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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food And Drug Administration, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I am constantly amazed. We have three separate programs, of which this administration says we don't need one penny from the Department of Agriculture for this. That is what they say. They say we have plenty of money in CPB to do everything that is needed with the translator stations this year. We are 92 percent complete on everything that has been translated. This is similar to every government program. They never die. Not only do we have the Department of Commerce that is going to have additional funding this year for that very same thing, we have the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The fact is, they want it to go through the Agriculture Department because there is more control. We can direct it. We can have more control.

We are in a crisis. We will have close to a $2 trillion deficit this year. Here we have $4.9 million that the administration says isn't needed. They want to get rid of it. They are right. What do we do? Every time we come to approach a program, we decide we can't eliminate it. Every family in America today is eliminating a lot of programs for themselves.

This appropriations bill is an atrocity. I will go through it so everybody can see what it is. In fiscal 2009, the grand total for this was $128 billion. It is now $123 billion. Do you know why it is there? They got $20 billion from mandatory in the stimulus and another $6 billion in the stimulus. So this isn't a decrease. It is outrageous the amount of money we are spending. We will go through it line by line.

Agriculture programs in 2009, discretionary were $6.85 billion. They are $7.22 billion. That is a 6-percent increase. The mandatory spending was $18 billion. It is now $22 billion. That is a 21-percent increase. Plus they got $1 billion in the stimulus. So if you add that to the $30 billion, we actually have $31 billion compared to $24 billion this year. Think about what kind of increase that is. Title II conservation programs was $969 million in 2009. We gave $340 million, which hasn't been spent yet; it will be spent this year. Yet we increase it another 4.5 percent to $1.015 billion.

Rural development, they got $3 billion this year. In this bill they get 2.7. That is an 11-percent increase. That doesn't count the $4.36 billion that was given in the stimulus. Domestic food programs went from $76 million to $86 million. We need that now, no complaint there. We have a lot of people requiring our help right now, but they also got $20 billion which hasn't been spent yet in the stimulus. So we have gone from $76 million to $106 million, a 45-percent increase. Foreign assistance, we spent $1.5 billion on foreign assistance in agricultural programs in 2009. This is at $2 billion, a 33-percent increase. Plus they got $700 million in the stimulus that has not been spent. So add that together and you have $2.1 billion versus 1.5.

It is ridiculous the amount of money that is in this appropriations bill. All these ought to be trimmed back based on what the stimulus was doing rather than growing them at four times the rate of inflation. We are growing government in this bill four times the rate of inflation. We are going to have a $2 trillion deficit and we are proud of this bill? This bill is a stinker.

FDA Commodities Futures Trading, $2.1 billion to $2.527 billion, a 20-percent increase in one year. Let's talk about some of the separate programs. Agricultural research got increased $200 million. By the time you add in what we did in the stimulus, it goes from $1.18 to $1.23 billion. That is where most of the earmarks are stolen from, agricultural research, and most of that money isn't applied to research. It gets directed through an earmark. National Institute of Food and Agriculture Research went from 1.22 billion to 1.3, an $80 million increase, a 6.76-percent increase; Economic research, up $3 million, just a 4-percent increase; Statistical service, up 7 percent; Animal health inspection, up 4 percent; Agricultural marketing services, up 5 percent; Grain inspection packers, up about 4 percent; Food safety, where we should be increasing funding because of the problems we have had, is up only 2 percent. Where we have the problems, we are not increasing the appropriations. We are actually barely keeping even with inflation. But on food safety, we don't increase it. Farm service salaries, they increase $90 million, a 6.5-percent increase, plus we gave $50 million in the stimulus; Farm service agency loans, if you add in the stimulus, which has not been spent, we get to $195 million from $147 million. That is a 33.3-percent increase.

Federal crop insurance: Up $1 billion, from $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion. That is a 12-percent increase.

Conservation programs. Mr. President, $340 million NRCS was given in the stimulus. It has not been spent yet. And $962 million is what we had last year. Mr. President, $1.015 billion, plus the $340 million, and what you get is a 33-percent increase.

Conservation operations: No money in the stimulus. We go from $853 million to $949 million. That is an 8-percent increase.

Watershed and flood prevention is flat. It is flat. We have all these water conservation dams that are falling apart. Kind of like in our highway bill, we fix the earmarks, but we do not take care of the bridges. That is what we are doing on the watershed.

RC&D, the President terminated it. Finally we got one that is going under.

Rural development: Salaries up 8 percent.

Rural housing: Counting the $330 million we did in the stimulus that has not been spent, you have a $430 million increase--$130 million increase over it, about a 7-percent increase.

You can keep going. I will not continue to bore my colleagues. But the fact is, overall in this bill, we have a tremendous increase in spending when you consider what we did in the stimulus--not a decrease--taking into account for that.

