EXTENSION OF REMARKS
Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I wish to take just a minute to address 48 extraordinary hours in my life
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that amendment No. 1015 be withdrawn.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
AMENDMENT NO. 1019
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I now ask unanimous consent to call up amendment 1019.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask to be recognized in support of the amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is recognized.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, we just heard a good observation about the increase in spending, but it is important for the American people to understand, we did ramp up homeland security. We did ramp up defense. Let me read the increases in spending that have occurred in other areas since 2001: legislative branch, 40 percent; judiciary, 40 percent; Agriculture, 25.7 percent; Defense, 55 percent; Education, 109 percent; Energy, 48 percent; Health and Human Services, 53.1 percent; Homeland Security, 153 percent; Housing and Urban Development, 38.2 percent; Justice, 22.7 percent; Labor, Health, and Human Services, 57 percent; Department of State, 74 percent; Transportation, 40 percent; Veterans Affairs, 44.5 percent; General Services Administration, 404 percent; National Science Foundation, 61 percent. The average has been almost 39 percent in the last 4 years. Outside of homeland security and defense, the increase in spending by the Congress has been almost 30 percent.
I come to the floor of the Senate to talk about the spending problems. I also want the American people to understand what is happening to us presently. This chart represents the on-budget Federal deficit. It is not the games that we play in Washington. This is the true amount of money we are going to spend that we don't have, that we are actually going to borrow money to pay for. As you can see, this year it is going to be $544 billion. That is $544 billion that we are going to ask our children and grandchildren to pay back. There is no question that we have some belt-tightening to do. There is no question that the authors of this appropriations bill have done some of that in the bill.
The amendment I wish to focus on presently is an amendment that reduces funding for land acquisition within the bill by $121.2 million, from $154 million, for a total of $32.8 million.
The reasoning behind this amendment is, there is $92 million in reserve accounts right now to buy land that had not been spent this year. The committee put forward another $154 million. Buying land to preserve our scenic heritage, natural wildlife areas, is a good goal. The problem is, do we need to do it now when we are in a time of war, when we are borrowing from our children's future to be able to accomplish that? Is now the time to spend money on it? If not, is there another need? Is there a priority on which we should be spending?
I would say that we need to have another priority. The current bill provides funding for land acquisition through four separate programs: $12.3 million for the Bureau of Land Management, $40.8 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service, $56 million for the National Park Service, and $44.9 million for the Forest Service. Within the amendment, land acquisition funding for both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service is eliminated, while funding for both Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service is reduced by $32 million.
According to OMB and staff estimates, the estimated amount of unobligated balances for Federal land acquisition at the end of the current fiscal year will be $92 million. OMB estimates that BLM will have $28 million in unobligated balances. In contrast, the bill provides an additional $12.3 million for BLM. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is set to receive almost $41 million, will have an estimated $32 million in unobligated balances at the end of this year, according to OMB.
Of the $121.2 million savings produced, $60 million in this amendment is transferred to a special diabetes program for Indians, and $61.2 million is transferred to the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program. Both programs are with the Indian Health Service. Why is that important? There are some important things about diabetes with Native Americans that need to be recognized.
The question is, Do we spend money on land or do we spend money to improve the people's lives that need us the most? We have a real crisis in health care in Indian Country.
The causes are many, but one controllable factor is the delivery of federally funded health care services. Quality of care is severely impacted by poor oversight, lack of competitive forces, and the serious lack of funding prioritization. My amendment addresses the latter. There are 107,000 Native Americans that suffer from diabetes.
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Mr. COBURN. We were in the midst of talking about whether we buy land or take care of diabetes with native Americans. That is what this amendment does. It is obvious we are not going to be able to trim the spending in this bill, but it certainly is not obvious that we cannot reprioritize.
Let me give some facts and figures on Native American diabetes compared with diabetes in every other group in this country. The national U.S. population rate for diabetes is 6.3 percent. For Native Americans between 45 and 74 years of age, it is 45 percent, 7 times the national average. The most extensively studied, the Pima Indians, an estimated 50 percent of that population suffers from type II diabetes.
