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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, we are at this point not because an amendment was not accepted. We are at this point because of the nature of the amendment that was not accepted. I recognize my colleagues for the good work they did on this bill. It is the lowest increase of any appropriations bill that has come to the Senate floor. But the problem is very straightforward and very simple: Why would the House not accept an amendment that said transparency for the American public is what we are after? We have to question that. And why would our conferees sign on to a conference report that did not have transparency? That is the question.
There was an amendment that said the reports asked for out of this appropriations bill, unless they contain information related to the security and defense of this country, should be made public to all 70 Senators who are not on the Appropriations Committee but, more important, to the people of this country. I cannot understand; nobody can offer an argument on why you would not want to do that. Yet somehow it is not in the bill. How do we explain that? Is it because it is a Coburn amendment that it is not in the bill? Is it because there is something in the reports we do not want the American people to see? If that is the case, what is the problem? Where is the problem?
The reason I did not give unanimous consent on this bill coming to the floor is that I believe we ought to have a discussion about transparency. One of the things my friend, President Obama, was good at when he was here, and has said he is for as our President, is transparency. We teamed up and passed, along with Senator Carper and Senator McCain, the Transparency and Accountability Act. By the spring or summer of this year we will be able to see where every penny of our tax dollar goes, all the way down to subgrantee and subcontracting. That is real transparency.
The question before us is why would this body accept this conference report cloaked in secrecy?
I know Senators wanted this amendment. I am not accusing them of not wanting it. What I do not understand is why they would ever agree to a conference that did not have it in any bill we did? Why would we not let the American people see what we are doing? Why would we not want the people to see an annual report by the Department of Energy on their financial balances? That is one of the reports that is in here. Can somebody tell me why we would not want that? Who in the House would not want that? What is it we do not want the American people to see? A report by the Chief of Engineers on water resources? Why can't the American people see that? A report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission identifying barriers to and its recommendations for streamlining for construction of new nuclear reactors? Why should not the American people see what the problems are and see what that report says? Why should that be cloaked, out of light, out of view, and away from the knowledge of the American people?
To me, there is either one of two explanations. One is they do not care about what the American people think about knowing what is going on in our government or there is something else going on inside one of these reports they do not want the American people to see. It is one of those two things. I don't know which it is. But what I believe is, it is unacceptable for us to pass a bill, a conference report, that has information in it that is not a risk for any of our national security issues to which the American people should not be privy.
I believe, if we vote for this conference report, what we are saying is we endorse it; we know it better. There are certain things that even though they don't relate to security, you are not smart enough, you don't have the insight, you don't have the wisdom, you don't have the knowledge to make a judgment.
I reject that, our Founders rejected that, and we as a body ought to reject it.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
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