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Public Statements

Labor-HHS Appropriations Conference Report

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


LABOR-HHS APPROPRIATIONS CONFERENCE REPORT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to spend a few minutes of my time talking about the Labor-HHS bill and a lot of the comments we have heard in the Chamber over the last couple days as to what we are and are not doing. I thought the American public should have a good perspective about what has happened in terms of the growth of this department since the fiscal year 1998 started.

This is a tight budget. I commend those who are in charge of it. It is a vast improvement over what we have done in other years. There is no question there are some unmet needs that can be claimed out of this appropriations bill. That is the time we face in our country. The Federal Government cannot meet every need.

In regard to history, Health and Human Services from 1998 to 2005, over that 8-year period, in real dollars has increased at over 10 percent per year. It has actually increased over 13 percent per year, but we have had inflation of 3 percent. So what we have seen is an actual doubling of the size of that component of the Federal Government from September 30 of 1997 to today. It has doubled in size. Education is the same. Actually, education more than doubled in size, net of inflation. That is in terms of real dollars. So when we hear the words that we can't do what we are doing, I would have our fellow colleagues look down the road a little bit. This is just a taste of what we are going to be facing if we don't start making the choices based on priority.

I tell you, we are on an unsustainable path even with this bill. We cannot meet those needs that need to be met if we continue to not prioritize in the functioning of the Federal Government.

Again, I take seriously the claim that we would take away food stamps from people who have no other source of nutrition. But I also take seriously the claim and the knowledge reported by the Department of Agriculture and the Food Stamp Program that last year they paid out $1.6 billion in food stamps to people who were ineligible, who had other sources of income. And yet they continued to spend $1.6 billion.

Why is all this important? It is important because this last year, ending September 30, we spent $538 billion more in that fiscal year than we took in. So the debate has to be in the context of what are we doing to our children and our grandchildren. We have to make a measured balance about how we make these decisions.

The decision of trimming programs that are not effective and doing the hard oversight--the real thing that is lacking is us doing the work of oversight. We have opportunities lost when we don't put money into those programs that are more effective and take money from those programs that are less effective.

The debate is centered about us and our constitutional duties to do oversight but also in terms of the future and what kind of heritage and legacy in terms of debt are we going to leave to our children.

Overall, the Congress has done a good job with this bill. There are still tons of waste in this bill. This bill totaled has $602 billion worth of spending in it.

I have one last comment, and that is there is $55 billion for the new Medicare Part D Program, of which only 1 out of every 15 people who are eligible for that program is a new person who would not have had drugs. So we are going to pay for 14 people who had insurance or other coverage to cover one additional person. And none of that money is paid for. That $55 billion is coming from our grandchildren.

This is a program on which I did not have an opportunity to vote. I would have voted against it. I also didn't have an opportunity to attach it to a supplemental, which I would have offered, to eliminate or freeze this program because our children and our grandchildren absolutely cannot afford it. It is $8.7 trillion between now and 2050 that we are going to put into this brandnew program that is starting today that helps 1 in 15. It helps 1 in 15 who need it. And yet we are saying it is OK for our children to pay that bill.

I commend Senator Specter on his hard work on the bill. This is the first time in years that the hard choices have been made. I remind our colleagues that as we face the future with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and a war and natural disasters, hard choices is what we are here for. Yes, as Senator Kennedy said today, we do need to be concerned about those who can't take care of themselves, but I put forward to my colleagues that with $600 billion--that is $20,000 per man, woman, and child in this country--we ought to be able to take care of them.

I yield the floor.

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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