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Protecting the Public Health

Location: Washington, DC

PROTECTING THE PUBLIC HEALTH -- (Senate - September 29, 2006)


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, first, I thank Senator Burr. Senator Burr and I served on the Commerce and Health committees in the House together. He also served on Intelligence in the House, and we have his expertise, his experience, and his tremendous insight into what needs to be done, and the risks.

I find it ironic that since we talk about all the issues that face our country in terms of risk, this is potentially one of the most deadly risks our country faces--not just from a natural occurrence such as bird flu but from the intentional use of manipulating biological, of manipulating viruses and bacteria. We know the intent of the people we are now fighting. It is to use fully any means at any time in any way to cause great disruption not only to the lives of Americans but on the economy of America.

The fact that someone would hold up this bill to give us the capability to direct resources to become prepared says one of two things: Either they don't believe there is a real threat either from Mother Nature or the leaders of the ``Islamo-fascist'' terrorists who want to attack us today or that they think we are prepared.

And we are not prepared.

We heard Senator Gregg talk about the vaccine industry. We need a program to redevelop our capabilities. I am a practicing physician. What we do know is vaccine costs are higher today because we have no industry. We have a limited supply of vaccine manufacturers. We need research into vaccines at every area of every virus and every bacteria that could possibly be used against us, and then we need a way to get that out and a way to utilize it. We need research into new antiviral drugs for many of the viruses that could be posed as a biological weapon against this country.

I find it ironic, kind of like last night, we are trying to do something for victims of HIV, and those who want to object will not come to the floor and object; they want to hide in secrecy. They do not want to say what is really wrong. What they want to do is stop the process, hold up the process, and not accept the responsibility. There is no one in this Senate who holds up more things than I do, but everybody knows that I am the person doing it and they know why I do it.

This is within the responsibility of the Federal Government. It is within the priority of making a decision on where we spend money and what should be spent first. Protecting this country should be one of the No. 1 things we do. Protecting the lives of American citizens should be one of the No. 1 things we do.

To not come here and defend why we think this bill is not appropriate, to not come here and stand up and take credit for stopping prevention of accidents and terrorism in this country says a whole lot about the lack of transparency in this Senate. They should come to the Senate and say what is wrong and why they object. We should have a debate. If they want to object after that, let them do it. But to not come to the floor to make a formal objection as a courtesy to Senator Enzi, who does respect the rights of other Members of this Senate, it means those Members who will not come hide in the shadows, and the American people do not get to know what others might think is wrong with proceeding. That does an injustice to the country and to this Senate.

I yield the floor.

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