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Making Available Funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MAKING AVAILABLE FUNDS FOR THE LOW-INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, 2006

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I agree with both Senators from Maine. Our goal is not to have additional LIHEAP funding. Our goal is to make sure we don't steal it from our grandchildren, robbing from the unborn and the young in this country to do something in the name of good. It is not moral at all.

What we are saying is pay for it. To say it is paid for, to say you are paying for it, there is $1 billion allocated for next year, we are going to take that away and that is going to have to be paid for by somebody. You know who is going to pay for it? Our grandchildren.

If we want to help the people of Maine, there are a couple of things we can do. No. 1, you can use your TANF money for LIHEAP right now. That is allowed under Federal law. There is no reason anybody in Maine doesn't have the LIHEAP funds. You have money in your TANF account right now that you can transfer to solve that problem in terms of the acute problem.

The second thing you ought to know is that there is $11.2 billion in unobligated funds in Health and Human Services right now that the administration could release for LIHEAP. We don't have to be doing this. If it truly is an emergency, the administration has the money right now to send to Maine to do that. Your Governor has the ability to take TANF money right now and support LIHEAP in Maine.

But it is unconscionable for us to steal from the next generation and steal from the next budget cycle saying that we have paid for it. We haven't paid for anything. What we are doing is sacrificing the standard of living for future generations in this country through this type of process.

If you want to bring the bill to the floor, which we have offered the Senator from Maine, come to the floor, offer to spend $1 billion and give us the cuts to pay for it. Let us make the hard decisions that we were charged with to make among priorities in this country.

The other point I would make is there was an offer by the chairman of the Budget Committee last year to put an additional $1 billion in this fund. The Senator from New Hampshire offered to put another $1 billion by taking a small percentage across the board from Health and Human Services. This body voted that down. This body said we don't want to take a little bit from everybody else to pay for additional LIHEAP. We wouldn't even vote for it.

Now, when we are going to steal it from our children--the people who can't defend themselves, the future taxpayers of this country--then we are going to say it is OK, I believe it is morally wrong.

The people who need help today can get it. They can get it from the TANF funds in the State of Maine and the Northeast. They can get it from Health and Human Services, unallocated and unspent money that is sitting there right now.

We are not for not helping people, and it is not true to characterize it that way. We want to help anybody who truly needs our help.

The distribution under this formula, if you were to divide the money by everybody who could be eligible under LIHEAP, comes to $35 a house.

The other point I would make, since LIHEAP started, we have averaged $160 million a year in weatherization. That is $3.2 billion in weatherization. There are some people who would suggest that multiple homes have been winterized multiple times. There has been no oversight on weatherization. There has been no oversight on how the money has been spent. We have not done our job in terms of oversight to make sure the money that goes for LIHEAP is spent in the proper way.

I believe it very noble that the Senators from Maine want to help their constituency. Let us help you help your constituency but let us not steal it from the next generation.

I reserve the remainder of our time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, first of all, the Senator from Connecticut makes a great point. This is not about regionalization. This is about paying for something.

The Senator from Maine is absolutely right. It was in the act we passed this last fall. But it was in there for next year. It was advance funding so we would pay for the money for next year.

So if in fact we take this money now and move it out of next year, we are going to have to come up with another $1 billion. You can play the games with the numbers all you want, but the fact is, we are going to have to come up with another $1 billion.

The other thing I point out, we are not in great financial shape. We added half a trillion dollars. I was one of the few Republicans who did not vote with the rest of my side in terms of the tax cuts this last time through. I have been straightforward in addressing the financial problems our country had.

I ask Members to look at this chart put out by NOAA that says, in fact, for every area seeking today, they are either above normal or much above normal in terms of their temperatures this year. My poor State, Oklahoma, is red hot. It was 92 degrees yesterday in Oklahoma. We set an all-time record. We had 20 or 30 days over 100 this past summer.

I am not debating whether we should help people. I am debating can we help people without killing our children. The offer was made several times to the people offering this amendment: We will help you find offsets to pay for this so we do not take it from future generations. That was rejected, straightforward.

The fact is, we have to be responsible. We are going to have to come to a point in time where we will have to make a hard choice. If we do not, here is what will happen. The international financial community is going to do it for us. Interest rates are going to go sky high. The value of the dollar will fall through the floor. Talk about leaving a heritage to our children. We will leave a heritage of poverty to our children.

It is time for us to make the hard decision. Let's support this point of order because it is right. If we do not support this point of order, the budget does not mean anything, nor do the budget rules mean anything, nor do the appropriations categories mean anything.

I yield back the remainder of our time, and I call for a vote.

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