BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the reason we are having the debate now is because nobody would have the debate earlier. It is important for the American people. I don't have any opposition to veterans care. As a matter of fact, I support keeping our commitments. But as this thing wound out, on October 28 it came to the floor. Part of my amendment, when it actually came out of committee, was in the bill. It was taken out before it came to the floor, not by the members of the committee. It was taken out. But the very fact that we make an issue, because somebody wants to debate a bill and offer amendments on a bill, and then we are supposedly antiveteran because we think maybe we ought to pay for some things we do around here, so because we want to pay for it, we are cast aspersions that we don't want it to be debated. The worst thing that happens in this body is we pass bills that the American people have no idea about because we refuse to debate them.
I apologize to no one for having put a hold on this bill for a very good reason. The very good reason is this: Our veterans demonstrate courage greater than we ever demonstrate in this body. We ought to model that same courage. What is the courage I am talking about? The courage to make priorities, to make sure we keep those commitments. This bill, as it is written now, will cost $3.7 billion over the next 5 years. I think we ought to do that for these veterans. But I also think their sacrifice should not be in vain and stolen and paid for by their grandchildren. I believe we ought to pay for what we are going to do.
It is interesting that the Senator from Hawaii mentioned speaking at the World War II memorial. This bill, as written, excludes World War II veterans from the benefit. It excludes gulf war veterans from the benefit. What about them? Is the reason the other veterans, the Vietnam war veterans, the Korean war veterans were not included is because we thought we couldn't afford it? I think that is probably the reason. Which begs the question, if in fact we want to honor veterans, we ought to treat them the same, one, and we ought to have the courage to make hard choices about how we pay for it.
It is easy to charge this money to our grandkids. I have no doubt that is what we will end up doing. But the biggest threat facing our country today is not Islamic fascism and Islamic terrorism. The biggest threat facing the country today is the fact that every young child born today will encounter $400,000 worth of debt for benefits they will get nothing from. When we calculate the interest cost on that, by the time they are 25, they will have been carrying a debt load of $1,119,000.
As I look at my colleagues who want to do this but don't want to pay for it, I am bewildered to think that we can call and honor the courage and service of our veterans without taking some of the same courage to make some hard choices about funding of other things that are not nearly as important as our veterans. We can't do both. We can't continue down the road we are on. We can't continue to spend the money we are spending and borrowing, 43 cents of every dollar we spent this last year, borrowing it from our grandkids. It won't work. We will fail as a nation.
Look at President Obama's recent trip to China. What was the message that emerged? They are worried about us financially. They are worried about our deficit spending. Why are they worried? Because they own close to $1 trillion worth of our debt. They now impact our foreign policy decisions only by the fact that they own so much of our debt.
Can we continue to do this and have a free America? Can we continue to do this and our children have opportunity, at least to the level we have experienced? What are our veterans fighting for? Why did they put their bodies at risk, if it is not for a greater future for the country?
When we think about this past year--and it will be worse next year, it will be 44, 45 cents borrowed of every dollar we spend--do we not have an obligation to our grandchildren as well as our veterans? This isn't even a hard vote. Our entire contribution to the United Nations is wasted in the fraud of the peacekeeping we contribute to. We contribute 25 percent of the United Nations money, and we have reports and studies and leaked documents that show the vast majority of the money we put in the United Nations gets defrauded from the United Nations.
We are going to get to make a choice with this amendment. We will say we will treat all veterans the same, No. 1, and we are actually going to pay for it by saying it is a greater priority to take care of our veterans than to fund a corrupt, fraudulent peacekeeping force as run through the United Nations. That is what we are going to say.
If this amendment passes, it will send a wonderful signal to the United Nations to clean up their act. It will send a wonderful message to our children and grandchildren that we will finally start acting responsibly, and it will send a great message to veterans that we do care and we care enough to make sure the sacrifice they made will not be squandered by us not making hard choices.
We owe a lot to our veterans. The No. 1 thing we owe them is to make sure what they fought for and the future we have is secure in our children and grandchildren's generation. It is not secure today, based on the fiscal situation we find ourselves in.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. COBURN. Thank you, Madam President.
I want to go back to the start of this again. The American people need to know what a hold is. What is a hold? A hold says that a bill is trying to go through the Senate without debate, without discussion, that by unanimous consent everybody agrees we ought to pass a bill the way it is. Unfortunately, 70 percent of the bills that go through the Senate pass that way. The American people get to hear no debate, get to have no knowledge about what is in the bill, whether there is controversy about what is in it. As a matter of fact, they do not know that the bill on the floor is actually different from the bill that passed out of committee. It has been modified, not with the vote of the committee but with the direction of the chairman only.
So the purpose of our holds is either you are against the bill--and I have no secret holds. Everybody here knows that. When I hold a bill, everybody knows the bills I hold, and I give a reason for why I hold them. I do not hold them sheepishly. The purpose for a hold is to develop debate, to have the very discussion we are having on the floor.
This bill was filed October 28. It was brought to the floor the week before
last without the ability to amend it, debate it, or discuss it. So the reason we are here today is so we can do just that.
I have stated numerous times--I have stated it to the chairman of the committee and the ranking member of the committee and others--I do not oppose--as a matter of fact, I am for providing for our veterans. What I am opposed to is us sinking our grandchildren in debt.
The Senator from Alaska makes the claim or insinuates that I was here when the tax cuts came through. I was not. I believe when you do tax cuts you match them with spending cuts.
