of so many.
  I am saddened by the majority leader's decision to postpone a vote on 
this legislation until January 20. This is no way to govern. We have 
had since April 11 to pass these seven bills. That is no way to serve 
the American people.
  I thank the Chair, and I thank all Senators. I yield the floor and 
suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.