(Senate - February 08, 2007)

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[Pages S1766-S1771]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                       CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS

  Mr. REED. Madam President, I want to speak very briefly about the 
resolution pending, H.J. Res. 20, the resolution that is funding the 
Government for the remainder of the fiscal year.
  I particularly want to talk about the veterans health care issues in 
this continuing resolution. This is not a perfect solution to the 
problem of funding our Government going forward. Nevertheless, it is, I 
believe, an equitable and fiscally responsible approach, particularly 
since we are trying to address the failure of the leadership in the 
last Congress to pass all the appropriations bills.
  We are in a very difficult position where this continuing resolution 
will get us through this fiscal year and allow us to begin to work on 
the following year 2008 fiscal year appropriations bills and budget so 
we can take all of those in regular order and hopefully pass them all 
by the end of this fiscal year, which would be September 30. The 
continuing resolution we are discussing today freezes the level of 
spending at most agencies at fiscal year 2006 levels, while at the same 
time increasing funding for priorities such as caring for our Nation's 
veterans. This is one of the key priorities Senator Byrd and others 
insisted upon. Frankly, I want to commend Senator Byrd for his 
leadership, as well as other members of the Appropriations Committee, 
for bringing this continuing resolution to the floor.
  The resolution before the Senate would make veterans funding a 
priority by adding $3.6 billion above the fiscal year 2006 appropriated 
levels for the VA health care system. This is one of the few areas 
where there is a substantial growth in spending, and it is appropriate. 
If we do not take care of our veterans, then we are breaking a trust 
that they established by serving valiantly in the uniform of the United 
States, and we are sending a very bad signal to those young men and 
women who serve today. We honor their sacrifice by taking care of 
today's veterans, and certainly giving them the confidence that they 
will be taken care of in the future.
  The VA estimates it will treat 219,000 more patients in fiscal year 
2007 than it did in fiscal year 2006. So obviously they need the 
increased resources. The VA estimates it will have 4.2 million more 
outpatient visits this year than it did in fiscal year 2006, and the 
Veterans' Administration estimates it will treat almost 26,000 more 
patients on an inpatient basis this year than it did last year. For 
medical services and administration not provided, this increase would 
mean that the VA would be short more than $250 million a month--not 
total but $250 million a month--in funding for critical medical 
services, leaving the VA with little

[[Page S1767]]

choice but to push out waiting times, defer maintenance, and put off 
purchasing new equipment.

  Included in this $3.6 billion increase is an additional $271 million 
for medical facilities. First-rate medical facilities are essential to 
deliver first-rate health care services to our veterans. The additional 
funding will ensure that leaky roofs and broken pipes will be fixed in 
a timely fashion. It also means there will be no disruption in food and 
dietetic services for veterans seeking inpatient care at any of our VA 
medical centers throughout the Nation.
  These are not designed to scare veterans or the American people, that 
the VA was close to facing some of these maintenance problems and some 
of these basic problems of feeding veterans at hospitals. That is the 
reality unless we act today. That is why it is so essential that we not 
only increase this funding for the Veterans' Administration but we also 
pass this continuing resolution in a timely fashion.
  We don't need to look too far back in history to see what 
shortchanges at the VA would mean. This Senate stood united on both 
sides of the aisle a year and a half ago when the administration's poor 
actuarial modeling and budget created a shortfall of almost $3 billion. 
It was the Congress that responded. If we do not pass this resolution, 
which includes the needed additional funding for the Veterans' 
Administration health care system, we will have no one to blame but 
ourselves for this shortfall.
  I don't think we can face veterans and active soldiers and say we did 
not pass this budget, this continuing resolution. That is why the 
resolution made veterans the No. 1 priority. They have defended this 
country bravely, honorably, and at a minimum we owe them this increase.
  I thank Chairman Byrd for his leadership. I urge my colleagues to 
swiftly pass this measure so we can continue to serve those veterans 
who have served this country so well.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Carolina is recognized.
  Mr. BURR. Madam President, I applaud the Senator from Rhode Island, 
my colleague, someone committed to standing up for what our veterans 
need. My hope is that we are not only fixing roofs in the future but we 
are actually updating facilities that need to be updated to be able to 
handle the increasing veterans population. Many of those facilities are 
in my State of North Carolina.
  I take somewhat of an objection to something he stated--that we are 
here today because of our lack of moving these bills in the last 
Congress. This Senate requires tremendous bipartisan support. Without 
that bipartisan support, things come to a screeching halt. That is what 
happened last year. It was described as an election. There were some 
who did not want to see an appropriations process happen.
  As a matter of fact, it happened some time ago in this Senate, when 
the majority and the minority were in different positions, when the 
majority came in and was handed the appropriations bills. We were in 
the majority. I wasn't here, but my understanding is that they went 
through days, if not weeks, of amendments. They came up with an omnibus 
bill. That is not what we did here.
  We are headed into 2007, the 110th Congress, but what was the action? 
The action today was that the majority leader came to the Senate and 
offered the resolution, filled the amendment tree, filed cloture, and 
went off the bill. We are debating this in morning business. We are not 
debating it as part of the resolution.
  Now, I correct my dear friend, Senator Specter, from Pennsylvania. He 
said no amendments would be offered. In fact, there were two amendments 
offered. They were offered by the majority leader. The first one was at 
the end of the resolution, this multipage document, add the following:

