|9:58 AM EDT||
Tom Reynolds, R-NY 27th
Mr. REYNOLDS. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 318 and ask for its immediate consideration.
|9:59 AM EDT||
Tom Reynolds, R-NY 27th
Mr. REYNOLDS. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. SLAUGHTER), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 318 provides for the consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 2084, the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2000.
The rule waives all points of order against the conference report and against its consideration. The rule also provides the conference report will be considered as read.
Mr. Speaker, this bill provides for appropriations for the Department of Transportation and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2000. The legislation before the House this morning is vitally important to both the safety and the efficiency of travel and transportation in the United States.
The bill provides for the necessary resources for America's highways and airports, our railroads and public transportation facilities, and safety in all forms of transportation.
Mr. Speaker, ensuring the safety of American motorists, fliers, and travelers is this Government's highest responsibility, and clearly this bill addresses those needs and concerns. Indeed, the underlying legislation represents an increase in safety measures and resources in every area of America's transportation system, from the Coast Guard, to the Federal Aviation Administration, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
And even while we ensure adequate and appropriate financial resources to meet those needs, our conferees have met the challenge, while practicing fiscal responsibility and bipartisan cooperation, maintaining the fiscal restraints adopted in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
I commend my friend and colleague, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. WOLF), the chairman of the Committee [Page: H9202]
on Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. SABO), for their hard work in crafting a responsible bipartisan bill.
I urge my colleagues to support this rule and the underlying bill.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
|10:04 AM EDT||
Tony P. Hall, D-OH 3rd
Mr. HALL of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. DIAZ-BALART) for yielding me the time, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
This rule makes in order consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 1906 which is the agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 2000. The rule waives all points of order against the conference report.
Mr. Speaker, the conference report was not written by the members of the conference committee. It was pretty much written by the House and the Senate leadership. Frustration among Democrats is running so high that a few days ago, the ranking Democrat on [Page: H9211]
the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR), took out a special order to detail this process for
The conference report contains many shortcomings. The measure fails to include a Senate provision exempting food and medicine from unilateral embargoes. This policy, I think, hurts the weakest and most needy people in foreign countries, and we should never use food as a weapon.
Leaving out this exemption also hurts the American farmers whom we are trying to help through this bill. The $1.2 billion in natural disaster assistance is inadequate for drought-stricken farmers and victims of Hurricane Floyd. The drought was particularly hard hitting for farmers in the Midwest and Northeast.
I am afraid the conferees, or whoever wrote this bill, missed a wonderful opportunity to assist farmers and help the needy at the same time. There is a natural link between support for farmers and the food safety net, and this measure does little to strengthen it. By buying commodities for humanitarian aid, we would boost prices for farmers, provide new markets for America's agriculture industry, and help the hungry here and abroad.
Despite my concerns about this bill, I think that the rule is in good shape. It is a standard rule for conference reports. I urge adoption of the rule.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
|10:19 AM EDT||
Bernie Sanders, I-VT
Mr. SANDERS. Mr. Speaker, I hope that the Members are listening to what the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR) was saying about process, and I hope that regardless of our political philosophy, we will oppose this bill if for no other reason than we think the Committee on Appropriations itself should be making the decisions and not a hand full of people in the House leadership.
I would like to ask the gentlewoman a question. I am concerned about dairy. All Members know that last week by a vote of 285 to 140, the Members of this body overwhelmingly defeated the administration's market reform proposal and voted for option 1 A. I wonder if the gentlewoman will tell me how much time the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations spent in debating and discussing the bill that was passed
on the floor of the House by two to one; was it 5 hours? Was it 10 hours? I wonder if the gentlewoman could inform our Members on this issue?
|10:20 AM EDT||
Bernie Sanders, I-VT
Mr. SANDERS. So what the gentlewoman is saying, that despite the fact that 285 Members of this body, Democrats, Republicans, Independent, voted overwhelmingly to reform our milk marketing order. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee did not spend 1 minute in discussing that issue, and of course what we voted for is not part of the bill that we are supposed to be voting on now.
|10:21 AM EDT||
Marcy Kaptur, D-OH 9th
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for that comment.
I thank the gentleman, and I apologize for taking this many minutes, but it is the only time I have been able to be unmuzzled through this whole process, so it feels sort of good.