Now back to this amendment. All this amendment does is cut $4.9 million--$4.9 million--out of a $124 billion bill. The reason this amendment is offered is because the administration is doing the right thing. They are eliminating a program that is not needed now. We can say anything we want, but we have three agencies doing the same thing, and what the administration recognized, to their credit, is we do not need three agencies doing the same thing. What we need is one agency accountable. We are 92 percent complete, and let them be responsible for finishing it and save the American taxpayer some money.

That is what the Obama administration wanted to do with this elimination. But, no, it comes right back. Each of the three programs that presently do this work--the USDA, the Commerce Department's PTFP, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting--is a part of their respective agency's budget. Unless we eliminate it, we are going to spend that money, and it will not be well spent, it will not be wisely spent, it will not be efficiently spent. It will just be spent, and they will ask for more next year. Even when we are at 97 percent or 98 percent complete, we will see the same request to come. The logic was because they asked for three times as much; therefore, $4.9 million ought to be OK. Well, $4.9 million is not OK when we need zero out of the Department of Agriculture to begin with.

One of the things the Obama administration wants to do is to streamline this process, not have three agencies going through this. They want to consolidate the current three-pronged effort into one efficient program that is already in existence. And nobody denies that CPB has done a pretty good job with the public television stations and the translator stations through their money.

The USDA received $14 million in 2004, $10 million in 2005, $5 million in each of the years 2006 through 2008. PTFP--which is the Department of Commerce--has gone all the way from 1998, when they got $12.5 million--and every year, all the way up--to 2002, when they got $36 million; and then they went back down to $15 million in 2007. They did not get any money in 2008 because they did not need it.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, however, has gotten, on average, over $35 million a year, and they got $29 million last year. Plus we spent $650 million in the stimulus on this program. It has not all been spent. So we are lining up. We have plenty of money in the stimulus package, and then we are going to ask for another $4.9 million.

This is exactly the reason the American people are disgusted with Congress. This is a bill that is out of its bounds in terms of its spending. It has not recognized what is in the stimulus that has not been spent. So what we are doing is we are actually going to increase the debt through this bill that is going to be spent.

To put that in personal terms, what does that mean? A $2 trillion deficit is $6,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country. That is what we are going to do this year: We are going to spend $6,000 per man, woman, and child more than we take in for every man, woman, and child in this country. And do you know what. We are on course to do exactly the same thing next year with this kind of appropriations bill. There is no check with reality in the Senate as far as when it comes to spending money, and I refuse to apologize for looking out for the next two generations when we do not have the courage to say no to anybody. What we say is: Yes, I will get this bill for you so you can look good at home.

Well, who is looking out for the 2- and 3- and 4- and 5-year-olds in this country who, when they were born, took on almost $500,000 worth of unfunded liabilities? Our debt is going to double in the next 5 years. It is going to triple in the next 10 years. There is no effort in this bill to make that less burdensome on those children.

With that, I yield the floor on this amendment.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

AMENDMENT NO. 2248

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want to talk about an amendment I offered that has been ruled nongermane by the Parliamentarian. I flatly disagree with that ruling, and I want the American people to understand what we have ruled nongermane.

We offered an amendment that said grants and contracts under this bill should be competitively bid. Think about that. When we go out to spend money--with the six or seven exemptions in the contracting clause, and the fact that maybe for some things only one person can apply to it, which have been accepted in that--we said for American taxpayers to get value, we ought to ask and mandate that competitive bidding take place on grants and contracts in this bill.

Not one of these has ever passed the Senate, and I want to tell you why. It is because we do not want things to be competitively bid. We do not want your dollars to be spent wisely, efficiently, and effectively because when we do that we take away our political power to say somebody is going to get a contract or somebody is going to get a grant.

So this amendment, which was offered, specifically excluded earmarks because the complaint last week, when I offered the same amendment on the previous bill, was that if they are authorized--and remember, an earmark goes to a specific person, a specific company, those well connected in Washington--I specifically eliminated earmarks from this amendment so we would not have the excuse to say we do not want things competitively bid. But what we were going to find, had this amendment gone to a vote, is that it would have been voted down, too, because the problem is not in America, the problem is right here.

We view political power and incumbency more precious than we view the economic realities and sustenance of this country and the true freedom of the people in this country. We diminish that because we think our positions ought to be enhanced, and we ought to secure our next election by making sure we are the dolers of everything good, and that we can actually connect those who give big campaign contributions to great rewards from the Congress when it comes to appropriations bills.

What this amendment would do is require that the contract be competitively bid according to the law. We actually have a law that says contracts have to be competitively bid, except Congress routinely excuses that on appropriations bills.