       This division shall take effect two days after the 

  And then he filed a second-degree amendment that said: In the 
amendment strike 2 and insert 1.
  Not a lot of substance to that amendment. Not much at all. As a 
matter of fact, it is hard to find someone here who can actually state 
what it means. And grammatically, what he has done is he has now 
changed the amendment to say: This division will take effect ``one 
days'' after date of enactment. That is how much attention the majority 
leader spent on his own amendments.
  Now, the fact that he did this, what does it do to the rest of us? It 
means we cannot offer amendments. It means that for those who are 
concerned with the BRAC process--which is a transformation of our 
military in the United States; it is a consolidation of our base 
structure; it is putting the right people at the right place, training 
for the right thing, so that America can be safer based upon new 
threats--what does it do? It doesn't fund any of it.
  Here is a process that is supposed to be complete by 2011, and in 
2007 we are going to fund none of what BRAC called for in the 
legislation passed by this body. In North Carolina, that is $300 
million to Fort Bragg alone. That money was to build barracks, a 
vehicle maintenance shop for the 4th Brigade Combat Team, and a 
multipurpose training range. Without these funds, none of that will be 
  As a matter of fact, I can say, just like my colleagues who came to 
the Senate floor, that our military bases are everyone's; they do not 
belong just to the States in which they are located. Our military 
leadership, our soldiers, our military families have begun this 
multiyear process to meet the requirements that Congress has given to 
them in the legislation we passed, and now we have done it without the 
funding. We risk not only placing communities and bases in disarray, 
but we will delay vitally needed transformation in our military.

  I don't understand how my colleagues on the other side of the aisle 
can look the American people in the eye, tell them they support our 
sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters overseas, 
and simultaneously refuse to add the critical funds needed to take care 
of those very same troops--their families, their children, their 
husbands, their wives, their children--here at home. But the actions of 
the majority leader have, in fact, accomplished just that because there 
is not an opportunity for me, or for Senator Hutchison, who is the 
ranking member on the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on 
Military Construction, to offer an amendment--one that would be 
overwhelmingly accepted. But if you allow one, potentially you have to 
allow another.
  Fort Bliss, TX, which is scheduled to absorb 17,000 soldiers and 
10,000 family members under BRAC, is losing $463 million because 
Congress did not fund it in this continuing resolution. Fort Benning, 
GA--$300 million that was going for barracks for the troops and a 
brigade training complex.
  What does this mean? It means that as we try to bring troops back in 
from Germany and other bases around the world--we have made a 
determination we do not need to forward-deploy like that--we can bring 
them back on our soil. They can be with their families in neighborhoods 
where they can feel like a part of the community instead of on foreign 
land where only the base is considered United States territory. It 
means we are going to have to keep them there, or we will have to bring 
them back here but not have the housing for them. I have gone through 
that in Fort Bragg. I have had 18- and 19-year-old soldiers living in 
1950s era barracks, and the Congress, in their infinite wisdom, was 
able to fund the type of housing that was needed at Fort Bragg and many 
other installations.
  Now, at a time when we have already planned for these families and 
these troops to come back, what does Congress say? I am sorry, we will 
not fund it in this bill? We are going to wait until 2008, and then it 
may or may not be funded? Maybe that is an objective on someone's part 
to try to knock BRAC off and to not have this consolidation. If it is, 
they have to question the decisions made by our military leaders and 
agreed to by Congress that said this is in our long-term best interest. 
It doesn't end with the discussion on BRAC, as sorry as I am to see a 
process that excludes our ability to effect the funding that is needed 
for military construction and for the base realignment and closure 
  Late last year, in the last week this Congress was in session in the 
109th Congress, we passed what I thought was one of the most important 
pieces of legislation the 109th Congress dealt

