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Public Statements

SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, we are going to have a series of stacked votes at 4 o'clock. I want to spend a few minutes on three or four amendments and clarify some of the things I have heard rumbling.

One is that we have an amendment that will, in fact, take away unemployment insurance for millionaires. Mr. President, 2,840 households who reported an income of greater than $1 million or more on tax returns were paid $18.6 million in unemployment insurance benefits in 2008. That number is higher in 2009. We don't have the final numbers yet. This included over 800 earning over $2 million and 17 with excess income of $10 million collecting unemployment benefits. We have an amendment that will prohibit that.

There has been some concern to say that the costs associated with that, the way it was scored by CBO, would neutralize it; the savings versus the cost to eliminate that would be even. Even if that is true--and we have done a calculation, and we think it costs about $900,000 a year to have people applying for unemployment sign a statement that their income is not above $1 million. But even if it costs the same as what we are spending, we should not be giving unemployment benefits to people who are earning $1 million a year. It is foolish, and it exacerbates the tendency of enriching those who are already there versus what unemployment insurance is for--so those who are truly dependent on it can survive. I wanted to clarify that point.

Regarding the second amendment, in March the GAO, in response to an amendment I put on the last debt limit, issued a report listing what they think are billions of dollars in savings in terms of duplication. I would be remiss to not say that our President embraced that. In his State of the Union speech, one of the goals of his administration is to eliminate duplication and consolidate.

So we have two amendments that are going to be on the Senate floor. One is mine and one is the amendment of the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Inouye. They are both designed to save us $5 billion, but there are two big differences between those amendments.

My amendment tells OMB to have the study, find the $5 billion, report to us what they can do themselves and what they need us to do to help them. Senator Inouye's amendment waits 6 months from the time we pass the bill--5 months for the study to come back, and then for us to do it, which means we won't have any savings at all until we are well into fiscal year 2013. Every year we waste $5 billion on something we shouldn't is a year we are borrowing $2 billion of it just to pay the bill.

So I understand it is a cover vote, but what it means is we will never get the $5 billion in savings, whereas my amendment will get us $5 billion worth of savings this year. The way we get rid of a $1.6 trillion deficit is $1 billion or $2 billion or $5 billion at a time.

Everybody recognizes the duplication. What we are asking the administration to do is take the very low-hanging fruit they can recognize right now, do the rescission, recommend to us, and then we act on it, rather than waiting 2 1/2 years to get that done.

So it is very straightforward. We know there is significant duplication in the Federal Government. Let me just give some of the findings of the GAO report. Remember, this isn't Tom Coburn's report; this is a GAO report, and they only looked at one-third of the Federal Government--the first third. They have two more reports to come to us, with the second and third, and then yearly. We will get this report yearly on the problems of duplication in the Federal Government.

We have 47 job-training programs across 9 different agencies that we spend $18 billion on, and not one of them has a metric on it to see if it is effective. We are doing a study now in the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on what were the reports of the people who have been through this as to where it is helpful and where it is not because in our legislation, where we pass these job-training programs, we didn't ask for metrics to see if they were effective. So this is an area where we can consolidate one or two. Only three of those have charges that are totally separate from the others. The rest of them overlap one another.

There are five departments, eight agencies, and over two dozen Presidential nominees overseeing bioterrorism. We know we can consolidate that. We will actually be much better when we do in terms of our efficiency and communication between agencies. That is $6.48 billion a year.

We have 20 agencies, 56 programs dedicated to financial literacy, and we don't even know what they cost. The GAO couldn't determine what they cost. So 56 different programs on financial literacy, and we are teaching people? We have a $1.6 trillion deficit, and we are teaching Americans financial literacy? If we should teach them that, which is not a bad goal, why do we need 56 programs to do that?

We have 80 economic development programs across 4 different agencies. We are spending $6.5 billion. Just consolidating administrative costs across those agencies could save $100 million, $200 million, $300 million.

