Dr. Coburn's Six-Month Check-up
I recently received a letter from a constituent back home in Beggs who overheard a conversation about events in Washington, D.C. while he was having lunch at a local restaurant. After reading his letter, I felt it time to report to you on my first six months in the United States Senate and about the challenges and success we have experienced so far.
FIGHTING TO REDUCE FEDERAL SPENDING AND THE DEFICIT
One of the primary reasons I ran for the Senate was to provide a voice of fiscal discipline in Washington. Our national debt now amounts to over $7.8 trillion, with each American citizen's share of this debt being nearly $26,550. During my short time in the Senate, I've fought to shrink spending and it hasn't been easy!
I've offered a number of amendments to cut spending and to shine some light on the pork barrel practices of Congress. In typical Beltway budget wizardry, the pork projects politicians include in spending bills are carefully hidden. I offered an amendment to require all earmarks, which are politicians' pet projects, be listed in conference reports so members of Congress voting on these bills and the public could actually see how Congress is spending our money. I was disappointed, but not surprised, when this amendment was soundly defeated by a vote of 59 to 33.
While this defeat and the loss of a number of other amendments to cut spending was discouraging, in July an amendment I offered to cut spending finally passed.
We must continue to force Congress to address the out of control spending because our children and grandchildren will be burdened with paying back that debt. Politicians' irresponsible borrowing and spending is jeopardizing the standard of living of the next generation of Americans and it would be morally wrong to let it continue.
HOLDING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE
As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, I have held more than 10 oversight hearings on the federal government's spending habits over the past six months.
Some of the findings of these hearings reveal what we all suspected: A total lack of accountability of how taxpayer dollars are being spent. One hearing found the federal government made over $45 billion in improper payments in 2004 alone! We have examined the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program which spends $140 million annually on corporate welfare, with almost a third of that money being funneled into Fortune 500 companies. Another hearing found that very little of the $90 million directed to the U.S. Agency for International Development's malaria program was actually being spent on malaria treatment and prevention. The Subcommittee also held hearings to examine how the government evaluates the effectiveness of federal programs and how U.S. contributions to the United Nations are being misspent.
It has long been the tendency of Congress to simply provide more and more money to these agencies, organizations and programs without asking the important questions, such as what is the program accomplishing and is it cost effective. As Chairman of the Senate Federal Financial Management Subcommittee, I intend to ask these questions and to make those receiving federal support justify the generous support they are receiving from the American taxpayer.
I am hoping to hold many more oversight hearings in the months to come, including outside of Washington so that taxpayers can attend and hear for themselves how their government is spending their money.
FIGHTING FOR OKLAHOMA VALUES
Oklahomans value faith, family, hard work and self-reliance. I have the privilege of representing these traditional values that have made Oklahoma, and America, great in our Nation's capital.
I have introduced S. 1279, the Parents Right to Know Act of 2005, which requires parental notification before federally funded clinics can distribute contraceptive drugs or prescription devices to a minor. If a child needs a permission slip to take aspirin at school, I think parents should be notified before their children receive prescription contraceptives that could have long lasting health affects.
As a practicing physician, I've personally delivered more than 4,000 babies and believe it is paramount we protect the sanctity of life at all of its stages. I am an original sponsor of S. 8, which prohibits transporting minors across state lines to circumvent state laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions, and S. 51, which would ensure woman seeking an abortion are fully informed regarding the pain experienced by their unborn child. I am also a co-sponsor of S. 658, which would ban human cloning.
I am a co-sponsor of a number of bills to protect the right to bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These include the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 397) to shield gun manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits intended to limit gun ownership, a bill (S. 1468) to stop U.S. financial support to the United Nations if it adopts any policy to restrict Americans' Second Amendment rights, and legislation (S. 1082) to restore Second Amendment rights to the Nation's capital, where it's virtually impossible to legally possess firearms.
PROTECTING OKLAHOMA WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
No one can outdo the hardworking spirit of Oklahomans. Our farms, oil and gas companies, small businesses and state, city and county workers are daily reminders of the dedication, innovation and hard work of our neighbors across the state. I have supported a number of bills that assist hard working Oklahomans provide for their families.
I am a sponsor of S. 988, a bill to permanently and immediately repeal the death tax. In order to pay the death tax, family members too often are forced to sell all or part of their family-owned businesses and farms. This tax is both cruel and unfair to family businesses and their employees.
I supported efforts in the recently passed energy bill to increase energy exploration in Oklahoma, to further diversify our energy supplies, and to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy. This will ensure more jobs for Oklahoma and greater security for the nation.