[[Page S1768]]

with. It dealt with the threat we are faced with from chemical, 
biological, radiological and nuclear threats, naturally produced, 
intentional, or accidental. It dealt with things such as anthrax and 
smallpox, Ebola and Marburg. We were challenged to try to revamp our 
entire structure of countermeasure research and development in this 
country, and I daresay by unanimous consent in the Senate and in the 
House of Representatives we passed that important bill, one that 
identified the problems we had in America but, more importantly, the 
problems we had with our ability to take basic research, in many cases 
funded by companies or by the National Institutes of Health, and to 
convert that basic research into a countermeasure, a vaccine, an 
antiviral that would give us the security of being able to look at the 
American people and say: If terrorists get ahold of anthrax, don't 
worry, we have something to protect you. We have a vaccine we can give 
you. If, by chance, Marburg, a disease, gets out of Africa, we have a 
countermeasure we can give to you if, in fact, you are infected.
  We were able to create this new entity which actually put the Federal 
Government in a position where we have facilitated the 
commercialization of that basic research, where we did not rely on only 
1 company out of 100 to succeed because somehow they were able to go 
into the private marketplace and find enough money to make it through 
this challenging drug and vaccine development and approval process 
designed in America. We created the Biomedical Advanced Research and 
Development Authority, referred to as BARDA. BARDA was the structure at 
the Department of Health and Human Services. It was a structure that 
was under development for 2 years in Congress--enough time that 
sunlight was brought to every piece of it. I daresay it was one of the 
most open processes this Senate has seen in some time. Members had the 
opportunity to address every word of every sentence of every paragraph 
of the bill. At the end of the day, they were convinced it was the 
right piece of legislation, and it was passed into law.
  There is only one problem. We have it in place now, and the 
continuing resolution doesn't fund it. Yes, $160 million was intended 
to be in the appropriations bills to kick start BARDA, to allow this 
structure to be set up under a new Assistant Secretary for Preparedness 
and Response and to begin to sort through the research being done at 
academic institutions across the country, small pharmaceutical 
companies, biotechnology companies, big PhRMA and to get them all to 
participate because for the first time they knew what the rules were.
  We added a number of biological agents to our threat list. That is a 
function the Secretary of Homeland Security does on a regular basis as 
we see new threats arise. When we increase the size of that threat 
list, that means somebody has the responsibility in the Federal 
Government to begin an intense research and development process to try 
to create a countermeasure for it. One would think at a time when we 
just doubled the size of that potential list of threats that it would 
be high on the priority list of the Congress of the United States to 
fund the only mechanism we have to actually create the countermeasures. 
But, no, in this particular continuing resolution, it is minus the $160 
million to fund BARDA.
  Even worse than that, there is no opportunity in this process to 
offer an amendment to a bill that 100 percent of the Senators present 
that day voted for, that the House voted unanimously for and the 
President signed into law just last December.

