American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:  Thomas Coburn
Date: Feb. 5, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009


Mr. COBURN. I thank the Chair.

Madam President, I have been listening to the debate this morning. I want to make one point. How did we get where we are? We have seen all this finger pointing. We have said that President Bush got us where we are, that we do not want to take responsibility for the fact he could not spend a penny we did not give him, and the vast majority--97 percent of the majority--voted for every appropriations bill that came through this place.

So when we point to other people, where we need to be pointing is to us. The vast majority of the majority party voted against every amendment. I offered over $10 billion per appropriations cycle on the bills. The vast majority voted against the cut. So I think if we are going to point to a pox on a house, it ought to come right here--the lack of responsibility, where we demonstrate with our actions every day we are much more interested in the next election than we are in the next generation.

We heard Senator Alexander today talking about that it is not our money, it is the taxpayers' money, and we are going to have to pay it back. Nobody alive in this room today will pay back any of this money. Their children and their grandchildren will pay back this money.

This bill is doing exactly the same thing we did to get into this mess. We are about to spend $1 trillion of money we don't have for the vast majority of the things in this bill that we don't need.

Let me explain to the American people a little bit of the workings in the Senate. There is about $300 billion worth of spending in the bill we have on the floor that has been put in there so we won't have to make hard choices when it comes to the appropriations bills that come through this body this year. So we take $300 billion that we know should be in the regular appropriations bills and we put it in this bill so we don't have to use regular order. That gives us more room to do more Government spending, more interference in the lives of Americans without being responsible for it. When I say $300 billion, the real cost is $600 billion.

It strikes me that if you were going to ask the American people how best to stimulate the economy and you are going to spend $1 trillion to do it, the best and smartest allocation of those resources would be to give the money back to the American people. In our wisdom, we think we know better than they do how to spend money. The thing that made this the greatest country in the world is this wonderful market capitalism that said people will serve their own best interests. We have the very ego to think we can decide for them.

I think we need some stimulus--I don't disagree with that--but I don't think we need to do it right now. I think we need to fix the mortgage market and the housing market and the credit market before we touch any kind of stimulus. If we do a stimulus, the best stimulus we could do would be to give the money back to the American people and let them allocate it in ways they know are best for them individually. That proposal was rejected out of hand. Now, why would that be rejected? Because we have this false sense that Washington knows better. Well, I will tell my colleagues the predicament we are in proves we don't. We don't know better, we don't have a clue, when we bring a $900 billion spending bill to the floor and we have accepted one amendment to cut $246 million out of it and we have had votes--both voice votes and recorded votes--on less than 20 amendments, and we are told by the majority leader we have to finish so we can get to conference. This bill ought to have 1,000 amendments on it, if we are truly going to do the work of the American people. We ought to debate this bill line by line. I will not agree to any unanimous consent until the next 15 amendments I have, have a scheduled time to be brought up so the American people can hear about all the stinky stuff that is in this bill.

The biggest earmark in history is in this bill: $2 billion. There are tons of things that need to come out of this bill. As the American people have learned what is in this bill, their common sense--which is on a one-for-one basis a thousandfold greater than our common sense as Senators--is being totally ignored. That is why the people in this country routinely are rejecting this bill now. You can do all the promotion of it you want; you can use all the; you can do all the Web sites you want, but when they smell a skunk--their olfactory senses are quite acute--this is a skunk. This bill stinks. This bill is the biggest generational theft bill that has ever come through this body. What I mean by that is we have a standard of living in this country that is 30 percent greater than anywhere else in the world, and it will guarantee, this bill will guarantee your children and grandchildren will lose every bit of that edge, every bit of it.

So how did we get here? We got here by us thinking we knew better, by us ignoring the very principles that created this great country. Then we refused to admit it. We created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then we blamed an administration when we tied their hands to fix it, and we say it is an administration's fault when it is our fault. We tried to socialize the risk so everybody in this country, even if they couldn't afford it, could have a home. Now what we are doing is we are going to charge our grandchildren to get us out of it when we were in a business where we never had any business. If you look at the enumerated powers of the Constitution, it gives us no authority whatsoever to do what we have done. So when we abandon the principles we were founded upon, we get in tremendously tall, deep weeds. That is where we find ourselves now.

