ETHICS AND LOBBYING REFORM -- (Senate - June 28, 2007)
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Mr. COBURN. I object.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, does the Senator from Oklahoma wish to make a statement?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I say to the majority leader, I do not mean to delay this bill. I am on that subcommittee. I worked hard on this bill. I agree with the majority leader that many of those recommendations need to go forward.
This bill spends $12 billion over the next 3 years. We have worked tirelessly and worked hard. Mr. President, $9 billion of that $12 billion is grants. It is certainly not in the best interest of those most at risk, but I lost that fight. So I am willing to let that go. But the postgrant review process, which we asked for and were told would be in the bill before we went to conference, is not in it. Every time we ask about it, we get pushed back.
Until we look at how we are going to spend the money, until we can satisfy that, I don't believe we are ready to go to conference, and I also believe there are still some problems with ports in terms of solving those problems and some of the tier 1 issues we have.
My objection is not meant to be dilatory or anything else, other than to make the point that if we are going to spend $9 billion in grants to carry these recommendations out--and that is a small portion of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, but it is the $9 billion--and we refuse to have a postgrant auditing process where we look to see--because we know from what IGs have told us and the GAO, much of the money we have been spending post-9/11 has been wasted, and it hasn't gone to prevent the next terrorist act.
I have a personal interest as well. I have a daughter who lives in New York City. I want her protected. I don't want to do something that might stop that, but we have to do it in a way that makes us good stewards of the taxpayers' money.
That is my reason for objecting. It is not on behalf of the Republican leadership. It is on behalf of myself and my staff in trying to get good value for our money.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I say through the Chair to my friend, I guess I will ask the question: Who have you talked to who said you can't have this postaudit program in the bill?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma can answer the question of the majority leader.
Mr. COBURN. My staff has relayed to me, the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee minority staff, who have been working on this issue since we passed the bill, relayed to me before I came over that they still will not grant us that access in the bill.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, if I might be recognized, I say to my colleague for New York, I have been working on this for 6 months. This isn't new. They knew this was coming. These are commitments that were made that were not kept. This is not a reflection on Senator Lieberman. This is a staff-driven problem. The only leverage I have to get staff to do what they are supposed to be doing is this.
I apologize to the Senator and to his constituents. If my colleagues fix it over the break, when we come back, I would not have any objection.
Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, will my colleague yield?
Mr. COBURN. Yes, I yield.
Mr. SCHUMER. Is that the Senator's only objection?
Mr. COBURN. That is the only objection I have.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I say to Senator Coburn, I received a note. This is from Senator Lieberman's staff:
We have worked very close with Senator Coburn's staff--in particular his subcommittee staff director--Katie French. Coburn's provisions were included in S. 4. The House negotiators opposed them and after long negotiations Katie signed off on our final agreement.
Beth worked on this and will send more information in a moment.
It appears they have worked this out.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have no knowledge, I say to the majority leader, that has been worked out. The last memo I have from my staff director is that it has not. If that is the case, again, I will live up to my word that I promised the majority leader and senior Senator from New York that you would not have an objection from me--
Mr. REID. If this is the case, tomorrow in the Senator's absence, can we go ahead with this bill?
Mr. COBURN. If that is the case, then I don't have a basis for objection.