Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, as the Senate and the House prepare to bring the 107th session to a close, we leave some important small business legislation unfinished. Regrettably, that includes passage of the Small Business Drought Relief Act because of serial holds from Republicans since August 1-3 and a half months. This emergency legislation passed our committee with unanimous support, and yet Senators with no jurisdiction in small business, instigated by an administration that claims to support small business, obstructed passage.

The committee reached out to those Senate members and their staffs time and again, and there was no cooperation. Sixteen Governors--Governor Hodges of South Carolina, Governor Easley of North Carolina, Governor Barnes of Georgia, Governor Foster of Louisiana, Governor Musgrove of Mississippi, Governor Perry of Texas, Governor Wise of West Virginia, Governor Patton of Kentucky, Governor Glendening of Maryland, Governor Holden of Missouri, Governor Keating of Oklahoma, Governor Sundquist of Tennessee, Governor Warner of Virginia, Governor Siegel man of Alabama, Governor Huckabee of Arkansas, and Governor Guinn of Nevada--reached out to the Congress asking for us to pass this bill, and they got no cooperation. The committee was ultimately able to overcome tremendous differences between CBO's cost estimate and OMB's cost estimate to reach agreement with the Office of Management and Budget on passing this emergency legislation last week, but not even that moved the Republican leadership to cooperate.

So we go home tonight, and our small businesses--main street America--needlessly struggle to make ends meet, keep their doors open and employees on the payroll, because of partisan politics.

For those who don't remember, this is emergency legislation to help small non-farm-related businesses across this Nation that are in dire straits because of drought conditions in their State. Just like the farmers and ranchers, the owners of rafting businesses, marinas, and bait and tackle shops lose a lot of business because of drought.

Right now these small businesses can't get help through the SBA's disaster loan program because of something taxpayers hate about government--bureaucracy. SBA denies these businesses access to disaster loans because its lawyers say drought is not a sudden event and therefore it is not a disaster by definition. Contrary to the Agency's position that drought is not a disaster, as of July 16, 2002, the day we introduced this bill, the SBA had in effect drought disaster declarations in 36 States. Unfortunately, the assistance was limited to farm-related small businesses.

The 36 States include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The situation has only gotten worse judging by SBA's own numbers. Since the bill was introduced, the SBA has declared disasters in two more States and the District of Columbia. Instead of rising to the occasion and using their statutory authority to help the small businesses in these areas, they continue to deny them access to disaster loans, hiding behind a legal opinion--a legal opinion that they will not provide to the committee.

To make sure the facts of this legislation are accurate, let the record show that this bill does not expand the SBA disaster loan program. SBA already has this authority, and this bill simply restates and clarifies that authority to ensure that the law is applied fairly. Let the record show that SBA , contrary to its claims, has the expertise to determine when a drought is a disaster. First, the SBA already declares drought disasters and does so mainly by working with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Second, in addition to working with the Secretary of Agriculture, there are existing SBA guidelines for declaring disasters, and those guidelines apply to drought too. For example, the Governor of a State can request a declaration from the Administrator of the SBA after certifying that more than five small businesses have suffered economic injury because of a disaster. Last, let the record show that this legislation is modest in cost. CBO estimated that this bill would cost $5 million per year for 5 years, far less than OMB's estimate of approximately $100 million per year. And last week, as I referenced earlier, we were able to reach an agreement with OMB that capped the cost at $9 million for fiscal year 2003, enough to cover the cost of the bill as passed by the committee and the Bond/Enzi/Burns/Crapo amendment. Unfortunately, even OMB's concurrence and the support of many Senators and Governors did not persuade the remaining Senator blocking passage of the bill to put aside his differences for the sake of small businesses and permit it to pass.

I thank the many supporters of this bill. My 22 colleagues who are cosponsors--Senators Bond, Hollings, Landrieu, Baucus, Bingaman, Daschle, Johnson, Edwards, Carnahan Cleland, Enzi, Lieberman, Harkin, Ensign, Reid, Helms, Allen, Bennett, Torricelli, Levin, Crapo and Thurmond. All the Governors who put small businesses first and politics last. Mr. Donald Wilhite, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, for all his assistance to my staff in understanding the scope of drought in this country and for writing in support of the legislation. National Small Business United, for always being there to stand up for small businesses. The many small business owners and small business advocates, such as Wildlife Action, in South Carolina, who took the time to write me regarding the drought and their problems with the SBA . And last, but certainly not least, from my home State, I thank Bob Durand of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association for his help and support. We will take this fight up again in the next Congress.