There is $350 billion a year in waste, fraud, and abuse that goes through this government every year. Not one amendment out of over 600 that have been offered has been agreed to by this body to eliminate some of that waste--not one.
Everybody who has spoken against this amendment or for this bill, with the exception of Senator Burr, has a 100-percent voting record for spending money. Not once do they vote against any spending bills, not once since I have been in the Senate--5 years. Not one of those who are opposed to paying for this has said: I see something wrong with this spending bill. It is not a priority. We ought to cut it. Therefore, I am not going to vote for it.
I have had criticism because the first year I was here I actually voted for a war supplemental. But at that time, we had a deficit of $110 billion, not $1.4 trillion. At that time, we had an economy that was growing, not an economy on its back. At that time, we had not totally mortgaged our children's future.
It is time for all of us to change. It is time for all of us to make the same decisions everybody outside of Washington has to make every day, which means you have to make a choice. You get to make a choice on what is a priority and what is not. For, you see, our body, the supposed most deliberative body in the world, has a bias. The bias is this: Offend no one. Offend no one. How do you do that? How do you offend no one? You offend no one by taking the government credit card out of your pocket and putting it into the machine and saying: We do not have to make those hard choices. We are not going to offend anybody by cutting programs. We are not going to offend anybody with the $50 billion a year of waste at the Pentagon. The fact is, 2 years ago the Pentagon paid out performance bonuses of over $6 billion to companies that did not meet the performance requirements.
Sadly, not one American, not the Federal Government, got any of that money back. None of it came back because the other side of the story is, we fail to do oversight. We fail to do the hard work that does not give you a headline. That is very hard work to hold the executive branch and agencies accountable. So our veterans do sacrifice.
I am for the Caregivers Act. I am for us doing all these things. But I am only for them if, in fact, we will start making the same hard choices our veterans make, the same hard choices everybody else in this country makes when it comes to making a decision about the future.
You see, a lot of people in our country today are underwater on their mortgages. They are underwater on their mortgages. Guess who else is. We are as a nation. We are underwater. Let me show with this chart, for example, what the financial situation is with our country.
Medicare is broke. Part A will run out of money in 2017. We have 50 million baby boomers--I am one of them--who are going into Medicare in the next 8 to 10 years. So not only is the cost per Medicare patient going to go up, but we are going to add 50 million to it. It is broke.
Medicaid. It is broke. It comes out of your general tax revenue. But the States are broke over their share of Medicaid.
The census. It is broke. It is going to cost 2 1/2 times what the last one did. It is total mismanagement by the Federal Government.
Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac--broke to the tune of $200 billion of your money, each one of them; $400 billion that your kids get to pay back, your grandkids. They do not get the opportunities because they are both broke. We have done such a wonderful job.
Social Security. It is the easiest to fix, but it is essentially broke because we have stolen $2.6 trillion from it. And then we are not being honest with the American public about what our true deficit is because when I said a minute ago that our deficit was $1.43 trillion, that is not true. That is Enron accounting. That is Washington accounting. The real deficit is well over $1.5 trillion because we stole more money from Social Security. Guess what. Next year, for the first time in the history of Social Security, more money will be paid out than will be paid in. For the first time, it runs in the red next year. We owe money, so technically it is not broke yet--until some of that $2-plus trillion goes back into it--but it is essentially broke.
How about the post office? They just announced their loss for this year. They are going to have a bigger loss next year. It is broke.
Cash for clunkers. That was broke when it started.
The highway trust fund. It is broke. We do not have enough money for what we are obligated to pay out. It is broke.
Now we are talking about government-run health care? A $2.5 trillion program? That is what the real number is on it when you get the Enron accounting out of the bill that Senator Reid introduced last night--$2.5 trillion.
And now we are saying we do not have the courage to pay to take care of our veterans. I do not think the American people are going to tolerate this much longer, nor do I think they should tolerate it--that we will continue to steal the opportunity and future of our children.
I think the Senator from Alaska can be forgiven for not knowing all the abuse, fraud, and waste in the U.N. because in every country he mentioned, U.N. peacekeepers have been accused of rape and pillaging the very people they were supposed to have been protecting. In every country he mentioned, U.N. peacekeepers we paid for are raping the very citizens they are supposed to be protecting. Yet we do not have the courage to say: Time out. We are not sending you any more money until you clean up the mess. No, we are not going to do that. We are not about to do that.
What we are going to do is we are going to say we will take the money for the veterans from our grandchildren and we will not make the hard choice. I think it would be a wonderful message to send to the United Nations that maybe they ought to start being transparent about where the money goes. Do you realize nobody can know where the money goes? You don't get to know. I, as a Senator, don't get to know. The President pro tempore doesn't get to know where the money goes. Yet your country puts $5 billion a year into that and you have no idea. The only way we find out is occasional leaks.
By the way, of all those U.N. peacekeepers who have raped and pillaged, not one of them has been convicted. Not one of the agencies, in terms of their eight programs that have been incompetent and wasted money, have been convicted. They are immune to conviction. The waste, fraud, and abuse of this country is only exceeded by one organization, and that is the United Nations. Yet we don't have the courage because the State Department is against this amendment, and they sent a letter outlining why they are against it. I am going to put into the Record why they are wrong. I ask unanimous consent that at the end of these remarks, my rebuttal statement in response be printed in the Record.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(See exhibit 1.)
Mr. COBURN. The State Department Bureau of Legislative Affairs opposes this amendment. It lists a number of programs as reasons to support the U.N. and oppose the Coburn amendment. Many of the programs and activities the State Department listed have experienced severe problems in execution or are taking credit for activities by national governments or private entities.