Native Americans who have diabetes suffer from increased rates of kidney failure, amputations, blindness, heart disease, and stroke. End stage renal disease in Native Americans with diabetes is six times higher than any other group in this country. Diabetic retinopathy, i.e., blindness from diabetes, occurs in 24 percent of Native Americans who have diabetes. Only 2 to 4 percent of the diabetes in the Native Americans is type I; 98 percent of it is type II diabetes.
Alcohol and substance abuse is where the other half of this money goes. Nineteen percent of Native American youth age 12 to 17 are consuming alcohol at an alarming rate, headed for addiction; 12.8 percent of the young 12 to 17-year-olds engage in binge drinking. That is five or more drinks, weekly. HHS estimates that 7.6 percent of Native Americans over the age of 26 are classified as heavy alcohol users. American Indians are five times more likely to die of alcohol-related causes than other groups and they face significant increases in carcinoma of the liver and chronic diseases such as psoriasis.
Mortality rates from alcohol and substance abuse are seven times higher in Native American populations than in the general population.
This amendment does not cut funding. It simply moves money from land to people, moves money from the purposes of why we are here to care for those who cannot care for themselves. I would say in Oklahoma, it is very evident to see the underfunding for the Indian Health Service, the number of true full-blooded Native Americans who cannot receive care that was promised under treaty to get the care they need for their diabetes, for alcohol abuse, and other substance abuse.
This is a simple amendment. I understand a budget point of order is going to be raised against it because it spends money faster than the land acquisitions do. I plan on moving to waive that point of order, but I would say to my friends on the committee, and I would say to the people of America, should we be buying more land when we cannot afford it? And if we are going to spend the money anyway, should we not be spending that on something that is going to increase the quality of life and increase the health care of those who are least fortunate in our society?
I would also ask, having looked at this and then refer to the increased spending since 2001, how many Americans have received a 39-percent pay increase since 2001? That is how much Federal Government spending, discretionary spending--that is not Medicare, that is not Social Security, that is not Medicaid, but discretionary spending--has risen.
It is time for us to tighten our belt. This is one way to move the priorities back to where they should be in terms of caring for real people, not land.
The other point that I would make is when we buy land it costs us twice. No. 1, it takes it off the tax rolls which decreases the amount of income coming to the States, local communities, and municipalities. But No. 2, it markedly increases costs to care for that land. With $92 million unspent from last year, we are going to spend another $40 million to $50 million to maintain that land and close the purchase.
With that, I yield to the chairman of the subcommittee and thank him for the time to allow me to present my case.
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Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. BURNS. I yield for a question.
Mr. COBURN. There is no question a significant amount of money is being spent on these two programs, but when you compare it to every other group in this country, what you see is about $1 compared to $3 for everybody else in terms of diabetes. You cannot very well square that when there is six times the rate of end-stage renal disease in Native Americans. That is an important point because if you can prevent end-stage renal disease, you save $50,000 per year per person in not having them on dialysis, as well as the fact it is a miserable life being on dialysis.
So the point is that there are increases. I will recognize that. I still say how in the world can we justify buying land when we are stealing $541 billion from our grandchildren? And No. 2 is why not people instead of land? That is a legitimate question, especially in an underserved segment of our population that needs the dollars that will make a tremendous difference. I would just ask the Senator, can't we come to an agreement that a portion of this money should be moved to solve this very tragic problem that affects and afflicts Native Americans at a higher rate than any other group in this country?
Mr. BURNS. This bill has such a delicate balance that there could be--and I will raise it--a budgetary point of order. That is what we have to work with. The Senator from Oklahoma knows how to work with budgets and how we work with appropriations. It proposes to add $121 million to the Indian Health Service for a special diabetes program and an alcohol substance abuse program. The offset would be derived from an equivalent reduction in land acquisition. This transfer of funds results in a change of outlays that causes the bill to exceed its outlay allocation.
Now we might work on offsets in some other areas. As to the argument that you would make about land acquisition, we have always had land acquisition, but we have also had land sales. I wish I could stand here and report to you that we had as many sales as we have had acquisitions because I, for one, support the idea that there should be no net gain of land by the Federal Government. I come from county government. I know whenever the Government buys land, it takes it off the tax rolls. It hurts me as a county commissioner to provide all the programs that I have been asked to provide at the county level. In fact, we passed some legislation at one time when I first came here, which I was part of, of no net gain--or no net loss--whichever way you want to define it.
