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Last Updated:10/25/01
Speech by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), October 24, 2001
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am rather disappointed with this amendment. Senators have every right, of course, to offer any amendment they have.

This bill has been before the Senate for almost 2 weeks now. We just heard about this amendment a very short time ago today. This amendment cuts at least $164 million from important programs, as the Senator from Minnesota and others have pointed out.

I mention the money it is cutting because these are programs where funds have been requested by both Republicans and Democrats.

The amendment of the Senator from Florida would transfer those funds to the Andean Counterdrug Program. That program essentially consists of military and economic assistance to four principal countries--Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador--but these are not countries that are going unfunded. They already get over a half billion dollars in this bill--well over a half billion dollars. They get $567 million.

I do not believe there is any region, other than possibly Middle East countries and the former Soviet Republics, that gets that amount of money. That $567 million is on top of the $1,300 million--$1.3 billion--that we provided for Plan Colombia last year. In fact, it is not a half billion dollars; it is more than a half billion dollars. It is nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars when you include the economic and development aid in this bill for the Andean countries, and that is there on top of the counterdrug aid.

So you take the funds that are already in this bill--not the funds added by the Senator from Florida, but the funds already in this bill--and we will have provided over $2 billion for these countries in the past 16 months; in 1 1/3 years, over $2 billion.

In fact, by pouring money down there so fast, they can't even spend it yet. Much of last year's funds have not even been disbursed. Even though they have not spent all the money, we are giving them another $700 million in additional funding this year.

It is no secret that--and, actually, I am not alone in this body--I am skeptical that this program will have an appreciable impact on the amount of illegal drugs coming into the United States. We have spent billions down there, and drugs are just as accessible. In fact, in our country, for many types of drugs the price has actually gone down.

I suggest, until we start doing something about reducing the insatiable demand for drugs here, in the world's wealthiest country, we are not going to do too much good about incoming drugs. As long as the money is there, we can stop them in Colombia, but they will just come from somewhere else. Secretary Rumsfeld has said much the same thing.

In fact, a lot of other members of the Appropriations Committee--in both parties--expressed similar doubts in a hearing we held earlier this year. We had a hearing where the administration came up.

We asked them: By the way, how much money has been spent that we have given you so far?

They said: Gee, we don't know. We will try to get back to you on that.

We said: Well, with a billion dollars or so, you must have some kind of basic idea what you spent the money on.

They said: We don't know, but we will sure check into it.

When my kids were little, I gave them a small allowance. I did not expect them to tell me where it all went--whether it was baseball cards or comic books or ice cream cones or something like that--but we were talking about a few dollars. When you give somebody $1 billion, you would kind of like to know what they do with it.

So I said: If you can't tell us where you spent it, how about letting us in on a little secret. Has anything been accomplished with the money we gave you?

They said: We will have to get back to you on that. We

don't know how much has been spent. We don't know how much has been accomplished. We do know we have another $700 million in this bill, and we have a whole lot of money in the pipeline that is not yet spent.

We keep pouring money in. We do not even know if the program will work. But the administration wants some money in there. We put in a lot of money. We have a lot of other similar programs, especially in foreign policy. We pour a whole lot of money in there and not much comes out.

We have spent billions of dollars to combat drugs in the Andes over the past 15 years, and we have eradicated coca and we have eradicated opium poppy in several places, but, of course, they just pop up somewhere else. It is sort of like Whack-A-Mole--knock down one, it pops up somewhere else.

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And we have found one other thing: The flow of illegal drugs into this country, no matter what we do in other countries, reflects our demand. If the demand for drugs goes up in this country, the flow of drugs coming into this country increases. If the demand for drugs drops, the flow of drugs into this country drops. Far more than what we do with our Customs agents--and they are extremely good--or the DEA or the Coast Guard or anything else, in a nation of a quarter of a billion people, if we want to spend billions upon billions upon billions of dollars for drugs, the drugs will come.

But even though there is serious doubts about whether this works, Senator McConnell and I have tried to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. We include another half billion dollars in this bill, on top of the billions already there.

The senior Senator from Florida, who is in this Chamber right now, is a good friend of mine. We have worked together on many issues. But I would like to see him try to do the balancing act we have had to do in this bill to get money for a program that actually most of us on the committee do not even like, but to give money for that program, and do the other things in this bill.

