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Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations For Fiscal Year 2010 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. We have before us almost a $60 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill. This is about the eighth supplemental bill we have discussed since I have been in the Senate--some appropriate, some not.

But the thing that I think the American people need to know, given the fact that this week our debt will be $13 trillion--this week--and that does not count what we owe trust funds inside the government, account money we have stolen from Social Security that will have to be paid back; it does not count money that has been taken from the oil recovery fund that will have to be paid back; it does not count the money from the inland waterway trust fund and all of these other trust funds. That is $13 trillion outside of what we have borrowed from ourselves--$13 trillion.

So we have before us a bill that is an emergency supplemental appropriations bill, and I thought it would be interesting for the American people to see what the rules of the Senate say about what is an ``emergency'' because nobody can say the war is an emergency. Since September 11, 2001, there has been no emergency other than the fact that we knew we were going to war. And the fact is, we have known that at least for the last 5 or 6 years. Nobody can say that.

But when you look at the definition we are supposed to follow--our own rules--about emergency designations, there are five characteristics, and those five characteristics are, one, it is necessary, it is essential, and it is vital. Well, some of this bill is necessary, some of it is essential, and some of it is vital--not all of it is by any means.

No. 2: Sudden, quickly coming into being, and not building up over time. Well, this bill certainly does not meet that requirement, except for a very small section of it.

An urgent, pressing, and compelling need requiring immediate action. There is no immediate action here on anything, except maybe the FEMA portion for both the upper Northeast and the flooding and Nashville, TN, and its flooding. But we have $900 million sitting in FEMA right now that has not been spent that we can start spending, so we don't have to pass $5 billion right now.

Unforeseen, unpredictable, and unanticipated. Well, the war certainly wasn't unforeseen, it certainly wasn't unpredictable, and it certainly wasn't unanticipated. We have known it. So it certainly doesn't meet that definition.

It is not permanent, it is not temporary in nature.

So we have what we are supposed to be following, and I would portend that 98 percent of this bill doesn't meet the requirements of being an emergency designation. Yet why are we calling it an emergency designation? There is one real reason for that; that is, we don't have to confine it in with the total amount we are authorized to spend. This is outside of what we are going to spend. It is $60 billion that we are going to borrow. We are going to borrow it. We are going to borrow it from the children of the people who are in Afghanistan and Iraq who are fighting this war. The people in this body aren't going to pay it back. We are going to kiss it goodbye and we are going to say: Here is your present, grandchildren. Here is a present for the kids of the warfighter who is over there today, who is sacrificing, his family is sacrificing, her family is sacrificing. But we are going to borrow it from them.

And it is not that we haven't done it. We made a big fanfare about that we were going to institute pay-go; that we were not going to violate pay-go; that pay-go was going to force discipline on us. So we passed a statute, and the President had a big signing--except here is what has happened since we have signed it.

It was signed into law on February 12.

On February 24, we violated pay-go. We said the rule doesn't apply; we have a need; we are going to spend $46 billion. So we spent $46 billion outside of the budget. We borrowed $46 billion. Oops.

March 2. We don't have the courage to eliminate lower priority parts of the government. We borrowed another $10 billion.

All of a sudden, on March 3, then we borrowed $99 billion. Pay-go didn't count. We just said: We waive pay-go. Sixty votes of the Senate. We have no fiscal discipline--$99 billion.

April 14. We borrowed $18 billion. Did it again.

So if you add those up--and that doesn't count the last one we did. I will bring a more accurate chart tomorrow when I talk about the rest of these amendments. But so far, we have borrowed $173 billion, when we said we are not going to borrow money anymore because we are going to have pay-go that says that will force the discipline on us to put lower priorities off the spending line, to put higher priorities on.

So just since February 12--it is now late May--we have borrowed $173 billion. We are going to add $60 billion here, and we have a tax extender package that is coming with another $230 billion. That is $563 billion since February 12 that we are going to spend money--I understand the majority leader is on the floor. Would you like time, Mr. Leader?

Mr. REID. I appreciate my friend yielding. I am here. Why don't you proceed, and when I get the necessary--

Mr. COBURN. I will be happy to yield to the leader.

Mr. REID. Thank you very much.

Mr. COBURN. So $ 1/2 trillion since we famously passed pay-go, and we are going to waive it six times, and when we haven't waived it, we have declared something an ``emergency'' so we do not have pay-go law applying. The budget rules go out the window because it is an emergency--except we do not meet the criteria for emergencies by our own definition.

So what is this all about? Is it about playing a shell game with the American people, to say we are going to do one thing and then turn around and, before July 1, in 5 months--less than 5 months--we are going to borrow another $ 1/2 trillion after we tell the American people: Oh, no, we are not going to do that anymore.

