U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today after the Senate passed the 2010 Department of Interior appropriations bill. The Senate accepted Coburn amendments strengthening border security, promoting transparency and requiring competitive bidding of earmarks. The Senate rejected a Coburn amendment requiring the Senate to prioritize spending on maintenance.
"The public has a dim view of Congress because we continue to ignore reality. The Senate is continuing to spend taxpayer dollars as if the economy is booming and the treasury has a surplus of funds. Across America, families are making tough decisions and prioritizing their spending. Members of Congress, however, continue to believe that every spending bill deserves a significant increase. This bill, for instance, increases Department of Interior by $4.6 billion (16 percent) over last year's funding, which doesn't even account for the more than $10 billion the department received in stimulus funding," Dr. Coburn said.
"The American people are smart enough to know that an underfunded Department of Interior is hardly one of our most pressing economic challenges, particularly when the department just received a $10 billion bonus," Dr. Coburn added. "What does concern the American people is the fact that Congress is now borrowing from future generations 43 cents for every dollar it spends. Americans are making sacrifices every day. It's time for members of Congress to start making tough choices as well."
"What is outrageous about the Senate's actions, however, is not just its new spending but its complete failure to examine what taxpayers are already financing. The priority of the federal government should be to maintain the one-third of the land in our nation that it already owns, beginning with clearing the more than $13 billion maintenance backlog for critical projects like levees and dams. Our priority should not be to spend more money, take property from private citizens and leave what we already own to fall to decay and disrepair. With every bill the Senate is passing we are earning our dismal approval ratings," Dr. Coburn said.
This bill authorizes nearly $400 million for land acquisition while the Department of Interior currently faces a maintenance backlog ranging from $13.2 billion and $19.4 billion. There are over 303 earmarks in the bill costing taxpayers $244.5 million. The Environmental Protection Agency was given a 33 percent budget increase. The national inflation rate is currently 1.6 percent.