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Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defesne, The Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recover, 2006 --Conference Report

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want to congratulate Senator Byrd as well. What a wonderful gentleman. What a gentle spirit, but what a firm voice. We value your service and we appreciate what you can teach us and what you have taught us.

I also want to thank Chairman Cochran for the hard work that he has done on this supplemental bill. He also has put up with a lot of grief from myself and others. The bill is important. I am going to spend a few minutes on things I think the American people ought to be asking about this bill.

The fact that we have the largest supplemental appropriations bill ever to come before this body to me is a great problem. It tells me part of the system is broken. The fact that the administration would request such a large emergency appropriation, and the fact that we would pursue it and pass it tells us that the system of the true appropriations and authorizing process is broken.

We are in the fourth year--the third-and-a-half year--of a war, and a large portion of what is in this bill has been known in advance that we were going to need it and it should go through the regular order. The fact that we take it outside of the budget caps, the fact that we take it outside of the regular order when we know we are going to spend $60 billion to $70 billion at least in executing and prosecuting the war and put it in an emergency supplemental I think says a lot about our process that we need to take very seriously and try to change.

That is a criticism for the administration as well. A lot of the money in this is for the National Guard to refurbish and bring things up that we knew and in regular order we are going to be processing in the Defense appropriations bill that is going to be coming before this body in the next couple of months. So the excuse to say this is all emergency falls short, because it is not. It is not all emergency. We have known all of this money is going to be spent, it should have come through the regular process, and we really don't have a good excuse to tell the American people why we are not doing that.

The second criticism I have of this bill is that the administration requested no rescissions whatsoever. There is nothing in the Federal Government that we could trim to help pay for this emergency bill. That is the assumption of the request by the administration. I want to tell you that is the wrong assumption. Employees who work for the Federal Government, the valuable employees, they know that is not true. People outside of Washington know that is not true. Constituents all across this land know that if we had to find money and if we could drive things to make them more efficient, we could do it. The fact that we are not doing it is another problem with our process. That is not a criticism of individual Members of this body; it is a criticism of the process that we find ourselves in and that we are blinded in the forest by the trees.

We ought to be back to regular order, and if we truly have emergencies, we ought to look to say, How can we trim from somewhere else to pay for it? Because, in effect, this $94.5 billion, my grandchildren, your grandchildren, and the generation that follows are going to pay for. Nobody that is working today is going to pay for this. We are transmitting the cost to our children and grandchildren. We are saying that we can't make an effort, or the administration doesn't request us to make an effort, or we don't make an effort to find other areas that are less important, lower on the obligation level for us, that we will just print the money and sign the notes and sell them overseas and say, Children and grandchildren, you pay for this because we don't have the courage to do the hard work to pay for it. We ought to take that criticism and say, Is that really what we want to be known for? Do we want to be known for not making the hard choices that are necessary to fund this war and at the same time not take away opportunity from our children and grandchildren? That is not a personal criticism, but that is a legitimate criticism that the American people ought to be asking.

The third thing is there are things in this bill that are pure politics in nature. Let me just describe one. I withdrew this amendment on the floor, but I think the American people ought to understand what is going on. There is over $200 million in this bill for Osprey aircraft, the V-22 that has never proven itself in combat. It has never made the test in battle simulation that says it is a viable option. Neither the administration nor the Defense Department requested this money, and this money is going to be spent, it is in the bill, and this bill is going to pass and the President is going to sign this bill. But we are going to spend money, a quarter of a billion dollars, on this program, not because it was requested by the Pentagon, not because it was requested by the administration, but because it was requested by a business to continue a program that hasn't proven itself yet.

There has to be some risk to those who don't perform when they are supplying our military with the latest in terms of equipment and materials, and there is not any, if we continue to do it this way. I am not an expert in the Defense appropriations process, but I have read what the Defense Subcommittee has said on this, and I have read what the articles have said on this, and it doesn't meet the test. Yet, we are going to spend it.

The reason we are going to spend it is because there are enough Members in this body that have employment with this company throughout the country that the pressure to not fund it is greater than the pressure to do what is right. I believe we ought to ask ourselves about the criticism of that. That is not a way to run the future of this country, and it is certainly not a way to protect the heritage for our children in giving them the opportunity that we have all experienced in being in the freest and greatest country in the world.

The risk for our country is a risk that we will lose that heritage of sacrifice today to create opportunity tomorrow. I know I am like a broken record to the appropriators, but my heart says that we should create at least the same opportunities in the future that we have all experienced, and to do less than that denies the very heritage that was given to us.

So I haven't decided for sure whether I am going to vote for this bill. I know it is important to take care of the critical needs in the hurricane area. I have had two hearings on that, part of my subcommittee, the waste, fraud, and abuse associated with that. But I must emphasize, out of 37 hearings in the Federal Financial Management Oversight Committee, we found over $200 billion--$200 billion--of waste, fraud, and abuse in the last year and 2 months. Forty billion dollars of it in Medicaid in terms of false and inappropriate payments, $46 billion in Medicare, and $16 billion in Medicaid fraud in New York City alone. Yet we don't respond to it. There is no action on it.

We had the Pentagon in 2005 pay $6 billion--$6 billion--in performance payments to contractors who did not meet the performance requirements of their contract. Yet we paid it anyway. But we haven't had a prohibition on that.

I know on the Defense authorization as we get to that, Senator McCain is going to offer an amendment that I think is appropriate that we require that portion of the funding of the war that is legitimate to go through the appropriations process and regular order will be there. There are certain portions of that which are unexpected and we will continue to have to do supplementals to do that. But I would remind my colleagues that we are not going to be measured on what we do now; we are going to be measured on what is the opportunity for America 10 years from now and 15 years from now.

We were sent here to make the hard choices, and they are not fun. But we are not making the hard choices, because we are not looking at the programs that aren't effective, that aren't accomplishing the goals and eliminating them to pay for the things that we think are; we are just ignoring them and paying as we go, except we are not paying as we go. We are asking our children and grandchildren to pay.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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