  On one side, we put our soldiers and their families on hold. To some 
degree, we put on hold the plans of our military leaders. On the other 
side, we recognize the threats we face from people who want to do bad 
things and from Mother Nature. We understand the responsibilities we 
have to prepare these countermeasures, these vaccines, these antivirals 
for the entire population, and we still cannot fund it. I guess we are 
not having the debate because we know it would become law, it would be 
funded. And if it was funded, then we would break the caps, so we would 
have to find somewhere else to get the money.
  I was willing to come to the floor and propose some ways to get the 
money or to propose to my colleagues that I thought it was important 
enough that we break the cap by $160 million, which I seldom do on this 
floor. This is in the face of not only the threats we know about, but 
it is also the threat of pandemic flu. It is those natural things such 
as pandemic flu that we cannot look down the road and know what is 
around the corner. But if we have the right mechanism in place and if 
it works and if it is tested, we can respond in an expeditious way and 
begin to have those things we think are so important for the American 
  BRAC will not be settled in this continuing resolution. We will put 
our military on hold. We will put the changes on hold. If that has an 
effect on our tempo--even at a time we are at war--I guess some have 
made a decision that is the way it is. As it relates to bioterrorism, 
chemical, biologic, radiological, even pandemic flu, we put that on 
hold, too, because we are not going to fund the creation of the 
  We did all that because of two amendments--two amendments--that were 
offered by the majority leader: ``At the end of the resolution add the 
following; this division shall take effect 2 days after date of 
enactment,'' and followed up by a secondary amendment that says, ``In 
the amendment strike 2 and insert 1.'' Now we have an amendment that 
says--or a law that says--this division shall take effect ``1 days'' 
after enactment--clearly, no thought. It is a nice way of shutting us 
out from offering amendments.
  I do not think the plan for this bill was to set a host of unlimited 
amendments. As a matter of fact, I hope and I believe we will finish 
the continuing resolution before the 15th, which is the date the 
Federal Government's money runs out. There is no scare or threat the 
Federal Government is going to run out of money and shut down. I think 
every Member is committed to do that. I am, too.
  But I think it is important that we come down and talk about the 
things we left out but, more importantly, that we point out to 
everybody the fact that we were not even given the opportunity to put 
them back in, that when we denied the ability of Members of the Senate 
to consider changes to a bill--much less not have a vote--we have cut 
the American people out of the process, we have cut out the people who 
send us here to represent them. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they 
do not, but they expect us to take a position.
  Well, that is what could have happened with two very valuable 
amendments, two that I believe would have overwhelmingly been accepted. 
Would it cause a little difficulty on our part trying to figure out 
where to take the money from? Probably so. But right now, in the scope 
of everything we are faced with, I cannot think of two more important 
things for us to have in this continuing resolution than to fund the 
troops, their families, their housing, their daycare, their schools, 
and to allow this transition in our military to take place as it 
relates to the consolidation of our bases around the world.
  I certainly cannot think of anything that gets very much higher on 
the priority list than to make sure we have the vaccines, the 
countermeasures, the antivirals one might need if, Heaven forbid, we 
were ever attacked using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear 
weapons or, in fact, Mother Nature is just so mean to us. In fact, the 
threat is so extensive to our country, we need to be prepared.
  We could be there. We will not be there, but we could. And it is all 
because of the choices that were used to move this bill.
  I thank the Presiding Officer for her indulgence, and I yield the 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas is recognized.
  Mr. CORNYN. Thank you, Madam President.
  Madam President, when we convened here in January, we had an 
unprecedented meeting of the new Members of the U.S. Senate, both 
Republican and Democratic, in the Old Supreme Court Chamber where the 
Senate used to meet. There were a lot of very nice speeches by the new 
majority leader, Senator Reid, and by the Republican leader, Senator 
McConnell, about efforts at bipartisan cooperation. I think those were 
welcomed by all of us and I think welcomed by the American people as 
well because, frankly, I think

[[Page S1769]]

they believe--and I think they are right--sometimes there is too much 
emphasis put on party and not enough emphasis put on the well-being and 
the welfare of the American people at large.
  Well, we had a good start. We started out on ethics and lobbying 
reform. As you will recall, we initially had a vote to close off 
debate, and we got over that minor hurdle after that cloture motion 
lost and we were able to shape a bill that got the support of an 
overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Senate on lobbying and ethics 
reform. So that was a good start.
  Then we moved on to the minimum wage and small business tax and 
regulatory relief. And we had, I guess, another period of testing 
there, people trying to figure out what all this new majority and new 
minority meant and how we might work together. Lo and behold, we got 
through that in a bipartisan way, and we passed a minimum wage bill, 
with small business tax and regulatory relief that, again, I think we 
could all look at and say: I don't agree with 100 percent of it, but on 
balance this is a good bill. This is the kind of thing we ought to be 
doing together.

