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Public Statements

Concurrent Budget Resolution on the Budget, Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. First of all, I wish to thank the chairman of the Budget Committee for bringing a budget to the floor. It is great that we have done it.

We know the outcome of this budget vote already. The final budget vote will not come until sometime in the middle of the night. But in that budget we are going to spend $47 trillion. There is a dispute between how we look at it and how our colleagues on the other side look at it, but there is at least $1 trillion in tax increases.

The new debt over the next 10 years is $7.3 trillion despite $1 trillion in tax hikes. The debt that has been added since the last budget passed this Senate is $5.5 trillion.

The spending increase above the projected growth over 10 years is $645 billion. The spending increase in this budget next year above today's budget level is $162 billion.

The deficit increase next year relative to the fiscal year 2014 projection by CBO is a $95 billion increase in our debt--we are not going the other way.

The growth rate in the Federal budget over 10 years is going to be 60 percent, and in the mandatory programs it is going to be 80 percent, so we are going to have the government growing at least 7 percent a year, continuing to grow at a rate faster than our economy, at a rate faster than personal income.

The net deficit reduction over that 10 years over what was projected may be $270 billion. The deficit reduction achieved through spending cuts will be zero in this budget--zero through spending cuts.

The deficit reduction through elimination of duplication, fraud, and waste in this budget is zero.

The date this budget balances is never.

I am bringing these charts to the floor because I want the American people to know how we are not doing our job. We are going to get a vote on a lot of these things, I have told my colleagues. I haven't been allowed to offer a lot of these amendments on bills that have come to the floor, so we are going to vote on them tonight and into the early hours tomorrow morning. The reason it is important for us to vote on them is because the American people need to know whether or not we are going to act on them. Let me start to go through some of the programs and see if it matches any type of common sense that anybody in America might have about how we could go about helping American citizens.

Three years ago we forced the GAO to do a duplication study of the whole Federal Government. We are going to get that last report about 1 1/2 weeks from now. They will have looked at the whole Federal Government. This is just the data based on the first two reports. Let me just go through it rather quickly so my colleagues can see.

We have 15 unmanned aircraft programs, 5 agencies, $37 billion a year. Why do we have 15 of them? Does that make sense to anybody?

We have domestic food programs, 18 different programs, 3 different agencies, and we are spending $62 billion.

We have 21 different homeless programs--21 different homeless programs. It is great that it is only one through one agency. Why do we have 21 separate programs? Each one of these programs has a bureaucracy and office staff and overhead and administration. Why not have one or two?

Transportation services for transportation-disadvantaged persons: 80 separate, different, distinctly designed programs in 80 different agencies. Why not in the transportation agency alone? Why not run it out of the department it should be run through?

Job training and employment, 47 programs for the able-bodied, 9 different agencies, and it is actually $18.9 billion. We have actually done all the oversight on this. In Oklahoma, we have 17 federally-run job training programs in a city that has less than 15,000 people and has 400 people unemployed, 17 separate offices run by the Federal Government.

Teacher quality, 82 separate teacher training and quality programs, not run within the Department of Education but run within the Department of Education and nine other agencies. How does that fit? When we are in a time when we are trying to make hard decisions to protect the future of this country and a fiscal balance, why won't we address this? None of this stuff has been addressed. This has been known for 2 years. None of it is in the budget. It is not even in the House budget.

Food safety, 30 different programs, 15 different agencies, $1.6 billion. Do people realize if we buy a cheese pizza at the grocery store it is controlled by the Department of Agriculture, but if somebody buys a pepperoni pizza at the grocery store it is controlled by the FDA? Does that make sense to anybody? Why would we continue to be stupid? And we are the ones being stupid because we will not address these issues.

Military and veterans health services, we have four agencies running that. I would think we would want the VA to run that, not the VA plus three other agencies.

Economic development, we have 80 programs, 4 different agencies, and $6.5 billion a year.

U.S.-Mexican border region water needs, all right, we have Arizona on that border, we have Texas on that border, and we have California on that border. We have seven different agencies that control that. Why? Why would we do that?

Financial literacy programs, I would make the point that we are not very good in financial literacy within the Federal Government because all one has to do is look at our budget. There are 13 different agencies, 15 programs, plus the new Financial Consumer Protection Board is going to create another one--another one. We are spending $30 million a year on that.

Green buildings, 94 different programs, 11 different agencies, spending $1 billion a year.

Housing assistance, 160 different programs, 20 agencies--20 Federal Government agencies--spending $170 billion a year the overhead that is associated with all of this, the duplication that is associated with it, the complications, the paperwork.

Department of Justice grant programs, 253 of them: They are within the Department of Justice, but they are run through 10 other Federal agencies, not the Department of Justice.

Diesel emissions, 14 different programs, 3 different agencies. Why three? Why do we have to interact with three different agencies to have our diesel emissions controlled, and why are there 14 different programs?

Early learning and child care, 50 programs, 9 agencies, $16 billion.

Surface transportation, 55 programs, 5 agencies, $43 billion.

Support for entrepreneurs, 53 programs, 4 different agencies. We have small business, but guess what. We have one at Agriculture, we have one at Treasury, we have one somewhere else I can't remember; $2.6 billion.

Science, technology, education and math, we all agree it is important. The Pentagon has over 100 programs. The Pentagon itself has over 100 programs. Then we have another 105 or so programs spread across the rest of the agencies. Thirteen different agencies have a science, technology, engineering program. Why is that not within the Department of Education?

As I finish this, I will not go to the next chart just on the basis of time.

I outlined a whole bunch of different programs, and not one of them has a metric on it that says we are successful or unsuccessful--not one of them. So even the agencies that have these multiple programs, running across multiple agencies, have no endpoint to say: Are you doing anything?

What we have discovered on job training is we are real good in job training with Federal programs of employing people in job training. We are terrible in terms of giving them a life skill that will give them a lifetime work capability.

Let me take a short time to show some examples. Looking at this chart, we can see why we have such big charts.

Here are the Federal preschool and daycare programs. So if someone wants to provide that to somebody, look at the maze of bureaucracy they have to go through just to qualify.

The pink areas on this chart show the different departments that run them. The blue areas are the subagencies created out of the green ones. So we can see, in Federal preschool and daycare, we have the General Services Administration, that has four programs; we have the Department of Agriculture, that has this multitude of programs. But even if you have it at the Department of Agriculture, you cannot do anything because you have to talk to the Department of Education too, because they are interrelated in how they are controlled.

Early learning. The Justice Department has a multitude of programs. The Department of Health and Human Services has a multitude of programs. We even have a tax expenditure program for childcare and early learning. The Department of Labor has their own.

We can see what has happened to us is we have not done the oversight, the work to eliminate the problems that are causing us to spend at least $200 billion more per year than we need to spend.

Here are the Federal programs for surface transportation and infrastructure. We can see why this is so big. Here is the Federal Highway Administration and here are all their subprograms for it. Then over here is the Office of the Secretary. Then we have the Federal Railroad Administration; we have the Maritime Administration; we have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If you are a State transportation director, you have to meet the bureaucratic requirements of every one of these programs.

I talked about science, technology, engineering, and math. Look at what we have. What we have is a maze where nobody in the government knows what the other agency is doing. Nobody knows what somebody over here in the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship funding is doing compared with the New Era Rural Technology Competitive Grants Program.

Here is the other thing we have found as we have gone through all these programs: We have people who apply for a grant and get it from one of these programs and then turn around and go over and apply for the same grant from another program.

It is easy to see, when we continue to see multiple programs--here, even to get efficient in our Federal fleet, we have 5 different programs, 20 different agencies, just to try to get fuel efficiency within the Federal Government. We started out with electronic health records systems for veterans and the military. We have 10 different programs within that--not 1 program, not 2, but 10.

Just one other. Here is a chart with green buildings. We listed that: a multitude of agencies, a multitude of programs. Every department in the Federal Government has a green building initiative separate and apart from a central area where it ought to be and probably associated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That ought to be who is running it, but it is not.

We have all these things. All these require rules for you to comply with if you are going to get a building permit or you are going to have any Federal contracts. It makes no sense.

I will end.

Mr. President, how much time do I have?

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SEC. 3__. DEFICIT-NEUTRAL RESERVE FUND TO MAKE COMPREHENSIVE IMPROVEMENTS TO MEDICARE HOSPITAL WAGE-RELATED PAYMENTS.

The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, motions, or conference reports that would adjust Medicare payments for hospitals, which may include adjustments to reflect area differences in wage levels, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2018 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2023.

Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, this is a side-by-side to Senator Coburn's amendment, and while I stand in strong opposition to the underlying amendment of Senator Coburn, I do recognize the need for a comprehensive examination to the current Medicare wage index system. HHS and MedPAC and others have issued detailed reports highlighting that very fact, showing that the current system is full of special add-ons, reclassifications, and other provisions that distort the overall system.

In essence, that amendment would create such harm in so many hospitals across this Nation from Alaska to New Hampshire, to Nevada, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Rhode Island, just to mention a few. Our effort is to look at this comprehensively. We need to look at the entire Medicare hospital wage index system. We should not pick out one small provision that does so much harm to so many hospitals across the country instead of addressing the system as a whole.

I am joined in this with Senator Warren, Senator Cowan, and Senator Lautenberg, among others, and I urge my colleagues to support the side-by-side amendment so we can address this in a comprehensive and responsible way.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. My colleagues might want to hear the other side of the story. My amendment reverses $4.6 billion that was taken from rural hospitals all across this country and given to two States. Every Member's rural hospitals lose money based on the earmark placed in the Affordable Care Act. All this does is reverse that.

There is nothing in the amendment by the Senator from New Jersey about wage neutrality, which is the whole problem in the first place. The cosponsors, I am sure, of the two States have markedly benefited at the expense of every other rural hospital across this country.

A vote for the Menendez amendment keeps us in line to continue to take $4.6 billion over the next 10 years out of rural hospitals. If Senators vote for my amendment, we go back to a fair distribution for the rural hospital payments.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, there are no tricks in this. All we are trying to do is reverse what was done inappropriately.

There is no question we need to do some adjustment on wages. That is for another time when we actually try to save Medicare.

This amendment requires all States but two over 10 years to increase the payments to rural hospitals back to what they would have been had the amendment by Senator Kerry in the Affordable Care Act not been there. So that is the whole purpose, to bring us back to where we were.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, there are no tricks in this. All we are trying to do is reverse what was done inappropriately.

There is no question we need to do some adjustment on wages. That is for another time when we actually try to save Medicare.

This amendment requires all States but two over 10 years to increase the payments to rural hospitals back to what they would have been had the amendment by Senator Kerry in the Affordable Care Act not been there. So that is the whole purpose, to bring us back to where we were.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is a simple vote. The Postal Service lost $15.8 billion last year. Political parties contributed to that loss by our getting a discount on all of our mail. All this will do is put us at the same rate as everybody else commercially in terms of the mailing. It is probably about $50- to $60 million if we pass this amendment that we will increase the revenue to the Postal Service.

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AMENDMENT NO. 416

There is now 2 minutes equally divided prior to a vote on amendment No. 416, offered by Mr. Coburn. The Senator from Oklahoma is recognized.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, with a lot of consternation, we are worried about how the sequester affects everybody--the Defense Department and all the other agencies. But in fact the Pentagon spends $67 billion on things that have absolutely nothing to do with defense. All we will be doing is creating a deficit-neutral reserve fund to move this nondefense spending--either move it or eliminate it from the Defense Department.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, 3 1/2 years ago we instructed the GAO to tell us where the government problems were, what are the government programs, and where was there duplication. We have yet to pass one piece of legislation that would eliminate any of the duplication in the Federal Government--not one. What this does is combine 17 different amendments that I had offered on this budget to create a deficit-neutral reserve fund to cause us--to force us--to look at all these programs by area and consolidate them.

What this amendment would do, very specifically--it doesn't say you eliminate; it says you consolidate. You get efficiency, you get effectiveness, and you look to make sure when we are spending tax dollars that they are actually accomplishing something and they are doing it in the most efficient and effective ways.

I ask for the yeas and nays on this amendment.

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