Let's take the recent elections in Afghanistan. The United Nations cannot account for tens of millions of dollars provided to the Afghan election commission, according to two U.N. audits--these are confidential; they weren't released; we just happened to be fortunate enough to have people who would give them to us--and interviews with current and former senior diplomats. The Afghan election commission, with over $20 million in U.N. funding and hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. funding, facilitated and helped mass election fraud and operated ghost polling places.
Should we keep sending them money for incompetence, waste, and fraud?
``Everybody kept sending money'' to the elections commission, said Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.
Nobody put the brakes on. U.S. taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a fraudulent election.
This is a deputy to the senior U.N. official in Afghanistan. He was fired last month. He protested the fraud and he got fired by the U.N., that wonderfully competent organization.
As of April 2009, the U.N. had spent $72.4 million supporting the electoral commission, with $56.7 million of that money coming from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction states that the United States provided at least $263 million in funding for that election.
In one instance, the United Nations Development Programme paid $6.8 million for transportation costs in areas where no U.N. officials were present. We paid transportation costs, but no U.N. officials were present. Why did we pay it? Where did that money go? Where is the money?
Overall, the audits found that U.N. monitoring of U.S. taxpayer funds was ``seriously inadequate.''
In other words, it is there, they send it out, they don't have any idea, but you can bet well-connected people at the U.N. are making millions off U.S. dollars.
How about the monitoring of nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran? In 2002, the North Korean Government used United Nations Development Programme money--UNDP money or aid--to purchase--this is aid for them for development from the U.N.--they purchased conventional arms and ballistic missiles. With money we gave the U.N., the U.N. turns around, gives it to North Korea, and they buy missiles and arms. There is a real problem at the U.N. We will not face up to it.
It also transferred millions of dollars in cash to the Government of North Korea, with no oversight on how the money was spent--no oversight, just handed them millions of dollars in cash.
In September 2009, North Korea announced to the United Nations Security Council that it was almost complete in weaponizing nuclear materials from its nuclear reactor. Last week, North Korea announced the processing was complete.
We helped finance it through the United Nations. We helped finance it through the United Nations.
As of this morning, Iran had rejected the U.N. offer to send enriched uranium out of the country to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
We don't know how much U.N. money has gone in there yet, but I promise I will try to find out. But I can guarantee that millions of our dollars have been wasted that could pay for our veterans or we can borrow it from our children.
U.N. contribution: Funding 17 U.N. peacekeeping operations, including those in Haiti, Liberia, Lebanon, Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
U.N. peacekeeping operations are plagued by rape and sexual exploitation of refugees. From 1994 forward, 68 separate instances of rape, prostitution, and pedophilia--68 separate times--and we pay half the U.N. peacekeeping costs. We don't manage the money; the U.N. manages the money.
What would happen if U.S. troops were doing that? Yet we have no control.
In 2006, reported BBC News: Peacekeepers in Haiti and Liberia were involved in exploitation of refugees. You can read that in the BBC News of November 30, 2006, if you want to look it up.
In 2007, leaked reports indicate the U.N. has caught 200 peacekeepers for sex offenses in the past 3 years, ranging from rape to assault on minors. Not one of them has been prosecuted, not one.
Just this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Congolese Armed Forces, supported by U.N. peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, have brutally killed hundreds of civilians and committed widespread rape in the past 3 months in a military operation backed by the United Nations. That is this month. Yet we continue to send billions of dollars every year to the United Nations.
Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, will the Senator from Oklahoma yield for a procedural question?
Mr. COBURN. I will be happy to yield for a procedural question.
Mr. DURBIN. I am interested in speaking on behalf of the bill, and I know the Senator has time allocated under the unanimous consent request. I wish to ask him at his convenience if he has a time when he would be able to yield to this side or is he going to speak and use all his time?
Mr. COBURN. I do not plan on consuming all of it at this time. I have about 10 or 15 minutes more to go, and I will be happy--is the Senator wanting time?
Mr. DURBIN. Could I ask unanimous consent that when the Senator breaks or prepares to yield the floor, at least temporarily, that I be recognized next?
Mr. COBURN. I have no objection to that.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. DURBIN. I thank the Senator.
Mr. COBURN. Going back to the Congolese, most of the victims were women, children, and the elderly. Some were decapitated. Remember, these are U.N. peacekeeping forces--peacekeeping. Others were chopped to death by machete, beaten to death with clubs as they tried to flee.
They may not have been actual U.N. officers, but the U.N. was supplying all the logistics, all the transportation for this group of people. Where is the oversight?
U.N. contribution: Compiling forecasts of global agriculture production and identifying areas of likely famine and the risk of severe hunger, to facilitate food assistance. We make a contribution to the U.N. The Food and Agriculture Organization is currently hosting a U.N. conference, a food summit in Rome, where the opening speaker is Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe who has literally destroyed his Nation, which used to be the bread basket of Africa and which is now dependent on food imports. We are helping to pay for President Mugabe--who can't travel hardly anywhere else in the world because he is such a rogue dictator--we are sponsoring, through our dollars, meetings where he is the headline speaker.
The meeting was branded a failure within a couple of hours of its start after the 192 participating countries unanimously rebuffed the United Nations' appeal for commitments of billions of dollars in yearly aid to develop agriculture in poor nations.
It is not because they don't care about people having problems with food; it is they recognize the U.N. is ineffective at doing that and they are not going to commit more money, but we continue to commit more money.