The way this is structured does raise a point of order, and I will raise that point. The pending amendment offered by the Senator from Oklahoma increases discretionary spending in excess of the 302(b) allocation to the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies of the Committee on Appropriations. Therefore, I raise the point of order against the amendment according to section 302(f) of the Budget Act.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator for his courtesy. I plan, in a moment, to move to waive the point of order, but before I do that I think every American ought to be asking the question this is $544 billion which we are going into the market and borrowing on budget this year, $544 billion that our kids and our grandkids are going to have to pay back at a minimum of 6 percent interest every year. So we are going to pay back about $2 trillion on this $544 billion. That is going to be about $70,000 apiece that we are going to wrangle their future with. And the question is, Should we be buying more land if we are going to put our kids in debt?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Parliamentarian advises that the point of order is not debatable.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I move to waive the point of order.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator seek the yeas and nays?
Mr. COBURN. I do. I ask for the yeas and nays.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
There appears to be. There is a sufficient second.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The motion to waive is debatable, and the Senator from Oklahoma is recognized.
Mr. COBURN. The question the American people have to ask themselves is, if we are going into hock and we are going to put this kind of lien on our kids, should we be taking money off tax rolls? Should we be spending more money to maintain the land? Or if, in fact, we are going to do this, should we not see an outcome that reduces our cost by reducing insulin dependence type 2, by reducing dialysis? I believe the choice is very clear, that we ought to be taking care of those who need us the most and not add land that is going to add cost. In fact we should, invest in those people where we are going to decrease the cost of the Indian Health Service. With that, I yield the floor.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I call up amendment No. 1003. I would like to be recognized to speak on that amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The amendment is now pending, and the Senator from Oklahoma is recognized.
Mr. COBURN. I would like to call the attention of the Members to page 8 of the report language on the Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, 2006. No. 7 is entitled, ``Report Language.'' I think it is important that we understand what this says. It says:
Any limitation, any directive or any earmarking contained in either the House or Senate report which is not contradicted by the other report, nor specifically denied in the conference report, shall be considered as having been approved by both Houses of Congress.
Mr. President, I do not have objection to that other than the fact that the American people, when the report comes out of conference, will have no way to measure the earmarks, the directives, and other things in that bill without that inclusion. This amendment requires that any limitation, directive, or earmarking be included in the conference report. This amendment is about sunshine so that if you get the conference report you can actually tell what is earmarked, what is directed, what is limited by the language that individual Senators have placed in the bill. I do not expect this amendment to pass. I understand that. But I think in one of the steps of us ever getting to the point where we do not leave this heritage of tremendous debt to our children, sunshine has to come in. And when we pass a bill out of conference, the conference report ought to say what is in there, just like it does when we have a conference bill on the Senate side or a conference bill on the House side.
The current report language actually abdicates our authority in looking at what the House earmarks or what the House limits as a body. We do not get a chance to look at that because it is not in the report language coming out of conference. I believe the Senate has a responsibility to vote on everything that is in that bill and have knowledge of everything that is in that bill. The only way a Senator will be able to know that is to take the House language in their report, filter through the Senate language, and figure out what is and what is not included.
This amendment requires that all provisions must be included in the conference report. It allows both the Senate and the House the opportunity to vote on all provisions, as opposed to only those which happen to pass through their respective Chambers.
I believe the American people expect us to do that. I believe this body was, in fact, intended to look at what the House does. I believe the conference report ought to share what the House has limited, directed or earmarked for the benefit of individual Members or individual States, cities or otherwise.
So with that, I yield to the Senator from Montana and ask that he would support this amendment. It is a simple change. It is a change for open and more transparent Government. It is my belief that it is something we ought to consider.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.
Mr. BURNS. We all live by sunshine, I would tell the Senator from Oklahoma.