The idea that we can borrow more money we don't have to spend on more things we don't need and ignore the wisdom of the average American citizen on how best to spend their money is insane. Yet we have spent 2 1/2 days--that is all we have spent so far on a $1 trillion bill, 2 1/2 days--and have had 20 votes, and now we are told by the majority leader we need to hurry up. ``Hurry up'' is what got us in this trouble. We need a methodical explanation to the American people for every line that is in this bill--every line item. We need an explanation of why we are putting in Medicaid funds to bail out the States at twice the level of what the Governors actually asked for. Why would we do that? Because we know better. In our ultimate wisdom, we know better? And while we are talking about the States, the worst thing we can do is bail out the States because we will be transferring our wonderful illogic to the States and saying you don't have to be fiscally responsible. That is what we are going to be telling them, so that in the future, they won't put in a rainy day fund, as Oklahoma has, and plan for the future and control their spending increases. No, they will say: Don't worry about it; the Federal Government will come bail us out.

I am adamantly opposed to us transferring the absolute economic chaos we have created to the States. The States need to make hard choices now. We need to do what we need to do, which is fix housing, fix mortgages, fix the banking system. Then, when we have done that, which will fix all these other problems, then come with a real stimulus that allows the American people--the American people--much like what the majority of the McCain bill does--to decide how they are going to spend the money.

Since we are so down on the business sector in this country that creates all the jobs, small business and large business alike, why don't we think about maybe having a competitive tax on our corporations that is competitive with the rest of the world. No. What do we do? We have one 10 percent higher than anybody else in the world. Yet it is business's fault we are in this mess. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are in this mess because Congress put us in this mess; not any President, not Bill Clinton, not George Bush, and certainly not Barack Obama.

Let's be honest with the American people. Let's fess up: We don't know what we are doing. A $1 trillion bill was cobbled together in 4 weeks with earmarks like crazy through it for every special interest group that is out there so we can look good to certain of our buddies and especially the ones who give us campaign contributions. That is what describes this bill, not an ethical, methodical, ``how do we fix the problem we have'' kind of scrutiny that is required. You cannot fix a problem until you know what the problem is, and the problem is us. We created this mess, and our actions created this mess.

The President signed the children's health program. I am not opposed to a children's health program. I am not opposed to helping children get the health care they need. But this body rejected a way to do that which wouldn't have increased taxes $71 billion and would have covered every child. But, no, we are smarter than that because we want to tell people where they are going to get their health care and how they are going to get it. And then, when we can't afford it, do you know what we are going to do? We are going to ration it, just like every other country that has centralized control over their health care. Then what is going to happen to our cancer cure rates which are 50 percent higher than anywhere else in the world? They are going to be the same as the rest of the world: They are going to go down. Now we have comparative effectiveness that we want to put through that says the Government--some Government bureaucrat is going to tell doctors how to practice medicine. That is in this too. We are going to have them tell us how to practice medicine. We forgot one thing on the way to the barn, and that is the practice of medicine is 40 percent art and 60 percent science and everywhere in the world, where they have a centralized government health care system, they have thrown out the art of medicine, which tends to deal with the whole person and how that interacts with the physical aspects of that person.

To me, it is deeply disappointing that we find ourselves where we are today. I don't think pointing fingers anywhere except back at ourselves accomplishes anything. Yet I have heard that three or four times this morning on the floor: It is somebody else's fault. No, it is not; it is our fault.

The first thing to getting healthy as addicts is to admit we have a problem. We need to be in a 10-step program. That is what we need, a 10-step program that will put us back on the board to where our Founding Fathers thought we ought to be and where the average American wants us to be. We are addicted to the ego of trying to run other people's lives. We are addicted to the ego of spending money, thinking we know best how to spend it. We are addicted to the ego that when somebody else has problems, we can always fix it. We can't always fix it. We can't fix all the problems that are in front of us today. The American people, through their own ingenuity and their own sacrifice, are going to have to make some hard choices. When we don't make hard choices, we are doubly guilty because what we have done is we have made the choices harder for them that they are going to have to make.

