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Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd

April 02, 2003

Opening Remarks -- War Funding Supplemental Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee, under the very able leadership of the Chairman, the distinguished President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Senator Ted Stevens, has unanimously reported the Fiscal Year 2003 Supplemental Appropriations bill. I congratulate my good friend for his very fine efforts to bring this supplemental legislation to the floor. He is a man of reason and honor.

The Senate Committee-reported bill totals $78,736,600,000 billion in benefits and appropriations, $4,011,600,000 billion more than the President's request. In that proposal, the President sought an unprecedented level of flexibility in the use of these funds. While I understand the unique circumstance in which the nation finds itself, the situation is not unprecedented. We have been at war before. In World War Two, for example, Congress passed eight supplemental bills to respond to the needs of our Armed Forces. There is little reason why this war in Iraq should require more flexibility for the Administration than was granted during World War Two.

This Republic rests on a system of checks and balances, three branches, two legislative houses, and separate powers. Our system reflects the hundreds of years of history behind it. In our Madisonian system, divided power may not be as expedient as some would like, but it guarantees the American people's liberties. Quite simply, our representative form of democracy depends upon power divided and power shared.

The Constitution grants to the Congress the authority to appropriate funds and the solemn responsibility to exercise that authority wisely. To agree to the many sweeping grants of new so-called "flexible" authority sought by the Administration, would be to abdicate that heavy responsibility. We have a duty to the American people to exercise the authorities granted to Congress in our Constitution.

In the case of this bill and for the many years ahead, it will take maximum effort to preserve the prerogatives of the Legislative Branch. Members must understand their institutional role. Citizens must understand their Constitution and value the Congressional role in protecting their freedoms. Leaders in the Congress itself must guard its prerogatives and resist succumbing to expediency, and to partisanship.

While I fully support the funding in this legislation for the men and women engaged in battle in Iraq, I do not support additional grants of authority to this Administration, or to any other administration, that would infringe upon the Congressional power of the purse. Senator Stevens and I, together with the subcommittee chairmen and ranking members, have worked, in most cases, to improve the President's supplemental budget request. We have eliminated or significantly reduced the sweeping grants of new authority requested by this Administration, while still providing very limited flexibility, where appropriate.

More specifically, for Defense, the bill includes $62.6 billion, the full amount of the President's request, to cover the costs related to military operations against Iraq and to sustain the continuing global war on terrorism.

The budget request proposes that $59,863,200,000 billion of the amount for national defense would be included in the unallocated Defense Emergency Response Fund. The Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, the full Appropriations Committee, and the Congress rejected this type of transfer account in the Fiscal Year 2002 Supplemental, the Fiscal Year 2003 Defense Appropriations bill, and the Defense chapter of the Fiscal Year 2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

In this supplemental, the amount allocated to the Defense Emergency Response Fund has been reduced from the request of approximately $59.9 billion to $11,019,000,000 billion. The remainder of the funds -- some $49 billion -- has been allocated to the specific appropriations accounts. This is an improvement over the budget request. However, on an annualized basis, it amounts to a blank check of more than $20 billion. Because the taxpayer has a right to know how this $11 billion will be used, this so-called flexibility gives me great concern.

The administration's supplemental request sought $1,400,000,000 billion for the Department of Defense to allow the Secretary of Defense to allocate funds to reimburse and otherwise pay nations that have provided support primarily for the global war on terrorism. Most of the funding is anticipated to be for Pakistan. In the past, the Senate Appropriations Committee has taken a position that such reimbursements could take place only in response to vouchers presented to the Department of Defense for reimbursement for activities conducted on behalf of the global war on terrorism. This supplemental bill again includes this provision. In addition, we require 15-day advance notification prior to obligation.

The President also sought $150 million to be paid at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense to indigenous forces abroad. We have one Secretary of State; we do not need two. A similar proposal was rejected by the Congress last year, and it has been rejected again in this legislation.

The Administration wanted to increase the Department of Defense reprogramming authority from an annual amount of $2.0 billion to 2.5 percent of its total budget, a staggering sum which would exceed $9 billion. I recommended against this large new grant of authority to the Department of Defense. Rather than provide an unprecedented $9 billion transfer authority, the legislation before us includes a $3.5 billion transfer authority.

