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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wanted to take a few minutes to just kind of talk a little bit about the process of the end of the year here in the Senate and something that I do not think is healthy for the American people. It is certainly not healthy for the Senate, but in the long run it is not healthy for our country.
I have thought a lot about this, considering the campaign I went through to become a U.S. Senator. The theme that keeps recurring in my mind is that we are all Americans. There are multiple parties, there are differences within parties, there are conservative Republicans, liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats, liberal Democrats, but we are all Americans. If there ever was a time our Nation required leadership instead of partisanship, it is now.
We are on an absolutely unsustainable financial course. We have heard great criticisms today, not by a member of any party but by a person who chooses to make those criticisms of the direction it is trying to go in terms of trying to get us off that unsustainable course. It kind of grieves me for our country that we lack the leadership to stay focused on what is important for the country and instead focus on what somebody else does wrong or is perceived to do wrong.
We can have tremendously intelligent and respectful debate that is directed toward a difference of opinion about issues. But the problems that face this country today are greater than any in my lifetime. This last year, we charged to our children and our grandchildren $528 billion. That $528 billion is how much the debt grew last year. It is going to require absolutely zero partisanship over the next 20 years in this country for us to try to attack the structural problems that are going to undermine the future opportunities of our children.
I am reminded of history because Franklin Delano Roosevelt, facing a similar situation to what we have right now in our country, cut out three of his most favorite programs and cut discretionary spending by 22 percent so he could do what was right for the next two generations.
I worry we lack that foresight, or if we do not lack it, we place partisan political positioning and elections that are coming ahead of the best interests of our Nation.
We have heard about cuts. We have heard about taxes. We have heard about all sorts of things, described in a way so you would think anybody who believed opposite of that would just be terrible. That is not the truth. It is not anywhere close to the truth. Anybody who is a Member of this body cares immensely about this country. They just differ about how they want to go about getting to a solution.
If we have half a trillion dollars that we added to our children's debt this year and we are on a course, with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the national debt--by the way, which nobody ever speaks of, which is the fourth largest item and will soon become the largest item--if we do not have the desire and the will to work together as loyal opponents, with the best interests of our country at heart, taking the partisanship out of it--nobody is bad, they just have a different idea.
I hope as we wind up the Senate year that we will keep in mind that what I believe to be true throughout the country and that is that country is nauseated by partisanship. It doesn't build our country, it tears our country down. It doesn't promote unity, it promotes division, it promotes polarization, and our problems are so great that we ought to be following the advice of John Kennedy. We ought to be following the advice that says: Don't ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
If there is ever a time that we needed to be doing that, both as Members of the Senate and as citizens of this country, it is now. The numbers that face us in the future--a war in Iraq, the devastation on the gulf coast, and a structural deficit--require that we have a shift, and the shift is that we look to the long run, that we don't try to gain the short run, and that we do what is in the best interests of the country, and the first thing we do that is in the best interests of the country is to put partisanship aside.
I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.