Just so the American people get this, we don't competitively bid contracts on these appropriations bills. We don't competitively bid the grants. We don't mandate that they are competitively bid, although some grants are competition-based but not based on dollars, based on performance. So Congress wins and the American people lose. Every time one of these bills goes through here without competitive bidding, our children are the real losers.

The President of the United States has said it is his policy that anything over $25,000 the government buys in this country ought to be competitively bid. Yet routinely it is his supporters who vote against that. President Obama means it, but we can't get it through here. We have $350 billion a year of documented waste, fraud, and duplication in the discretionary budget, plus Medicare fraud every year. There has been no attempt to accept amendments to eliminate that, to lessen that.

The fact is, we are on idle pilot to grow this government 8 percent this year in spite of the $787 billion stimulus. If you are sitting at home thinking about that, not very many people have 8 percent more income this year. So one of two things is going to happen in the next 18 months in this country. Here is what is going to happen. Either we are going to default on our debt because people are going to quit loaning us money or the average middle-income taxpayer is going to see a tax hike because, if we take all the income of the top 5 percent of people in this country, we cut our deficit only in half. If we take all the income--I am talking about a 100-percent tax rate of the top 5 percent earners in this country--we will cut our deficit in half.

So if you are a middle-class American, no matter whether you think some people should pay more than they do--5 percent pays 80 percent of the taxes in this country--you can bet that in the next 18 months, you are going to see a middle-class tax increase go through this body. The reason it is going to go through is because we will not apply any common sense to the appropriations bills.

Most American families are cutting back on their spending; some because they have lost their jobs, others because they are worried and they are fearful. What is the Federal Government doing? I am not talking about the stimulus bill. We are actually increasing spending. We are not making the hard choices about what is a priority and what is not; what is a necessity and what is not. We are not eliminating anything. We are building up everything, just like the last amendment we talked about. There is absolutely zero need for that program in the Department of Agriculture, but next year we will have the same debate again.

I have an amendment on cheeses. I am not going to do it because there is no reason to waste the Senate's time. But we created a demonstration project back in the early 1990s with Wisconsin and Vermont and we have been funding it ever since. They have this outstanding large specialty cheese production in Wisconsin and Vermont. They don't need any money, but we are going to send them more money this year because we did last year. The fact is, the specialty cheeses they make cost two and three times what regular cheese costs and they are luxury items, but we are going to fund that not because they need it, not because they are not competitive, not because they haven't grown their industry, but because we have funded it before.

Now ask yourself, if you read the Constitution, where is it in the Constitution that we are supposed to give two States millions and millions of dollars for an agricultural program that should be funded by the State if they want to do it or funded by the individuals who actually produce the cheese and are making good money. But we are going to continue to do it.

So I am not going to offer that amendment. I am not going to waste the time of the Senate on it. But there is a real question of why we are in the
trouble we are in as a nation today. It is because we ignore what the Constitution tells us to do. We ignore what our oath tells us to do, what we swear to do, which is uphold the Constitution. And within that is the enumerated powers, as well as the 10th amendment. The 10th amendment says whatever is not specifically spelled out--specific--and if you read what Jefferson and Madison had to say about what that meant, you will find that all of those responsibilities are left to the States and to the people. That is what they said.

We have this ``cash for clunkers'' going on right now, and the Senate is going to vote for an increase in that program. But the reason we are having to do that is because we can't manage it. We have proven--the Department of Transportation--they don't even know how many applications they have from people. They don't even know if they have over the number. What they know is they have approved $760 million of the money so far, but that doesn't count all of the applications that have come in from the dealers. Here we are incentivizing the purchase of cars, taking money from our grandkids, and Americans are smart enough to know if they can get 4,500 bucks back from the Federal Government, they will take advantage of that. So we have created this wonderful increase in demand for automobiles. But why not an increase in demand for boats or how about RVs or how about refrigerators? They are more efficient. Why not give somebody a $500 credit on their refrigerator? Why are we limiting this to the automobile industry that we now as taxpayers have the responsibility of bailing out of debt?

The fact is, we are clueless. We are not plugged in to what the average American family is going through in terms of a budget. We will not apply that same standard to their money up here, and their kids, our kids, and our grandkids are the ones who are going to suffer.

So ask yourself a question: Why would the Senate not allow an amendment on competitively bidding the contracts and grants in this bill? Hundreds of millions of dollars that we are going to pay much too much for, an area where we could save a tremendous amount of money, and if it is grant programs that truly do a great job, we could get more of that great job done if we got it done more efficiently. It is pretty disturbing that we are so far off course with what we are doing and, more importantly, how we are doing it.

With that, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

AMENDMENT NO. 2246

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to speak on the pending amendment No. 2246, which caps the amount of money the U.S. Department of Agriculture spends on conferences and requires transparency on the purpose and cost of the conference sponsored or attended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is a report I issued a year ago on the $90 million in conference costs the U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent. It is a pretty detailed report. You can go to my Web site and get it. But it tells about the lack of attention to any sort of fiscal discipline.

