Last Legislation, Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations, 1997
September 30, 1996
Congressional Record - Senate: Pages 26613 - 26614
[NOTE: prior to MOH]:
Mr. STEVENS addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.
Mr. STEVENS. Mr. President, I see the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee is here. If he wishes to make an opening statement on this bill, I will be pleased to yield to him. I have a lengthy statement to make about the subject I believe should precede this omnibus appropriations bill, the FAA conference report. If the Senator from Oregon wishes to make a statement, I will be happy to yield to him.
Mr. President. I ask unanimous consent to yield to the Senator from Oregon with the understnaind that I will resume the floor when he has completed his statement.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 1997
The Senate continued with the consideration of the bill.
Mr. HATFIELD. Mr. President, I believe that the pending business is the omnibus appropriations bill; is that correct?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is correct.
Mr. HATFIELD. I thank the Chair.
Mr. President, the Senate now has, as the Chair has indicated, under consideration the fiscal year omnibus appropriations bill which will conclude our action on the six fiscal year 1997 appropriations bills that have not been enacted into law, and they are: No. 1, Commerce, Justice, State, and related agencies; No. 2, the Defense appropriations bill; No. 3, the foreign operations appropriations bill; No. 4, the Interior and related agencies appropriations bill; No. 5, the Labor-HHS appropriations bill; and No. 6, the Treasury-Postal Service appropriations bill.
As Senators are aware, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee and their staffs worked around the clock at the end of last week to reach a bipartisan agreement with the administration on all the outstanding issues included in these bills. Our colleagues in the House adopted this bill Saturday by an overwhelming rollcall vote of 370 to 37, and the President has indicated he will sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.
I know that many Senators have questions and concerns about this legislation. Senator BYRD and I will be here throughout the day to address those matters as best we can. I hope and expect that when we reach a vote on final passage later today, a large majority of the Senate will vote for this legislation.
Mr. President, this will be the last appropriations measure that I will manage here on the Senate floor. For the past 16 years as chairman or ranking minority member of the full committee, I have stood here with Senator BYRD, Senator Stennis, and Senator Proxmire as we have brought to the Senate the 13 annual appropriations acts, supplementals, rescissions bills and continuing resolutions. It has been an extraordinary experience. The appropriations process has been the crucible of debate on enormous range of issues, great and small. We have carried on through the revolutionary 1981 reconciliation process, the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, budget summits, and Government shutdowns. Despite it all, year in and year out, this Congress has acted on appropriations bills and sent them to the President. It is our principal constitutional duty to do so.
Mr. President, I cannot adequately express how honored I am to have been a part of this process. I owe an enormous debt to all of my colleagues with whom I have served, both here in the Senate and in the House. I am privileged to have enjoyed relationships across the aisle in both bodies that have immeasurably enriched my life, and I can only hope that I have managed to return those gifts in some way.
All of us on the Committee on Appropriations, both here and in the House, are served by an extraordinary staff. These highly capable men and women are the best there are. Before I leave Washington for Oregon later this month-I started to say later today; that perhaps is only wishful thinking at this moment-I hope to be able to thank each one personally for their contributions.
It would be impossible, Mr. President, to make a comprehensive recitation of the provisions of this legislation, and I will not try. I believe that this bill, which I hold in my hand, represents our completed product which is, obviously, a rather enormous package. I believe that various summary descriptions have been distributed. The text of the legislation is printed in the RECORD and copies are available here on the floor and in cloakrooms and in Senators' offices.
Mr. President, I wonder if the Senator from Alaska will respond to a request that he amend his unanimous consent agreement to be recognized following my brief presentation in order to permit the ranking member, Senator BYRD, to make his opening statement as well.
Mr. STEVENS. I have just conferred with Senator BYRD, and I agree. I do amend my request that I be recognized after the Senator from West Virginia completes his statement.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection to the amended request? Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. HATFIELD. Mr. President, I will yield the floor, but before I do so, I, again, want to personalize my remarks, Senator BYRD being on the floor, to say that this was a joint effort. And with Senator BYRD'S vast background and expertise in the procedures of the Senate, the history of the Senate, the legislative role of the Senate, I, again, express my deep appreciation for his collaboration, his cooperation, his spirit of friendship, and the demonstration of that friendship day in and day out in achieving our mutual responsibilities to bring this bill to the floor, like all previous bills.
Mr. BYRD addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from West Virginia.
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished Senator from Oregon, [Mr. HATFIELD], who is here today managing his last appropriations bill. I will have more to say during the day, I am sure, on that line.
The bill now before the Senate contains the results of very intense and difficult negotiations over the past week, and particularly over the past weekend, between the two Houses, with the administration participating with advice and suggestions. These negotiations included not only the chairman and ranking members of each of the affected Appropriations Subcommittees, but also the representatives of the House and Senate Republican and Democratic leadership, as well as the President's very able Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Frank Raines, and their staffs.
As Senators are aware, these negotiations were necessary because of the inability of Congress and the administration to reach agreement on six of the thirteen fiscal year 1997 appropriations bills. Over the past months, the President indicated that he would not agree to sign these appropriations bills unless funding for a number of priorities was increased by some $6.5 billion and unless certain controversial legislative riders were dropped.
And so, we found ourselves in Congress faced with having to deal with the President’s requests in a very short period of time if we were to reach agreement on the six remaining appropriations bills by the beginning of fiscal year 1997, which starts at the hour of midnight.