We have 15 agencies for more than 30 food-related laws. Even the President mentioned salmon. If they are in saltwater, they have one agency; if they are in fresh water, they have another agency. That is foolish. Why duplicate the work of one agency with another?

We have 18 nutrition programs--they are very important to our kids and those who are dependent on them--at $62.5 billion. Do we need 18 programs to do that? Could we do it with 10, 8, 2, 3? The questions haven't been asked, but let's ask the OMB to look at the low-hanging fruit and to take the $5 billion out and work with Congress to get it done in the next appropriations cycle.

There are 20 homeless programs across 7 agencies at $2.9 billion; 82 teacher quality programs, 16 agencies and $4 billion. Why would we have 82 teacher training programs? It just shows the magnitude of the problem that we have in terms of getting our budget under control, not managing effectively, and not doing the oversight we should.

We have 52 programs for entrepreneurial efforts. I don't have any problem with that, but why do we need 52? We have 35 programs to oversee infrastructure. Overseeing infrastructure is important, but why do we need that many programs? There are 28 programs to oversee new markets--28 different programs funded by the Federal Government across 6 different agencies to oversee new markets. We could consolidate a lot of that.

So the President has said he wants to do this. We ought to give him the tools that will help him do it more quickly because every day we wait it costs us more money.

Finally, we will have a vote ultimately on the ethanol blenders' credit. I have been remiss not to give the No. 1 leader on that--who has a bill of her own--Senator Feinstein, credit because she has led on this for a long time. Her bill is slightly different than the one we are going to offer, but she has led on that issue. She understands the importance of the environmental impact of burning ethanol, when we are actually burning more fuel and putting out more CO

2 than we would with pure gasoline because of the inefficiency of ethanol.

So I wanted to recognize her, and when we come to the vote on the blenders' credit I will ask her to speak on that, if she would.

Finally, I would say in regards to that issue, for people who don't understand, we are going to spend $5 billion this year paying the major oil companies 45 cents a gallon to blend ethanol into gasoline. There is a Federal law that requires a mandate. It is called the renewable fuels mandate. Last year it was 12.5 billion gallons; this year it is 13.2. It is over 22 billion gallons 5 years from now that have to be blended.

We have a letter from the people who receive this tax credit--who are going to receive this $5 billion--who say they do not want the $5 billion; they do not need the $5 billion. Yet we are going to have some resistance around here of not stopping a payment to those who receive it, and who don't want it, for something that is already mandated by law. They have put it in a letter saying they do not want it. It is already in the record.

Now, why would we continue to spend $5 billion of our kids' money on something they do not want, that isn't going to change the outcome, and that we will have to borrow 40 percent of to make the payment? It is beyond me that we would do that, and so it is my hope we will be successful in overturning that.

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


Mr. COBURN. I thank the Senator for his cosponsorship and support on this amendment. I haven't had a chance to share this with the Senator--because I just received it--but I have a breakdown from the IRS of the 22 States that don't have any millionaires because they screen for it. Actually, it is not millionaires, it is those earning more than $1 million a year. In other words, these are people who actually have incomes of greater than $1 million a year in terms of adjusted gross income.

There are probably many more who have less than that, but we are saying here is a cutoff. It is a legitimate cutoff. So there are 22 States that don't allow this right now in their process.

I was wrong in my statement on the $600,000 or $800,000. The calculation of the cost of putting this in is $200,000 a year. So for a very minimal cost, we will save $20 million a year, at minimum. We are also going to create a system that will do what it is designed to do--not to help those who are already very comfortable but to help those struggling to make ends meet and find themselves out of a job.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the report of unemployment compensation and adjusted gross income of $1 million or more.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is a straightforward amendment that eliminates individuals who have adjusted gross incomes of greater than $1 million per year from receiving unemployment benefits. Last year, we had 2,383 people who received unemployment benefits and also had an income tax return that had adjusted gross incomes above $1 million. We had 40 that had adjusted gross incomes above $10 million per year. It is a very straightforward amendment. I hope we would support it.


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