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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colorado), March 30, 2000
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I rise to express my opposition to this bill.

There are good things in it that I support. The parts of the bill that truly concern `emergencies'--funding to help low-income families cope with sharply rising home heating oil bills; funding to repair damaged roads and bridges and to develop affordable housing for those dislocated by recent floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters; disaster loans for small businesses, farm aid, and rural economic and community development grants to meet needs arising from natural disasters--these are all important and worthwhile and appropriate purposes for an `emergency' spending bill. Also important is funding that the bill provides for NASA's Space Shuttle upgrades, security at our nation's three nuclear weapons laboratories, and funds to accelerate environmental cleanup of DOE facilities.

But these good things are far outweighed by what I consider to be some very problematic provisions in the bill. One of the most troublesome is the $1.7 billion package for Colombia. I don't doubt the magnitude of the problem that the proposal attempts to address. Indeed, there is much cause for alarm. Colombia produces 80 percent of the world's cocaine and about two-thirds of the heroin consumed in this country, and new estimates show that cocaine production in Colombia is up 126 percent in the last five years. That said, I am not convinced that a costly military approach is the best response to the problem. I believe we should be considering other ways to address the source of the problem--the U.S. demand for drugs--by funding additional treatment and education programs right here at home.

There is very little about the Colombia package that has been shown to merit our support. Think for a moment about the dismal human rights record of the Colombian military. The military would itself be the recipient of the billions of dollars in U.S. aid. Human rights organizations have linked right-wing paramilitary groups to the Colombian military and to drug trafficking and atrocities against civilians. How can we be content to pass a bill that could well make this situation worse?

We should also think about the lack of clear objectives for this program. There is no `exit' strategy spelled out. There is no way to ensure farmers won't resume cultivating drug crops once this billion-dollar assistance package dries up. None of these questions about the long-term goals for this program have been adequately answered. Still, we're being asked to support a program that could draw U.S. troops into a protracted counterinsurgency struggle--and one that may ultimately have little effect on the drug trade.

On top of that, Mr. Chairman, was the adoption of the amendment yesterday that increases military spending levels by an additional $4 billion. That makes my opposition to this bill that much stronger. While I agree that defense health programs and recruitment and retention are areas of legitimate concern, I don't understand why we should make $4 billion exceptions for our military that we can't seem to make for prescription drugs or our children's education or shoring up Social Security. The military budget was increased substantially last year and well may be again this year through the regular appropriations process. This isn't the time or the place to prematurely commit to additional billions of dollars in military spending or to label it as an `'emergency' item.

Mr. Chairman, I certainly hope that as we go forward with this year's appropriations process, we do so in a thoughtful and careful manner and that we try to come up with spending bills that deserve the full support of the entire House.

As of March 31, 2000, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r106:H30MR0-20:

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