Priorities of the 112th Congress

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-CA), 15 Feb. 2011 (Cong. Rec., p. H846):

Madam Chair, I rise today to introduce my amendment to cut funding for the V-22, a hybrid helicopter/airplane that was in development for more than 25 years, cost the lives of 30 individuals before it ever saw combat, and still does not meet operational requirements in Iraq. Cost overruns have plagued the V-22 since its development. Initial estimates projected $40 million per plane. But today it has exploded to $120 million per plane–a threefold increase. This amendment would save $415 million for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 by cutting funding for the V-22 from the Air Force and Navy’s aircraft procurement accounts.

In 2009, the GAO found that the Marine Corps received 105 V-22s. Of those, fewer than half–only 47–were considered combat deployable. But on any given day, there are an estimated 22–fewer than one in four–ready for any combat. This is largely due to unreliable parts and maintenance challenges. It was reported that 13 of the V-22′s parts lasted only 30 percent of their life expectancy and six lasted less than 10 percent. In addition, the GAO found that the V-22 did not have weather radar and its ice protection system was unreliable. Not me. GAO. So that flying through icy conditions is prohibited on this plane. Can’t do it. Icy conditions are often found in Afghanistan. Oddly enough, the V-22 also had problems in dusty conditions, which, coincidentally, also exist and is common in Afghanistan.

So I ask my colleagues, why do we continue to fund this boondoggle? The majority claims to have made some tough choices in this bill. Apparently this includes continuing to fund a plane that Dick Cheney called, a, quote, turkey and tried to kill four times when he was Secretary of Defense. It should also be noted that Dick Cheney did not often meet a defense program he didn’t like, so this should be very telling to everyone here. In order to continue funding this plane, this Congress proposes steep cuts to be made on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens.

H.R. 1 puts the safety of American families at risk. The bill eliminates COPS hiring, a program that will put 1,330 fewer cops on our streets. The bill cuts the SAFER program, which means there are 2,400 fewer firefighters protecting our communities; so that we can build a plane that can’t fly under icy conditions, can’t fly when there’s sand, and one out of four is ever used at any given time?

The majority has made the shortsighted choice to cut $1.3 billion from community health centers which, according to the CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers, is equivalent to terminating health care to the entire population of Chicago, or to everyone living in the States of Wyoming, Vermont, North and South Dakota and Alaska combined. Why? For a plane that cannot fly when it’s icy, which cannot fly when it’s dusty. And where are we at? In a combat situation where we need it to do both things.

Look. If this weren’t enough, the bill also eliminates title X funding which provides services for cancer screenings, annual exams, STD testing and contraceptives.

H.R. 1 would also cut $5 billion from Federal Pell Grants. In Illinois, this will reduce financial aid to 61,000 poor students. And as I had suggested earlier here today, maybe as Members of Congress, maybe because we are in the top 1 percent of wage earners in the United States of America, people of America understand we make $175,000, each and every one of us, and there are over 150 millionaires in this body, maybe we don’t care. Maybe you can cut the Pell Grant program because you don’t care whether kids get ahead and are able to go to college. But some of us should, especially those of us that have been blessed with the riches of wealth in this Nation and allowed to be able to serve in this body.

And so I simply say, Let the kids go to school. Let there be health care for the most vulnerable of Americans. And all we will be missing is this boondoggle of a hybrid helicopter that does not serve the purpose for which it was proposed.

Delaware County Daily Times, 17 Feb. 2011:

Boeing’s V-22 Osprey program escaped the federal budget chopping block after the U.S. House of Representatives voted against an amendment that would have slashed funding for the tilt-rotor aircraft.

“This is an instrument that has proven itself in the theater of war,” said U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby.

Meehan vowed to fight for the program in recent months and applauded his congressional colleagues for voting against the amendment Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-4, of Illinois, proposed the failed amendment, which was part of House Resolution 1, or the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act.

“Boeing is grateful for Congressman Meehan’s support of the V-22 Osprey program and we applaud the 325 members of Congress who joined him in supporting the program through yesterday’s vote,” said Andy Lee, spokesman for the Boeing Mobility Division, Wednesday. “The V-22 Osprey continues to receive high praise from the U.S. Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command for its outstanding performance in combat, ship-board and humanitarian deployments around the world. We are pleased that Congress is recognizing the critical role the Osprey is playing for the United States military.”

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