We have had 81 Senators requesting funding for all sorts of programs we tried to fund. I want to be fair; 81 Senators asked for some funding, and 3 did ask for some money for the Andean Counterdrug Program. Eighty-one of the 100 Senators asked for funding for various items in this bill; 3 of the 100 Senators asked for funding for the Andean Counterdrug Program. Other than a few lobbyists, it does not seem to be the most popular program.

But we have a bill that is in balance. I know the administration supports the Andean program. They also support the Economic Support Fund. They support the Foreign Military Financing Program. They support funding for the former Soviet Republics. They support money for Central and Eastern Europe. They support money for the International Military Education and Training Program. They support money for our contributions to the World Bank and United Nations programs. There are a number of things the administration supports.

In fact, they have put together a legislative blivet. They support a lot more programs than there is money in this bill. If you put up a chart: Shown up here is what they support in programs, down here is where they put money. So we have had to take the money we have available. We have taken the programs supported by the administration, and also assuming the Congress has some say in how the money is spent on programs supported by this body and the other body.

All these accounts were cut by the House and, actually, in some cases they were cut below what the President requested. We restored them to help out the administration. We made choices. We made choices which reflect the administration's priorities and Senators' priorities. They are not always the same requests. In fact, we were unable to fund over $3.4 billion in requests from 81 Senators. Now this amendment would cut those even further.

In fact, the Andean Counterdrug Program received a lot more funding than many other critical programs. We provide more money for the Andean Counterdrug Program than we do to combat AIDS, which infects another 17,000 people every day. Many Senators wanted to provide more money to fight AIDS and also to help fulfill the President's commitment to do that, but we are $1 billion short of what we should be spending on AIDS.

Incidentally, we provide more for the Andean Regional Initiative than we do for assistance to the world's 22 million refugees.

Other Senators have asked for more money for refugees, but we were unable to do it partly because of the huge amount of money we are already putting in the Andean Counterdrug Program.

Incidentally, we provide over twice as much in this bill for the Andean Counterdrug Program as for all disaster relief programs worldwide--for victims of war, earthquakes, drought, and other calamities in all of Africa, Central America, and Asia--even at a time when we are trying to point out to the rest of the world that we are not the Great Satan that Osama bin Laden and others try to make us out to be, that we do help in these areas. We don't help as much as the Andean Counterdrug Program, but we will help.

When I see requests for more money for the Andean Counterdrug Program, it worries me. We already spend four times as much for the Andean Counterdrug Program as for basic education programs worldwide, even though the President and Members of both parties have said we should do more to help improve education worldwide so that we will have educated people and the next generation coming along will be educated and have a better idea of what the United States and other democracies are like as well as what the real culture of their own country is like.

We provide four times as much for the Andean Counterdrug Program as for microcredit programs for loans for the world's absolutely poorest people, loans that help in many countries allow women, for the first time in the history of those countries, to have a basic modicum of independence. For women who have absolutely nothing otherwise, have no way of doing it, this program helps. We provide four times as much for the Andean Counterdrug Program. We provide more for the Andean Counterdrug Program than we do for antiterrorism programs or nonproliferation programs. We actually should be spending twice as much for those programs. We can't because of all the money we are already putting into the Andean Counterdrug Program.

At some point we have to set some priorities. We have poured in money so fast they can't even spend the money they have in the pipeline. The administration, when they provide sworn testimony before the Congress, can't even tell us what the money is being spent for. Yet they want more. How many other programs do we have to cut? We provide more for this than we do for our export programs.

Let's go back and tell some of the small businesses in America that depend on the export business and that could employ people at a time when the economy is going in the tank, let's tell some of these small companies, sorry, we can't help you build up your business so you can export and hire people who have been laid off to come back because we have to give the Andean Counterdrug Program more money beyond the billions we have already spent.

Maybe we ought to be cutting these export programs. The heck with putting people back to work; we have to send some money down to the Andean Counterdrug Program. We don't know where it is going. We don't know how it is being spent. We know it is not effective. We know it hasn't stopped drugs coming up here. But let's make ourselves feel good and send it down there. Sorry, you are getting laid off from your factory job here.