My prayer--and it is a prayer--is that we would, as a body, drop the words ``Democrat'' and ``Republican,'' drop the words ``conservative'' and ``liberal,'' and that our goal would be what is in the most efficient, long-term, best interests of those of us who are here today and those who are coming.

I ran a campaign to become Senator and the focus of my campaign, unfortunately, was we were about to find ourselves where we are today. I am so sorry I was right. I am so sorry I was right, but it doesn't take a lot of vision to see where we were going. Nobody has voted against President Bush and nobody has voted against more appropriations bills than me. It didn't have anything to do with party politics; it had everything to do with the future. Yet we find ourselves bogged down in debate.

I wish to add one other thing. One of the reasons we have to get out of here is because we have Members who have booked hotels this weekend. Tell me how many people in America think that is an important reason for us to hurry up and finish this bill. There is no reason for us to hurry up, No. 1. There is no reason for us not to look at every area of this bill and make sure the American people know about it. There is no reason for us not to do what the average man would do, and that is make priorities.

The other problem with this bill, which is extremely disappointing--and I know it has to be to President Obama because he campaigned on a line-by-line look at the Federal Government to get rid of some of the $300 billion every year in waste, fraud, and abuse. That was one of his campaign issues. One of his campaign promises was to do competitive bidding on every contract over $25,000. There is not one mandate in this bill to force competitive bidding. That is one of the amendments I wish to offer, to force us to do competitive bidding. If we are going to pass this stinky bill, at least if we waste $1 trillion, we will waste it efficiently.

When I look at my grandkids, as does everybody else in this country, we wish for the best for our grandchildren. I have to tell my colleagues this body has put the first shackle already on their future. When we pass this bill, we are going to put that lock around their other leg and we are going to put a padlock on it and we are going to throw away the key and we are going to hobble them away from the American dream.

We are going to take it away. We are going to take away the very bright light shining on a hill. America, if you are listening, don't let this body do what it is about to do. It will ruin your children's future in the name of us knowing best rather than you knowing best.

Mr. McCAIN. If the Senator will yield, did the Senator see the AP News release this morning at 11:30 that the chairwoman of the congressional oversight panel for the bailout funds told the Senate Banking Committee that the Treasury, in 2008, paid $254 billion and received assets worth about $176 billion? I think everybody knows we passed TARP in a big hurry, just as this legislation has not gone through the hearings and the normal process. So, apparently, according to the chairperson of the congressional oversight panel for bailout funds, in 2008, our Treasury paid $254 billion and received assets worth $176 billion. It seems to me that is about $80 billion that the taxpayers lost.

Mr. COBURN. Yes, the taxpayers lost $80 billion. I voted for the original TARP money because we were told that money was going to address the toxic assets, which is the problem we need to solve first.

I spoke on the floor two nights ago using the corollary of treating symptoms versus treating disease. This bill treats symptoms; it doesn't treat disease. I know several colleagues are waiting to talk.

With that, I yield the floor.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is a straightforward amendment. What this amendment says is that all the money we are going to spend in this bill, the American taxpayers are going to get value.

I am not going to win the debate on this bill. We are going to spend somewhere between $750 billion and $1 trillion, but the one thing we ought to be able to assure the American people is that when we go to spend the money, they are going to get value for it. This is an amendment that says there will be competitive bidding on all the contracts, all the agreements so we get real value. As malodorous as this bill is in terms of the spending that is not going to produce the first job, the one thing we ought to make sure of is that the American taxpayer is protected.

What we know from 40 hearings in the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee is the biggest problem we have in the Government today, besides waste, fraud, and abuse, is the fact that many of the Government contracts, in violation of Federal law, are never competitively bid. That does a couple things. One is it puts people who are connected to the Government in line to get a contract that is not necessarily the best value for our country. Whether that is lobbying here or lobbying at the executive branch, what we know is that at least $50 billion a year right now is wasted because we don't do competitive bidding.

All this amendment says is that if you are going to spend the money, if it is greater than $25,000--which is what President Obama has asked us to do--you competitively bid it. You don't play favorites; you make sure we get great value.

So my hope is nobody can find a fault with this agreement and this amendment that would say in common sense: Everybody out there who is in business who is going to do something such as that, spend any significant amount of money, is going to get value for what they pay on their money. Every household is going to try to do that as they try to make decisions on how they spend money. So as we spend $900 billion on the items that can be let for contract, we ought to insist that there is competitive bidding.

