I rise today to voice my opposition to the spending bill we are being forced to vote on.
I am not voting to shut down the government. I’m voting to negotiate on a bill where we are at least able to participate.
I am voting to stay here, work with all my colleagues on a better bill, and put an end to the dysfunctional process we are forced to endure every year.
I have read through the bill, and I’m sure everyone can find something in here that they like.
I certainly have some items in the bill that will help my little state of West Virginia.
But there is just too much waste, too much taxpayer risk, and too little transparency for me to stomach.
In the four years I have been in the Senate and on the Armed Services Committee, I have heard from officials on the damage done by the sequester and how it has cannibalized the Armed Forces.
And yet, while DoD officials were forced to absorb across-the-board cuts in 2013, I’ve made it a point to ask if they are being forced into projects they don’t want or need. This bill, however, completely ignores what the Department of Defense has said.
We are wasting $5 billion dollars on Department of Defense spending that the Pentagon did not ask for and does not need. They didn’t ask for some of these ships, tanks and airplanes, but we are forcing them to purchase those projects anyway.
And not only are we wasting this money, but we are denying it from other important programs that desperately need those funds.
In this bill, we gut hard-working Americans’ pensions, and instead of using the $5 billion to fund the Care Act, which ensures that the UMWA’s Pension Plan remains solvent to benefit miners who have helped power this nation, we give the Pentagon tanks and ships and planes they don’t need or even want.
We have seen our political process become more corrosive than ever in recent years.
We have already seen the negative effects that the Citizens United ruling has had on our elections.
It has allowed unlimited and dark money to distort the records of our colleagues, flood our airwaves with negative advertisements and shrink our campaigns to sound bites instead of ideas.
And what does this bill do to address this?
It increases the limits for individual contributions to political parties by TEN times the current limit. TEN times.
The current limit of $32,400 was already too high for most West Virginians and Americans to be able to take full advantage. The new limit of $324,000 is inconceivable for the vast majority of Americans.
That means that our political process will only be available to a small number of wealthy individuals who will have more influence on our government than the hard-working Americans we are sent here to represent.
Main Street America is still hurting from the fallout of Wall Street’s greedy behavior.
Americans lost 8.8 million jobs and our GDP fell by at least $7.2 trillion. We lost a generation of jobs and economic progress.
And while our economy is still trying to recover and millions of Americans are still out of work, Wall Street has seen record profits.
Instead of working to help our small businesses, community banks, and credit agencies, this bill allows Wall Street banks to go back to the same risky behavior that drove us into the Great Recession in the first place.
If we pass this bill, we will allow Wall Street banks to trade risky derivatives and once again force American taxpayers to bail them out if they lose their bets.
Haven’t we learned our lesson yet?
If big banks want to trade in risky derivatives and act with greed, then THEY should bear the cost of their mistakes, not the American taxpayer.
M. President, I understand Omnibus bills are made out of negotiation and compromise, but negotiations start with participation.
Here, most members of the Senate weren’t even consulted on this bill, nor was there an opportunity to offer amendments.
Senator Robert C. Byrd, a man who defined what it meant to be a representative of the people and one of the most dedicated and passionate United States Senators to date, told me what is was like to work in the Senate before the process was broken.
Upon arriving in the Senate, I assumed those same rules of conduct applied until Members here in this Body explained to me just how much has changed.
We used to consider individual appropriations bills that were carefully deliberated by Committee members, and then we brought those smaller bills to the floor and were given an opportunity to offer amendments and debate the bill in a timely, proper manner.
Somehow, the Senate process has gotten away from the days of regular order.
Instead, here we are today, where we were given two days to read a 1,600 page bill loaded with provisions that we cannot even amend.
Since we are forced to consider this bill as a whole, I have determined that it is simply too flawed for me to support.
I urge my colleagues to stay here another week and truly draft a bipartisan omnibus package that fairly represents American values.