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Public Statements

Supplemental Appropriations

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS -- (Senate - March 26, 2007)


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the Senate is going to take up, tomorrow, in rather full detail, an emergency supplemental spending bill. I think it is real important, first, for the American people to know what an emergency supplemental bill is supposed to be. It is supposed to be about funding unforeseen problems we could not have anticipated in the regular appropriations process. For a very small amount of this bill, that may be true.

This bill is $121 billion of your grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's money. This bill does not have to stay within the budgetary limitations Congress sets on itself. This bill goes outside every rule we have in terms of controlling the budget, living within our means, and it says: Here is a credit card.

Now, by the way, on the way to funding the war in Iraq, the wisdom of the Senate has added--and it is $21 billion in the House--about $18.9 billion in a wish list. It is a Christmas tree. If each of us in our own personal lives ran our businesses or our households the way Congress is running the emergency supplemental process, we would do it for about 1 year. Then we would be going to bankruptcy court, and we would be losing the vast majority of our possessions because we would not have been deemed to be responsible with the assets we had.

There lies the problem. It is the culture of Congress that thinks we can put a hood over the American people's eyes so they will not know what we are about to do in the next 4 or 5 days in this Chamber. You are going to hear all the reasons in the world why somebody needs something, except it is never going to be held in contrast to the loss of the standard of living of our grandchildren. Yes, there are agricultural needs out there we should have funded a year ago.

The chairman of the Budget Committee said when he would get in power, when the Democrats would get in power, they were going to pay for it--except here we have an emergency agriculture supplemental bill, a good portion of which is needed but it is not paid for. There is no offset anywhere else in the hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of waste in the discretionary side of the budget alone, to reduce something else so we can take care of those who need us now.

There is another aspect to this funding bill; that is, the politics that plays into it over the debate on the Iraq war. What we are seeing play out is a double-edged sword of how do we hurt the troops in the field by adding things to a supplemental bill to take care of them, when there has already been a threatened veto over the bill because it adds $18.9 billion more than what the President asked for to fund the war.

So as you listen, in the next 4 or 5 days, to the Senate debate this bill, there are a couple things you ought to pay attention to, and you ought to ask yourself the question: Where is the money coming from to pay for this bill? Where is the sacrifice from the generations today to do what the Members of this body want to do?

There is no sacrifice. We are not calling on anybody to sacrifice. What we are saying is: Those unborn, those young, those who are about to be born, and the children of those who are young, unborn or about to be born are the ones who are going to pay for it.

It portends a great moral question of our society today: How is it we can totally turn upside down the heritage of this country, the heritage of a country that has been built on the following premise: ``I am going to work hard. I am going to sacrifice. And I am going to serve so that my children and grandchildren get ahead''? Have we become such a selfish country that we do not care about the next two generations?

I think the Senate has spoken, at least the appropriators have spoken. They have said ``yes,'' it is OK to do things such as pay for the conventions, in August, of the Democratic and Republican Parties for the additional funds that will be needed for police enforcement with an emergency bill. Our grandchildren are not going to benefit from that. The political process today is. But we put it in this bill because it means if we put it in this bill, it will not be charged against the regular budget process. It is another way to spend more money. So let's move more things into the emergency category, so we do not have to be responsible when the rest of the appropriations bills come through the Senate.

Think about this: You have a grandchild sitting on your knee and you say: Yes, back in 2007, they had a party in Minneapolis and in Denver, and they charged it to you. You may get to go to college, you may not, but I just want you to know we had a good time at our conventions.

How about $100 million for businesses that have under $15 million in revenue a year that have suffered some loss from a drought over the last 2 or 3 years. We already have several organizations within the Federal Government: Farm Service Agency, loan capabilities from the Department of Agriculture, the Small Business Administration. All are qualified to loan money to businesses that work in the agricultural area but, no, we set aside. We expanded the farm program with this bill to give $100 million to small businesses that have been hurt. If you are not connected to agriculture and you have been hurt, where is the bill to help you? Where does the precedent stop in terms of your small business?

What about the fact that gas prices rose and some auto dealers went out of business? Where is the $100 million for them? What about the fact that energy prices have gone up and small business profits all across the country have been severely damaged because if they are energy dependent, their costs have risen significantly? Where is the $100 million? Where does it stop? Where does it stop that we steal--when do we stop stealing from our grandchildren?

There is also in this emergency provision $3.5 million for tours of the Capitol. An emergency, that we have to have the money now, otherwise we won't have tours in the Capitol? That isn't right, but that is what is in the bill: $3.5 million. Why? So we can have $3.5 million more to play with when we get inside the budget now that we are outside the budget.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the fact the administration isn't innocent in this either, because the war in Iraq is hardly an emergency. As a matter of fact, it is in its fourth year. The administration should know what they need. Rather than send a supplemental up here, it should be in the Defense appropriations bill. It should have been in the bill we passed this last year. But instead, even the administration is complicit.

