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Revolutionary War And War Of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act - Continued

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the amendment we are going to be voting on next is amendment No. 680. If my colleagues have not read the GAO report on the Department of Interior released this month, they should as they consider this.

The national parks have--according to the national parks--a $9 billion backlog. According to the GAO, it is somewhere between $13 billion and $19 billion. This amendment is not intended to do anything except cause us to order a priority that we will take care of what we have now before we spend new money on new parks and new areas under the Department of the Interior. It is simple. It is straightforward. There is nothing underhanded about it.

The fact is, we cannot continue adding things when we are not taking care of the Statute of Liberty, the National Mall, and many of our national parks that are falling down and are a threat to health and safety of the visitors and the employees who work there.

Mr. President, I reserve the remainder of my time.

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this does not limit the ability of the National Park Service to consider something they do not want to repair. In fact, there is an exact exemption in this amendment for that.

We are going to do the same thing. We are not going to take care of what we have and we are going to spend money on new things and we are going to put the employees and the people of this country at risk. Let's take care of what we have. Let's agree to this amendment.

I yield the remainder of my time and ask for the yeas and nays.

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is another amendment, the whole purpose of which is to think forward not think short term. What we are going to do in this collage of 170 bills is restrict, significantly restrict, the availability of geothermal, solar, wind, and biomass energy.

We are doing that because we are going to limit the places where we can get that. Ninety percent of the geothermal capability in this country lies on Federal lands. What we are doing in this bill is not thinking about what we are going to do on transmission lines, not thinking how we are going to bring solar, wind, and geothermal, as well as biomass, to the population centers of this country.

Yesterday, the Secretary of the Interior outlined, in his testimony before the committee, the importance of getting transmission lines and grids right in anticipation of having this access for renewable energy that is clean and without a significant carbon footprint.

All this amendment does is say we are not going to allow it to prohibit our utilization of geothermal, our utilization of solar, and our utilization of wind by what we are doing in the bill.

So everything else stays the same, but we are not going to handicap ourselves and handcuff ourselves by eliminating the ability to gather these energy sources off these lands.

I reserve the remainder of my time.

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, what we are doing in this country is we are shutting off oil and gas energy that we are going to need for the next 20 years. Now we are going to handicap the renewable, clean energy that is in the bill.

I disagree that the President has the ability only under an extreme national emergency. Well, we have an emergency right now and nobody is doing that. What we ought to do is make sure we do not limit further energy potential for this country. We are going to see petroleum prices rise. We are going to see energy costs double in the future.

This will eliminate some of that.

I yield back the time.

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, there is eminent domain, and then there is the threat of eminent domain. The threat of eminent domain is as powerful as eminent domain in itself because we cause people who have pure and sincere and guaranteed rights to their property to give up their property.

The fact is, this bill relates to all sorts of statutes that utilize eminent domain. If, in fact, we do not intend to utilize eminent domain, why won't we say it? We will not say it because we want to use the power of having that to intimidate property owners in this country and landowners.

This is about protecting one of the most important principles of our country: the right to have and hold property. This is an issue under which we either accept the rights of individuals to hold property or we say the Government knows better. Even though we are saying we are not going to use it, we are going to use it to intimidate landowners.

I would appreciate your vote.

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is the last of the amendments I will offer on this bill. These are specifically five particular directed authorizations and spending that really do not fit--maybe with the exception of one--that do not pass the smell test and do not pass the commonsense test. I have no delusions about how the Congress will handle this. We have demonstrated our inability to choke off our own parochial interests. These are five areas that, I believe, if the American people really knew what they were about, would reject out of hand.

This bill is going to cost the American taxpayers $11 billion. If we adopt this amendment, we will reduce that by 10 percent.

In this bill is $3.5 million for a birthday celebration for the oldest city in America, St. Augustine in Florida. That is going to occur 6 years from now. Think about that. We are in one of the most difficult financial times we have experienced. Families are being hit severely with unemployment, declining values of their savings, declining values of their No. 1 asset, their home, and we are going to authorize $3.5 million to study how to best have a birthday party in a town in America. It may be a great thing to celebrate this early city in our country, but it is not a great thing to steal $3.5 million from the next two generations to pay for it. Noting, and I have said this on the floor, that we will have a $2.2 trillion deficit this year, any example of less than the tightest fiscal ship ought to be made fun of, it ought to be brought forward, it ought to be made public so people can see it.