I just want to also want to state for the RECORD that in terms of the way this committee functions, when I first got to Congress, and I used to go to Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee meetings, there would be people that would come in and testify from around the country. They would talk about the country's needs. In addition to that we heard from Members of Congress, and they would come in, and they would talk to us about how
they view the situation, whatever it might be in their area. And then we heard from people from the Executive Branch, and they would come in and they would make their plea. I always thought that the Committee on Appropriations ought to leave Washington and go out into the country and hold some hearings out there too. We never did that.
But in the last 3 years, what has happened is all outside witnesses have been asked not to come to our committee, and so we began to hear from the narrower band of people. And then this year, even the Members of Congress were not brought into our committee; they were told we will just send a letter. And so we were left only, Mr. Speaker, with dealing with people from the administration.
But the point is, whether it is the way this bill was handled or whether it is the way we are receiving information about the needs of rural America and agriculture in our country the viewing lens has gotten extremely myopic, Mr. Speaker, and that affects the way a bill looks when it comes forward here onto the floor of Congress. [Page: H9213]
So, Mr. Speaker, I would beg my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the rule based on the way we have been treated. This is an emergency situation. If the leadership hears us, we can produce a bill that meets the needs of our country. We have had no conference report to look at. Members on our side, and I would daresay I would guess Members on the other side on our committee, have had no materials to really review. Then late last night after midnight, the Rules Committee met and then we were directed
to come to the floor first thing in this morning. Members are saying to us, ``Jeez, are you really up at 10 o'clock in the morning with the agriculture appropriation?''
But yes, we are, and yet we have not had the opportunity even for an orderly briefing by our own conferees. Then some members ask us to put in the $500 million for natural disaster in that was inserted in the Labor, Health, and Human Services bill yesterday into this bill, but procedurally we cannot do it. So we are asking the Members to help us produce a good bill.
We can do this. Give us the chance to do this. Please vote no on the rule. Please vote no on the bill when it comes before the membership.
Mr. Speaker, with the crisis in rural America, the country knows we need to do the right job here. Give us the chance to do it.
|10:24 AM EDT||
L. Diaz-Balart, R-FL 21st
Mr. DIAZ-BALART. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I think that we have just seen in the last two distinguished speakers a beautiful example of democracy genuinely at work. The first speaker that we heard said that he was opposing this legislation because he feels that it is spending approximately $10 billion too much; a very distinguished Member of this House, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. MILLER).
We then heard another very distinguished Member of this House, the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR) explain in detail why she is opposing this legislation, one of the reasons being why, it is, in her estimate, not spending billions enough.
There is obviously a disagreement, but that is democracy. Some feel too much is being spent, others feel too little is being spent.
I think it is appropriate at this time, if I may, if I could take just a few minutes to explain what the bill is doing. It has been on line since we finished meeting in the Committee on Rules last night and has been available for reading.
Thirteen, almost 14, billion dollars, $13.988 billion, are in this conference committee report for agriculture; $8.7 billion to provide emergency aid to help farmers, including 1.2 billion for natural disasters; 5.5 billion for market loss payments, including 125 million for dairy producers; 650 million for crop insurance premium subsidy and for crop insurance associated costs.
With regard to supporting farmers in rural America, the Farm Service Agency, salaries and expenses are increased by $80 million over last year to continue the delivery of the farm ownership, farm operating, and disaster loan programs. Total funding is $796.8 million, which is the same as the President's request. Total loan authorization levels for agricultural credit programs are increased by $798.3 million over last year. Total loan authorization funding is $3.083 billion which is 74.6 million
above the President's request. Rural housing loan authorizations are increased by $337.7 million over last year, including 334.7 million for single family housing. Total loan authorization funding is $4.589 billion which is $14.3 million above the President's request. Rental assistance programs are restored to the fiscal 1999 level of 640 million, an increase of 200 million over the President's request. The rural electric and telephone loans are 1.05 billion above the fiscal year
1999 levels. Total loan authorization funding is $2.612 billion, which is 1.54 billion above the President's request. The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program loan authorization is increased by $50 million over last year, bringing fiscal year 2000 loan level to $200 million, which is the same as the President's request. Agricultural research activities are increased by $76 million over last year. Total funding is 1.837 billion, which is 12 million over the President's request.
Conservation operations activities are increased by $20 million over last year, bringing them to 661 million, 19 million below the President's request. Protecting human health and safety, the Food Safety Inspection Services, increased by $32 million over fiscal year 1999 for a total of 649 million, approximately the same as the President's request. The Food and Drug Administration is funded at $1.186 billion, $83 million more than fiscal year 1999, $69 million below the President's request.