I care about international health. We have a total of $175 million in this bill to combat infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. They kill about 3 million people a year. We can help, with some of this money, to make sure some

of these infectious diseases that are a postage stamp or an airplane trip away from the United States, to stop them from coming in this country. But we don't have enough money to do that. We don't have enough money not only to help these people eradicate these diseases in their own country but to stop them from coming into our country because we don't have enough money. Why? We are spending four times more on the Andean Counterdrug Program, four times what we are doing to stop diseases--smallpox, tuberculosis, malaria, or the Ebola plague--from coming into our country.

Ask somebody who has picked up the paper in the last few days what they think our priorities are.

One would think from this amendment that Senator McConnell and I don't support a counterdrug program. That is not so. We are willing to give the benefit of the doubt. It hasn't proven it has done anything yet. It has yet to demonstrate any impact on the drug program in this country. But we are willing to give the administration a chance, and so we have thrown in a half a billion dollars on top of the $1.3 billion of last year. The administration says it has not worked. It can't show

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anything where it has been successful, but ``give us some more and we will do it.'' We have done that.
If we add even more money for it, where do we cut? This amendment cuts across the board. It cuts Egypt. It cuts Israel. It cuts Jordan. It cuts money for the former Soviet Union. It cuts education. It cuts TB prevention programs. It cuts education of children. It cuts programs that might give some economic stability to poor women across the world. Why? To go into an Andean Counterdrug Program where they can't even account for the money they have.

I want to help Colombia. I want to help Bolivia. I want to help Ecuador. I want to help Peru. We have put a half a billion dollars in here to do that, even though that is money from priorities that might do the country better.

I met the head of Colombia's armed forces last week. I have met him before. I have nothing but complete respect and admiration for President Pastrana of Colombia. I consider Colombia's Ambassador, Ambassador Moreno, a friend. I think he is one of the best ambassadors any country has sent here. He knows how the administration works. He knows how our country works. He knows what our culture is. He speaks out forcefully for his own country. He does it with great respect for Colombia, but also with appropriate respect for the country in which he is serving. In fact, I sometimes wish some of the ambassadors we sent to other countries could do their job as well as Ambassador Moreno does.

I hope that this half a billion dollars--actually more than half a billion dollars--that Senator McConnell and I have put into this bill will pay off in the Andean Counterdrug Program. But in the past year we have seen the civil war in Colombia intensify. We have seen the paramilitaries double in size. There have been more massacres of innocent civilians by paramilitaries this year than ever before. There is indisputable evidence that the paramilitaries are receiving support from some in the Colombian armed forces.

Funding that we provided last year to strengthen Colombia's justice system has yet to be spent. Some of it has been allocated for purposes that bear little if any resemblance to what Congress intended, in a bipartisan fashion, it to be used for.

Aerial fumigation has destroyed a lot of coca. But there are also supposed to be alternative programs from which to give farmers something else to earn a living. They have barely been used. They have not spent tens of millions of dollars we provided last year, and USAID has serious doubt about Colombia's ability to implement these programs.

If we don't give these farmers an alternative source of income, if we don't use the money we sent to do that, does anybody doubt that we will see these farmers planting coca again so they can feed their families? I wish they wouldn't. I think it is wrong they do. But let's be realistic. If you have a hungry family there, you are not going to think of the people of another country who spend more money on their drug habit in a week than these people ever see in a year.

I share the concerns of the Senator from Florida about the use of drugs in this country, especially in my own State. I was a prosecutor for 8 years.

I have some very strong views on these issues. Heroin use has been steadily increasing in Vermont. Like any Vermonter, that frightens me and worries me. But the Andean Counterdrug Program is not going to have any impact on that problem we have in Vermont. Yet there is a half billion dollars in this bill. It is not going to help most States. Let's see how last year's money gets spent. Let's see how this year's half billion dollars gets spent. Then if the administration comes here before Senator McCONNELL's and my committee next year and starts telling us, gee, we don't know where the money is going, how it is being spent, or if it is having any effect, or they are able to tell us how it is being spent and what effect it has had, then we can talk about more money.

Before we throw a whole lot more money into the problem, let's see if the $718 million does any good in the first place.

I yield the floor.

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