Who is going to stand and speak for the future against the processes the Congress uses today to fund and grow the Government, not worrying about how we pay for it in the future? Will you? Will you challenge this process? Will you say enough is enough? Will you do your part as a citizen of this country to make a difference, to hold people accountable here, rather than let the continued culture--and I call it a culture which actually the majority party ran on. It is a culture of corruption. When you do for you and steal from those who are weak and have no access or ability to pay it, that is corruption. It is morally corrupt. It is a process by which we undermine the very foundation upon which our country has become strong. If we continue it, what we will see is a weakened nation.

We now have $70 trillion of unfunded liabilities for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Think about that for a minute. Go figure out how many zeroes are associated with $1 trillion. If you had everyone who was worth more than $1 billion in the world sell all of their assets tomorrow and give every bit of that to the U.S. Government, it wouldn't even pay the interest for 1 year. How is it we can be going down this road? How is it we can be turning our backs on the principles that made us great as a nation--the idea of personal responsibility even applied to Senators, and accountability, and transparency. We are going to hear a lot of stories about what is and isn't happening with this bill over the next 3 or 4 days, but the question I hope the American people will ask themselves is where is the money coming from? Where is the money coming from? If it is not in a pot somewhere and if it is not saved, somebody is going to have to pay for it.

This money is coming from the big Visa card of the Federal Government. We are going to ``cha-ching'' and we are going to say: Grandchildren, you have to pay for this war in Iraq, plus another $19 billion, because we don't have the courage to hold this Government accountable. We don't even have the courage to hold ourselves accountable. We don't have the courage to eliminate the duplication, the fraud, and the waste that accounts for over $200 billion every year in this $3 trillion budget. There is no courage here to face that. We can do oversight hearings, and we have done so. Senator Carper and myself did 46, more than any other committee of Congress, over the last 2 years. What we found was almost $200 billion of either duplicative programs, wasteful programs, or outright fraud. Yet where is the Congress offsetting those with this bill? No. It is too hard work. You might offend somebody. The next election is more important than the next generation. Being here is more important than doing what is the best thing for our Nation.

So I hope as we approach this bill, the American public will ask that question about where the sacrifice comes from to do this. Where does the sacrifice come from? Unfortunately, it is going to come from the next 2 generations. It is hard to identify what that means, but with $9 trillion of actual outstanding debt we have now and the $70 trillion of unfunded liability, it doesn't take a great imagination to understand how that might impact our children and grandchildren, with high interest rates, lack of ability to afford a college education, inability to own a home, buy a new car. All of those things are coming as we continue to steal the future from our children and our grandchildren. The big government credit card. It is only available because there is a lack of backbone and spine in the Congress to do what is necessary to give the American people true value from their Government. It is hard. A lot of people get upset. But I would much rather stand here and try to change it now than try to explain to my grandchildren why we didn't change it, why we didn't do that.

I have some hope the American people are starting to wake up to the budgetary gimmicks and processes the Congress uses. When they really awaken, what they are going to do is change who runs this place. It is going to be real citizen legislators. It is going to be people who care about the future more than they care about today. It is going to be people who care about a heritage that continues to be and create and hold forth the greatest experiment in freedom that has ever been. Without that change, as Will Durant said:

Great societies are never conquered from without until they rot from within.

This is part of the rotting process we are going to see over the next 5 days in the Senate. If people summon courage, summon long-term viewpoint, summon sacrifice of giving up of themselves, whether it be position or power so we can create something better, the country will be all the better for that. If we don't, there won't be a headline that says: ``Grandchildren hurt by supplemental bill,'' but it doesn't mean they won't be. The fact is they will.

It is interesting the accounting that Washington uses. Last year the official number on the deficit was $175 billion, but the real number, the amount the debt went up, was $360 billion. If you are at home and you have a checkbook and you spend $175 more than you had in the checkbook, but at the end of the year you charged another $200 on top of it, you really spent it all, and you went into debt for that whole amount. But we don't do what national accounting standards say. We play a game. We take the Social Security money and we lessen the effect of what we are doing through Social Security and 30 some other trust funds such as the inland waterway trust fund and several others, and the retirement of the employees of the Federal Government that is not funded, and we add all that back and we make it look better than it is.

The idea behind a half lie is a whole truth, but it is not. A half truth is a whole lie.

So my hope is when we have this debate on this bill, this $121 billion bill, America will say: Wait a minute. Why aren't you paying for it? Why aren't you trimming some of the fat? Why aren't you trimming some of the problems? Why aren't you doing that? Because it is hard. That is not a good enough reason to undermine the future of this country.

Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to come and speak this evening and the staff staying here.

Mr. President, I note the absence of a quorum.

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