By the way, the Department of Agriculture is the worst practitioner of all of the agencies of the Federal Government on conferences, in terms of wasteful conferences, in terms of the number of people going to conferences--by far the worst. In 2001, USDA spent $6 million on conferences. Within 5 years, that went to $19 million. They tripled.

All this amendment says is, in 2010--9 years later--they can't spend more than double what they spent in 2001. That allows conferences to grow 11 percent a year. Twelve million dollars for conferences is a lot of money. That is less than the amount they spent this last year. It is less than any amount they have spent since 2001, but it is still double what they have spent in 2001.

This amendment also requires an itemized list of expenses and expenditures by the Department on the conference, who the primary sponsor of the conference is, the location of the conference, a justification of the location, including the cost efficiency of the location, the total number of individuals whose travel to the conference was paid for by the Department, and an explanation of how the agency advanced the mission by attending the conference.

It is about transparency. I have seen it quoted before, and I believe it is true: The greatest pleasure in the world is to spend somebody else's money. What our agencies are doing in many instances is not being frugal with the tax dollars we give them. The Department of Agriculture is a great example of that, when they are running close to $20 million a year--not this last year but still above $12 million--on conferences, and when we have the technology now to eliminate half the conferences.

I don't have any problem with travel. I don't have any problem with them going to conferences that are legitimate. But I do have a problem with a 3 1/2 -times increase in the amount of conferences they attend, especially given our economic situation today.

So this is fairly straightforward. We should put a cap on it. We should limit it. It is my hope my colleagues will do that.

With that, I yield the floor and note an absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I note that the Senator from Michigan noted everyone who won. Let me tell you who did not win and that is our kids and grandkids. Americans are not stupid. If you give them 4,500 bucks, they are going to find any old car they have that is running and they have held for a long time. All our farmers are going to the barns. That is why you are getting pickups. They haven't been driving the pickups for years. But they are cranking them up to make them run and trading them in so they can get 4,500 bucks.

The people who lose are our kids. It is $3 billion we are talking about to go to help people buy cars. But where are we going to get the $3 billion? We are going to steal it from our children. What other part of the economy should we not be incentivizing? How about the appliance makers? How about the television makers?

I also ask unanimous consent--actually, I have discussed this with the chairman. Rather than ask for a recorded vote, we will have a voice vote on amendment No. 2245.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the reason for this motion to commit is what we see on the discretionary side of this budget--not the food stamps, not the food support, not the areas in this budget that actually help people get through the tough times--a 15-percent increase in discretionary spending.

We are going to have near a $2 trillion deficit this year. We spent $20 billion last year. But then we spent another $6 billion in the stimulus which still has not been spent. So if you were to add the stimulus to it, you would see a 50-percent increase in the Agriculture discretionary budget. That is entirely too much money.

All this motion to commit says is, bring it back to us with a realistic expectation of what families are having to do. Again, I would caution my colleagues, this has nothing to do with food. We do not eliminate or lessen those mandatory requirements.

But in the operation of the USDA and the Department of Agriculture, let's have the government live within the same parameters that the rest of us are living within now which is--actually we are going to have a negative rate of inflation this year and incomes that are not going to grow significantly.

What we are asking for is still a rate higher than inflation but some fiscal responsibility that says we should live within our means. So when we spent $20 billion last year, through the end of this month, then we gave another $6 billion with the stimulus, and now we come forward with a budget that says we are going to spend $23 billion, a full 15-percent, 14-some-percent increase in the discretionary programs at the Department of Agriculture.

I find it obscene. I find it irresponsible. I find it almost elite that we will not relate to what the rest of the American people are going through, and we have bill after bill after bill, and in a time when our country is on its back and our budget deficits have never been so high, we are going to increase discretionary spending at a rate we have not seen in 10 years in this country. There is no call for it. There is no excuse for it. There is no defending it.

I would note that, in fact, on every amendment I have stood up on, other than the one Senator Harkin defended, we have not had anyone defend this bill. Let's hear a defense of the 15-percent increase for this bill in discretionary spending. The idea is, let's not defend it, let's just not answer the charge.

But the fact is, we are growing the discretionary portion of the Federal Department of Agriculture by 15 percent this year. It ought not to be.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. The honorable chairman noted that most of the increase in spending is in mandatory. This motion to commit does not say anything about mandatory. This is about discretionary. This is about the things we get to decide on. This is about the discretionary side of this bill, not the mandatory side. So we are not confused. This is not about those substantive items that are mandated through the farm bill. This is about what we have discretion to control, and we have indiscretion with this bill because we are going to allow it to grow by 15 percent.

I yield the floor and yield back the remainder of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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