INTELLIGENCE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- (Senate - April 17, 2007)
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, it is very important we not leave the debate on earmarks. What we saw was an issue about the integrity of Congress which Senator DeMint and myself have been championing. There are only 4 Members of the Senate who don't offer earmarks, 4 out of 100 who don't play the game of earmarks. It is important that the American people know that if we are going to have earmarks, it ought to be clearly identified. We ought to know who is benefiting, who is getting the money, who is sponsoring the money, and what the outcome will be. It is great that the Appropriations Committee has just stated that they are going to voluntarily accede to the rules we passed 98 to 0, except there is one small problem with that; the fact is, there is no enforcement of the rules available to Senators when they violate that very point, which means they may follow that, but if, in fact, they do not, we have no course of action with which to raise a point of order when they do not.
I wish to go back to something the esteemed Senator from Illinois said, which is, we have gotten what we want. No, we have not. We have not gotten it until the American people get the transparency they need about how the Congress operates. If you eliminate earmarks in appropriations but do not eliminate earmarks in authorizations, what is authorized as an earmark will come to the appropriation as not an earmark because it is then authorized, so we will play the same game but one step further back.
I am disappointed at the leadership, that they would block what the American people so fully want. And the idea we have to conference what should be a Senate rule, when the House has already passed a rule--they operate under the very same thing Senator DeMint has asked for--all we have to do is agree we will, in fact, abide by those rules by accepting that as a rule of the Senate. Anything less than that is political Washington doublespeak which the American people are tired of.
There should not be one earmark, one special favor, one indication of anything done at any level--authorization or appropriations--the American people are not fully aware of as to who has the vetted interest and who will be the benefactor and what the motivations might be in association with that.
So the fact the majority objects to incorporating what we obviously, supposedly, all agreed to--or was it the fact that people voted for it because the people wanted us to and now we will not carry it out? What it does, by not adopting this rule, Senator DeMint's rule, is we undermine again the integrity of this body.
The American people deserve transparency. The American people should have transparency. The only way we can truly be held accountable by the American people is if they can see everything that is going on.
To deny this rule, to deny the fact we are going to operate in the open, to deny the fact we are going to be held accountable is exactly what the American people are sick of.
I remind my colleagues we do not have a higher favorability rating than the President at this time, whom we are so quick to impugn, and the reason we do not is the very reason we saw in the objection placed on this rule, this resolution. To me, it is a sad day in the Senate because we are playing games again with the American people. I said, after we passed the ethics bill, it will be a long time until we see anything. It will be a long time. It has already been a long time. Why hasn't it been conferenced? There have been 80 days to conference an ethics bill. There has not been the first step. There has not been the naming of conferees. There has not been the first step to move forward toward that.
The American people should surmise--and correctly--the Congress still wants to work in the shadows, they still do not want to have transparency; therefore, they still do not want to be held accountable by the American people.
I thank you for the time and yield back, and I will offer no objection to the request of the Senator from West Virginia to accept amendments on the Intelligence authorization bill.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.