What do we know right now in the Federal Government as far as waste where we have not competitively bid? Here is what we know. We spend as a government $64 billion a year on IT contracts--on IT contracts. The vast majority are not competitively bid. Some people may say: Well, that is no problem. Well, when you hear that 40 billion of them are in trouble, way outside the cost that we thought things were going to cost, what we see is the American taxpayer doesn't get any value when it comes to IT purchasing in the Federal Government. Whether that is the Pentagon, whether it is Homeland Security, whether it is the Small Business Administration, whether it is the Department of Energy, we get no value because 50 percent of the money we spend on IT ultimately gets wasted because we don't competitively contract it and competitively bid it.

Out of this $900 billion, there is somewhere around $400 billion of that which can, at one point or another, be competitively bid. To not competitively bid it says, first of all, we are not going to be able to spend it to create as many jobs as we would like if, in fact, we don't get value when we competitively bid it. So my hope is the chairman will consider this amendment take it under advisement. I would also relate that even in spite of the fact that sections 303 of the Federal Property and Administrative Act, 10 U.S. Code 2304 all require it, the Federal Government doesn't do it. Last year, in the Consolidated Federal Funds Report, the Federal agencies issued $1.2 trillion in financial assistance in 2008.

Mr. President, $400 billion of that was in grants, so that means grants need to be competitively bid; $453 billion in contracts and $22 billion in direct loans. A large portion of that was never competitively bid.

I will shorten the time I spend on this amendment. I ask for its consideration, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, first of all, let me thank the chairman for his kindness. I agree we should be going back and forth.

Whatever we do with this bill, we ought to determine what is most important and what is least important. When we take $900 billion and are about to spend it, we ought to do that in a way that again promotes value. We as a body oftentimes are resistant to make hard choices; I know that, but every family out there in our country today is making hard choices.

I found it peculiar, when this bill came to the floor, that it didn't include a prohibition that was in the House bill. Somewhat strange. What was in the House bill, which was passed by the House and agreed to by the House, was a prohibition on any funding to pay for aquariums, zoos, golf courses, swimming pools, stadiums, parks, theaters, art centers or highway beautification projects. Somehow, strangely, it was left out of the Senate bill.

So I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside to call up my amendment No. 309.


Mr. COBURN. What this amendment does is it prohibits stimulus funding to pay for casinos, museums, aquariums, zoos, golf courses, swimming pools, stadiums, parks, theaters, art centers or highway beautification projects. I am not necessarily against those, but if we are going to spend money, we ought to spend money on the highest priority things first, not the finer things that we can't afford.

We cannot afford to spend a penny on a museum right now with the trouble we are in. We cannot afford to spend a penny on a golf course with the trouble we are in. We cannot afford to spend a penny on theaters or art centers or highway beautification. Those are not a priority. Plus, most of those won't generate near the jobs as if we were spending it on something more substantive. There are billions of dollars in this bill for various grant programs for State and local governments, for supposedly local shovel-ready projects. How do we know that? Because the U.S. Conference of Mayors has a wish list of shovel-ready spending projects entitled Main Street Recovery Ready-to-Go Infrastructure Report. It includes billions in questionable and wasteful projects that should never be funded by the taxpayers, even if we had extra money--which we don't--and certainly should not be funded at this time, with the limited dollars we have and the way we are funding. We are not borrowing--no, we are stealing this money from our grandkids.

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

Mr COBURN. I will.

Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, let me ask my distinguished friend and colleague from Oklahoma this. We all know we have to address the problems we face in our economy. It is becoming a crisis. The majority leader said that, the minority leader said that, and everybody who has offered an amendment has said that. But it seems to me we have fundamental differences with the President of the United States, who called some of our concerns picayunish in an op-ed in the Washington Post, and with our colleagues across the aisle, as to what constitutes an effective stimulus. The Senator from Oklahoma is introducing an amendment that I wish more Members could listen to--and they should because it would be in their best interest.