I think--I will have to ask counsel on this--whenever the House passes their bill and sends it to the Senate, and we take that bill to our committee, both the subcommittee and the full Committee on Appropriations, that House bill contains all of their earmarks. And some of those earmarks are covered up, agreed. But that bill is available for the Senators' perusal whenever it comes over here.
Now, most of these, however--recommended by the House and the Senate both--appear in the tables of the statement of the managers that accompanies that conference report. They are all there. All you have to do is kind of look for them. Some of them are not because the two bills are merged.
So in order to get the bills balanced out, merged, and back on the floor with a conference report--and you have to remember, the staff reads that whole bill, every word, before it is in its final form and comes back here for final consideration--some of those do get covered up. But in each body, all of those earmarks are a matter of public record, what goes on in their committees on the House side and the Senate side. This is to facilitate getting that report put together, the bill coming back on this floor, and getting it passed.
So what the Senator is asking for is more time between the time the House passes it, we pass it, it goes to conference, and then getting it back on the floor and full disposal of the conference report.
So it is not to hide anything. The way it is done is not meant to hide anything. And nothing is hidden. You just have to follow the trail in order to dig it out. And I realize sometimes the public would have a hard time doing that. But as a Senator, we even have to work at it at times. But, basically, that is the reason for the process: to save time, take some of the load off the staff that has to put this together.
So I would ask that the body oppose this particular amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I think we are in a time when we can take the time to make sure the American public knows what is in the bills. As a matter of fact, I think it is wrong if we do not take the time. I read almost every bill. I am one of the few Senators who do. I can tell you that I will struggle through a House bill and then have to subtract out the conference bill to find out what was deleted from the House bill to be able to know what is and what is not there.
That is not sunshine for the American people. It is barely any sunshine for a Senator. I restate, the fact is, we ought to make it easy for the American people to find out where we are spending the money. A conference report that does not make it easy, does not direct where the money is directed, where the earmarks are, where the limitations are, is less than what the American people deserve.
This is a simple request. It will not add that much time. It is all printed out. In the conference, you all know what you are going to agree to and what you are not going to agree to. It is taking one computer screen: You punch ``copy,'' and it goes into the report.
So I would beg to differ with the chairman. I love him dearly. I think he is a great man. But I think the American people deserve to know what is in every report that comes out of here in terms of spending so they can make an evaluation: Are we doing the right thing mortgaging the future of our kids? Is it legitimate?
But to pass a conference report that does not give that pathway to them, for them to see and make that judgment, I think is wrong.
I think it will help us as the Senate, as we look at what the other body does, to put that in that report. I believe anything less than that says we do have something to hide. We may not have anything to hide. But not being very transparent and very clear about what the limitations, earmarks, and directives are in a bill is something less than what the American people deserve.
I ask the chairman again to reconsider his opposition to this amendment.
Mr. BURNS. Well, I will tell you, I have read those conference reports, also--even the bills that come over from the House--like you. If you have a clear paper trail, and you read everything, about 80 percent of all earmarks are contained in the conference report. There are just a few that are matched up, and we do not get to see them in the conference report.
Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. BURNS. I will. I am still going to fight for the 20 percent. How is that?
Mr. COBURN. But the point is, don't the American people need to see that 20 percent? Shouldn't they be able to see that 20 percent?
Mr. BURNS. Sure. Listen, I helped pass a law with Senator Lieberman on E-Government. Any citizen can go to their computer and dial it up online, and they can follow it all the way through. There are ways of doing that. I was part of that debate on E-Government. And we are going to do another E-Government bill that is going to open it up even wider, we would hope.
Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator yield for another question?
Mr. BURNS. Yes.
Mr. COBURN. Do you believe the average American can get on a computer, after this bill comes through conference, and see where all the money is spent?
Mr. BURNS. I would answer that by saying those citizens who are really, really interested in how we budget and how we spend do have the capabilities and the knowledge to access that information and to follow it.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays on my amendment.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the point I wish to make is the American people deserve to have sunshine on everything we do. The conference report would not adequately reflect the earmarks in the House, the directives in the House, or the limitations in the House. We are going to be voting on the bill without the knowledge of what those limitations or earmarks are.
I would like to turn for a second to the Senator from Arizona.