We have an emergency. There is no question this country has an emergency. Do you know what it is? It is a $13 trillion debt we have today that is going to be $23 trillion 8 years from now. We have a debt that is going to suppress our GDP by 1 1/2 to 2 percent in what we could normally grow because the government's debt is such a burgeoning hangover on the capital markets. Yet we don't have the ability to do what we promised the American people we would do.

You know, I feel as if I ought to read the signing statement of President Obama when he signed pay-go and the statements of all of my colleagues that said: This is the answer. Except that will not do any good. The only answer is for the American people to hold us accountable. I obviously can't. For 5 1/2 years, I have been trying to tamp down spending, to have us make a position that we are going to go to the lowest priority, cut the lowest priority out so we can fund the highest priority, and we have refused to do that.

So does it have real consequences, what we are doing today? There is no question this bill is going to pass. There are votes in this body to pass and add another $60 billion. What are the consequences? Well, the consequences come about to our children.

You have seen this sign before. This is Madeline. This photo was shot of Madeline as she walked around Capitol Hill. I actually had a visit with her and her parents. When we first put this up here, she was only $38,000 in debt. That was less than 6 months ago. Less than 6 months ago, she only owed $38,000--per man, woman, and child in this country. She is at $42,000 now. When we finish what we do before July 1, she will be close to $50,000--per person in this country. If you extrapolate what the budgets are going to be over the next 8 years, she is going to be close to $200,000 in debt. And that does not count the unfunded liability.

When this little lady is 28 years old, her responsibility, both in terms of debt and unfunded liability, will be $1,113,000. We never think about it in terms of young lives and how we are impacting them. We can always rationalize away the ability to make hard choices. That is what we are doing. Does anybody in this body not think we couldn't squeeze $60 billion out of $3 trillion? Could we not do that? Are there things less important than fighting the war? Are there things that are more important about our future and less important about irritating some special interest group because their program did not get funded? Which is it? I vote with the kids and the grandkids. They supposedly have a voice, except we routinely ignore it. That is what we are doing with this bill.

I am not saying we should not fund the war. I am not saying we should not create the money for FEMA for the projects we need. I am not even saying we should not help Haiti where we can. What I am saying is that we ought to pay for it by making hard choices that every family right now is making. They are having to make choices between what is an absolute must and everything else that is not. They don't have the luxury of an unlimited debt service because their credit card company has already said: You can't have any more. Their bank has already said: No, you can't borrow any more. Their house and its equity has been maxed out. They don't have any other choices. So they make the hard choices.

We are kidding ourselves if we think we have another choice. We don't have another choice. We are just delaying the time at which we make the choice. The pain associated with delay is going to be twice as great as the pain of doing it now.

John McCain and I are offering two amendments. The whole purpose of the amendments is to give the body a couple of choices on how to pay for this. It is not easy, it is not fun. But is it necessary? Is it necessary for the health of our Nation? Is it necessary that we start acting in the way the American people expect us to, which means we are going to get rid of the things that are not as important as the things in this bill?

I understand that is novel because the Congress has only had one net rescission in the last 16 years. It occurred with the 1996 appropriations bill where we actually cut total government spending in 1996. We had the will to do it. The appropriators had the will to do it. But we don't have that will anymore. The environment we face as a country is three or four times more severe for our future than it was in 1996.

So what is the disconnect? What is the disconnect that we would not make hard choices? I am not going to say my choices are the best choices; they are just my choices. But it ought to be rolled back to the appropriators that this bill should have never come to the floor unpaid for. They know more about spending than anybody in this body. They are more qualified to make the cuts. But they chose not to make the cuts in lower priority items to pay for this bill.

What is the choice? The choice is to indenture our children and grandchildren. That is the choice we are making. When we choose not to do it, we are choosing proactively to indenture our children and grandchildren. We are better than that.

What is so sacrosanct? Do you realize in 2 weeks in December we found 640 instances of duplicate programs that had exactly the same goals with multiple sets, 70 programs for food and nutrition for hungry people. Why do we have 70 programs to help poor people get food? Nobody can rationally explain why. We just have it. The reason we have 70 is because we used to have 40. We didn't have any metrics on it so somebody thought we ought to have another program for feeding hungry people. So we put another program together. Then we funded it. But we didn't have any metrics on it. So then we did it again, and we continue to do it.

There are 640 different instances just like that, 70 programs to feed the hungry across 6 different agencies--not just 1 but 6, none of them with metrics, none of them working to see if they actually work, no oversight hearings by the Appropriations Committee to see if they work or the authorizing committee to see if they work. We have 70.

There are 105 to incentivize kids to go into math, engineering, science, and technology, 105 programs across 9 agencies. That is just 2 examples out of the 640 sets of duplication we found.

