COURT SECURITY IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - April 18, 2007)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
The Senator from Oklahoma [Mr. COBURN] proposes an amendment numbered 891.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To express the sense of the Senate that Congress should offset the cost of new spending)
At the appropriate place, insert the following:
SEC. . SENSE OF THE SENATE.
(a) Findings.--The Senate finds that--(1) the national debt of the United States of America now exceeds $8,500,000,000;000;
(2) each United States citizen's share of this debt is approximately $29,183;
(3) every cent that the United States Government borrows and adds to this debt is money stolen from future generations of Americans and from important programs, including Social Security and Medicare on which our senior citizens depend for their retirement security;
(4) the power of the purse belongs to Congress;
(5) Congress authorizes and appropriates all Federal discretionary spending;
(6) for too long, Congress has simply borrowed more and more money to pay for new spending, while Americans want Congress to live within its means, using the same set of common sense rules and restraints Americans face everyday; because in the real world, families cannot follow Congress's example and must make difficult decisions and set priorities on how to spend their limited financial resources; and
(7) it is irresponsible for Congress to authorize new spending for programs that will result in borrowing from Social Security, Medicare, foreign nations, or future generations of Americans.
(b) Sense of the Senate.--It is the sense of the Senate that Congress has a moral obligation to offset the cost of new government programs, initiatives, and authorizations.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is a very simple amendment. It says: it is the sense of the Senate that we should not create new spending programs when we have to borrow money to pay for them; that, in fact, we ought to create priorities, that the priorities ought to be the same type of priorities that everybody in this country has to face every day with their own personal budget, that they cannot go out and use their credit card without having a consequence.
This is a very simple amendment. I wish to read it thoroughly so everybody understands what the amendment says. It says the following:
The Senate finds that--
(1) the national debt of the United States of America now exceeds $8,500,000,000,000;
(2) each United States citizen's share of this debt--
from the oldest to the youngest--
is approximately $29,183;
(3) every [penny] that the United States Government borrows and adds to this debt is money [that will be borrowed] from future generations of Americans and from important programs, including Social Security and Medicare on which our senior citizens depend for their retirement security;
It also states:
(4) the power of the purse belongs to Congress;
(5) Congress authorizes and appropriates all Federal discretionary spending;
(6) for too long, Congress has simply borrowed more and more money to pay for new spending, while Americans want Congress to live within its means, using the same set of common sense rules and restraints [every American faces] everyday; because in the real world, families cannot follow Congress's example and must make difficult decisions and set priorities on how to spend their limited financial resources. .....
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I am happy to yield for a question.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, would this also include the hundreds of billions of dollars we have borrowed so far for the war in Iraq?
Mr. COBURN. Absolutely. I agree with that.
Mr. LEAHY. Would this mean we would not be able to continue to borrow money for the war in Iraq?
Mr. COBURN. This is a sense of the Senate. I would be happy for us not to borrow money. We had $200 billion a year in waste, fraud, abuse, and duplication outlined by the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee last year. Appropriators refused to look at that, ways to fund it. Mr. President, $200 billion--we could spend $100 billion on the war and $100 billion to lower the deficit. I would be very happy to apply this to everything we do. Every American has to do exactly the same thing with their own budget every day.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, if I could continue for a moment, without the Senator losing his right to the floor. I share his concern about expenditures. I wish we were back in the days of President Clinton, where we built up a surplus and started paying down the Federal debt; other than what a Republican-controlled Congress voted for, which has tripled the national debt.
Mr. COBURN. The Senator makes a great point. The realistic fact is, we decreased the Federal debt $2 billion under the entire Clinton administration. Mr. President, $2 billion. One year we had a true surplus--a true surplus. That was the extent of it. And since then, and before then, we have borrowed the future of our children away.
To continue, this resolution states:
(7) it is irresponsible for Congress to authorize new spending for programs that will result in borrowing from Social Security. .....
I say to Social Security recipients, we borrowed $140 billion, last year, from Social Security to pay for things we were not willing to either trim down, make more efficient or eliminate in duplicative programs.
We also are borrowing from foreign governments. That is affecting our financial status. But most importantly, we are borrowing from future generations of Americans.
The amendment states:
(b) ..... It is the sense of the Senate that Congress has a moral obligation to offset the cost of new government programs, initiatives, and authorizations.
It is very simple. A resolution has no impact of law. It says: We agree, here are the rules under which we ought to operate. It does not bind anybody. It says, if we are going to create new programs, we either ought to find a way where we do not borrow to pay for them or we ought to offset them by eliminating ineffective programs.
In 2001, as the Senator rightly noted, the Federal debt per person in this country was $21,000. It has risen almost $10,000 since 2001. A lot of people are quick to dismiss that figure, say it does not matter, we only need to worry about the debt and the deficits as compared to the economic growth in the size of our economy.