  Well, I would say that notwithstanding that good start--and I think 
it was a good start--we have stumbled a little bit in recent days. We 
see a resolution on the Iraq war where we have requested the 
opportunity to present alternatives that reflect the diversity of views 
in the Senate. Yet the majority leader, in his wisdom, decided we were 
not going to have an opportunity to vote on those different views, some 
of which are espoused by his own caucus. So we are not able to get to a 
vote on any of those resolutions--yet. I predict they will come back. 
We will be back on those issues. The issue itself is not going to go 
away. We are going to have plenty of opportunities to vote on whether 
we are going to support our troops and the mission we have called upon 
them to do.
  But, here again, we have stumbled again on this continuing 
resolution. It is not, as we all know, technically speaking, a 
continuing resolution, which would be to continue the spending at 
levels of 2006 into the 2007 year. This is really what would probably 
more properly be called an Omnibus appropriations bill. Rather than 
breaking things down into their constituent parts and passing, let's 
say, a Department of Defense bill, a Labor, Health and Human Services 
bill, and different appropriations bills, this is one big, huge, 
appropriations bill and I think most appropriately called Omnibus 
  Although I will correct myself. I think this is really--if I had to 
give it a name, I would call it an ``Ominous'' appropriations bill. The 
reason I say that is for the reason that has been pointed out by a 
number of our colleagues today. What it does is it demonstrates an 
unwillingness to provide the financial resources necessary for our 
military during a time of war. And I think that is ominous. I hope it 
does not give us a foretaste of the future, when we have seen our 
military underfunded at times and resulting in a later effort to try to 
catch up.
  I remember the Secretary of the Department of Defense, Secretary 
Gates, just a couple days ago, in the Armed Services Committee, of 
which I am a member, said: Do you know what. We would accept a lower 
level of funding if it was kept relatively constant so we could 
actually plan rather than have the spikes and the valleys, the changes 
from year to year, from appropriations bill to appropriations bill.
  But my point is, this bill, by cutting $3.1 billion from our military 
during a time of war, is simply penny-wise and pound-foolish. I may be 
too generous when I say it is penny-wise because the money that is 
actually cut from the military is then distributed through a variety of 
other programs, which means in the end, when we pay the bill, which we 
ultimately will have to pay, we are going to add to the debt rather 
than--and we have seen $3.1 billion in new spending that could not 
otherwise be done without cutting the military--but causing us problems 
by exacerbating a deficit that none of us would like to see compounded.
  But I want to mention--because I just met with MG Robert Lennox, who 
is the commanding general at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX--El Paso will, 
as a result of this last Base Realignment and Closure Commission, 
receive an additional 20,000 new uniformed servicemembers and about 
25,000 in addition to that, for a total of 45,000 people, including the 
family members who will move there. The $3.1 billion that was cut from 
this bill will have a direct impact on General Lennox's ability to 
build the infrastructure necessary to accommodate those 45,000 
servicemembers and their families in El Paso, TX.
  It also will have an impact on places around Texas such as Camp 
Bullis where an Armed Forces Reserve Center is in jeopardy; places at 
Fort Sam Houston, which is a principal location for Army medicine; 
places such as Grand Prairie; Seagoville; Fort Worth Joint Reserve 
Base; Carswell Air Base; Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, my 
hometown; Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, TX; and Randolph Air 
Force Base, also in San Antonio, TX.
  All of those various programs to try to build the infrastructure and 
accommodate this Base Realignment and Closure Commission are in some 
jeopardy, and it is because our colleagues, the leadership on the other 
side, has determined that, without an opportunity for amendment, 
without an opportunity to vote on alternatives, we are going to take 
$3.1 billion from the military and give it to other programs and 
  The problem we have in an All-Volunteer military is that we depend 
not only on our ability to recruit service members but also to retain 
those service members in our All-Volunteer military. And, of course, 
quality of life issues are very important--housing, various facilities. 
Of course, I mentioned this earlier today, but the saying goes: You 
recruit a servicemember, you recruit an individual, but you retain a 
family because it is important we provide the services to sort of 
cushion the sacrifices that so many family members make when their 
loved one is serving in our Armed Forces.
  I am disappointed to see what started out as laudable efforts at 
bipartisan cooperation in the way we craft legislation on the floor of 
the Senate sort of degenerate into partisan railroading of important 
legislation. I fear what will happen is, when we come back to the 
supplemental appropriations bills that will be necessary to fund our 
military, we will then, out of these emergency supplemental 
appropriations, try to make up for this $3.1 billion.
  The only difference is that it will result in $3.1 billion in new 
spending rather than the required offsets that would be necessary to 
maintain fiscal responsibility. An amendment that the senior Senator 
from Texas and I have cosponsored, along with others, would provide 
such an offset. And if allowed to have a vote on that amendment, for 
less than a three-quarters of 1 percent, across-the-board cut in this 
Omnibus appropriations bill, exclusive of defense spending, we could 
restore the complete $3.1 billion that this current Omnibus 
appropriations bill cuts. We could tell our men and women in the 
military that we not only appreciate and support them but actually back 
that up with real action and a real financial commitment to make sure 
they have what they need.
  I am disappointed that after we got off to such a good start in terms 
of bipartisan cooperation, we find ourselves now where the majority 
party is attempting to dictate the terms of this Omnibus appropriations 
bill, without any input, without any opportunity for votes on any 
amendments that some of us believe are in the best interests of the 
military and in the best interests of the country. It represents an 
unfortunate and unwelcome development.
  In the end, I predict the new majority will learn what the old 
majority learned, that no single party gets to dictate how things 
happen around here because of the 60-vote requirement to close off 
debate. The magic number, of course, for the majority is 60. The magic 
number for the minority is 41. That gives us the power we need to get a 
seat at the table. But it is clear that the majority leader has made a 
calculation that he can pass this legislation without any contribution, 
any amendments, any opportunity to vote on important amendments. 
Unfortunately, not only is the kind of bipartisan cooperation we 
started off with during the first month we have been here in January 
the loser, I am afraid as a result of this ill-advised cut in our 
military that our military is the loser as well.

