Ginny Brown-Waite

Foreign Relations Authorization Act - June 10, 2009

Ginny Brown-Waite
June 10, 2009— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. Chairman, we have a problem. As every American in this Chamber knows, America is facing unprecedented trillion-dollar deficits, a ballooning national debt and steady-growing entitlement obligations. Yet, each and every time the House comes together to consider spending bills, evidence abounds that very few tough choices are being made.

As I'm sure my colleagues will readily agree, never in the history of Congress has there been a line item that at least one Member did not support. There has not been a single program that somebody didn't think was worthy of the taxpayer dollars. In a perfect world where the United States is flush with money, very few spending ideas don't hold some merit. But simply having merit does not mean the American people have enough money to pay for it, nor do they have enough money around to fund this.

It is not our job to come to Washington and put together a Middle East comprehensive and exhaustive list of worthy causes, Mr. Chairman. It is our job to make the tough choices. And that means denying resources to something that somebody somewhere thinks is a good idea.

Frankly, if, as a body, we are unable to recognize that spending taxpayer dollars for the domestic distribution of a documentary film in a foreign affairs bill is not what the taxpayers need most at this time, if this is truly a choice that's too hard for us to make, then I think we owe it to our constituents to take a good long look in the mirror and decide what we are here to do.

Some will probably point out that striking the authorization for this film is not important. Well, I would say to those colleagues it is important that we watch every single appropriation that comes before us. That is precisely what we are sent here to do.

And this amendment is not just about striking a provision to authorize funding for the distribution of a documentary film. If it were, I would take time to point out that this is a domestic distribution in a foreign affairs bill. I would also point out that laws have been on the books for 60 years that prohibit the executive branch from distributing government-sponsored information campaigns domestically.

I might even point out that the film is available already for every man, woman, and child in this country to see right now. I am not kidding. It is actually on YouTube, and yet we have this in the appropriations bill.

The point is, Mr. Chairman, that the American people, those who voted for us and those who voted against us, all of them expect more from this body. I offer this amendment to my colleagues not to point out an absurd provision in an irresponsible spending bill. I offer this amendment to make a point about all of the absurd provisions in all of the bloated bills that this House has recently considered. The American people deserve more than this.

I would point out to my colleagues they need to learn this is a voting card; it is not a credit card.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. Chairman, just a few moments ago, I rose to point out what I believe is unnecessary spending. I suppose it is not a coincidence that I rise again to point out what I believe is another unnecessary spending item.

Section 303 of the Foreign Relations Act before us authorizes funding for the establishment of a Lessons Learned Center. If money were no object, I think it may be a fine thing to do. In fact, it is hard to imagine that anything produced by the center would not be used.

However, as you can imagine, many of my colleagues are wondering, why would anyone oppose this center? They might even point out that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Mr. Chairman, in some ways, my colleagues may be right. But what is essential is that we do learn from our mistakes, and that is precisely why the State Department's exam to become a Foreign Service officer is so rigorous. That is why the intelligence agencies seek the best and the brightest. And, frankly, Mr. Chairman, that is why the entire academic community going back thousands of years studies history.

Additionally, with 24-hour news events, we all become instantly knowledgeable. It is reviewed and reviewed.

Anything that happens, has happened, gets reviewed ad nauseam. Section 303 is unnecessary precisely because learning lessons from history is so important and so widely acknowledged as being important that we already have tens of thousands of academies that do that every single day.

The proposed Lessons Learned Center has a great name, yet I think it will be simply one more example of spending money on things that we want and not limiting ourselves to those things that we need. Listen. Just listen. You can hear the giant sucking sound of Washington finding new and different ways to spend dollars; spend, spend.

I don't want to belabor the point, but Congress has already approved a $700 billion bailout package and an $800 billion stimulus package in just the last year alone. Meanwhile, our Medicare and Social Security trust funds that our constituents rely on will be exhausted sooner than we thought. And let me point out we are also fighting tough wars in two countries. And while my colleagues believe that a Lessons Learned Center might prevent such costly wars in the future, I would appeal to your intellect and your sense of fiduciary responsibility.

With all the massive charges already on the people's tab, the American taxpayer tab, and with spending at government agencies going up dramatically this year across the board, I ask my colleagues to make tough choices that the American people expect us to make.

All this portion of the bill does is create more government jobs. I urge adoption of this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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