Coburn, McCain Take on Diminished Clout of Alaska, Hawaii
by Niels Lesniewski, Roll Call (excerpts)
… “It’s one of the great scandals that there is,” McCain told CQ Roll Call, connecting the programs targeting Alaska and Hawaii to the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska that was pursued through the earmarking process. McCain and his allies, including Coburn, say that continuing some provisions in the catchall spending bill should be considered akin to earmarks, though there is a formal moratorium on the practice of congressionally directed spending.
The two senators criticized what they derided as overpayments under Pentagon contracts with entities owned by Native Hawaiians and Agriculture Department Rural Development money for improving electric delivery in places with extremely high energy costs. According to the Rural Development agency, some of that money has gone specifically to Alaska’s Denali Commission, a federal-state development agency established at the behest of Stevens. “Now we’re in sequestration, we have a bill that would give ... companies an additional 5 percent, $15 million,” McCain said. “It’s disgraceful, and it’s been going on for years: $10 million for the USDA high energy cost grants program that are earmarks to subsidize the electricity bills in Alaska and Hawaii?”
“Many of our most reliable defense contractors depend on these Native Hawaiian companies to — to improve our defense capability at the headquarters of the Pacific Command and throughout the state of Hawaii,” Schatz said. “The Department of Defense has confirmed ... that they find these programs to be valuable, and we’re confident that we’ll be able to overcome these obstacles.”
Begich similarly said that he was prepared to fight against amendments to curtail funding for programs benefitting his home state, many of which Stevens had defended long before him. He pointed to McCain’s long-standing criticism of the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program, which helps small businesses including Alaska Native corporations gain access to federal contracting opportunities.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, who succeeded Inouye as chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said the feud over treatment of Hawaiian defense contractors is nothing new.
The Native Hawaiian provision has been a regular feature of Pentagon spending bills for more than a decade, with each bill since fiscal 2001 containing the language except for fiscal 2004, a Democratic aide explained. During the entirety of that time, either Inouye or Stevens served as the top Defense appropriator, depending on which party controlled the chamber….
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SENATORS JOHN McCAIN AND TOM COBURN ON WASTEFUL SPENDING IN THE CONTINUING RESOLUTION
News Release from Office of Sen John McCain (R-AZ) March 12, 2013
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) today commented on the 587-page Continuing Resolution before the Senate this week that spends over $1 trillion in federal tax dollars:
Senator John McCain released the following statement:
“As budget sequestration continues to level strain and uncertainty on the men and women of our nation’s armed forces, and as we draw closer to the ‘devastating’ effects on our military readiness as foreseen by our former Secretary of Defense, Members of Congress have an even more profound responsibility to account for every taxpayer dollar. Every dollar we waste through pork barrel spending today is a dollar not spent to support our troops and preserve our nation’s security.
“With this in mind, Senator Coburn and I last week made a standard request to be able to review for 72 hours the Continuing Resolution legislation coming before the Senate prior to moving forward and considering it on the Senate floor. Instead, we received the 587-page Continuing Resolution – which totals more than $1 trillion – at 9:00 p.m. last night, and the sponsors of the bill attempted to begin Senate consideration just hours later this afternoon – before anyone could have plausibly have read and considered the bill in its entirety.
“After reviewing this legislation for less than 24 hours, it is clear that our suspicions were well justified. The bill contains numerous examples of egregious pork barrel projects as well as hundreds of millions in spending that was never authorized by the appropriate Committee and not requested by the Administration.
“This is a preliminary, partial list of questionable spending that we have identified in the bill so far:
· Provides $65 million for Pacific Coast salmon restoration for states including Nevada, a program that even President Obama mocked in his 2011 State of the Union address.
· Directs the Department of Defense to overpay on contracts by an additional 5 percent (totaling $15 million) to contractors who are Native Hawaiian-owned companies.
· Provides $154 million for Army, Navy and Air Force ‘alternative energy research’ initiatives, the most recent notorious example of which was paying $26 per gallon for 450,000 gallons of alternative fuel.
· Provides $15 million for the Civil Air Patrol above the amount authorized by the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization bill, paid for by cutting the Air Force’s Operations and Maintenance funding. This is just two days after the Air Force announced that it will reduce pilots’ flying hours by 18 percent because of cuts to its Operations and Maintenance budget.
· Prohibits the retirement of the C-23 Sherpa aircraft, which the Army has asked to retire and which both the Army and Air Force no longer want or need. Last year, Congress granted the Army authority to give these aircraft to any state governor who wanted them and no one took them up on it, now we are preventing the Army from retiring them.
· Directly contravenes the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization bill by providing $120 million for civilian infrastructure in Guam, which both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explicitly prohibited until a sufficient cost analysis of the proposed movement of troops from Okinawa to Guam is completed.
· Provides $14.7 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Watershed Rehabilitation Program, which the Administration has suggested eliminating for years.
· Provides $993,000 in grants to dig private wells for private property owners.
· Provides $10 million for the USDA High Energy Cost Grants program that go to subsidize electricity bills in Alaska and Hawaii.
· Provides $5.9 million for USDA ‘Economic Impact Initiative’ grants, which have become slush funds for local governments to do such things as rehab an exercise room and buy kitchen equipment for city government offices.
“The American people deserve better than this. Our men and women in uniform – whose livelihoods are today threatened by sequestration – deserve far better than what they’re getting out of Washington. I look forward to offering amendments and debating these issues on the floor of the Senate this week.”
Senator Tom Coburn released the following statement:
“The questionable provisions in this $1 trillion bill highlight the need for senators to read the bills we are expected to vote on. Offering amendments to improve bills of this size and importance is not just our privilege but our responsibility. The American people have a right to know how we intend to use their tax dollars. The inconvenience we may feel as senators as we cast tough votes is nothing compared to the struggles millions of families in America experience each day because of our failure to manage their resources wisely.”
Ray Jardine: Native Hawaiians Have Earned Special Status For Contracts
CB: Native Hawaiian Firms Lose Out In Proposed Fed Budget Amendment