A better rule of thumb is how Government growth compares to the growth of wages and earnings. Last fiscal year alone, the real Federal deficit increased in excess of $300 billion--a debt our children and grandchildren will repay. So $7.2 billion was spent each day, or $84,000 was spent per second--per second. If regular Americans must tighten their belts to live within their means, the Federal Government should do the same instead of authorizing new spending without offsetting similar spending.
Last year's interest costs alone were 8 percent of the total Federal budget. In contrast, the average American spends about 5 percent of their income as a percentage of their interest costs. The Federal Government spent $226 billion on interest costs alone. According to the Government Accountability Office, by the year 2030, interest will consume 25 percent--25 percent--of the Federal debt.
So why do I bring this resolution to the floor? I bring the resolution to the floor to make the point that when we authorize new programs, we ought to find the money to pay for them and we ought to reduce programs that aren't effective. We ought to look at the programs that aren't accomplishing what we want them to, we ought to eliminate duplicate programs where one works well and one doesn't work quite so well and put the money into the one that works well so we get good value for our dollars, and we ought to change the habits under which we work so we can all accomplish what we would like to see.
I would like to see middle-income wages rise in this country at a rate faster than they rise for the wealthy class. I would like to see opportunity enhanced in this country. I would like to see a balanced budget so we don't steal opportunity from our children and our grandchildren. I don't think most people disagree with that.
The reason we are out here debating this is I had a simple request: Let's just find some deauthorization amendments so that when we bring this new and very needed bill to the floor--and I agree and I think everybody on the Judiciary Committee agrees this is a good bill; it is going to pass--shouldn't we make some hard choices, just like every family makes? Instead, we choose not to. We decide we will pass a new bill. We will add $40 million a year to the cost to run the Government, but we won't deauthorize anything that is out there that is not working effectively. We won't fix the improper payments that are going on in this country to the tune of about $40 billion--that is billion with a ``b.'' That is a thousand times more in improper payments than this bill costs. We won't do the hard work that is necessary.
Mr. DURBIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. COBURN. I am happy to yield to the Senator. By the way, I enjoyed the Senator's speech on Darfur, and as the Senator from Illinois knows, I agree with him very much. I thank him for his efforts on the genocide that is now occurring in Darfur.
Mr. DURBIN. I thank the Senator from Oklahoma. He has been a stalwart in the effort for Darfur.
I would like to read a sentence to the Senator from Oklahoma and ask him what it means. It is a sentence from the underlying bill, which is an authorization bill. It relates to section 105. Here is what it says:
In addition to any other amounts authorized to be appropriated for the U.S. Marshals Service, there are authorized to be appropriated for the U.S. Marshals Service to protect the judiciary $20 million for each of the fiscal years 2007 through 2011.
Now I would like to ask the Senator this: If we pass this bill authorizing $20 million to be appropriated to the U.S. Marshals Service to protect judges and then do not appropriate the money for that purpose, how much money will come out of the Federal Treasury going to the U.S. Marshals pursuant to this bill?
Mr. COBURN. None.
Mr. DURBIN. I would like to ask the Senator another question.
Mr. COBURN. I am happy to answer it.
Mr. DURBIN. Isn't that what this is all about?
Mr. COBURN. No, it is not.
Mr. DURBIN. You were claiming a reauthorization----
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, reclaiming the floor, here is what it is about. The Senator from Illinois is a great advocate for those who are less fortunate in this country. That is what this is about. It is about changing the habits of the Senate.
I understand the appropriations process. I understand the authorization process. Changing the habits says we are not going to authorize new programs until we have done our homework on the programs that aren't effective. That is the whole purpose of this amendment.
I understand the Senator's consternation with my desire. I understand that most people inside Washington disagree. But I also understand that most people outside of Washington say that if you increase spending--authorized spending, not appropriated spending but authorized spending--$40 million and never look at what you can deauthorize, whenever we get to a surplus or when we get to a balanced budget, we are going to spend more money. We are not going to make the hard choices. That is exactly what happens. We can disagree with that but, in fact, that is how we got an $8.9 trillion deficit. That is how we ran a $300 billion-plus deficit this year. It is the process. It is the process where we have decided that authorization has minimal power to influence in this body and that appropriations has all power.
My point in making us debate this resolution on this bill and bringing it up is to say: Let's start the process where we start looking, as our oath charges us to do, at what doesn't work. Let's bring a bill that authorizes something that is very good and bring a bill that deauthorizes something that might get funding even though it is not effective.
I will give an example: the COPS Program. It is a very good program. It helps a lot of cities. Why shouldn't it be competitively bid? Why shouldn't the cities with the most need get the help with their police force rather than the cities whose Members put an earmark in for the COPS Program, and any money that doesn't go to true need comes back to the Federal Treasury? Why wouldn't we do that? Because that is hard work. Because we might alienate one group as we do what is best for everybody in America.