The Administration also sought authority to expend any funds from the Defense Cooperation Account that may be received from other countries for the prosecution of the war against Iraq or the reconstruction of Iraq without first having these funds appropriated by Congress. During the first Gulf War, Congress appropriated those funds after they were received. The legislation before us takes the same approach and preserves the prerogatives of the Congress and of the people. No new authority is granted. Any funds collected from foreign countries for reconstruction of Iraq or for any other purposes will remain in the Treasury unless appropriated by law.

The Administration requested similar extraordinary grants of authority for the Secretary of Homeland Security, for the Attorney General, and for the Office of the President. More specifically, the Secretary of Homeland Security would receive $1.5 billion for a new Counterterrorism Fund for transfer to any Department of Homeland Security agency. The Attorney General would receive $500 million for transfer to any Justice Department organization for terrorism-related activities. The President would receive $2,443,300,000 billion for Iraq reconstruction and relief, without even as much as a reporting requirement. Each proposal would leave the Congress out of the decision-making process in the allocation of the funds. No details. No explanations. In the case of the Iraq reconstruction funds, the President proposes to spend the money "notwithstanding any other provision of law."

With regard to the funds to be provided to the President for the reconstruction of Iraq, the supplemental before the Senate stipulates that funds may not be transferred to the Department of Defense, and that all funds available under this appropriation shall be subject to the regular prior notification procedures of at least five days in advance of the obligation of the funds. The funds will be used for feeding and food distribution, water and sanitation infrastructure, electricity, transportation, telecommunications, and other such humanitarian activities.

With regard to the $500 million for the Attorney General, the legislation has been improved to require that these funds be subject to the regular reprogramming process. Likewise, the funds provided to the Secretary of Homeland Security also require prior approval notification of the Committee under the usual reprogramming procedures, which are long-established and long-respected by the Congress and the Executive Branch.

Overall, the President requested over $9 billion for aid to foreign countries and for the State Department. Yet, his request for homeland security programs is only $3.8 billion.

The Secretary of Homeland Security has said that another terrorist attack here in America is inevitable. He has said that attacks, such as the attacks of September 11, are long-term threats that will not go away. If there is one lesson that we should learn from 9/11, it is that terrorist attacks on our nation can no longer be viewed as distant threats across the oceans. The enemy may attack our troops or citizens overseas or civilians here at home. We must provide all of the necessary resources to support our troops overseas. But we must also provide significant homeland security resources now to meet real needs that have been overwhelmingly authorized by Congress and signed into law by the President for port security, airport security, border security, and nuclear security.

When it comes to funding homeland security initiatives, partisan politics has no place. Protecting a vulnerable nation is a duty we all must shoulder together. Congress knows the needs at the local level and has tried, time and time again, to address those needs. The Administration's request takes a step in the right direction. But, at this time when the nation is acutely aware of the increased threat of terror attacks here at home, one step is not enough. We must do more to address the critical vulnerabilities all across the country. We live under an Orange Alert, a heightened concern for terrorist attack. The American people are nervous about safety here at home. That apprehension ripples through our economy. We should all have an interest in doing what we can to secure obvious vulnerabilities and allay citizen concerns. To that end, I hope to work on a bipartisan effort, as this bill moves forward, to responsibly invest in first responders, in protections at our airports and seaports, and in other areas to better ensure the safety of Americans here at home.

Let me again congratulate the Chairman of the Committee, the distinguished President Pro Tempore, and thank all the Members of the Appropriations Committee, especially the Ranking Member of the Defense Subcommittee, Mr. Inouye, for their cooperation in bringing this bipartisan legislation to the Floor. I expect its speedy passage. I congratulate the staff, also, for their hard work and, especially, Jim Morhard, the newly appointed Staff Director for the Majority. For certain, this legislation is not perfect, and is susceptible to improvement. I expect to assist in such improvements over the next few days as the Senate proceeds to work its will on this important legislation.

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