There is not a whole lot of difference between this and somebody inserting something in a bill to say the people who got the $176 million worth of bonuses will be able to keep them. That is what happened in the conference. That is why the AIG problem is there, because some Member of Congress made it happen that way. We should be just as outraged when we see these kinds of projects earmarked in an authorization bill that do not pass the smell test either.

There is $5 million for botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida. We don't have to spend that money. That is an option. This is directed authorization to make sure when it comes to appropriations we know where it is going to go. It is going to go to somebody's benefit--some Congressman's benefit or some Senator's benefit.

So in this bill is a birthday celebration, $5 million for botanical gardens in
Hawaii and Florida, a controversial issue, to say the least, in terms of spending over $1 billion on a settlement claim on a river. Prior to a dam being placed there, they already had a marked decline of the salmon run in it. That is what the historical records show. But we have a lawsuit and a Federal judge who says we are going to do this. By the way, we are going to put at risk $11 billion worth of commerce in some of the most productive areas of California. The metric on spending the $1 billion that has been agreed to is when you have 500 salmon. That comes out to over $2 million a salmon. I have not figured that up by ounce, but it is pretty expensive salmon. It is not to say we should not do good things and right things to maintain fisheries and to maintain natural salmon runs. The fact is, this happened a long time ago, and it was diminished before there was ever an imprint in terms of damming in the waterway.

There is also $250,000 to study Alexander Tyler's boyhood home in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, with the idea of making it a national landmark. First, it is not a priority--it cannot be a priority for us. It cannot be a priority that we would spend money right now at this time when we are facing these significant difficulties financially, when, in fact, we are going to borrow $7,000 per person across the whole Nation more than we spend this year--$7,000. That works out to almost $30,000 a family that we are going to borrow against our kids and our grandkids. And then we have the gall to say it is OK to spend money on this.

The final aspect is a study and an authorization to allow an unspecified amount for a new national ocean exploration program and undersea research program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that is tasked to conduct scientific voyages to locate, define, and document historic shipwrecks. There is $320 million authorized to be spent over the next 7 years on that. It may be something we want to do when we have our ship aright and our ship is not sinking, but to authorize and spend that money now on a new program to look for sunken ships does not pass the commonsense test this body ought to be about.

We already have the following that documents shipwrecks, old ones as well as new ones: the U.S. Coast Guard, the Library of Congress, 12 private museums, 8 libraries, 8 historical societies. And those are just a few. There are other Government sources, including the National Archives and Records Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Office of Distribution Services, the Defense Mapping Agency, the Smithsonian Institution, the Naval Historical Center, and the Federal Building, Great Lakes Courthouse papers. There are 12 separate museums and 8 other libraries and historical societies. There are 22 publications out this year on shipwrecks. Oh, there are nine U.S. Government shipwreck publications, and there are eight other additional sets of records in custody of the National Archives.

The other thing that this bill does is it throws five earmarks right at President Obama and says: We don't care what you said, we are going to do it anyway. It goes against his pledge. It goes against our pledge. It goes against the idea of change you can believe in. It diminishes hope when we have items such as this in this bill. It is discouraging to the people who are out there struggling that we would put such things in this bill. I understand they are authorizations and they may not happen. I agree that you ought to authorize earmarks before we do them. But I can tell you, I don't think these pass any resemblance to anything that has common sense.

I will talk about this again in the morning. Tomorrow, I also plan, before the final vote on this bill, to list specifically over 30 wilderness areas that the wilderness study said should not be transferred into wilderness as we do in this bill. Hear me clearly: 30 new wilderness areas which the study said should not be included in the wilderness area that we have included in wilderness in this new bill. Why spend the money on a study if you are not going to pay attention to it? Why did we waste all that money?

I will go through a limited but thorough critique of the bill again tomorrow.

I know the ranking member would like to speak and to praise a species of stamina and courage that I would only hope we would reflect in the Senate.

I yield the floor.

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