I understand the resistance to my efforts in challenging the way we operate in the Senate, and I understand the opposition to my techniques and methods in trying to accomplish that. However, as the Senator from Illinois knows, if I am a champion for anything, I am a champion for making sure we don't waste one penny anywhere. The best way to do that is to start having good habits in how we arrange what we are going to spend.
The fact is, it is very easy to find offsets in authorization because we have three times as much authorized as we actually spend. So the Senator's point is exactly true, but it doesn't direct us down to the problem. If we get in the habit of making the decision we are going to look at the programs that don't work, we are going to deauthorize the programs that don't work, guess what we will do. We eventually might get rid of the one $1 of every $5 on the discretionary side today that is either waste, fraud, abuse, or duplication--$1 in $5. No one in this body blows 20 percent of their personal budget on stuff that doesn't mean anything or have any return. Yet in the discretionary budget, everything except Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, that is exactly what we do. It is exactly what we do. So why would we not say: Let's change. Let's fulfill an obligation to two generations from us now. I know what I am doing today isn't going to have a great impact on the next appropriations bill or the next one after that or the one after that, but 5 years from now, it might have an impact.
The point is, let's live like everybody else out there. Let's not take the credit card and not look at the things we really should be looking at. Let's do some extra work. Let's try to accomplish what is best for everybody in this country, no matter what their economic station in life, no matter what their background, no matter what their position is. They all have a limited budget. They have to make choices. They have to make choices, and they have to prioritize things. The Senate doesn't; they just authorize another bill and never deauthorize anything else.
Mr. President, with that, I yield the floor and ask for the yeas and nays.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. DURBIN. I am happy to yield for a question.
Mr. COBURN. Under your premise, only bills that are authorized get funded, correct?
Mr. DURBIN. But all bills that are authorized do not get appropriated.
Mr. COBURN. Except you are wrong. Last year, $220 billion of unauthorized programs were appropriated.
If I may--will the Senator yield to me? I am happy to yield back in a moment.
Mr. DURBIN. Sure.
Mr. COBURN. Let's carry your analogy a little further. What has really happened is you give your son $200, but the mandate is--you are going to spend $100 on a broken iPod or a used iPod, and you have $100 to buy down towards a good one, but you mandate that you spend $100 on the bad one. That is the analogy. That is why we ought to deauthorize programs that aren't working. That is why we ought to oversight aggressively every area of the Federal Government.
Let me take one other exception, and then I will be happy to yield back to the Senator.
Mr. DURBIN. Could I interrupt the Senator just to say this: This is getting painfully close to a debate, which rarely occurs on the floor of the Senate, so please proceed.
Mr. COBURN. I love it. I love to debate the Senator from Illinois.
I take a different tact, and the Senator knows that. I look at the oath I took when I came to the Senate. It didn't say ``Oklahoma'' in it; the Senator's didn't say ``Illinois.'' What the oath says is to defend the Constitution of the United States and do what is best for the country as a whole and in the long term.
Now, the Senator--and I admire him greatly--admitted that he plays the game the way it is played. I am telling him that the American people are ready for the game to be played a different way--a totally different way. Part of that is looking at the authority under which we allow money to be spent and recognizing that if we are going to authorize something new, given the jam we are in, all you have to do is talk to David Walker and look at what is going to happen in the next two generations. Don't we have an obligation to look at the programs that are not authorized?
Would the Senator answer this question: When was the last time he saw a program deauthorized in this body?
Mr. DURBIN. I am happy to respond. I think the Senator has asked a good question but not the right question. When we fail to appropriate money for an authorized program, we are saying there is a higher priority. We are saying that authorized program may not be as valid or as valuable today as when it was enacted, and we make the choice. The Senator referred to this, and I know he didn't mean to demean the process in saying that I am ``playing the game.'' I don't think I am ``playing the game'' when I do the best I can to help the 12 1/2 million people I represent. If the Senator ran into a problem--and occasionally Oklahoma has a challenge--I will be there to help him, too. That is the nature of it. We try to represent our States and also do what is good for the Nation.
Secondly, if authorization is broken, as the Senator from Oklahoma says, the obvious answer is, either don't appropriate money for it, or when the appropriations bill comes to the floor, strike it and move the money to another program. You have the right to do that as a Senator. But the fact that the options or choices are out there doesn't mean that every one of them is going to be honored and appropriated.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, reclaiming the floor, if I might, the thing that strikes me is the Senator is a wonderful debater, except when he says the appropriators appropriating money on an authorized program--that is great, except the American public needs to know that 22 percent of what we appropriate has never been authorized. Never.
