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Improving America's Security Act of 2007--Continued

Location: Washington, DC

IMPROVING AMERICA'S SECURITY ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - March 06, 2007)



Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I want to discuss an amendment that has been previously called up, amendment No. 294. This is an amendment on the Ð9/11 bill.

Mr. LIEBERMAN. Madam President, will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. COBURN. I will be happy to yield for a question.

Mr. LIEBERMAN. I have no objection, obviously, to the Senator from Oklahoma proceeding to the discussion. I want him to know that Senator Collins and I are negotiating a consent agreement on votes on the funding formulas and we may, with the Senator's permission, interrupt him as he goes forward if we reach that agreement.

Mr. COBURN. I will be more than happy to be interrupted by the chairman.

Mr. LIEBERMAN. I thank the Senator.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I am a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, as is the Presiding Officer today. We have gone through this bill--this is the second time--looking at 9/11 and what we need to do in terms of our risk, in terms of how we protect the homeland.

As this bill is drafted, its implementation authority never expires. It never stops. So what we have is approximately $4 billion a year from now on. Actually, what we say is: however much money is needed in year four of the bill to be spent on homeland security, whether or not we need to or whether it is time to relook at the priorities of the bill.

This is an amendment that I offered in committee. I got one Democratic vote for it and my own. But what this amendment does is sunset this bill in 5 years and says it is time to take a look at it again.

One of the critical things we did following 9/11 was the PATRIOT Act, and we sunset it. Last year we took it up again and we sunset a good portion of it again. So we will look at it again.

This bill is never sunset. It is like the hundreds of other bills this body has passed, that we pass and we never look at again. We never do oversight. We never make the decisions. We just let the money keep rolling out the door and charging it to our grandchildren. This is a very simple, straightforward amendment.

All this amendment says is that 5 years from now, this one goes ``time out,' it is over, do it again with a fresh look at the problems that we face in this very dangerous world, a fresh look at the success we have made, the accomplishments today, and ask where we need to go.

The bill, as written, assumes that nothing in the future, in terms of our risk, is going to change. I would put forward 5 years from now everything will have changed in terms of the risks that we are going to face. If we have done our jobs right with this bill, many of the areas of preparedness that we are attempting to direct funds to in this bill will be solved. Why should we continue to have money going to areas that we have solved rather than redirect money to areas that we have not solved, or maybe for our children's sake, not spend any money because there is no need other than the need for politicians to tell people at home that we sent money to them.

So this is a very simple, very straightforward amendment that says improving America's security by implementing the unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 will cease having an effect on December 31, 2012.

Good government is what the American people both expect and desire. They also deserve good government. They deserve the wisdom of knowing we cannot know what is in the future today, so let's limit what we do until we can relook at it again.

Having held 46 hearings with Senator Carper in the last 18 months on the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee of the Homeland Security and the Government Affairs Committee, what we know is what Congresses have done in the past have created about $200 billion worth of waste per year in this country.

Now, sadly, the Congress refuses to address those duplications, the fraud and the waste that is associated with that $200 billion worth of waste, fraud, and abuse. We should not add to that. We should not have a program that goes on ad nauseum addressing needs of today and saying it is OK.

All I am asking with this amendment, and I think most commonsense Americans would ask, what is so hard about saying this ends and we have to look at it again in 2012? Make the decision again based on what the very real risks are and, oh, we might even consider what our financial condition is when we decide what we are going to spend on security and what else might ought not be paid for by the Federal Government as we fund homeland security and protect this Nation.

This provision will cause us to review the needed programs and authorize spending. It will cause us to make better decisions 5 years from now than we can make today.

I will draw the corollary as a primary care physician, what I know about my 55-year-old patients with hypertension and high cholesterol. And I am going to have an example today. I said: Here is what you need to do for the next 5 years. Do not come back and see me. Your risks probably are not going to change. I can predict exactly what you are going to need. Do not worry. I will just give you prescriptions for the next 5 years.

That is what we are doing on this bill. We are not doing it for just 5 years, we are doing it for the rest of the patient's life. We would never go to a physician who treated us that way. Yet that is the way this bill approaches the future.

What are the reasons to oppose this bill? One is lack of a desire to tackle the hard job of looking at this again in 5 years. One is arrogance; we know what we are going to need. There is no way we can. Political expediency, that might have something to do with it, to be able to tell the special interest groups and our campaign donors that we have got them taken care of for the next 10 years.

I quote my chairman for whom I have the utmost respect. Here is what his quote was on the PATRIOT Act.

The best thing we did with the PATRIOT Act was to sunset it, was to say that it needs to be reauthorized or it will go out of existence. And we are going to look back and see what happened with the PATRIOT Act so we can make a better decision in the future.

I have trouble not understanding why that same wonderful logic and great common sense should not be applied to this bill.

Senator Reid in 2005:

But we are currently considering renewal of those provisions that were considered so expensive or so vulnerable that Congress wisely decided for a 4-year sunset.

The author of the act wanted Congress to reassess in a more deliberative manner with the benefit of experience. We are presented with an opportunity again now, 4 years later, to get it right. Why would we not want to sunset this bill? I have even a bigger one. Why do we not want to sunset every bill, to go back and look at it and reassess it so we get rid of the waste, the fraud and duplication, to do the very things that we were sent to do?

I will not spend a great deal more time. I recognize that the ranking member, Senator Collins, and Senator Lieberman have some business they want to consider. I would remind Senators there is no score on this bill. CBO hasn't scored this bill. We know the one from the House was $20 billion. Should we not look at $20 billion worth of spending again in 5 years and ask if it is under our priorities? Were we wise? What have we learned? What can we do better? What worked? What did not work?

Why would we not want to do that? I think it is a no-brainer to sunset this bill so that we, in fact, can learn from our mistakes, learn from our priorities, look at the world the way it will be 5 years from now rather than the way the world is today, and also, yes, consider the fiscal situation in which we find ourselves.

I also am adamantly opposed to any piece of legislation that says, ``such sums.' Well, does this legislation mean we want to spend $100 billion 6 years from now? That is what we are saying if we are giving to the Appropriations Committee all our power to make the decision on areas that are under our purview 6 years from now. Don't we believe we ought to do that? I believe we ought to maintain that power, and actually it is not 6 years, it is 4 years from now because in the fourth year is when we do that.

Congress needs more sunsets, not fewer sunsets. We have an inexcusable situation that we have seen today with much of the Government operating on expired authority--expired authority. Madam President, $170 billion of what was appropriated last year was under expired authority.

Congress has not done its job to reauthorize those programs. So let's look at this again in 5 years, in 2012. We can start with January 2012. By the end of that year we can have said: Here is what we need to do for 2013. We will do it with wisdom; we will be able to do it with insight. We also will be able to do it with competence that we know what is best for our country, which we cannot predict today under this bill.

I yield the floor.

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