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Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2007--Continued

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I don't want to be offensive in any way. I listened to two talks about where we are, and I agree with where we are financially. But there are some facts that are left out of the story. There is no question that spending has increased. There is no question the debt is going up. But who is responsible for it? We can talk about it. First, we had a recession, and then 9/11 came, and there were rosy projections we all knew for certain weren't right. But to turn around and blame our debt on the President of the United States is not only in error, it is not factually correct, and it also tends to shun the responsibility we have as a body.

The President cannot sign any bill we don't pass. This President became President in early 2001, at which time the Republicans weren't in control of the Senate. There was a divided--in 2002, that is, and there was a divided control. But during all that period of time, the bills that went to the President were voted on by Congress; both the House and the Senate passed bills. I also note that those people who have been so earnestly talking about our debt limit, which I plan on attacking aggressively--there is some credibility there with the talk.

This last year they voted for over $700 billion in new spending. So if, in fact, you want to control the spending and you don't want the debt limit to go up, you can't continue to vote for unlimited spending increases.

There is no question that we have increased revenues that are not what they probably could be if we ran the Government much more efficiently, but the very fact that we would have people who claim they are appalled at the debt limit and then every time we cast a vote for an increase of spending that is not paid for or not offset in another way adds directly to that debt limit.

The responsibility lies in the Congress for the spending. It is not the executive branch. As a matter of fact, we have sent multiple bills, and if you look at the votes on the multiple bills that have come through this body, they are not just a majority vote, they are a supermajority and many times unanimous. So to claim and lay that on the executive branch when, in fact, it is our responsibility belies the truth.

The facts that the Senator from North Dakota outlined are very accurate in terms of where we are. Here is one of the most important facts. The increase in debt per Americans since 2001 is over $8,000. The increase in the annual earnings per American workers since 2001 is less than $4,000. We are about to become the first generation of Americans to leave the next generation worse off. But as long as we are finger pointing and saying it is somebody else's problem, we are not going to solve the problem.

We had an opportunity this past year in which we slowed down the growth of Medicaid by $4.8 billion a year and over a 5-year period. That total cumulative cost is $38.8 billion. That is the savings for 5 years. But the earmarks alone that this body passed last year were $64 billion.

I am highly concerned about the debt limit, and it is doubtful that I will be voting to extend the debt limit, but I certainly am not going to stand here and let people claim that it is the executive branch's responsibility. It is not. It is ours, and we failed. We have failed our grandchildren, we have failed our children, we have failed the people who are paying taxes today in this country. We would rather get reelected by doling out earmarks and pork than solve the real long-term problems of our country, and we can see that very easily when we look at earmarks related to the size of the Federal Government.

There is a cause-and-effect relationship. As a matter of fact, tomorrow morning we are having a hearing on earmarks in the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee, the oversight Committee on Homeland Security. What you see is that in 1994, there were 4,000 earmarks and about $4 billion. Last year, there were 15,877 earmarks, and the total spending by the Federal Government was over $2.6 trillion. There is a correlation. It is that we don't want to do the hard work of making the hard decisions.

So when we have $64 billion in earmarks in 1 year and we can't get the hard savings of $4.8 billion in just slowing the growth of Medicaid from 8 percent to 7.9 percent, and we barely pass that, what we have is a refusal to do our duty.

The points the Senator from North Dakota made in terms of his financial analysis were all accurate. You can't dispute it. He points out very accurately the double standard on accounting gimmicks that the Congress is using.

It is my hope that tomorrow we will be able to discuss this more. I know the chairman of the Finance Committee would like to have the floor, and at this time I yield the floor.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I cannot help but make a few comments on the speech we just heard, noting the fact that over $500 billion in new spending was offered, of which over half was voted for by the ranking member on the Committee on Finance last year--new spending unpaid for--and has the audacity to talk about the President getting us into this fix.

I mentioned earlier, this Senate and the House, the Congress, got us into this fix. The bills start in the House, they come to the Senate, and the irresponsible spending that has gone on has been a compilation of many factors. But most of it rests upon the Members of the Senate who refuse to make the hard choices in terms of spending.

I also note during last year's appropriations cycle, I offered amendments that were called sunshine amendments to make sure we knew what was in the bills we were voting on. I also note that the ranking member voted against those both times they were offered.

It is disingenuous to claim lack of responsibility. It is all of our responsibility. The Nation does not want to hear Congress pointing fingers. They want a solution to the problem. That solution comes through by restraining the discretionary accounts, rather than offering another $200 billion or $300 billion this year of new spending that is unpaid for. It also comes through working the hard issues of changing the entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid, and reforming Social Security, like the President of this body has led on in the past.

The record should be clear that actions speak much louder than words. The actions of the ranking member of the Committee on Finance do not match up to the words that were just spoken. The responsibility lies on all. All are guilty of not doing what is in the best long-term interests of this country. That is what has to change.

We can play the political games. We can point fingers. But the fact is, I take responsibility for that, and every other Member of that Senate who has been here since 2001 should, September 11, 2001, when the economy failed, went through the tank. Since then we have been trying to build back this economy.

Quite frankly, the economy is in the greatest shape it has ever been in, in terms of growth, productivity, jobs. What we do need to address and will address in the future is changing health care overall so people can have access to affordable health care.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

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