The U.N. Environment Programme spends $1 billion a year--20 percent of it our money--on global warming and its effect on agriculture.
The U.N. has coordinated efforts by the global shipping industry and governments to prevent and respond to acts of piracy on the high seas.
It was totally ineffective. Do you know why we decreased the amount of piracy on the high seas? It is because of Task Force 51, which was formed by the U.S. Navy because the United Nations was totally ineffective in accomplishing that purpose.
I could go on and on. But the fact is, the United Nations is not only morally bankrupt in its leadership and efficiency, it is filled with fraud, waste, and, as noted, tremendous acts of violence through the peacekeeping armies it sends throughout the world. Yet we are going to have people say we shouldn't take some of that money away. We are not taking all the money away with this amendment anyway; we are just taking a small portion to pay for our bill.
We are going to have people actually vote to continue to do these things, instead of taking care of our veterans and not steal it from our children.
I heard Senator Tester speak about the wonderful things in this bill to help people who drive to VA clinics and VA hospitals. There is a better idea. If a veteran is deserving of care, give him a card. Let them go wherever they want. Why should they have to drive 160 miles, when they can get the care right down the street from somebody they trust and they know. But instead we say: We are going to promise you health care, but you can only get it here. Real freedom for our veterans--real health care for our veterans is to honor their commitment by saying: Here is your card, you served our Nation, go get your health care wherever you want. If you want to get it next door or if you want to go to the M.D. Anderson or Mayo Clinic, you can. You can go wherever you want because we are going to honor your commitment.
I recognize our VA hospitals have done a magnificent job in improving their care, but I will tell you the test for the VA hospital system is this: Go ask any doctor coming out of training who experienced part of their time in a VA hospital and ask them to choose for their family: Do you want your family treated at a VA hospital or somewhere else where you trained? Nary a one will pick a VA hospital because the care isn't as good. It is better, and it is getting better all the time, but it is not as good. So we are saying to veterans: Here is where you have to go, when what we should say is: Thank you for your service. Here is what we owe you. Go get care wherever you want to get it or wherever you think you can get the best treatment.
On prosthetics, the VA is the best in the world. Nobody compares. On post-traumatic stress disorder, they are the best in the world. Nobody can compare. They are underfunded in those areas. This bill is right on that. But the real commitment is to give the choice. The veteran fought for freedom. Give them the choice, the freedom to choose what they want for them.
Why is it important we change how the Senate operates in terms of making hard decisions? The reason it is important is there are millions of these little girls out there. I have five of them, five grandkids just like her. She has a little sign around her neck. She says: ``I am already $38,375 in debt and I only own a dollhouse.'' Of course, when you divide up the $12 trillion which we passed this week in directly owned debt; it doesn't count the billions--I mean the trillions--we have borrowed from Social Security and the other trust funds, such as the waterway trust fund and all these other organizations we have stolen from, it doesn't include that.
But that is for every man, woman, and child in this country. It is over $30,000 now, this year. I think when you look at her, you have to say, certainly, we ought to be making some changes. By the way, between now and 2019, that number goes to over $96,000 per man, woman, and child. But she is a child. This doesn't apply to veterans, but it applies to almost everything else we are doing.
This is what Thomas Jefferson said:
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work to give to those who would not.
If you think about what is happening in our country right now and how things are being shifted, what we are doing is, we are on the cusp of a dramatic change in our country in terms of balance. This huge bill, which I will talk about later, is a major move in that direction. Senator Byrd and I were talking this morning about this. In this bill is a 5-percent tax on cosmetic surgery. Just the day before yesterday, the U.S. Preventive Task Force Services recommended--because it is not cost effective--that women under 50 not get mammograms unless they have risk factors. You tell that to the thousands of women under 50 who were diagnosed with breast cancer last year with a mammogram. Tell them it is not cost effective. But also in this bill is a 5-percent tax on breast reconstruction surgery after they have had a mastectomy. They are going to tax having their breasts rebuilt after their breasts have been taken off because it is an ``elective'' plastic surgery. It is an elective cosmetic surgery. We are going to have a tax on it because we have taxed elective cosmetic surgery.
We are in trouble as a nation because we have taken our eye off the ball. I see the majority whip is back. I told him I would be happy to yield. At this time, I will reserve the remainder of my time and yield the floor to the majority whip.
Rebuttal of State Department Talking Points on Coburn Amendment 2785
The State Department Bureau of Legislative Affairs opposes the Coburn amendment to S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 (S. 1963). In its formal opposition, it lists a number of programs as reasons to support the U.N. and oppose the Coburn amendment.
Many of the programs and activities that the State Department listed have experienced severe problems in execution or are taking credit for activities by national governments or private entities. (Their document is after the rebuttal).
Below is a list of those ``accomplishments'' and facts that should be considered.
U.N. Contribution: Facilitating and holding elections in Afghanistan and Iraq (U.N. Secretariat).
Response: The United Nations cannot account for tens of millions of dollars provided to the troubled Afghan election commission, according to two confidential U.N. audits and interviews with current and former senior diplomats.
The Afghan election commission, with tens of millions in U.N. funding and hundreds of millions in U.S. funding, facilitated mass election fraud and operated ghost polling places.
``Everybody kept sending money'' to the elections commission, said Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. ``Nobody put the brakes on. U.S. taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a fraudulent election.'' Galbraith, a deputy to the senior U.N. official in Afghanistan, was fired last month after protesting fraud in the elections.
As of April 2009, the U.N. spent $72.4 million supporting the electoral commission with $56.7 million coming from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction states that the United States provided at least $263 million in funding for the election.
