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Public Statements

Making Available Funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have been on the floor numerous times to talk about priorities. We are on an unsustainable course in our country. The GAO says that. Anybody who looks at our books, our budgets, and our deficits would realize that. We have before us a $1 billion expenditure that I am sure we are going to do. I have done everything I can to keep us from doing it. Without paying for it, we will transfer that money to our children.

I think it is important for the American public to know how awry we are in this body. I want to put forward and into the RECORD what the cosponsors of this bill did. They did, collectively, $777 million worth of earmarks last year. Those States of the cosponsors are going to get $145 million in LIHEAP money. The fact is, we spent over $770 million on earmarks.

I wish to spend a few minutes reading some of them so we can see whether the American people think it is a priority. Do we help people who need heat with their homes or do we build the Katahdin Ironworks in Maine? Or do we build a new industrial park in Maine? Do we buy new land--the Rachel Carson land acquisition for $600,000? Do we pay for a new building for the city of Brewer, an administrative building? I cannot find in the Constitution where that is a responsibility of the Federal Government. We are going to build a new Bangor waterfront park. We spent $246,000 on earmarked lowbush blueberry research. Here is a George and Barbara Bush cultural center at the University of New England, $300,000. Do we do that and charge it to our children and grandchildren, or do we help people with their heat? To me, it is an obvious choice. But we refuse to make those hard choices here. We would rather spend the money and charge it to our children and grandchildren.

Here is a Franco-American Heritage Center renovation project in Lewiston. And Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, gets $100,000 for site planning and renovation. Here is a purchase of land, Brainard Lakes, MN. Here is Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis, $1.5 million. Here is Augsburg College, in Minnesota, $1 million. I didn't know private colleges were part of the responsibility of funding from the Federal Government. Next we have Grand Portage in Minnesota, to establish a heritage center, $4 million. We are going to establish a heritage center for $4 million and we cannot help people with their heating bills. We are going to try to do both because it is politically expedient, but it is not politically expedient for our grandchildren.

We gave $200,000 to the Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association. We gave $500,000 to the Minneapolis American Indian Center in Minneapolis. We sent $1 million to the Pine Technical College in Minnesota. We rehabilitated the Ames Lake Neighborhood, Phalen Place Apartments, in St. Paul with $150,000 of taxpayer money. Here is the Willard Pond in New Hampshire, $550,000. Then we have Roseview, a purchase of land for $2 million. Here is the Hubbard Brook Foundation and the Daniel Webster College. Here is the city of Portsmouth, to build an environmentally responsible library. We are going to build a library instead of paying for people's heating bills, and we are going to charge it to our children and grandchildren.

We spent $150,000 for site preparation for improvements to White Park in Concord. We are going to restore Temple Town Hall in the town of Temple, $225,000. That is not a Federal responsibility; it is a State responsibility.

Yet the American people are right to ask the question: How is it that we can have $775 million in earmarks from five States, and those five States under this formula would get $145 million in LIHEAP?

I suggest that we shouldn't take it from our children and grandchildren. I suggest that we ought to pay for it, and the way to pay for it is either reduce the number of earmarks that are not legitimate under the Constitution, but are very politically expedient, or find the money elsewhere.

I am not just picking on these items. This goes across this body throughout. The culture of earmarks is killing our country in terms of how much money we spend and who is paying for it. And who is actually paying for it is not us. We are shifting it to the next two generations.

I will show this document in the RECORD--it lists the earmarks by the five cosponsors of this bill--and let the American public decide whether they think we ought to take $1 billion from our grandkids or cut out some of these projects that are not necessary right now. We are in a time of tremendous fiscal severity, and it is time we start acting as grownups.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the RECORD the document that lists earmarks.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want to help those people who cannot help themselves, but I have also discovered that there is very limited authorization for us in the Constitution for us to be paying the heating bills of people in this country. There is no such thing as compassion when you are using somebody else's money to offer compassion.

The real answer to heating bills is solving our energy crisis and local communities taking care of their local citizens with their assets.

I will not vote for cloture, although I know cloture is going to be invoked, but I think this is a great time that everybody in this country ought to be questioning the process here and the utilization of earmarks which could have paid for the heating bill, but instead we did things to help us back home, help us get reelected.

I remind the Members of this body, Mr. President, when they take the oath of this body, they don't take an oath to protect their State or bring home the bacon. They take an oath to do what is in the best long-term interest of this country, not what is in their best short-term political interest.

I believe, as the American people look at this--I know this recent polling said 69 percent of the people in this country think we ought to eliminate earmarks, even if it hurts them. The only way we will get out of the financial mess we are in is start attacking the process of earmarks that greases the sled for spending that is out of control.

I yield the floor.

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