[[Page S1770]]

  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Whitehouse). The Senator from Ohio.
  Mr. VOINOVICH. Mr. President, I rise to address my serious concern 
about our consideration of H.J. Res. 20, an Omnibus appropriations 
measure, rather than completing our work on the remaining 2007 
appropriations bills. As my colleagues are well aware, fiscal year 2006 
appropriations expired on September 30, 2006. And with the exception of 
the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the Federal 
Government is currently operating on its third temporary continuing 
resolution set to expire next week. We are now considering a fourth 
continuing resolution, H.J. Res. 20, to fund the Government through the 
end of the fiscal year.
  Passage of a continuing appropriations resolution, as some have 
incorrectly labeled it, is not the solution to our outstanding 
appropriations obligations. This de facto Omnibus appropriations bill 
covers almost 50 percent of the Federal discretionary budget at a cost 
of $463.5 billion. Repeatedly managing by continuing resolution, as we 
have done for nearly half a year, is inherently wasteful and 
inefficient. It results in wasteful spending, disruption and chaos in 
the operations of Federal programs, and dramatic productivity 
slowdowns. So many of our agencies have been in limbo during the last 
several months.
  In recent years, many Federal departments have taken positive steps 
toward streamlining their budgets and tightening the reins of their 
daily operations, conduct that ought to be rewarded. Instead, when 
Congress failed to complete its appropriations work on time, these 
departments were forced to put critical projects on hold.
  Such a funding shortfall has particularly adverse effects on human-
capital-intensive agencies, such as the Government Accountability 
Office where attracting and retaining good employees is critical to 
running a competitive and productive organization. Agencies such as the 
GAO have made it clear that without budget certainty, they risk losing 
top-quality personnel. They are unable to properly recognize and reward 
individuals for good service which often pushes employees to look for 
other nongovernment opportunities.
  For too long we have allowed a negative perception of Government 
workers to dominate our thinking, and we have not committed the 
necessary resources to funding and keeping capable, hard-working civil 
servants. This human capital problem contributes to a negative 
perception of the Federal Government, and it prevents important 
departments and agencies from providing their customers, our 
constituents, with the necessary goods and services they deserve.
  Just think of somebody who is thinking about coming to work for the 
Federal Government and they have heard that we haven't been able to 
pass a budget or appropriations around here for 5 months. What kind of 
an organization do they think we are?
  This added pressure on human capital is not limited to the GAO. In 
fact, there are lots of similar agencies, such as the SEC, the FBI, and 
the IRS, which experienced the same problem over these past 5 months. 
There are going to be horror stories all through this year as a result 
of the fact that we are going to pass a continuing resolution or an 
omnibus resolution.
  Additionally, long-term budget uncertainty caused many companies with 
Government contracts to lay off people. Our inability to complete the 
appropriations work prevented agencies and departments from adequately 
planning programs and ultimately interfered with the timely award of 
contracts. So for the past 5 months, contractors have been uncertain 
whether work would be available and were forced to put a freeze on 
hiring. I understand that.