In one instance, the United Nations Development Program paid $6.8 million for transportation costs in areas where no U.N. officials were present. Overall the audits found that U.N. monitoring of U.S. taxpayer funds was ``seriously inadequate.''
U.N. Contribution: Monitoring nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran.
Response: In 2002, the North Korean government used United Nations Development Program, UNDP, aid to purchase conventional arms, ballistic missiles. It also transferred millions of dollars in cash to the government of North Korea with no oversight of how the money was spent.
In September 2009, North Korea announced to the United Nations Security Council that it was almost complete in ``weaponizing'' nuclear materials from its nuclear reactor. Last week, North Korea announced the processing was complete.
As of this morning, Iran had rejected the U.N. offer to send enriched uranium out of the country to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
U.N. Contribution: Funding 17 U.N. Peacekeeping Operations, including those in Haiti, Liberia, Lebanon, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Response: U.N. Peacekeeping operations plagued by rape and sexual exploitation of refugees--In 1994, a draft U.N. report was leaked detailing how peacekeepers in Morocco, Pakistan, Uruguay, Tunis, South Africa and Nepal were involved in 68 cases of rape, prostitution and pedophilia. The report also stated that the investigation into these cases is being undermined by bribery and witness intimidation by U.N. personnel.
In 2006, it was reported that peacekeepers in Haiti and Liberia were involved in sexual exploitation of refugees.
In 2007, leaked reports indicate the U.N. has caught 200 peacekeepers for sex offenses in the past three years ranging from rape to assault on minors. In all of these cases, there is no known evidence of an offending U.N. peacekeeper being prosecuted.
Just this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Congolese armed forces, supported by U.N. peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have brutally killed hundreds of civilians and committed widespread rape in the past three months in a military operation backed by the United Nations.
Most of the victims were women, children, and the elderly. Some were decapitated. Others were chopped to death by machete, beaten to death with clubs, or shot as they tried to flee.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission provides substantial operational and logistics support to the soldiers, including military firepower, transport, rations, and fuel.
The attacking Congolese soldiers made no distinction between combatants and civilians, shooting many at close range or chopping their victims to death with machetes. In one of the hamlets, Katanda, Congolese army soldiers decapitated four young men, cut off their arms, and then threw their heads and limbs 20 meters away from their bodies. The soldiers then raped 16 women and girls, including a 12-year-old girl, later killing four of them.
The U.S. now pays 27 percent of all U.N. peacekeeping operations. Reducing our contribution to these wasteful efforts could help ensure that U.N. peacekeepers are not funding widespread rape and exploitation of refugees.
U.N. Contribution: Compiling forecasts of global agricultural production, identifying areas of likely famine and risk of severe hunger, to facilitate emergency food assistance (FAO).
Response: The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is currently hosting a U.N. food summit in Rome, where the opening speaker is Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is barred from travel to most Western countries because of his atrocious human rights record, but receives an exception for U.N. sponsored events. No G-8 leader attended the event save the Prime Minister of Italy, the host nation.
``The meeting was branded a failure within a couple of hours of its start after the 192 participating countries unanimously rebuffed the United Nations' appeal for commitments of billions of dollars in yearly aid to develop agriculture in poor nations.''
The U.N. Environment Program spends over $1 billion annually on global warming initiatives (and weighs in on its effect on agriculture) but there is almost no auditing or oversight being conducted. The U.N. Environment program has one auditor and one assistant to oversee its operations. According to the task force it would take 17 years for the auditor to oversee just the high-risk areas already identified in UNEP's work.
U.N. Contribution: Coordinating tsunami and earthquake relief projects in Indonesia and Pakistan (U.N. Secretariat/OCHA).
Response: The United States is the top contributor to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for funding disasters after they occur. In addition to billions in supplemental funding (above and beyond normal U.N. contributions) the United States military expends tremendous resources in money and personnel to be the first response for disaster aid.
U.N. Contribution: Coordinating efforts by global shipping industry and governments to prevent and respond to acts of piracy on the high seas (IMO).
Response: The key deterrence factor in combating piracy in Somalia is the creation of Task Force 151, which was formed by the United States Navy.
The United Nations has pushed the U.S. to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, the convention has no way to address piracy issues coming from failed states such as Somalia. Fighting piracy is being conducted by individual states patrolling their own waters and working with other nations to protect sea lanes that are in their national interest.
U.N. Contribution: Creating and maintaining systems to protect the intellectual property rights of American entrepreneurs (WIPO).
Response: Until last year, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, was run by Dr. Kamil Idris, who was appointed to that position in 1997. According to an internal investigation, he falsified his U.N. personnel file to drop nine years from his age--making it possible to extend his time at WIPO and to extend his ability to obtain a lucrative benefit package, including a possible payout of more than $500,000. The scandal was first reported in a leaked U.S. State Department cable authored by former Secretary of State Rice. The cable also states that this official is suspected of using U.N. funds for personal items such as the construction of a swimming pool at his residence.
WIPO has also been criticized for its working culture under Dr. Idris's leadership, with a report by accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers citing high levels of absenteeism, incompetence and inadequate disciplinary measures.
U.N. Contribution: Enabling the delivery of mail around the world (UPU).
Response: The Universal Postal Union, UPU, which coordinates international postal policies among nations, was created in 1874 (renamed in 1878). Its creation predates the United Nations by 72 years.
United Nations Funding
CAREGIVERS AND VETERANS OMNIBUS HEALTH SERVICES ACT OF 2009 (S. 1963)
Senate Amendment: Senate Amendment No. 2758 submitted by Senator Coburn to S. 1963. To transfer funding for United Nations contributions to offset costs of providing assistance to family caregivers of disabled veterans.
Department Position: Oppose amendment.
Talking Points: U.N. assessed contributions fund a wide range of U.N. activities that support high U.S. foreign policy priorities. Some examples include:
Facilitating and holding elections in Afghanistan and Iraq (U.N. Secretariat);
Monitoring nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran (IAEA);
Funding 17 U.N. Peacekeeping Operations, including those in Haiti, Liberia, Lebanon, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo;
Compiling forecasts of global agricultural production, identifying areas of likely famine and risk of severe hunger, to facilitate emergency food assistance (FAO);
Coordinating tsunami and earthquake relief projects in Indonesia and Pakistan (U.N. Secretariat/OCHA);
Detecting outbreaks of avian flu and H1N1 and other infectious diseases and defending against a world pandemic (WHO, FAO);
Creating and maintaining systems to protect the intellectual property rights of American entrepreneurs (WIPO);
Enabling the delivery of mail around the world (UPU);
Coordinating international aviation safety standards (ICAO);
Coordinating global use of electronic communications frequencies to ensure essential global telecommunications function smoothly (ITU);
Coordinating efforts by global shipping industry and governments to prevent and respond to acts of piracy on the high seas (IMO).
Furthermore, the President has stated his commitment to paying U.S. dues to international organizations in full.
As Ambassador Rice has said, we meet our obligations. As we call upon others to help reform and strengthen the U.N., the United States must do its part--and pay its bills. Our dues to the United Nations and other international organizations are treaty obligations, and we are committed to working with Congress to pay them in full.
With the support of Congress, the U.S. has just cleared our arrears which accumulated over the past decade. The full payment of assessed contributions affects the standing and influence that the U.S. has at these organizations.
Going into arrears undermines U.S. credibility, particularly on matters dealing with budget, finance, and management of IOs, and negatively influences world opinion regarding U.S. respect and appreciation for the role of multilateral organizations that support and advance U.S. foreign policy. Arrears also have a real impact on the organizations, making it more difficult for these organizations to manage cash flows and execute budgets, and thus accomplish their missions.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the majority whip is a formidable orator and he is appreciated in lots of ways. We work together on subcommittees on the Judiciary Committee. I have a fondness for him. Although one area he did not agree to work with me is to pay for it.
Never have I said I don't want us to do this for our veterans. Not once. The reason we are on the floor, the only reason we are on the floor having this debate is because of my hold; otherwise, we would never have gotten here to have the debate which I think is valuable for the people in this country.
But there has to come a time--every time I offer an amendment on this floor is never a good time--to start making our choices. That is what we hear all the time. Over 600 times in the last 4 1/2 years, it is never a good time to start making hard choices. That is just what we heard.
The Senator from Illinois referenced Congo. Just this month the Congolese army, with the assistance of the United Nations, slaughtered a bunch of people. And we are supposed to continue?
I put two other things out there. Under Federal law, the Accountability and Transparency Act, the United Nations is required to tell the American people how our money is spent because the State Department is required to find it out and put it online. They have refused to do it. So we have no idea what it is.
Two years ago in the Foreign Ops bill, an amendment was agreed to by 100 Senators that there would be transparency. Our money going to the United Nations would be conditioned on the fact that the United Nations would be transparent on how it was spent. That was voted 100 to 0 in the Senate.
Guess what happened on the way to the bank coming out of the conference committee. It was eliminated. So now we send over $5 billion directly, $5.2 billion, plus billions more through USAID through the United Nations, and we do not have any idea how it is spent.
What we do know is that the United Nations is fiscally and morally bankrupt. It is loaded with fraud, loaded with duplication, and loaded with excess.
It would be a wonderful thing to send the United Nations a wonderful fire shot across the bow that they have to start being accountable for the dollars that the American taxpayer, that this little girl is sending them out of her future every year. It would be a wonderful thing for us to say that.
It is unfortunate, every time when we get down to the point where we have to make a hard choice, we always choose not to make the hard choice. That spells disaster for our country, and it also spells a total lack of leadership on our part to recognize what the real problems are that are confronting this country.
Our veterans deserve us to take care of them. I am for that. Our children deserve for us to do it in a way that protects their future--the very thing for which our veterans serve.
Unfortunately, we will not do that with this amendment or any other time until the American people decide they have had enough of the careerism, the elitism, the lack of integrity, the lack of courage that is so often represented in the votes we cast in this body.
I reserve the remainder of my time, and I yield in my absence any time the Senator from North Carolina wishes to take from my time.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I listened very carefully to the chairman of the Veterans' Committee. He misses one major point: If, in fact, we don't send the money to the U.N., we will have money to pay for the veterans--if we don't send the money.
That is what this amendment does. It precludes that money from going from the State Department's budget to the U.N. I admit it is fungible, but that is money we will not send to something that is low priority, that is wasteful, that is nontransparent, and that the vast majority of Americans agree we get very little value from when we send that money to the U.N.
I also take issue with my friend's words that it is time. I think the chairman will agree that this bill was not noticed until October 28. That is when this bill was noticed. When the bill was noticed, the next day a unanimous consent request came through to say pass this without any debate, without any discussion, pass it through the Senate. I said, no, we ought to have a debate. At that time, we offered the Veterans' Committee a list of some 20 options of things that are lower priority than helping our veterans. They were rejected out of hand, which is the problem I have been describing on the floor earlier.
Every time it comes down to making a choice, the majority of this body chooses not to make a choice, not to choose a priority, not to do what we get paid to do, not to do what is in the best interests of the Nation. They choose to not choose. But by choosing not to choose priorities, we still choose, because what we choose is to take the money from our children. We choose to lower the standard of living of our children.
I want to tell you about veterans with whom I have spoken. I have had a lot of calls on this, because how dare somebody hold up a veterans bill before Veterans Day. The vast majority of the calls say we think you ought to support veterans, but we also think you ought to pay for it. Our country can't keep doing what we are going to do. So on the last appropriations bill through this body, I gave you an opportunity. We have heard three Senators today say there is no price we should not give to support our veterans. Direct quotes. ``No price is too great''? There is one price that is too great, because all three of those Senators who spoke those words refused to give up their earmarks to pay for veterans in the VA-MILCON bill. They all voted against paying for it in the MILCON bill by eliminating the unrequested items they had earmarked for them in the VA-MILCON bill. So, yes, there is a price that is too great--the price of helping yourself and your own constituency on a parochial basis and putting that ahead of the best interests for our veterans. So the words ``there is not a price too great'' ring hollow. We put our parochialism ahead of it.
I ask unanimous consent to add Senators Inhofe and Burr as cosponsors of my amendment.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, as we talk about this debate, as my colleagues know me very well, the debate isn't about veterans; it is not about the veterans bill. It is about reestablishing some fiscal sanity in Washington of which we have none. This bill here--the health care bill that was released last night--over the next 10 years will spend $2.5 trillion. That is what it will spend. We don't know the accuracy of CBO. They certainly haven't done very well in the past on health care, as to whether it saves money. What we do know is that it doesn't cut the cost of health care, which is the problem. It transfers $2.5 trillion under the guise of the control of the Federal Government, which is not efficient.
I have not heard one colleague defend the United Nations. Nobody will get up in this body and defend the atrocities, the waste, and the fraud of the U.N. Nobody will say that. But those same people who actually agree with it but won't do anything about it will vote against this amendment. They will vote against the amendment. They won't defend what has very accurately been described as the behavior, the lack of fiscal sanity, the fraud and theft, the rape and pillage by the peacekeepers, the lack of oversight, and the total lack of transparency. They won't defend that with their words, but they will defend it with their vote. They are going to absolutely defend it with their vote. Once again, they are going to refuse to make the hard choice. Most of them listening to this agree, but it is the wink and nod that we play around this body. They know the U.N. is a big mess. They know it is a big problem. But they won't do anything to fix it. They will vote for complete transparency and vote to condition our funds on transparency, and when they get to conference, they will take it out. They will look good on the outside, but the inside of the cup will be absolutely filthy.
When is it we will see a turnaround in Washington that will match the courage of our veterans and meet the expectation of the citizens of this country? When is that going to happen? I will tell you when it is going to happen: It is going to happen when the Chinese start selling our bonds or quit buying them. That is when it will happen. Then we are not going to be able to make those decisions based on our choice. They are going to be dictated to us. They are going to be rammed down our throats.
The fact is that $3.7 billion is a lot of money. It is $3,700 million. That is hard to think about when you start talking about billions. Yet we are going to pass it. By the way, this bill that is so critical to get passed right now has no money in it for veterans for this process. Would the chairman agree with that? There is no money there now? It is not going to happen until a year from now, unless we put it in some supplemental program between now and next September 30. So what we are promising isn't going to come due, because we turned down an amendment on the VA-MILCON bill that would have allowed money to be available as soon as the VA-MILCON bill passed the conference committee and the President signs it.
How hollow does that sound? We claim one thing but our actions are totally different. And the VA says, by the way--at least intimated--once they get this bill and the money, it will take at least 180 days to implement it. So add 18 months to right now to when our first veterans will see the benefit, especially the caregivers. And we could have, with the VA-MILCON amendment I offered--which was rejected--made that happen next month--at least the planning in the first 6 months of that--so that by March or April caregivers could actually start receiving this money.
I have tremendous worry for our Nation. If you open your eyes, you will too, because we cannot keep doing what we are doing.
Just some statistics. These are accurate, based on GAO, OMB, and Congressional Budget Office:
Ending September 30, not counting the supplemental, the Federal Government spent $33,880 for every household in this country. But we only collected an average of $18,000 per family. We borrowed, per family, $15,603 last year. Those numbers are going to be bigger next year. We are going to spend more, we are going to borrow more, and we are going to collect less. What is the implication of that? What is the implication of borrowing money we don't have and spending it on things that are not a priority, such as caring for veterans? The implication is that it will come to an abrupt halt in a very damaging and painful way--maybe not for us in this body but certainly for my children and my grandchildren, and certainly for those who follow us.
There is a bigger worry than the financial aspect of it. It is that we are losing, as we do this, the very integral part of what makes our Nation great. It is called ``sacrifice.'' That is why we honor our veterans. It is because they sacrifice, they put themselves on the line. Our heritage has been, from the founding of this country, to the very people who risk their lives and fortunes to initiate this country--the heritage has been of one generation sacrificing so the next generation can have greater opportunity and greater freedom and greater liberty.
As I said earlier, when we come back and get down to the actual voting on this amendment, most people will say: We can't do that. It is not time to make a hard choice.
I want to tell you, those veterans who have closed-head trauma made a hard choice. Those veterans who lost their lives and family made a hard choice. Those veterans who have severe disability and their families made a hard choice.
In a little while, we are going to dishonor that, because we are going to refuse to make a hard choice and rationalize in a way that it isn't going to do any good or make any difference, and we are not going to even attempt to get the out-of-control spending in Washington under control. We will reject the notion that you can, in fact, look at something and see what it is like, such as the corruption, such as the waste, such as the rape and pillaging of the U.N. peacekeeping troops, and we are going to say that is not important, and what is important is that we keep doing it the way we have always done it. We will continue to do it the way we have always done it.
The way we have always done it for the past 20 years does not honor what built this country. It doesn't honor making that sacrifice. It does not honor saying I will make a tough vote, even though the administration doesn't want me to make this vote. I will make a vote that is right for the country, right for the future, right for our kids and our grandkids. I will make that vote.
We will not see that today. We will not see the courage mustered up to choose between veterans and a sloppy, ill-run organization into which this country pours billions of dollars every year and continues unabated and uncontrolled and without oversight because we refuse to make a choice.
So my colleagues get a choice. Here is the choice: Ignore with a blind eye the absolute tragedies that are going on at the United Nations, the absolute waste, the incompetency, the favoritism, the theft that is going on and say you did something good for veterans.
The fact is, the reason our veterans have such severe injuries is because they protect our liberty, protect our freedom, and protect our future. We are not going to choose that today. We are going to choose the opposite. We are going to do the status quo. We are going to say this amendment does not make sense.
When will we muster the courage to make a real choice, to go out and defend that veterans are worth more than the waste at the United Nations? We will not make the choice because we know we can vote against this amendment and still tell the veterans we did it and we don't have to speak to our grandchildren and children. We will be gone. We will be out of here.
When their standard of living is 35 percent below the standard of living we experience today--by the way, that is what is forecast as the government takes over 40 percent of the GDP of this country and as we end up with interest costs in excess of $1 trillion a year just to fund the excesses of what we are doing today, which is less than 5 years away, and we will be spending $1 trillion a year on interest--we will have no recollection of this vote. We will have no recriminations against us. We will have just voted and said that is another amendment to try to make us make a choice, but we refuse to make one.
By voting against this amendment, you are defending the audacity, corruptness, inefficiency, and fraudulent behavior of the United Nations. That is what you are doing. Nothing can be cut. Have you noticed that? Nothing is not important to the politicians of this city. Everybody has an interest group. Oh, we can't go against that. That is an absolute formula for disaster for our country.
I wish to enter into the Record some additional information on the United Nations. I only touched the surface on the amount of outlandish things that have gone on in the United Nations. I did not mention Oil for Food, billions of dollars, and of the people who took all that money, none of them got prosecuted. The U.N. Headquarters renovation is going to cost $2 billion. It should cost about $800 million. I did not talk about that or the lack of transparency in terms of the State Department, in terms of reporting how our money is spent at the United Nations.
I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record this information.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I will finish and give the chairman the last word. What the chairman and his committee are attempting to do is honorable. It is the right thing to do to help our veterans and to secure and help those who are helping our veterans. I agree. However, I don't agree that we ought to do that on the backs of our children. I think we ought to do it on our backs. We ought to carry that load. Our children and our grandchildren should not have to carry that load. We ought to be forced to make the sacrifices to pay for the sacrifices they have made for us. This bill does not do that.
This bill takes the easy route. It says you do not have to pay for it, it is not required. There is not anything we can get rid of, after I offered all these options to the committee in terms of what they could get rid of that would pay for it.
If we don't pay for it from what I offered, then get rid of our own earmarks, the things that make us look good. We chose to keep our earmarks and charge it to our grandkids. It is a wonderful choice and a wonderful thing for the American people to see.
On this vote, they are going to see three things. They are going to see all the people who voted to keep their earmarks vote against this amendment. The first thing they are going to say is: My earmarks are more important than paying for veterans, caregivers, and everything else expanded in this bill.
The second thing they are going to see is that we do not have the courage to take on fraud, waste and abuse and lack of transparency at the United Nations. They are going to see us fail to live up to the expectations they have for us.
Everybody in America knows we are in trouble financially. They know the Federal Government is too big. They know the Federal Government is inefficient. They know we can do better. They are just wondering when we are going to start. When will it start? When will be the first time we make a hard choice? I regret it is not going to be on this bill because it is symbolic. If there ever was a bill on which we should start to make the hard choices, it should be on a bill that honors and takes care of the people who have made hard choices for us, the people who have sacrificed their lives and their future and their families for us.
The third thing, regrettably, that they are going to see is that we are going to continue to play the game the way it has been played: Get the votes to defeat the amendment; we will take a little bit of heat; maybe somebody will notice. I will guarantee you, 20 years from now, our kids are going to notice, our grandkids are going to notice.
One final thought. If you are under 25 in this country, pay attention to me right now. If you are under 25--there are 103 million of you. Twenty years from now, you and your children will each be responsible for $1,919,000 worth of debt of this country for which you will have gotten no benefit--none. The cost to carry that will be about $70,000. That is not per family, that is per individual. The cost to carry that will be about $70,000 a year before you pay your first tax.
Ask yourself if you think we are doing a good job when we are going to take away your ability to get a college education, we are going to take away your ability to educate your children, when we are going to take away your ability to own a home, and we are going to take away your ability to have the capital formation to create jobs in this country. Watch and see. That number is going to grow every time we do something like this without paying for it, without offsets, without getting rid of something less important.
I yield back the time and yield the remainder of my time to the chairman of the committee.
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