The Senator from Oklahoma is offering an amendment that introduces an overdue criteria not only regarding whether the mayors' wishlist, and the programs he is going to enunciate, fit the role of a stimulus, but public outrage? These are the kinds of things that become fodder on late night talk shows, and we could do that--we could sort of do a late night talk show. We could go back and forth and he would mention a project and I would say: Do you mean there is money going for that? But I will skip all that and congratulate the Senator regarding his amendment.

Can the economy be best revitalized through a massive and unprecedented increase in Government spending? Or is it better to pursue progrowth policies that put money more directly into the pockets of families and businesses?

There is no question, I can answer that. Putting money back in the pockets of American families and businesses stimulates the economy. When they have additional money in their pockets, they can use that money as they see fit--to save, to purchase a home or a car, to make an investment or hire workers. So I think what the Senator from Oklahoma is trying to do--I know what he is trying to do and what I am trying to do in asking him to yield, which is to urge my colleagues to take a hard look, please, at the spending in this bill. We have already asked you to do that. There have been many amendments to do that. Ask yourselves: Is this stimulative? Do the programs in this bill truly promote economic stimulus? Do they create jobs? Do they put meaningful dollars directly in the pockets of families and businesses to encourage the economic growth of our country, or does the bill simply spread the money around to many Federal programs, or Members' requests, in the hope that such spending will solve our economic problems?

If we cannot honestly demonstrate the stimulative effect of the programs in the bill, then it is clear to me that taxpayer dollars would be best spent elsewhere or, better yet, returned to the taxpayers.

With all due respect to President Obama, in the article he wrote for the Washington Post, the op-ed, these matters are not picayunish--they are not.

The economic stimulus mantra from last year--targeted, temporary, and timely--which should also apply to this year's effort, seems no longer to be the drumbeat of the majority. I don't know if the Senator is aware, but one estimate is that this bill would cost $2,700 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. While this bill is touted as creating or conserving jobs, some of the costs of the proposed job creation in the bill are truly astounding, not picayunish.

A program at the State Department would create 388 jobs at a cost of $524 million. There are others that create jobs that would cost $480,000 per job and $333,000 per job. I know the Senator from Oklahoma is interested in that because that is the very kind of thing he likes to bring up to make us adhere to our job responsibilities.

I know Oklahomans are outraged, and I know Kansans are outraged at this reckless spending, when the vast majority of them live within their means, pay their bills, and make their mortgage payments on time. Where is their benefit under this bill? Where is their $333,000 or $480,000 job?

Many constituents who have contacted me have said, ``Just send me a check.'' They are very concerned that their tax dollars are not being used wisely here and that this bill won't get the job done. That is what the Senator from Oklahoma is trying to accomplish.

The bill is not targeted. The appropriation portion of the bill spends taxpayer dollars on everything from smoking cessation programs, all-terrain vehicle trails, and $600 million to buy new cars for new Government employees.

Again, these matters are not picayunish. As the spending in this bill grows, it has become a honey pot for every conceivable special interest group in this unprecedented environment of national crisis. I am concerned that we are well on our way to federalizing State and local governments, as many elected officials are setting up what I call ``bucket commissions.'' Our Governor in Kansas is doing that, and others are as well. I know we have problems in Kansas, and I know they have problems in Ohio, and I know they have problems in Oklahoma. But they are coming to Washington to fill these buckets. People have actually lobbied for and want the projects the Senator from Oklahoma is talking about. If you want a new county jail, don't pass a bond issue; ask for it in the stimulus. If you want a Frisbee park--I am not making that up--don't ask local taxpayers to foot the bill; ask for it in the stimulus.

With this Federal honey pot and the lure that is now out there to come to Washington and make funding requests--and some requests do have merit; I won't quarrel with that. But this is not the right time or place for them. Another danger here is that Federal money too often becomes Federal control--Federal intervention further into the daily lives of Americans. You hear a lot about that back home.

To all of those who hear the siren song lure of coming to Washington and obtaining free stimulus money, with apologies to Homer:

Circe warned all those lured by the siren songs and to too many who ignored the warning and ended up on rocky shoals:
Once he hears to his heart's content, sails on a wiser man.
Like as Vlisses wandering men,
In red seas [or in the case of this stimulus, red ink] as they pass along.
Did stoppe their ears with wax as then,
Against the suttle Mermayds [or shall we say Senator's stimulus song.]
So shall their crafty filled talk,
Here after find no listing ear.
Like Circe, I byde them go back and walk,
And spend their words some other where.