  Two years ago, I had a nephew working for a company that had a 
contract with NASA. They said: They haven't passed the budget. They 
laid everybody off. And it wasn't until several months later that 
finally they could bring people back on. By that time, they had lost 
half their people.
  Sometimes programs are ineffective, and their budgets should be 
reduced or eliminated. For example, under the normal appropriations 
process, the House would have terminated 53 programs, for a savings of 
$4 billion. Well, an omnibus can reduce the budget, but it goes about 
it in entirely the wrong fashion. Instead of undergoing negotiations 
and discussions over the individual merit of specific programs, the 
omnibus indiscriminately cuts and appropriates funds. This is neither a 
thoughtful nor responsible approach to managing our budget.
  On the flip side, there are many programs and agencies in which we 
ought to be investing more resources. By failing to pass the 
outstanding appropriations bills and by passing an omnibus bill 
instead, we are ignoring America's infrastructure which is the 
foundation of our economy. Our physical infrastructure is a critical 
component of making America more competitive and maintaining our 
quality of life for future generations. But if we keep up this attitude 
toward our fiscal obligations, if we continue ignoring the upkeep of 
our infrastructure, we risk tremendous disruptions to our commerce and 
decrease protection against natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina was a 
wake-up call for all of us and makes the point. Had we completed our 
appropriations work on time and adequately funded the Army Corps of 
Engineers, we would have been attending to the needs of the country. 
For nearly half a year, we could have brought in more civil engineers, 
increased construction, designed stronger levees, and made real 
progress on improving water infrastructure. Instead, we are 5 months 
behind in the construction of our infrastructure and even further 
behind keeping our Nation competitive and safe.
  What about our dependence on foreign sources of energy. I still 
believe one of this Nation's most pressing challenges is reforming our 
national energy policy. Finding a way to harmonize our energy, 
economic, and environmental concerns is critical to keeping our Nation 
strong. I know my colleagues here today agree with me that we need a 
second declaration of independence and that we must invest in new, 
alternative forms of energy. This body failed to complete its 
appropriations work on time, and now we have uncertainty at a critical 
moment when we are trying to free ourselves from entanglements in the 
Middle East and increase our competitiveness in the global marketplace.
  If we had funded the appropriations in the routine manner 5 months 
ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could have been preparing for 
the estimated eight applications it expects to receive this year from 
the nuclear energy industry for the construction of new nuclear 
reactors. Let me add the NRC anticipates receiving an additional 22 
applications next year. They have been furiously working to prepare for 
this tidal wave of construction which requires hiring an additional 300 
or more people. They haven't been able to do it because the budget 
hasn't been there because we have been fiddle-faddling around over 
  Yet our failure to act has delayed this process. It has introduced 
uncertainty for both the NRC and the nuclear energy industry at a time 
when we cannot afford to be dependent on foreign sources of oil. Our 
inability to fulfill our fiscal responsibilities has put the NRC 5 
months behind in preparation, and it has put the country behind on the 
road to energy independence.
  It is not just the Federal Government that suffers. States, counties, 
cities all depend on funding from Washington. I was a county 
commissioner. A part of our budget was the Federal budget. I was mayor 
of Cleveland. Part of our budget was Federal money coming into the 
city. All of these local governments, State governments right now have 
been in limbo trying to figure out when we are going to do our job.
  Maintaining and improving America's transportation system is also 
vital to our economy, the environment, and the welfare of the American 
people. The Interstate Highway System is one of the country's greatest 
public works projects but requires a Federal investment. States plan 
their highway construction programs for the coming year based on their 
anticipated Federal funding set by SAFETEA-LU. By failing to pass the 
2007 Transportation appropriations bill, States could not plan for the 
future and were forced to delay construction projects for the upcoming 

[[Page S1771]]