Where are we going to eliminate some of that? When are we going to accomplish what the American people are asking us to do? It is not about eliminating food for the hungry. It is not about eliminating incentives. It is about eliminating the management structure for 70 programs or 105 programs so we can have one or two good ones, and we can have metrics on them.

I yield to the majority leader.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. We now have cloture filed on a $60 billion bill. I don't know what the intentions of the majority leader are but the fact is, we are going to limit debate. We have been on this bill about a day or a day and a half, $60 billion. We are going to cut off debate. We are going to attempt to limit amendments and limit the debate. This is a debate this country ought to be having. This is an opportunity for us to do what the American people want us to do.

So 30 hours from now we will have a vote on cloture on this bill. We also have cloture to end debate filed as well. What does that mean? That means the American people are not going to get to hear everything that is in the bill, No. 1. That means there will be a very limited number of amendments that will be actually voted on.

By rule, we are going to close off our responsibility to Madeline. We are going to say: Madeline, you don't count. We have to get out of here. Don't you know Memorial Day vacation is coming? So we don't want to be here. We have codels leaving Saturday morning. That has to be more important than saving the Republic so we don't end up like Greece.

We are only about 4 or 5 years behind them. We are only 4 or 5 years behind Greece. We are going to see this tremendous money flow come into this country because people are worried about Europe. We are going to see it come in from Japan because people will be worried about Japan being able to pay their debts. We will feel all good and fuzzy for about 2 years. After they inflate their currency or debase it or default, the money is going to flow right back out. Guess who is going to be looking over the abyss. The United States of America. We will be at the same point. What is the problem? The problem is their spending as a percentage of their GDP creates an environment where they can't pay for their debt. That is where we are going to be.

My first degree was in accounting. I had a business career for 9 years before medical school. I can tell my colleagues, if we truly accounted for the liabilities of this government, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--we refuse to recognize their liability--our debt would be far in excess of $13 trillion. So what we are going to do is say Senators' comfort is much more important than Madeline's future.

Let's talk for a minute about what the word ``indentured'' means. That means you are under the control of somebody else. Your ability to have free choice becomes limited because you are indentured. Is there any wonder why we have trouble bringing hard core sanctions against Iran, when the Chinese own $900 billion of our debt and the Russians have $800 billion? Our debt affects our foreign policy. Our ability to support our military is jeopardized by the very fact that we are making a decision today to pay $33 billion for the war effort in Afghanistan by not paying for it. We are jeopardizing our long-term future.

The other ironic thing in this bill, this body just passed a financial regulatory reform bill, but we created a commission called the Financial Inquiry Commission. In this bill we are appropriating on an emergency basis $1.8 million for that inquiry commission that is going to give us what went wrong and what we need to do about it in December. We have already figured out we don't need them; We passed a bill without that knowledge, without that look, without that in-depth analysis of what went wrong because we had to get it done. Yet we are going to continue to fund a Financial Inquiry Commission that we are not going to do anything with the results of, and we are going to call it an emergency.

How ludicrous is that? The whole purpose of the Financial Inquiry Commission was to guide Congress in what to do. We have already ignored them. We have already decided what we are going to do. That bill is in conference. We are going to pass a financial regulatory reform bill ultimately that is devoid of the recommendations of that commission. But we are going to do the typical Washington thing. We are going to continue to fund the commission, even though we are not going to use its results. Why is that?

What does just $1.8 million out of a $60 billion bill, what does that mean for her? Multiply that times thousands of times every year, the stuff that we are doing that isn't a priority. Nobody can agree it is still a priority that we ought to borrow $1.8 million to fund that commission. You can't argue that is still a priority because we have already made up our minds on financial regulation reform. But that happens thousands of times a year, billions and billions and billions of dollars.

These two amendments are tough amendments. I am not deceiving myself to think that all of a sudden grown-ups are going to show up in the Senate. They are not. Let me tell my colleagues what they do. The first amendment will reduce our own budget. We gave ourselves a nice stellar raise, not salarywise but for our own budgets. We are going to reduce that budget for Members of Congress.

We are going to disclose on the Senate Web site the cost of borrowing money and how many times we violate our own rules, pay-go. There should be nobody who voted for pay-go who votes against that because if it is good enough for us to use, it is good enough for the American people to see.

We are going to dispose of unneeded and unused Federal Government property, whether it is military, whether it is buildings, whether it is lands--things we do not use, do not need but we are spending $8 billion a year taking care of. We can get tremendous savings from that. That is what any other right-minded person would do. They would get rid of the stuff they are not using so they do not continue to send money down a rat hole.

We are going to rescind uncommitted and unspent Federal funds. We have hundreds of billions of dollars setting that are not even in the pipeline, and we are going to borrow more rather than more efficiently use money we have. That is the first amendment; it is $60 billion, $60.5 billion.

