by Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colorado), March 30, 2000
UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I rise to express my opposition to this
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'
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: