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Public Statements

Making Further Emergency Supplemental Appropriations

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank the leadership for giving me an opportunity to talk this evening and to express some views. We heard a very good talk about the budget. The points I was going to make have to do with the disasters we face. It is ``disasters''--it is not one, it is two. One is slowly creeping upon us, and the other is right in front of us.

The tragedy that we see on the gulf coast is something to which we have to attend, something for which we have to supply the funds. It is important that we offer aid, that we come to the aid of those people. One of the most disheartening things I have seen in the last week-and-a-half has been finger pointing by politicians at all levels of our country that benefits no one, accomplishes nothing except to prove to the American people partisanship tends to trump any issue. It is disheartening that we as a body would fall into that, when such great responsibilities are in front of us.

I said ``disasters'' because the other disaster we are not looking at is the Federal budget that the Senator from Illinois discussed. I take a very different view. I am disappointed in our President for not bringing forward with this bill recommended spending cuts that would easily be achieved in the discretionary budget of this country to pay for the disaster assistance. We heard Senator Lott talk about the sacrifices of the people, both those who are involved and those who have contributed to help in this tragedy. It is no sacrifice on the part of Congress to steal $51.2 billion from our grandchildren to supply the need now without doing the hard work that Americans would expect of us to make sure our priorities are right. It is a time for leadership in this country.

Our budget deficit, after we pass this bill, will be $670 billion this year. That is the real deficit. That comes to over $2,000 per man, woman, and child in this country this year alone. So we have two disasters. One is that we have chosen political expediency over the future of our country. The heritage that our country leaves us and has been given to us is one of sacrifice to preserve the opportunities for the next generation.

We are going to do what is right for the people on the gulf coast, I have no doubt. But we are not doing what is right for the generations that are beyond us, for our children and our grandchildren. It takes courage to stand up and say we can do better. We have heard that. But we have not ever talked about how we can do better. We have talked about how agencies can do better. The way we do better is by finally starting to make the hard choices on priorities for our country.

The President, in his budget proposal this year, recommend 99 programs to be eliminated that did not meet an assessment rating program that was developed by OMB. That program was many times agreed to by many people in this body. That was $19.6 billion. There is not the courage coming from the executive branch to offer those, to say we are not going to spend another $19.6 billion of our grandchildren's money. Yet we are going to do the easy thing. We should pay for this. We should pass this bill, but we should not pass it on the backs of our children and our grandchildren.

I have a message for Americans out there. We have seen so many great efforts at contribution. Oklahoma has 3,800 people from Louisiana now, and we are going to love them and care for them and do everything we can to help those individuals in our State. But everybody else in this country can make a sacrifice, too. There is no charity without sacrifice. If it doesn't cost you anything, it is not worth much.

What we have to do is look at every level of the Government, every operation of the Government, and say: Where can we do better? I have talked to hundreds and hundreds of Federal employees who know where the waste is in their departments and in their agencies. Now is the time to come forward. The doctors in this country, you can save Medicare a ton. The hospitals in this country, you can save Medicare a ton. This year alone, trim your bills, cut back 4 or 5 percent. Do what is hard for you but gives benefit to the future. We need to set a standard that we are going to do what is right, both in this generation and in the generations that follow us.

We have an oath to uphold the Constitution, but we have a higher oath, and that higher oath is to keep the obligations that our forefathers put forward to create the best, brightest, the country providing the most opportunity of any in the world.

We will borrow internationally this year $1.4 trillion. How many years do you think the international financial community will continue to allow us to borrow that money without some cost coming home?

I believe we should have made the effort to pay for part of this supplemental spending.

I believe it is easy for us not to make that effort. I think it is very hard if we choose to make the effort. I believe if we do not step up to the responsibilities given to us by not attempting to make us better, by not attempting to make us more efficient, by not attempting to root out the waste--examples: Last year, 2004, the Federal Government overpaid $41.5 billion for things it bought or handed out. That would almost pay for this bill, if we would eliminate that. We can eliminate it. We choose not to do the oversight that is necessary to find the problems to make us more efficient, to accomplish the very goals to create the opportunity in the future for the next generation.

I will vote for this bill. But I am noticing our Members that we should do better; we should do what is expected of us; we should make the hard choices people expect us to make rather than to go to an unending piggy bank of debt and defer those choices to our grandchildren.

What does that mean? It means our grandchildren are going to have a far lower standard of living as we try to continue to load this debt on them. That is not opportunity. That is not a heritage I want to be involved with. I want to follow the heritage of our forefathers and the great generation of World War II where sacrifice was made.

I believe it is incumbent upon us to do better. I challenge every Member of this body to start doing the oversight, to find the areas where we can be better, where we can spend less money now--not because it may not be a great project--where we don't spend $26.5 billion in earmarks on a highway bill, the New York Times today listed ways we could help pay by eliminating earmarks and pork.

I find it ironic that I am agreeing with editorials in the New York Times. But they are right. The American people should demand of us now to make the very hard choices of ordering our priorities. Not doing that is below what every individual Member of this body is about.

I challenge Members as we look forward to the next supplemental which we consider if there is an area in the Federal Government that isn't working well where we could save money. The assumption on other side of that is the Federal Government is 100-percent efficient. If there is not any place where we can find money to trim to pay for that, that means the Federal Government is working perfectly. There is not a person in this country who believes that.

I know this talk about finding the money falls on deaf ears to many Members of this body. I am not partisan in any way except I am partisan for the future of our country. We cannot continue to live beyond our means.

The individuals out there who sent $20 to the American Red Cross didn't go freely to get $20 to buy the next ice cream cone or go to the next Starbucks. They gave up something to give that money. We need to be doing the same, and hardship is required. We need to stand up--Democrats, Republicans, individuals--and lead on the issue of efficiency and accuracy and the ordering of priorities; it is most important.

Is it important right now to spend $200 million on a bridge to 50 people in Alaska? Is that important? Should we be doing that when we could spend $200 million helping people in New Orleans or Mississippi? There isn't going to be anybody except 50 people and two Senators and one Congressman who thinks that is a good priority. We ought to be adjusting what we have done to pay for this.

The other final point I would make, it was suggested to the administration and it was rejected, but we need a controller for this money under the Office of the President to make sure it is spent properly. If we have the legislation that is already authorizing that, it is available, it should be put forward. I am going to offer that legislation next week to make sure it is spent right. The President has authorized in good will an inspector general increase to look at it, but they won't be controlling the money. What they do is see how it is spent after the fact. We need somebody in charge of spending before it is spent to make sure it is a priority before it goes down there, as we should be doing here.

I thank the body for the time and the effort. I believe it is incumbent on us to secure the future of this country. We can be critical of FEMA, but if we are not critical of our own positions in how we have spent our children's and our grandchildren's future, we have no right to be critical of any other agency of this Federal Government.

I yield the floor.

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