The second amendment is $59.6 billion. It is a 1-year freeze on bonuses and raises and other salary increases for Federal employees. They make 45 percent more than everybody else in this country doing exactly the same thing, on average. We are going to cap the total number of Federal employees. We have added 180,000 Federal employees in the last 18 months--180,000.

We are going to collect unpaid taxes from Federal employees. We have Federal employees who are working today who owe the Federal Government $3 billion. We ought to collect that money. It ought to come out of their paychecks. That is undisputed debt; that is not the disputed portion. That is the undisputed portion of what they owe the IRS. For everything except DOD we are going to ask for a 5-percent efficiency gain in administration. Do more with less. Everybody else in this country is doing more with less, except the Federal Government. We are going to say: No, we cannot do that? Why not? It is interesting, on the Debt Commission we had a good discussion with Dave Cote, who is the CEO of Honeywell, explaining that every year they do more with less. They spend less dollars to get more out. They have less people to produce the same amount. It is called efficiency. It is called productivity--except we will not apply that to our own government employees.

We are going to reduce nonessential government travel. It is billions of dollars a year. If we are in a financial pinch--and I would love for somebody to debate me that we are not--why would we not limit travel to that which is only essential?

We are going to rescind money that Chairman Obey in the House recognized on the WIC Program is not being used. We are going to strike $68 million in U.N. emergency funding for the next fiscal year. Most of the Members of this body voted for an amendment that required transparency in the U.N. We give them over $6 billion a year. Twenty-six percent of the budget for U.N. peacekeeping is ours; we pay for it. Yet with an audit of their moneys, half of their moneys--over 60 percent of it--was found to be fraudulent. So we passed an amendment out of the Senate, unanimously, that required transparency from the U.N., except when it got to the conference committee it was not there anymore.

I will tell you, the American people deserve to know where their money is being wasted at the U.N. So we ought to clip that. We ought to cut that back. We ought to say: You give us transparency; we will give you money. You do not give us transparency; we will not give you money.

We are going to eliminate bonuses for poor contractor performance. Do you realize the Federal Government pays bonuses for companies that never complete their contracts? Two years ago, the Pentagon paid out $4 billion in bonuses to contractors who did not meet the standards for the bonus, but they paid them anyway. Well, that makes a joke of the contracting process. It also makes a joke out of us that we would allow that to continue to happen.

So on these two amendments you will have plenty of opportunity with which to make a decision on whether you want to be on the side of Madeline or on the side of the elitism in Washington--the group that does not care what America thinks. We know better. The group that says: We are not in an emergency. We are not in a problem. We can continue to spend money and not make hard choices.

There is an emergency, and the emergency is our very survival, our economic survival, our survival as a republic.

I will close with the following: If you study the Roman Empire or if you study the Athenian Empire, you will find common threads among both. The No. 1 common thread is they fell after they became indentured in their own fiscal policies. They could no longer support their military. Their elected bodies refused to make tough choices.

We are sitting here saying: Europe, you have to make tough choices. You have to get your spending in line with your productivity. We are talking with a hollow ring to our voice because if there is anybody who needs to get their spending in priority, it is us. I am not against paying for the war. I am not against supporting our troops. I am not against the FEMA money we need. I am against us not paying for it, and I am very disappointed we have cloture filed this evening because what that means is the American people are not going to see how we as individual Members vote on tough choices.

I am going to have two tough choices out there. It remains to be seen whether we get a chance to vote on them through the majority's ability to cut off debate. But we ought to. We ought to do what is the best, right thing for the country. We ought to be able to come together and agree we should not abuse the emergency designation; that we should not abuse pay-go; that, in fact, we should not delay making the hard choices because the choices are just going to get harder. They are going to get harder every year we do not do this.

Now is the time to start doing it. If we choose not to, then what we are saying is: Madeline, as to your future, we are going to steal it from you. We are going to steal opportunities for a future like we have had. We are going to take those, and we are going to indenture her to an economy that does not grow, with opportunities for an education that will be limited, including the ability to own her own home. All those things will come around.

We only have three ways to get out of the problem we are in. The first way is we can default. Everybody says: Oh, no, you cannot say that. You cannot talk about that. Well, when Moody's is getting ready to downgrade our bonds from AAA, that is the first sign we are moving in that direction.

The second thing we can do is have the Federal Reserve inflate our way out of it to where that means the life savings of everybody are going to be debased, and their purchasing power is going to go away or markedly be reduced.

Or we can do the third thing: Not let either of those two bad things happen by making hard choices ourselves on what we need to be doing--by eliminating the junk, the waste, the duplication, and the fraud in the Federal Government. It is there. It is there to the tune of $300 billion a year.

So when this extender package comes--whether it comes this week or next week or the week when we come back--there is plenty of money to pay for it, too, if we will just stand and be counted, not as Senators but as Americans who would like to see the future bright for their Madelines.

With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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