ADVANCING AMERICA'S PRIORITIES ACT--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - July 28, 2008)
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I listened to the majority leader and the distinguished colleague from California. I anticipate what I will hear from the Senator from Illinois.
One of the first observations I had is that we have shut down debate on the Senate today because we came in at 3 o'clock. We have 30 minutes to debate whether on a motion to proceed, we will proceed to spend $11 billion. We can dispute, if we are going to authorize it, whether we intend to spend it. That is what your press release says, Senator Durbin; that is what Senator Boxer's says. You intend to spend it. If you don't intend to spend it, then offset it and the authorizations won't make any difference. It is $10 billion-plus in new spending. It creates 36 new Federal programs, some of which I am for. It puts a ban on the sale of nonhuman primates across State lines. That is probably not a big deal.
We could be spending time on true American energy independence, which has to do with national security. We could spend time on lowering gas prices. We could spend time on eliminating wasteful Washington spending. The statement by the minority leader was that he will offer us a chance to come back to this, but we are going to spend 60 hours on this, 30 hours postcloture and 30 hours on the other, so we won't ever get back to energy, and he knows that. We will not get back to energy if we take up this bill.
So the question that is before us is--today, the President announced, with our help--and the President cannot spend any money without Congress's help--we will have the highest budget deficit on record in this country--highest ever. It is $2,900 per man, woman, and child in this country--money we are going to spend that we don't have and that we are charging to your children and grandchildren.
This is a debate about priorities. Nine of the bills in this package I have no objection to. They could have gone through. The majority leader knows that. There are about five of the bills I adamantly oppose. We have 46,800 dog bites a year. That is not business we should be working on now. That is local. So is subhuman primates. If you count the money we are going to steal from Social Security, that is another $100 billion. We are going to take it and put an IOU in for Social Security.
What is this bill about? This bill is about trying to bust the process here, where we start thinking about the future. We are going to say it doesn't spend any money, that it doesn't have any effect on the budget. We are going to say there is no real cost until it gets appropriated. But the fact is if we authorize another $10 billion in spending--and I note also in the letter that the majority leader asked to be submitted into the Record, if authorized and appropriated, it would spend $11 billion.
Well, it is unconscionable to me that someone would support a bill that did not work hard to make sure it is appropriated. If you are not going to do that, then you are not true to the very people you are saying you want this bill to take action for. The people supporting this bill have every intention of having the money spent. Let's not kid ourselves. So if the intention is to spend the money, the money is going to get spent. That is how we got to a national debt--that is how we have an $85 trillion unfunded liability in front of us. It is not wrong to want to try to fix that. It is not wrong to try to address issues. The ALS Registry is something the CDC can already do. As a matter of fact, their own quote on it was that they spend only $29 million a year on ALS. We are going to spend $75 million on a registry that doesn't cure anybody. Why don't we spend $75 million additional on research for ALS? Why don't we spend this $10 billion at NIH so we cover all of the diseases, where we can make a major impact? No, we want to respond to interest groups and lobbyists, and we want to go home and say we have done something, when we have not done anything except raise costs.
There is $300 billion worth of waste, without a doubt, every year that occurs--waste, fraud, or duplication in this country. This body doesn't want to offset it.
The majority leader, as well as many of the Members and authors of these other bills, have been offered commonsense offsets to pay for their bills. Just like every family does, when you have something new you want to do and you have a limited budget, what do you do? You make a choice, you decide a priority, and then you decide what you would not do so you can do what you want to do. We don't do that in the Senate. We conveniently charge it to our grandkids. What nobody realizes is this past Saturday, the Senate and the House increased the debt limit by $800 billion. Most Americans didn't even know that. It was tucked very neatly into the housing bill. We increased the debt limit $800 billion--$800 billion more we are going to borrow.
People will say: Senator Coburn, you are for the war, you supported the war. But I did not vote for the appropriations bills for the war, and there is a reason for it. Because we should be paying for it. We should be making the hard choices instead of charging the war to our kids.
This is a debate I am glad we are finally having. Part of me says I would love to get on it, but the most important thing we need to do and the most important thing the Senate needs to be doing is working on energy.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I will finish and end. First of all, the actual facts are that we are spending in Iraq $8 billion a month. It is not $10 billion to $15 billion; it is $8 billion.
No. 2, I am not holding four of the eight Judiciary bills in this bill. As a matter of fact, I already agreed to three of them by unanimous consent, and they have gone through this body already. We can play with the facts all we want. The fact is, what is the priority for the American people? I wish to help people who are paralyzed. I have been a supporter of the Emmett Till bill. I think we ought to pay for it. We spent $396 million for conferences in the Justice Department for the last 5 years. Why would we not take some of that money and pay for it? No, that is hard work. We would not do the oversight. We would not get rid of the wasteful spending. What we will do is pass new spending. That is what has to change.
What my colleagues want to do I am not necessarily objecting to. What I am objecting to is how they want to do it. I am objecting to doing something in the name of good today that undermines the name of good tomorrow, which is the future availability and potential for the children who come our way.
We can have disputes about the war. I have not voted to fund the war, not once. What I have voted for is transparency and elimination of waste, and I brought up amendments. The sponsors of this bill, every one of them voted for the bridge to nowhere; every one of them voted for the Hippy Museum in New York instead of the Child Health Program. Every one of them voted to, in fact, vote for sidewalk and bike trails instead of fixing the falling down bridges in this country.
The question is, When will we have people who will vote for the future? It is easy to spend money up here. It is very easy to do. And because we are on different sides of the debate doesn't mean those who want to do this are wrong.
What is wrong is, in fact, creating a situation where we are going to charge it to our children.
There are options. Senator Reid was offered a list of amendments to offset at the Justice Department for the Emmett Till bill, and so was Senator Dodd. They refused to even consider offsetting any wasteful spending.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. CARDIN). The Senator's time has expired.
Mr. COBURN. I yield the floor.
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