So the fact is, we say authorization means something, but it means nothing as far as the appropriations process goes. The real point of this debate is how do we grab hold of this problem, this behemoth of a problem that will face our children and grandchildren in the next 20 to 25 years, and do it in a way that will give us the greatest opportunity for them?
My idea--and obviously many people disagree with it--is I think we ought to start looking at every program. We ought to ask a couple of questions: Can we measure its effectiveness? Is there a metric on it that says this program is supposed to do this? Is there a metric there so we can measure it? I am of the mind to say that if you cannot measure something, you cannot manage it. Ninety percent of the programs have no metric in the Federal Government, so we don't know if they are working.
No. 2, is it a program that is still needed? We don't ever look at the authorizing level. The Senator would have us defer everything to appropriations, and that is what we actually do because 20 percent of what we appropriate is not authorized and everything we authorize isn't appropriated. So, obviously, authorizations are meaningless. So what we should do is eliminate authorizing committees and just have appropriations committees and we will all be on appropriations committees.
Third, we should ask, is this still a legitimate function of the Federal Government? When we ran a $300 billion-plus true deficit last year and every State, save one, had big surpluses, should we not ask the question: If we are doing things that really are not the Federal Government's role to do, and we have a deficit and the States have a surplus, should we not let them do it without our fingers taking 15 percent of the money as we send it back?
Mr. DURBIN. If the Senator will yield, I will make a constructive suggestion, not to make a debate point or anything else, but to serve his purposes. Can I suggest that instead of a sense-of-the-Senate resolution, the Senator from Oklahoma, when an authorization bill comes along, offer a sunset provision to be added to it to say that at a certain period of time this authorization ends and has to be reauthorized? Would that not serve his purpose?
Mr. COBURN. As a matter of fact, I did just that on the last 9/11 bill, and the Senator from Illinois voted against it. I voted to sunset it. I actually offered the amendment that said we should sunset it and look at it in 5 years, and the Senator from Illinois disagreed. He thought, no, we should not do that. This Senator must admit that he does have a constructive suggestion. I just wish he had voted that way when we had the amendment up.
Mr. DURBIN. I was reluctant to do this, but I am going to refer to a couple of votes of the Senator from Oklahoma.
His amendment was to sunset the entire Department of Homeland Security. Also, on two separate occasions he voted against pay-as-you-go requiring 50 votes. Here are two different rollcalls where the Senator's vote would have made the difference.
Mr. COBURN. My amendment did not sunset the whole Department of Homeland Security. It was the grants process.
Mr. DURBIN. That is what keeps our country safe.
Mr. COBURN. It is made up of how we dole money out to the States rather than looking at the best interests of the country and looking at the risk base for national security and homeland security. I am basically for a true pay-go that says the options are two. One option said the only option is, if we won't cut spending, we will raise taxes. That is a pay-more, not a pay-go. It is pay more.
I am proud of those votes. I had consternation over it because I want to try to hold to those things. But the pay-go as outlined two times in the language was a vote for pay-more.
Will the Senator agree with me that there is waste, fraud, and abuse in the duplication of the Federal Government.
Mr. DURBIN. Absolutely.
Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator agree that since we had a $300 billion-plus deficit last year--$200 billion-plus if we weren't in the war in Iraq--if we took that off the table, would it not make sense for us to try to get rid of the waste, fraud, duplication, and abuse?
Mr. DURBIN. Of course. But I include the war in Iraq----
Mr. COBURN. It doesn't include the war. Let me finish my point.
Mr. DURBIN. I said I do include the war in Iraq.
Mr. COBURN. It was in there, but say we were not in the war and we were still down to $200 billion--let's take that off the table. Say we have a $200 billion deficit, and we can demonstrate from our subcommittee hearings $200 billion a year in waste, fraud, and abuse. Yet we did nothing about it. We did nothing.
I have enjoyed my debate with the Senator from Illinois. I ask that we vote on the question at hand. I thank him for his kindness.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I understand Senator Specter may have a comment he wants to make. I respect the Senator's view on the budget, though we disagree. We both understand the seriousness of the deficit. I don't think authorizations are the problem. For that reason, I will vote against this amendment. When we vote on a pay-go amendment, I hope you can join us.
Mr. COBURN. As long as it is not a pay-more amendment.
Mr. DURBIN. Frankly, it has to include taxes instead of spending.
I will yield the floor to the Senator from Pennsylvania, if he is prepared to speak. If not, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have an amendment in my hand by Senator John Ensign. I will send it to the desk. I ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and to have this called up.
Mr. LEAHY. Reserving the right to object, and I may, we are about to have a vote in connection with the amendment of the Senator from Oklahoma. If we are going to start talking about amendments for a couple of hours and bring up another one, we are not going to get anywhere on the bill for court security, which has been passed twice by this body. So I object.