  I will get a report on that from around the country on all the 
projects that are going to be delayed because we didn't do our work or 
that are not going to move forward.
  In my State of Ohio, for instance, construction costs and increased 
inflation forced our Department of Transportation to cancel and 
postpone nearly $450 million in highway projects. They didn't know what 
they were going to get.
  Democrats have a right to point fingers at Republicans for failing to 
complete their work on the outstanding appropriations before December. 
But let's be clear, Democrats behaved equally poorly when they lost the 
majority in 2002. At that time, Majority Leader Daschle was unable to 
pass a budget for 2003. Subsequently, Democrats did not complete their 
work on appropriations before going home for the winter recess. When we 
came back in January 2003, we took up the issue of appropriations 
within 3 days. We passed three continuing resolutions through February 
20, at which point the Senate voted on an omnibus bill, much the same 
as we are doing today.
  The fact is, we both have dirty hands. This is not just a Democratic 
or Republican issue. Both parties have acted irresponsibly. Congress 
has the power of the purse, but we are not the best steward of the 
taxpayers' money if time and time again we blindly pass omnibus bills 
and fund programs without accounting for how those programs are 
  These are not isolated instances. Let me point out--and the public 
should know--in 25 of the past 30 years, Congress has failed to enact 
all the appropriations bills by the start of the fiscal year. In fact, 
the last time Congress enacted appropriations bills by the September 30 
deadline was 1997. And for 17 of the past 30 years, Congress has had to 
combine two or more appropriations bills together in omnibus and 
minibus legislation. When are we planning to get it done on time? By 
failing to do our job, we are starving the executive branch of 
Government and preventing it from doing its job. This is irresponsible.
  One way around this annual appropriations problem is to convert the 
annual budget cycle into a biennial or 2-year cycle. This would save 
Congress valuable time eaten up every year debating appropriations 
matters. We spend most of our time on agency appropriations, on the 
budget, and no time on oversight. Under biennial budgeting, we would 
convert the annual budget, appropriations, and authorizing processes 
into a 2-year cycle. The first year would be reserved for the budget 
and appropriations process. The second year would be to conduct 
oversight and pass authorizing legislation. This would leave Congress 
more time to examine programs to determine which are wasteful, which 
should receive more funding and which should be terminated altogether. 
Congress would have more time to finish its business by the deadline 
the law imposes.
  A 2-year budget proposal is long overdue. We have been talking about 
this since I came to the Senate in 1999, Senator Domenici and I and 
many others. We ought to reintroduce that bill. In fact, I intend to 
reintroduce that bill with several of my colleagues to see if we can't 
go to a 2-year budget cycle.
  Operating without a budget impacts our effectiveness in fighting the 
war on terror. It affects our ability to maintain and improve our 
transportation infrastructure and enhance our education system. You 
will be hearing more about that from Senator Alexander. It further 
contributes to the public perception that Congress has no appreciation 
of the importance of management and the impact of our irresponsible 
conduct on the delivery of services to the people in the States--our 
constituents. It is incredible to me, as someone who has been a mayor 
and Governor, that the Senate has not completed its appropriations 
  In Ohio, the law mandated that we complete our appropriations 
responsibilities by the end of the year. And it was the same way when I 
was mayor of the city of Cleveland. The city charter mandated that we 
do our work. If we had not completed our budget and appropriations 
work, we would have been reprimanded by the media roundly and recalled 
by the voters. Of course, we were also bound to balance our budget, 
which this body has been unable to do since 2000.

  We have been on the path of fiscal irresponsibility for too long. 
Given the facts, it is an indication to the American people that we are 
not doing our job, our work. Congress may hold the power of the purse, 
but we undermine our credibility by starving good managers and agencies 
of necessary resources and by turning a blind eye to failing programs. 
This is about more than allocating funds, it is about good management 
and good public policy.
  All of us, on a bipartisan basis, should pledge that we will not 
shirk our responsibilities by passing a de facto omnibus piece of 
legislation. As important, at this stage of the game, we should vow, 
all of us--the majority leader and our minority leader should come 
together on the floor of the Senate and pledge to the American people 
that we are going to pass our budget, and we are going to get our 
appropriations done by the deadline we are supposed to have it be done 
by, so next year we are not repeating the same thing we have this year.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee is recognized.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has that right. We are now in 
morning business.