In addition, the administration proposed a number of urgent appropriations, including some $1.1 billion to fight terrorism and improve aviation security and safety, as well as over $500 million in fire fighting assistance for Western States and $400 million to assist the victims of Hurricanes Fran and Hortense.
Mr. President, I congratulate all of those Members and staffs who have worked literally around the clock over the past week, and certainly over the past weekend, in order to reach this agreement and have it prepared for consideration in the House on Saturday evening when it was agreed to, and by the opening hours of this day here in the Senate. I particularly wish to recognize the efforts of the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. Mr. Livingston has proved himself to be a very able and articulate chairman-and I have enjoyed immensely the opportunity to work with Mr. LIVINGSTON—he along with his equally able ranking member, Mr. OBEY.
If there were not a DAVID OBEY in the Congress, Congress would have to create one. He reminds me, in a way, of that irascible Senator McClay who was a Member of the first Senate when it met in 1789. Mr. OBEY is very knowledgeable and extremely able. And so both of these men, Mr. LIVINGSTON and Mr. OBEY deserve great credit for their work on this resolution.
They, together with my dear friend and colleague, the Senator from Oregon, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mr. HATFIELD, deserve the lion's share of the credit for this agreement.
I know that Senator HATFIELD, as would I, would have preferred to have had each of the fiscal year 1997 appropriation bills enacted separately rather than having them conglomerated into this massive omnibus bill. Senators should not be placed in the position that we find ourselves in at this moment. We should not be backed up against the wall here on the last day of the fiscal year, facing a Government shutdown unless we adopt this massive resolution. No Senator, and I dare say no staff person, has had the time to carefully review the thousands of programs funded in this resolution, or to read and comprehend the many non-appropriations, legislative matters contained in this resolution. What we are faced with is having to rely on those members and staffs in the House and Senate with jurisdiction over each of the provisions in this resolution. To my knowledge they, along with the Office of Management and Budget and other executive branch personnel, have approved each item and provision in their respective areas.
While I applaud the efforts of all those who have worked so hard on this measure, I nevertheless abhor the fact that it, once again, has come to this. We must redouble our efforts in future Congresses to get our work done, despite the very real differences among ourselves and with the administration. The leaders of the Senate have almost impossible burdens in meeting the requests of Senators throughout every session. I urge my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to commit themselves to working with both leaders in ways that will enable the next Congress not to have to consider such massive, omnibus legislation as the one now before the Senate.
Mr. President, as the distinguished chairman of the committee, Senator HATFIELD, has stated, this resolution contains the necessary appropriations for fiscal year 1997 for each of the six remaining appropriation bills which have not yet been enacted into law. Namely, Title I of the resolution provides the fiscal year 1997 appropriations for the following appropriation bills: Commerce/Justice/State/ and the Judiciary; Department of Defense; Foreign Operations; Interior; Labor-HHS; and Treasury Postal.
Titles II, Ill, and IV of H.R. 4278 contain legislation that results in offsets totaling some $3.3 billion. Those provisions include so-called BIF-SAIF; SPECTRUM sales; and certain PAYGO savings.
Title V contains other appropriations for various departments and agencies totaling some $850 million, as well as a number of general· provisions.
Finally, I should note that division C of the resolution contains the agreement on immigration reform.
Chairman HATFIELD has highlighted the important priorities contained in this resolution and, therefore, I will not repeat them.
I hope that the Senate will proceed expeditiously and that we may be able to complete action on this measure in time to send it to the President for him to sign before the hour of midnight. I shall have more to say, of course, during the day.
I thank the distinguished Senator from Alaska [Mr. STEVENS] for his characteristic courtesy in yielding to me, and I yield the floor.
Mr. STEVENS addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.
Mr. STEVENS. Mr. President, I have the greatest respect for the chairman and ranking member of our full committee, the Appropriations Committee. I certainly do apologize to them for seeking the floor ahead of them, because I knew they were coming. But I wanted to make certain that I did retain the right to alert the Senate to a very difficult problem as we proceed to consider this bill.
First, let me say I know that this is the last bill to be handled by the Senator from Oregon. He and I went on the Appropriations Committee on the same day. I have sat beside him for so many years now working on matters affecting appropriations, and we have both served with the distinguished Senator from West Virginia in a way that most people would never understand.
There is a deep friendship among those of us who worked through long nights trying to figure out how to solve the problems of keeping this Government going and at the same time pursue the objectives of policy enunciated by our leaders. It is not an easy thing.
Both the Senator from Oregon and the Senator from West Virginia have spent many more hours in conference on this bill than any other member of the Appropriations Committee, and they certainly deserve our great respect and thanks for all the work they have done to get us to this point.
As the Senator from West Virginia just said, this bill absolutely must be signed tonight. It is our intention to see to it that that takes place. I do give both the Senator from Oregon and the Senator from West Virginia great credit for what they have done and the manner in which they have handled this bill.
As a postscript, I also say I certainly do agree with the Senator from West Virginia — and I think the Senator from Oregon does too; I know he does — this is not the way to handle appropriations bills, and we must find a way to deal with our procedure to assure that bills from appropriations committees, that each bill is considered on its own merits and it goes to the President in a way that expresses the will of the Congress, and the President can express the will of the executive branch. Under our traditional system of checks and balances, that must be preserved in order to assure the freedom of this country. So I intend to work with the Senators to achieve that goal. I do, again, apologize to them for seeking the floor ahead of them because I know they are entitled to present their positions in the very beginning.