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Public Statements

Supplemental Appropriations

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS -- (Senate - April 22, 2008)


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to spend a minute talking about what a supplemental is because oftentimes the words we use up here do not have the clarity for the American public as to what they really mean. A supplemental appropriation is an appropriation that is outside the budget. What does that mean and what does that mean to the average taxpayer? That means all the money that is used to pay for the supplemental will be borrowed. It is not coming from taxes today. It does not fit inside the pay-go rules. It purely and simply is borrowed from our children.

I have significant problems with that. If you look back at our history, President Roosevelt cut 29 percent out of his favorite domestic programs during World War II. President Truman cut 26 percent out of domestic programs to pay for the Korean war. We routinely, year after year, charge the war to our children.

I raise the issue for two points. No. 1 is that is the way the President has chosen to do it, and I fault him as well as the Congress. But No. 2 is this great propensity of ``legislators'' who add everything including the kitchen sink to it because it is a free pass and it is outside the budget.

The last appropriations bill that we did that was a supplemental had $17 billion added to it that did not have anything to do with the war, didn't have anything to do with priorities in this country, didn't have anything to do with that other than adding things on because it was outside the budget so they could spend more inside the budget.

I am in my fourth year in the Senate. One of the things we have done ever since I have been here is try to root out waste, fraud, and abuse. There is no question right now that in the Federal budget--almost $3 trillion--over $300 billion right now that is in the appropriated programs and in the mandatory programs is lost to fraud, waste, and abuse. So we are going to be bringing a bill to the floor for $120 or $107 billion, plus probably another $10 or $15 billion that the porkers will add to it and oink all the way, and nobody is going to offer anything to offset it out of the fraud, waste, and abuse--the waste we have because we are not paying attention to the running of the Government. We hear this big debate about earmarks, the prerogative to make sure that we point to things. The fact is, the way you point out things is to do oversight on the waste, fraud, and abuse.

If you think this is not accurate, let me give you a list of where the waste is. There is $90 billion worth of fraud in Medicare right now, and there is $10 billion that we pay that we inherently pay wrongly. So that comes to over $100 billion in Medicare alone that should not be going out the door. We are not doing a thing about it. Nobody is going to offer an amendment. It will not even be judged as in order with the rules, to get rid of the fraud in Medicare. Medicaid is same thing--$30 billion in fraud, $15 billion in overpayments for people that we just made a mistake in paying. No, there is not going to be anything offered during the supplemental to fix that, so right there you have $125, $130 billion that would pay--just in fixing Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

There will not be a rule that will allow us to vote on that. There will not be a way for us to do it because that is hard work, and we do not want to do the hard work.

Social Security disability fraud, $2.5 billion; the governmentwide overpayments, improper payments, overpayments for other things, $15 billion. These are not my numbers, these are documented numbers by either the GAO, the Congressional Budget Office or the IGs; $8 billion that the Defense Department pays out for bonuses for companies that did not earn the bonus or performance awards.

There is not going to be anything in this to fix that. It is not even going to be made in order. And $4 billion that we are being defrauded on a crop insurance modernization program, where we allow for crop insurance a higher rate of return than any other casualty or insurance company could earn.

No bid contracts, $5 billion. U.N. contributions that are purely waste, that get defrauded and wasted, $2 billion. We buy $64 billion worth of IT projects a year, and at least 20 percent of it is wasted. That is another $12.8 billion.

Nobody is going to fix that on this. No, we are going to borrow the money from our children. So I raise the issue that we are going to pass a supplemental, and the games are going to be played on it like they are every year. People are going to add things that are not a priority; they are going to add them in--they are not in the budget--knowing they are going to go straight to the debt. Is it in our interest for us to consider, as we do the supplemental, what we are spending right now per American family on different things?

Let me spend a minute to outline that every American family is paying $8,668 for Medicare and Social Security every year; every American family is paying over $5,000 a year to defend this country; we are spending $3,752 for antipoverty programs every year; we are spending $2,000 a family for interest on the national debt, which is going to be higher next year because we are going to borrow all the supplemental and add that to our debt.

Federal employee retirement benefits cost every family in this country $1,000 a year--$1,000 a year for every family. Veterans' benefits, $750 per family; health research and regulations, $692; education, $578; highway mass transit, $455; unemployment benefits, $320; international affairs, $300.

We have a deficit that is going to be $800 billion this year. While Congress sits on its heels and has debates about legislating or not legislating, we are going to continue the same bad habits of not holding agencies accountable, not being transparent about what we are doing, and we are going to say we funded the war, but we are not going to make any of the hard choices about it.

When this bill comes to the floor, it is going to have $17 to $20 billion that does not have anything to do with the war but has everything to do with political directives outside the budget so we can spend more money.

Washington does not need a raise, it needs a cut. It is time for us to pay for the war by getting rid of the waste, fraud, and abuse in this Federal Government. Unfortunately, there is not the character or the courage in either the House or the Senate to take on that fight because it might impact political careers.

So as you listen to the debate when we come up with the supplemental, we need to fund our troops, there is no question about it, but we should not be funding our troops on the backs of our children. We should be funding our troops on the backs of us, and we ought to be doing that every time.

So I am going to do all in my power to try to offer amendments to offset the funds in this war supplemental. I know the rules will prohibit me from doing many of them. But I am not going to stop talking. I am not going to stop talking about the $350 billion that goes down the drain and steals the future and opportunity from our children.

That is exactly what we are going to be doing. And we are going to be smiling all the way through and patting ourselves on the back that we funded the war. But we did it on the backs of those who do not have the same opportunities we were given. We are going to steal those opportunities from the next two generations.

It is time for Congress to start doing its job. That means tough, rigorous oversight and staying within the budget guidelines and spending the money like it was ours, not like we had an unending credit card that never comes due.

I yield the floor.

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