FOOD, CONSERVATION, AND ENERGY ACT OF 2008--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - May 15, 2008)
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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I do not like to be the one to rain on a parade, but I am rising today to speak against the farm bill. I wish to do it in the context of thanking the chairman and the ranking member for their work. I think if we assume it is our job to manage the farming industry in this country, they had very little choice but to do what they have done and try to go through all aspects of farming and include it in this bill. That took over 2 hours to print out. It came out less than 2 days ago. We are getting ready to vote on it. Not one Member of the Senate has read probably even part of it--certainly not the whole bill. Yet I think everyone, or at least a large number of Senators, want to leave here today saying they voted for the farm bill.
I realize nothing I can say that is wrong with the bill--whether it violates budgets or even our own Senate rules, as far as what we are supposed to do in conference--is going to make that much difference. I wish to express some concerns--maybe, before I talk specifically about the farm bill, some broader concerns.
I heard one of my colleagues yesterday say it in a pretty good way: The Congress is comfortably sitting on a raft floating down a slow, deep river. But some of us hear the waterfall around the corner, and it is the waterfall I wish to talk a little bit about today.
We all need to remember our oath of office. I don't want to be preaching to my more veteran colleagues, but our oath of office is simply to protect and defend the Constitution. The whole point of that is the Constitution limits the scope of what we are supposed to do at the Federal level. It keeps us from getting involved in all aspects of American business and social life. It limits us so that we can, in effect, keep America free. But as we all know, we have continued to expand the scope of the Federal Government, essentially making a mockery of our oath of office now to the point where we are trying to manage the education system in America and we are trying to manage the health care system in America.
This week, we are trying to tell local and State governments how they are to deal with their public safety officers. We are trying to manage the farming industry in this country, which is very complex. I cannot pretend to understand it or to tell any other Member of the Senate how we are to manage it. But the fact is, we no longer limit the scope of what we do at the Federal level. There is no concern in this country or around the world that this body would not take up, and we seldom even talk about any restrictions the Constitution might have on what we do.
We also do not limit how much we can spend. We have no requirement that we balance our budget year to year. So we don't have to select priorities and cut programs when we add programs. So we continue to grow our budget, approaching now $10 trillion in debt as a Nation and adding to that every year. Here we are at a time of war and economic downturn, and there is nothing that is too much for us to spend. The President has proposed $50 billion of AIDS support to Africa. That is wonderful, but there is enough human need around the world to bankrupt this country 100 times.
This farm bill expands spending. It does not modernize the program in any way that does more to make the free and private market work. It takes us deeper and deeper into managing an aspect of the private economy, as we have done with health care and education, and every year we get deeper into trying to manage the private sector. Our role as a government should be to make the private sector work better, to make freedom work for everyone and not to use problems as an excuse to replace freedom and the private market with more Government. That is essentially what we are doing.
I am not just jumping on the farm bill and those who have worked on it. We know we continue to subsidize some millionaires, and we eliminate some key payment limits. I can go through the list my staff has given me of what is wrong with the bill. As I said before, I realize there are provisions that solve problems throughout, that there are constituencies for little aspects of this bill throughout. We pulled it together, and we are going to present it now to our country. What is wrong with the bill, frankly, has very little relevance today.
I appeal to my colleagues, I know we are not going to stop this bill, but we do need to hear the waterfall around the corner. We do need to accept there are some restrictions, some limits on what we are supposed to do as a Federal Government, some need to balance our budget or to begin to cut our debt and look at, if we are going to expand spending in one area, where can we cut it and pay for it in another area. We are stretched out as a country. We are on an unsustainable fiscal course. We at least need to bring that into our debate. That is what I would like to bring to everyone's attention today.
Again, I appreciate the chairman, the ranking member, and all those staff members who worked so hard on this bill. But, frankly, as a group, as a Senate, our direction to the committee and those working on it should be to reform a system and try to figure out how we can pull the Federal Government out of some aspects of American business. We did not do it with this bill. We have not read it. It is crazy for us as a Senate to pass a bill that we have not had for 2 days and have not read that spends the hundreds of billions of dollars that this bill does. But I do want to say I appreciate the work, but I recommend to any of my colleagues who are thinking about the future of America to please vote against this bill.
I yield back the remainder of my time to the ranking member from Georgia.