December 16, 2009
Lewis Statement on the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Appropriations Legislative Package
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis offered the following statement on the floor today regarding the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that funds U.S. troops and military efforts abroad:
“Mr. Speaker, it has taken months to get to this point but I’m pleased to see that we are finally considering a Defense Appropriations bill to provide funds for the men and women of our armed forces and the national security needs of our country.
“We should have been on the House floor months ago—months ago—passing a clean Defense funding bill. Like many Members, I questioned the priorities of the Democrat leadership in moving this year’s funding bills, particularly the decision to send the President the Legislative Branch conference report as our first completed bill. It sent an unmistakable signal that the House majority was putting the needs of Congress first and placing the needs of our troops at the end of the line.
“I know there has been great temptation to use the Defense bill as the vehicle to carry many unrelated legislative items that could not and would not muster enough support to pass on their own. And while this package before us is far from clean, it’s a streamlined version of what was, just a few days ago, shaping up to be the mother of all Christmas tree bills.
“It was Chairman Obey who, on December 18th, 2005 said, and I quote, “The defense bill ought to be about delivering equipment and supporting our troops. There is something especially outrageous and callous about the willingness of the majority party leadership to allow the Defense Department bill in a time or war to be held hostage to totally unrelated legislative items.”
“But that is precisely what we are doing by including a variety of non-defense related legislative provisions in this package. Some items like COBRA, food stamps, and so-called “poverty guidelines” have been manipulated in a way to suit the Chairman’s purposes for redistributing income in America but do not reflect the agreement reached to garner bipartisan support on this bill.
“We are also designating as emergency spending an additional $20 billion worth of program extensions. I’m not arguing that some of these are unworthy but merely pointing out that they should have no place in a defense spending bill. At the very least, we should pay for them honestly rather than continuing to add to our mountain of debt.
“More curious to me is the fact that buried within this legislation is an airdropped Member project in the form of bill language authorizing the payment of nearly $13 million to a county in North Carolina. I can only assume that this project meets all of the necessary requirements for congressional projects. No one seems to know how or why this project was included in this package but it’s there in black and white for the world to see.
“Also disconcerting is the fact that the underlying defense spending bill fails to include funding needed for additional MRAPS to support the 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan. My understanding is that the House and Senate majority and minority were in full agreement to funding an additional 4,000 MRAPS—and yet a decision was made at another level—perhaps even at a staff level—to leave this vital funding out of this package. Again, it’s a decision like this that causes me to scratch my head and question the priorities of this majority leadership.
“At the end of the day, this legislation is far from perfect; I would vote against Division B if given the opportunity. But it is a vast improvement over the massive train wreck that was heading our way earlier this week. I strongly support the underlying defense portion of this package and ask our colleagues to support our troops who are defending freedom at home and abroad.”