Again, with apologies to Homer, with this siren stimulus song that we sing, those attracted by the lure will bring themselves and all taxpayers to rocky shoals.

We are currently in the throes of February cold, with only Valentine's Day as a respite. This bill will have its first effect amidst the winds of March. Those projects that my distinguished friend from Oklahoma is trying to bring to the attention of the Senate will come true in the winds of March. My colleagues and taxpayers all, beware of the Ides of March. Under this massive spending bill, the taxpayer will become Caesar and the Government will become Brutus. ``Et tu, Senator Brutus''--a role no Senator should wish to play.

While some funding requests may be worthy of Federal dollars, such decisions should be made as part of the annual appropriations debate, rather than circumventing that important process by adding funding to a bill that is intended to provide short-term stimulus to the economy.

This bill is not timely, I say to my friend from Oklahoma. CBO estimates that only 15 percent of this stimulus package will be spent in 2009, and only another 37 percent spent in 2010. The remaining part will be spent in 2011 and beyond. That means that less than half of the money will be spent by the end of next year. This is not the immediate relief families and businesses desperately need now to help get the economy back on track. Rather than looking at more Federal spending and programs to fix our economy, we have tried to redirect this spending to tax relief. We need to return to families more of their hard-earned dollars and allow businesses to keep more of the money they earn, so they can reinvest and grow their businesses. This is particularly true of small business. Unfortunately, only $21 billion, or 3 percent of this bill, goes to small business. I know the Senator from Oklahoma certainly cares about small businesses. They are the Nation's job creators. How can we call this an economic stimulus bill, when only a fraction of this bill is going to help small businesses?

Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, I forgot what the question was.

Mr. ROBERTS. We had seven questions, and I am going to have one, and then I will cease and desist.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma has the floor. He yielded for a question.

Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, I am trying to find a fair way to go back and forth here.

Mr. COBURN. Does the Senator have another question?

Mr. ROBERTS. Yes, I do. We have had before us--and more to come, I think--well-thought-out alternatives to meet the commonsense test. As I said before, we have had amendments to strip out billions in spending in the bill that will not stimulate the economy. It is my understanding that the Senator's amendment deals with smaller programs and, as I have indicated, the public reaction to these programs and these relative to the stimulus package are unbelievable, is that not true?

Mr. COBURN. That is true.

Mr. ROBERTS. We have and will have amendments to provide permanent tax relief for middle-income taxpayers. Is anything in there having to do with that?


Mr. ROBERTS. Basically, we have considered amendments to address the problems in the housing market, to fix housing first. Does anything on that list have anything to do with fixing the housing market?


Mr. ROBERTS. These suggestions would improve this bill. Can we improve it, I ask the Senator from Oklahoma, to provide the right incentives to stimulate the economy and create private sector jobs?

Mr. COBURN. Yes.

Mr. ROBERTS. Let us beware of the Ides of March and the siren songs of the stimulus, I say to the Senator from Oklahoma. I thank him for doing an outstanding job to warn the majority of the sand trap they are getting into with these projects. Would the Senator not agree?

Mr. COBURN. Yes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator yielded for a question. The Senator from Oklahoma has the floor.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank my fine friend from Kansas for those questions.

As I was saying before I was interrupted for a question, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has a wish list. I would do the same thing. But I want my colleagues to hear what is going across the legislatures of all the States right now: How much of this money can we get so we don't have to do the hard job in our legislature right now to make cuts we need to make? How much of this money can we get?

They just happened to have 31,000 requests totaling $73.2 billion. I thought the American people would like to hear what some of them are because I guarantee you, we will fund them. We are going to fund them. If this bill passes, we are going to fund them unless we accept this amendment.

How about $192.6 million for 12 projects directed to stadiums, including $150 million for a Metromover extension to Marlin Stadium in Miami, FL, where their average attendance is less than 45 percent, less than 16,000 fans? Is that a priority for the country right now? It is not a priority. Unless we agree to this amendment, that kind of stuff is going to get funded.

