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Public Statements

Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Madam President, it is tremendously ironic that we are here today. It is ironic in the sense that as we ignore what the Constitution tells us, we embrace defeat, difficulty, and peril.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the full text of article I, section 8 of the Constitution be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

SECTION. 8. \1\ The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

\2\ To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

\3\ To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

\4\ To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

\5\ To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

\6\ To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

\7\ To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

\8\ To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

\9\ To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

\10\ To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

\11\ To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

\12\ To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

\13\ To provide and maintain a Navy;

\14\ To make Rules for the Government and Regulation on the land and naval Forces;

\15\ To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

\16\ To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

\17\ To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And

\18\ To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Mr. COBURN. I also ask unanimous consent that the 10th amendment to the Constitution be printed in the Record at this time.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Mr. COBURN. For those of you who are not familiar with those two portions of our Constitution, they are very clear. Article I, section 8 is the enumerated powers that are given to Congress. They are very specific. They are very direct. It tells us what we are to be dealing with and what we are not to be dealing with. It tells us the extent to which the Federal Government is to intervene in the lives of Americans.

The 10th amendment, on the other hand, says that whatever is not included, specifically listed right here in the enumerated powers, is totally and absolutely reserved for the rights of the States.

As a practicing physician, I compare where we are today to a physician who commits malpractice. We have a patient with cancer. They have a secondary pneumonia because of the cancer. We are going to treat the pneumonia. We are going to give the antibiotics, we are going to give something to lower the temperature, we are going to give something to suppress the cough, we are going to give something to thin the mucous, but we are not going to fix the cancer. We are going to ignore the cancer.

Let me tell you what the cancer is. The cancer is Congresses that, for years upon years, have totally ignored the Constitution of the United States and taken us to areas where we have no business being. There is no way you can justify, in the U.S. Constitution, that the country ought to be the source of mortgages for homeowners in this country. Yet Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac control 70 percent of the mortgages in this country.

I plan on voting for this bill. I support that we have to do something now. But how we got here is very important if we are going to fix things in the future. The fact is that, at the same time we are debating this very important issue, we have on the floor another violation of the enumerated powers, which is the Amtrak and Metro earmark fiasco. It is going to be very interesting to see the Members of this body as they vote to bail out the financial institutions in this country while at the same time they continue to commit the same error that got us there in the first place. There is no question Amtrak is going to get reauthorized. The American people are going to spend $2.3 billion subsidizing the riders on Amtrak in this country.

In 2006 we subsidized food on Amtrak to $100 billion--I think it is down to $70 million now--despite an explicit provision within the Amtrak bill that says they will never sell anything for less than its cost and they were to lose no money on food.

Where is the answer? The answer is there has been no oversight to make sure Amtrak doesn't lose money on food. We have ignored it. We have ignored the enumerated powers of the Constitution. We are now committing the same Federal error in a much smaller way on Amtrak as we did on housing. If anybody in America is mad about this situation, there is only one place they need to direct their anger and it is right in the Congress of the United States.

It is not specific Members, it is bad habits. We are not going to cut out the cancer. We are not going to give the radiation therapy. What we are going to do is we are going to continue to treat the symptoms rather than directly go after the cause that has created the greatest financial risk and peril this country has ever seen. We are not going after the cause.

The cause is get back within the bounds of the Constitution that very specifically says where we have business working and where we do not. Because we are out of those bounds, we have now put at risk every job in this country, the savings and retirement of people who worked for years, because we decided we would ignore the wisdom of our Founders and create systems that are outside the enumerated powers that were given to us because we know better.

We do not know better. It is obvious. There is no administration to blame. It is not the Clinton administration or the Bush administration's fault we are in this mess. Because if you say that, what you have to say is you did all the oversight, you had all the hearings, you knew what was going on and you didn't do anything about it. So either we didn't know or we did know and did nothing about it.

There is only one place to come to hold accountability and it is in this body. You are going to get to see tonight people continue to vote outside the bounds of the Constitution, as we reauthorize $2.3 billion of subsidies for Amtrak, and we do not hold Amtrak accountable. We are going to give $1.5 billion and the mother of all earmarks to Virginia and Maryland for a Metro system that the Federal employees use more than anybody, and we are subsidizing an additional $100 million through individual agencies to pay them to ride it. And we wonder why we have these problems.

It is very simple. We are committing malpractice. We are not living up to the oath we undertook when we became Members of this body. That oath says you will defend and uphold the Constitution. It doesn't say you will rewrite it because it pleases you politically. We are here today because of fatal errors on the part of Members of this body to do something that is totally outside the bounds of the wisdom and foresight our Founders gave us.

Those are tough words. But we are in tough times. If we do not get about withdrawing and getting back within the realms of the power granted to us, this is just the first in a very large roll of problems this country is going to face.

Madam President, how much time do I have?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 3 minutes remaining.

Mr. COBURN. Let me describe for a moment the problems that are coming if we get past this one. Here are the problems that are coming. We are on an unsustainable course. The unfunded liabilities for Medicare alone are $100 trillion. A child born today in this country faces $400,000 for taxes for things they will never get a benefit from--$400,000. Who in this country starting out even could absorb that debt, pay the interest on it, and ever hope to own a home or have a college education? Yet this body continues to spend more, authorize more, and create bigger and more intrusive Government, limiting the power of the great American experiment to, in fact, supply an increased standard of living.

We are in tough times, but they are going to get tougher until the American people hold this body accountable to live within the rules set out in a very wise, a very providential way that served this country well. We ignore this book, this Constitution, at our peril. We are reaping exactly what we have sown.

I yield the floor.


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