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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I want to reduce the amount of duplication and overlap in federal agencies and I am prepared to vote to eliminate duplicative programs. That is my responsibility as a Senator. However, I believe this must be done in a responsible manner and not passed off to a third party. I opposed the Coburn amendment because it would cause needless delay to the consideration of important legislation by the Senate. It would give additional power to the staff of the Congressional Research Service. It would increase Congressional spending when we are working to reduce our Federal budget deficit and our Federal debt.
The amendment would change the Standing Rules of the Senate to require the Congressional Research Service--CRS--to complete a study to examine the potential for duplicative programs for every bill that is passed out of committee before it is in order to be considered by the full Senate.
This amendment will not end duplication of government programs. But it will make it more difficult for the Senate to do the Nation's business. The Coburn amendment will allow any Senator to block floor consideration of a bill if the CRS assessment has not been completed. The amendment does not place any time limits on the CRS to make the assessment of whether the programs included in legislation are duplicative. The amendment does not define key terms such as ``program'' or ``initiative'' that are crucial to performing the assessment.
The amendment states that every bill that comes to the floor must contain a full evaluation and report by CRS. The CRS report must examine every potential Federal program that might overlap with the one proposed.
How long would CRS have to do such a report? I don't know because the amendment does not include time limits for the CRS to provide these reports. Therefore, CRS could block consideration of important legislation by simply not meeting its responsibilities.
We have always been very careful in making changes to the Standing Rules of the Senate. This proposal has not come before the Rules Committee in any way and thus has not been considered or vetted by the committee of jurisdiction. If we are serious about such a change, it should receive the appropriate review before being adopted.
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