How about $87 million for 56 projects on paths? Right now, when we are stealing $1 trillion from our grandchildren, is it a priority for this country to build bicycle paths? Tell me that is a priority. Tell the American people that is a priority.

How about $700,000 to plant 1,600 trees along the sidewalks in Providence, RI? Is that a priority? Because once this bill moves out of here, it is out of your control, and the bureaucrats are going to grant it based on the pressure you put on them, not on a competitive basis but based on what greases the skids the most.

How about $500,000 for eco-friendly golf course improvements in Dayton, OH? We like that one?

How about $8.4 million for a brandnew polar bear exhibit at the zoo in Providence, RI? Is that really a priority? When we are in this kind of trouble, we are going to be building zoos? That is what the Senate says we should do with this money, allow zoos to be built?

I like this one: $6.1 million for corporate jet hangars in Fayetteville, AR. Those are the kinds of jobs we want to create? We want to create that kind of program?

How about $100,000 to rehabilitate a skateboard park in Alameda, CA? We are going to take $100,000 from our kids to rehabilitate a skateboard park. That is what the American people want us to do with this money to put people to work?

How about the Sunset View Dog Park in Chula Vista, CA? Just half a million dollars. That is on this list.

If we do not accept this amendment, then tons of this stuff is going to go through--low priority, not high priority job creating but everybody's wish list in the country. When they heard this bill was first coming, every city across this country said: Well, what can we get? When you run a country that way, you can expect to get these kinds of requests.

In this request is a new museum for Las Vegas, a mob museum. We will spend $50 million on a mob museum? That is really a priority right now for American citizens, especially their grandchildren who are still in the womb who are going to come out owing $500,000 as soon as they hit the ground? If we do not add this amendment to this bill, tons of stuff just like this is going to be included.

Let me tell you the other justification for this. One of the best functioning things we have is a library and museum grant-seeking body. They have done a wonderful job through the last few years, except when we earmark around them, which we do routinely every year. But they go through an ordered process.

What is going to happen is this is going to go around the ordered process again, and we are going to take away competitive grants. They are the only agency in the Federal Government that 100 percent follows up on every grant. They know the quality of the grants they give, and they never give another one if it was not quality. They make people pay back if it was not quality. There is nothing in this bill that will require us to get back the money from people who abuse the process.

In the next appropriations bill--probably the one that is coming in the next week or so--we are going to have well over $100 million for museums. I guarantee you, it is probably in the omnibus that is coming. I bet you we have $100 million in there in spite of this $900 billion bill. I guarantee you we have $100 million in it. Maybe by me mentioning it we will not have it when it comes to the floor. I don't know.

There is nothing in here that would say, if you are a highly endowed museum, you cannot get this money. Are we going to give the same amount of money to any museum, even when several have $1 billion or $2 billion in endowment? There is no direction in this bill. None.

The golf course industry in the United States boasts approximately 12,000 golf courses. There is no prohibition in this bill that any of this money will not be spent building golf courses. Again, if you don't believe me, ask your 6-year-old grandchild: Do you think we ought to borrow your future to pay for a golf course in this country right now? There is no prohibition on that. It is going to happen. We all know it is going to happen.

To go back to the mayors' wish list: $5 million for golf course renovations in Shreveport, LA; $1.2 million for a new golf park restoration in Brockton, MA; $1.5 million to replace the golf clubhouse in Roseville, MN; $2.1 million for Forest Park and urban golf renovation in St. Louis; $3 million for golf clubhouse replacement in Lincoln, NE; $500,000 for an environmentally friendly golf course in Dayton, OH; and $3 million for renovation of a golf course building in Hawaii.

I know it is hard to put a bill such as this together, and I am not meaning to be overly critical, but I believe that unless we put a prohibition on what the money can go for, the money is going to go for low-priority items. I think it is reprehensible that we would not put a limit on the worst tendencies of local governments, the worst tendencies of State governments, and our own worst tendencies to spend money, especially when it is 100 percent borrowed; that we would not limit ourselves, that we would not put a choke chain on us to make sure we don't allow projects to go this way.

I have talked about this long enough. I appreciate the indulgence of the chairman.

I yield the floor.


Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.