Fulfilling commitments to important food and nutrition programs, the child nutrition programs are funded at almost $10 billion, an increase of $377 million over fiscal 1999, 11 million below the President's request. The special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, WIC, is funded at $4.032 billion, an increase of $108 million, 73 million below the President's request. The Food Stamp Program is funded at $21.073 billion. The Food For Peace Program is funded at 976 million,
an increase of 38.7 million above the President's request, and yet a decrease of 105 million below the fiscal year 1999.
Title IX of the bill provides provisions regarding mandatory livestock price reporting which will provide information regarding the marketing of cattle, swine, lamb, and livestock prices that can be easily understood by packers and will encourage competition.
My colleagues saw I had not mentioned the issue of sanctions, and I feel very strongly about that issue. The authorizing committee feels very strongly. The chairman, the gentleman from New York (Mr. GILMAN), sent a letter saying that if there is one issue that should not be dealt with in the Committee on Appropriations as a rider but that should be dealt with by the authorizing committee, it is an issue as sensitive as authorizing and financing sales to terrorist states. Yet the issue
has been brought up. I just want to make one point with regard to Cuba, because the distinguished gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR) mentioned it.
One word to those interests who feel that it is appropriate now to sell to and finance to the Cuban dictatorship: irrespective and over and above the ethical questions, which obviously are important, it is not good business practice to do business, to make sales and finance them, with the jailers of the Vaclav Havels and Lech Walesas of that imprisoned island. They will be the future leaders of Cuba that will be making the decisions that are of so much import, that are so important, to so many
If you do not want to base yourselves on ethics, base yourselves on the fact that the future leaders of democratic Cuba, many of them are in prison today, and it is not good business practice to be cozying up and financing sales with their jailers. I bring that point up because it was brought up previously; secondly, because the authorizing committee made its views known very clearly; and, thirdly, because the Committee on Appropriations as well voted earlier in the summer on that issue and rejected
it. So I wanted to bring that out on the RECORD.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN).
|10:32 AM EDT||
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL 18th
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time and also for the great leadership that he has shown on the Committee on Rules.
I rise in support of the rule, Mr. Speaker, to the conference report on the agriculture appropriations bill. I applaud the work of the conferees in submitting a clean bill and one which upholds U.S. law and furthers U.S. domestic and humanitarian priorities.
As the gentleman from Florida (Mr. DIAZ-BALART) pointed out, the lifting of sanctions would not have really helped American farmers, but would have helped to extend the suffering of people by providing a lifeline to their oppressor.
As it stands now, the bill before us strengthens the position of human rights dissidents and the expanding political opposition by telling them that the world's remaining superpower supports their struggle for freedom and that it stands firm in its commitment to see democracy flourish; that it defends the human, political and civil rights of all oppressed people, and that [Page: H9214]
dictators should not use food as weapons.
This bill underscores the humanitarian concerns enshrined in U.S. law which allows for the donations of food and medicine, rather than promoting the perception of greed at the expense of slave labor.
We look forward to the day when freedom reigns eternal and a democratic government is in power everywhere. Then we will be proud to trade and have relations with those in leadership.
This bill promotes America's interests, it helps America's farmers, it helps the poor who are on food stamps, and I am proud to support it.
I thank the gentleman for his leadership. I especially thank the gentleman from New Mexico (Chairman SKEEN), the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DELAY), and so many who have worked in the conference committee to bring this agriculture appropriations rule and bill to the floor.
|10:41 AM EDT||
Ray LaHood, R-IL 18th
Mr. LAHOOD. Mr. Speaker, if you want to save the family farm, I suggest that you vote for this rule and vote for this bill. This bill helps family farms.
I represent one of the largest agricultural districts in the country, 14 counties in central Illinois, hog producers, corn producers, soybean producers, people who have made their living for years and years and years on the good black soil of central Illinois.
What I have been doing is traveling around my district throughout the summer and the fall, and what I found is there are two economies in America. There is the booming economy, where you drive around your district and every fast-food restaurant says ``hiring for all positions.'' Americans are doing well; they are investing in the stock market. That is the one economy.
The other economy is the agriculture economy, which is in a recession; and if you are a hog producer, you are in a depression. Many of the hog producers in my districts have gone out of business, and many of the corn and soybean producers in my district are hurting very badly.
This bill helps them. Just because you feel you were shut out or you were not a part of the final negotiations, why should we sell short then those people who badly need this assistance? I say to all of you who represent agriculture, all of you who represent hard-hit farmers, this is the time to step up and vote for a bill that provides the needed assistance.