I voted for the federal transportation bill, as I pledged to do last year. I fought to keep the final price of this bill fiscally responsible. We also were successful in increasing Oklahoma's overall return rate on federal gas taxes to more than 90 percent. This will ensure that our roads are safer and we receive our fair share of transportation funding without adding to the national debt.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sought to prematurely open the American market to Canadian cattle and beef. We worked with the Secretary's office and were able to delay that action, sparing Oklahoma ranchers from facing the impossible task of going to market at depressed rates or sacrificing their winter wheat crops.
Over the past decade, abuse of the deadly drug crystal methamphetamine has skyrocketed in Oklahoma, impacting families, communities and children. Last year, the state enacted a law that has dramatically reduced the scourge of meth. A bill moving through Congress sought to undermine the success of our state law by imposing a new, unproven federal law. I won approval of amendment to that bill that will protect our successful law and allow Oklahoma to continue our efforts to protect our communities against the dangers of crystal meth.
I voted to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program which assists in the development of a highly skilled workforce and I am working on health care legislation to expand access to affordable health care for all Americans.
I have been assigned the unique opportunity of serving on the Senate Indian Affairs committee. I offered an amendment to reallocate more than $100 million from government land acquisition funds to Indian Health Service diabetes treatment and prevention, as well as alcohol and substance abuse prevention. In my opinion, saving lives and reducing health care costs are far more important priorities than allowing the federal government to purchase additional lands. I've also led efforts to ensure Indian gaming operations meet the same ethical standards as all other businesses and governmental entities.
SECURING OUR BORDERS
Illegal immigration is not only an economic problem, but one that threatens our national security. Tolerating illegal immigration undermines the rule of law, displaces American workers, causes wage depression, and may allow terrorists to enter the country.
During my brief time in the Senate, I have been fighting to protect our borders and to focus greater attention on illegal immigration. I have voted to increase funding for border security and have aggressively questioned government officials responsible for controlling our borders to force them to shore up our efforts to curtail illegal immigration.
I also introduced legislation to repeal an Executive Order issued by President Clinton which requires all federal agencies and recipients of federal funds to provide tax payer funded translators to communicate in any language a person demands. This is not only unconstitutional but is a huge financial burden and discourages those entering our country from learning our shared language.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, our nation has been at war. Our brave men and women in uniform have removed brutal regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that harbored terrorists and threatened America. Fifty million people were liberated in the process, and both Afghanistan and Iraq have chosen leaders in free elections. Our armed forces need our steadfast support as they courageously fight to protect our freedom and spread liberty.
Like most Oklahomans, I strongly support the leadership of President Bush and pray for him and the troops on the front lines of these conflicts. Earlier this year, I voted to provide an additional $81.6 billion to ensure our troops are fully armored and have the best equipment available to win the war on terror. I did try, unsuccessfully, to cut $18 billion in non-emergency funding that had nothing to do with the war from this bill.
The brave men and women who defend our freedom by serving in our military deserve our ultimate respect and the best possible treatment when they return home. That's why I voted to increase funding for veterans' programs by more than a billion dollars. I also testified in my capacity as a practicing physician before a Senate committee on ways to improve veterans' health care.
I am also a cosponsor of a resolution establishing a National Veterans Awareness Week to emphasize the need to develop educational programs regarding the contributions of veterans to the country. It is likewise important we recognize the significant role members of the National Guard are playing in the war on terror as well as the great sacrifices being made by the families of those who are serving.
RESTORING THE CONSTITUTIONAL ROLE OF THE COURTS
One of the greatest issues facing our nation is the struggle over the direction and power of our federal courts. The judicial branch of government was intended to interpret and apply the law, not to write it. For decades, however, members of the court have increasingly imposed their own whims and personal agendas on the nation and disregarded the very Constitution they have sworn to uphold.
To prevent the confirmation of strict constructionist judges that might return the court to its proper role, obstructionist liberal Senators have used unprecedented tactics, such as the filibuster, to prevent the Senate from performing its Constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on the president's judicial nominations.
I steadfastly support requiring all of President Bush's judicial nominations receive an up or down vote by the Senate. I oppose any compromise that will deny the Senate its responsibility to provide advice and consent and I have supported every judicial nominee the president has nominated to date. I will, however, only support those nominees of good character who will faithfully uphold the principles of the Constitution and the rule of law.
In the coming weeks, I will be participating in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Judge John Roberts' nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. I have already met with Judge Roberts and will be closely studying his record and asking him questions to ensure that he understands and believes in the proper role of the court before he gets my vote.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
You can also receive updates and additional information by visiting my website at http://www.coburn.senate.gov/ .