Now, you can say all you want about Freedom to Farm. You can criticize it. Many people have. I have not heard any criticism of Freedom to Farm for the first 3 years that it was in existence. Not one word have I heard.
This year we have. You know why? Because we got lousy markets. The Asia market is lousy, Russia is a mess, we never passed Fast Track. That is the reason behind Freedom to Farm.
One of the successes of Freedom to Farm is you have to have markets. We do not have the markets. Every time I have met with Secretary Glickman, Secretary Bill Daley, they ask, when are we going to pass Fast Track to open up the South American market? We need trade. We need markets in order for our farmers to survive.
So I say to the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, the gentleman [Page: H9215]
from Texas (Mr. COMBEST), thank you for agreeing to hold hearings next year on Freedom to Farm. We are going to have a debate on that. But because you do not like Freedom to Farm, do not vote against the rule, do not vote against the bill.
We have farmers all over America, either because of a drought, which we have not experienced in central Illinois, or because of lousy prices because we do not have the markets which are in a recession, and this bill helps them. So if you want to help hard-hit farmers, this is your opportunity today to do it. Vote for the rule, vote for the bill, and we will help them get out of this recessionary period.
This is an opportunity for Congress and the government to step up and help those who need the help. I say vote for the rule, vote for the bill, and we will help our hard-hit farmers.
|10:44 AM EDT||
Maurice Hinchey, D-NY 26th
Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Speaker, if the previous speaker has not heard any criticism of Freedom to Farm, he has not been listening. The criticism has been loud and clear from the moment that bill came to the floor. In fact, so much so that over the past several years people in the farm belt are calling it no longer Freedom to Farm but freedom to starve, but that is not the issue before us today.
The issue before us right now is the rule governing the agricultural appropriations bill. There are good things in that agricultural appropriations bill, and they were put in there by the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies in this House and the other body.
I want to say that I have the greatest respect for the chairman of our Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. I do not think there is a man in this body who is held in greater affection than is the gentleman from New Mexico (Mr. SKEEN), but the process was wrested from his hands just as it was wrested from the hands of all of the rest of us all who were members of that conference committee; and the result is disaster and this
rule continues that disaster because it does not give us the opportunity to offer to the full body here, all the Members of this House, the opportunity to vote up or down on critical issues.
Ought we not open some of these markets? The market in Cuba alone represents $800 million a year for agricultural producers in this country. We are providing $5.5 billion of subsidies, some of it going to people telling them not to grow anything, while we are depriving them of an $800 million-a-year market right offshore. That is true of other markets as well that are closed to us, open to our allies but closed to us only because we adhere to an archaic principle founded in the Cold War that
is no longer relevant to anyone anywhere on this planet, except for a narrow group of people in this country who are controlling this process. It is the height of absurdity.
Furthermore, we are deprived from having the opportunity to vote up or down on a dairy provision which will save dairy farms in New England, in New York, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the coastal Atlantic States. We are deprived of that because this is a bad rule. Vote ``no'' on this rule.
|10:46 AM EDT||
Dan Miller, R-FL 13th
Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. DIAZ-BALART) for yielding me this additional time.
Mr. Speaker, since I am not going to be able to get time under the general debate on the conference report, I appreciate the opportunity to speak once again. I think the process, I have to agree with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, it is very limited and everybody gets what they want within that small group. I do not agree with my colleagues on everything because I think one of the good things in the bill is they did not put a dairy provision in there. That is the utter nonsense
of the whole agriculture program is dairy, and I am delighted that that was not included in that.
I am also glad that the chairman of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies will be having hearings on Freedom to Farm and I will be able to bring up issues of sugar and peanuts and such.
One of the problems about this whole agricultural subsidy program is that only one-third of the farmers in this country get to benefit from this. I am not advocating that the other two-thirds get it. I think we should open up to the free market.
Let me give some numbers we have here. The third that get benefit out of this receive an average subsidy of $24,000 a crop year. Now they are going to get $35,000 a year in subsidies, $35,000 a year per farmer for just those one-third of the farmers.
Now, we had a debate under Labor-HHS and on the welfare issue that the average welfare family of three gets $12,000 a year, but we are going to give $35,000 a year to the farmer and the statistics will show only 57 percent of it goes to families of limited resource and small family farms; 43 percent of it goes to these big corporate farms, retirement farmers, residential life-style, the hobby farmer.
So it is not really helping the small farmer as much because we are just providing $8 billion. That is what is frustrating about this bill. I voted for it, I believe, when it came originally on the floor of the House, keeping the process moving forward; but we had $8 billion added without any hearing, without any participation, getting it in the middle of the night, and it is very frustrating.
So for fiscal conservatives, I urge their opposition to this particular appropriation bill. I do this, as I say, with great reluctance.
|10:49 AM EDT||
John Baldacci, D-ME 2nd
Mr. BALDACCI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. HALL) for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this rule. I rise in opposition to this conference report. There is not a Member on either side of this aisle that can go home and look their farmers in the eye and say that we brought home a fair deal. There is not enough money in this conference agreement to take care of all of the natural disasters across the United States.
I know that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle think that they have the power to add an additional month to the calendar year and in some cases have even invoked Scottish law in terms of U.S. law. I know there has even been an attempt to try to change the Constitution and say that the census is an emergency, but the fact of the matter is that there are disasters and droughts that are going on throughout this country that cannot be controlled, even though some think that they
can control the weather.
The drought and those disasters are impacting throughout this country even to today, and just in the Northeast alone we are talking about $2.5 billion in crop losses; Pennsylvania, $700 million, less than $3 million being allowed for in this bill; New York, $370 million. How much money is in this bill to help New York? Maine, $31 million. Less than $1 million is available in this legislation. Virginia, $200 million; Ohio, $600 million. Disasters that have occurred on the East Coast in 13 East
Coast States, very little, if any, assistance is being provided or available to them. Those are natural disasters.
Those pigs that are floating in the waters in North Carolina are real. We see them on our TV screens every night, and we talk to our friends here in the House that have been impacted, not to say anything of the toxic waste and the underground piles that are floating throughout the country both in North Carolina and in the South.
We do not have enough assistance, and a promise that $500 million additional in a Labor-HHS bill is going to be available for disaster assistance is not good enough.
I am encouraging Members to vote against the rule, vote against the conference report, and send this back. [Page: H9216]
|10:52 AM EDT||
David R. Obey, D-WI 7th
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. HALL) for yielding the time.
Mr. Speaker, in the end I will be voting for the bill and the rule, but before I do I would like to get some things off of my chest about what I think the real problems are.
I do not think that the committee was wrong not to include dairy in this bill because there were no provisions on dairy, and they would have been not germane to the bill to begin with. I think the committee made the proper decision.
I think a number of things happened in the conference that should not have happened. Example: we had a serious debate on the issue of sanctions. I think this country's sanctions policy is deeply flawed. I think it makes no sense to use farmers as pawns in foreign policy. I did not agree with the Senate language on sanctions because I thought it was open sesame and I thought it was carelessly applied; and it could have made available to a number of dictatorial regimes around the world items which
they could use to build their own foreign exchange, and we do not want to do that.
I think we could have, if we had had the opportunity in conference, worked out a recalibrated sanction program to meet the national interests of the country without making farmers be the infantrymen in every argument we have with a foreign power, but we did not get the chance because the conference was shut down.
I think that the distribution of money under the emergency bill should have been along the lines of the suggestions by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. STENHOLM), because that would have guaranteed that the aid would go to people who are actually farming; but we did not get a chance to deal with that issue because the conference was shut down before we were able to offer amendments.
I agree, there is not enough money in this bill for disasters, for the Carolina region and for other areas. I think the basic problem in this bill is not the Committee on Appropriations. All we can do is deal with funding issues. The basic problem is that we are dealing with an underlying law that makes no sense because it is based on ideology rather than real-world economics.
Somebody said once that economists are people who spend their time worrying about whether what works in real life could actually work in theory, and that certainly is the case when we are dealing with agricultural economics.
We have a law right now, the Freedom to Farm Act, which basically says we are going to let the market work, but there is no true market in agriculture for the most part. There is not a country on this globe that does not play games with trade to the detriment of somebody else's farmers.
Processors have a fundamental advantage in dealing with farmers in the exchange of most commodities. Markets need to recognize that there are weather problems, there are pest problems, there are disease problems, and we need to try to use government to even out what happens to farmers when they get hit with those problems. Otherwise, we are not going to have family farmers left to produce any commodities in this country.
What ought to happen is that the Freedom to Farm bill, which in my opinion has become the freedom-to-lose-your-shirt bill, that bill ought to be tossed out and we ought to start over and produce a bill that makes long-term sense for American farmers.
Until that is done, the Committee on Appropriations cannot fix up the problem.