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Department Of The Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, D.C.

Department Of The Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010


Mr. COBURN. I thank the Chair.

I wanted to spend a little time talking about the appropriations process before I speak on the amendments. I have seven amendments, maybe eight. All are commonsense amendments. Most people in America would agree with them.

But this first chart I am showing shows that what we are doing this year is, out of every dollar the Federal Government spends, we are borrowing 43 cents against our kids, against our grandkids. That is even true in this bill. This bill we have before us--a large portion of the money to pay for this Interior appropriations bill is going to come from our children.

So one of the things you say is, well, what is the inflation out there in terms of what are the costs that are actually increasing and how do we compare to what everyone else is facing in terms of spending based on increased costs? And in 2008, 2009, during that fiscal year, we actually had a minus three-tenths of 1 percent inflation. That is called deflation. And so far this year, we have had 1.6 percent, and it is probably going to go lower than that when we see the end of the fiscal year. So let's say 1.6 percent is the cost we are seeing in terms of inflation this year.

Well, one of the first bills we passed was the Legislative Branch appropriations bill, and when we had a minus three-tenths of 1 percent increase, we increased our expenses in the Congress by 10.88 percent. This year, we have already passed the bill, and we increased it three times what the rate of inflation is. So just even in our own budget, running our own offices, running the Congress, we are increasing what we spend three times faster than the rate of inflation.

If we look at the Homeland Security appropriations--all these numbers, by the way, don't include the billions of dollars each of these agencies received with the stimulus package--from 2008 to 2009, Homeland Security was increased 9.97 percent. That is a number of infinity in terms of inflation because we had no inflation. So a 9.97-percent increase, almost 10 percent, as compared to no inflation, we grew the government in this area. This year what we have passed already is another 7.22 percent growth, despite tens of billions of dollars going to the Department of Homeland Security with the stimulus package.

Then we had the Agriculture appropriations bill. For the 2008-2009 fiscal year, we increased it 13 percent. This year we are increasing it 12.68 percent. At this rate, we will double the size of Homeland Security and the Agriculture Department in 4.75 years, if we take the multiple of this, if we continue at this rate. The Transportation-HUD appropriations, which we passed last week, 13.31 percent in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. This year we have 22 percent we have increased it, fully 15 times more than inflation. And in transportation, the costs have actually gone down in terms of what it costs to build a road or to repair a bridge because of the economy.

Then we have this bill. Last year we increased Interior 4.13 percent. Now we are increasing it again 16.28 percent. Does anybody out there have anything on which they are seeing those kinds of increases in income in America? Remember, 43 percent of this is borrowed from our children's futures.

To sum up, look at what we have done so far. Legislative branch, increased 4.75 percent; Homeland Security, 7.2; Energy and Water, 1.41--we actually did one that is at inflation--Agriculture, 12.68; Transportation and HUD, 22.54; Interior, 16.28--all the time when we have an inflation rate of 1.6 percent. What is going on? The American people ought to be highly concerned with the appropriations bills flowing through here. It is all borrowed money. All the increases are borrowed against our children and grandchildren.

Here is what we have done so far in the Senate. There is no question the Interior bill will pass. The appropriators will make sure of that. They have their earmarks in it. Whether they claim to be a fiscal conservative or not doesn't matter. They will vote for the bill to protect their earmarks. We can see what kind of growth we are experiencing in the last 2 years in this country in expanding the size of the Federal Government. These aren't small increases. They are gigantic. Nothing in the 8 years preceding this came anywhere close to it. We have this ballooning Federal Government that at the rate we are going this year will double in less than 5 years. The size of the Federal Government, if we continue this trend, will double in the next 5 years.

That doesn't count a health care bill that will add another 150,000 Federal employees and another $1 trillion of expenditure. We ought to be worried about our future. We ought to be paying attention to what the Chinese are saying, the biggest purchaser of our bonds and bills: You are spending too much money.

They are right. They are absolutely right.

How is it, in a time of economic decline and almost nonexistent inflation, we can justify rates of increase that will double the size of the Federal Government in 5 years? I don't understand that. I don't believe 80 or 90 percent of the American people understand that, unless they are not paying any taxes and don't care. But their grandchildren will care.

Let me translate what will happen. What is going to happen with this kind of explosive government growth, with an almost $12 trillion debt we have now that will double in the next 5 years and triple in the next 10 years, according to the budget plan passed by those on the other side of the aisle, is that our children and grandchildren will see a standard of living 30 percent below what we have today. That is the consequence of borrowing 43 percent of everything we do. Interest rates are not always going to be as low as they are. In 2013, this government is going to pay over $1 trillion in interest costs per year. That is $1 trillion we are taking from the American people that is not going to help anybody. It is just going to offset this terrible precedent we are setting on spending. We can't afford it. If we want the dollar to sink and we want inflation to come roaring back, all we have to do is keep doing what we are doing.

Then the value of our homes, the value of retirements, although already hit by the decline, will erode even further. We cannot create wealth by trying to borrow our way out of trouble.

What I see, as I look at my five grandchildren, is we are acting totally irresponsibly. There is no other thing we could do to describe what we are going to do. Yet tomorrow, when we get into cloture on this bill and we finally pass the bill, what are we going to do? We are going to mortgage the future of this country.

Let me explain. That means stealing hope, the propensity to think about tomorrow being better, when, in fact, we, the Members of Congress, have ensured it will not be. We are taking away the hard-earned assets, not only through taxes but through inflation, of the American worker. We have a real problem in front of us. We have an irresponsible Appropriations Committee that continues to send bills out that are growing the government at a rate that is absolutely unsustainable.

What is the answer? The answer is to ask Congress to start making hard
choices. Just like every other family is doing out there today, make the hard choice of prioritizing. What is most important? What is next most important? What is superfluous? What is not absolutely necessary now that we want to steal from our grandchildren to be able to have today? The heritage of this country, the thing that created American exceptionalism, the thing that built the most powerful, most successful economic model in the history of the world was a heritage of one generation saying: We will sacrifice to create opportunity for the next generation. These bills and this one, in particular, abandon that heritage. What we are saying is: We want for us now, and we don't care about our children and grandchildren. These are indisputable numbers. These are CBO numbers. At a minimum, this is what we are going to do. At a maximum, it is going to be much worse.

Next year we are going to borrow more than 43 percent. We are going to approach 50 percent of everything we spend based on the budget plan. We are going to have another $1.6 trillion deficit. That is Washington accounting, Enron accounting. The real deficit, when we take all the money stolen from all the trust funds, will put it closer to $1.9 trillion. Do the math: 300 million people into $1.9 trillion; we are spending $6,000 more for every man, woman, and child than we are taking in.

I carry with me, based on last year's numbers, what the Federal Government does per family, per household. The year that ends this month, we will spend $34,000 of your money--not counting the States, not counting municipalities--$34,000 per household through Federal Government programs; 43 percent of which, which comes out to about $15,000 per household, is borrowed. We will spend $9,000 on Medicare and Social Security; $5,800 on defense; antipoverty programs, almost $5,000; this year per family $1,210; in 3 years, $850 per family. Federal employee retirement benefits per family, you are paying $1,000 per family for Federal employees' generous retirement benefits. We are paying $800 for veterans benefits. For regulation and research, we are paying $700 per family. For highways, we are paying $500 per family; for justice administration, $452; and for unemployment benefits, $900 per family.

If we total all that--all the others count $1,361 per family--we come up with $33,800 per family. That is going to be $40,000 next year per family that comes through the Federal Government, of which almost 50 percent will be borrowed.

We can't continue to do what this bill purports to do. It is not only unconscionable that we would not make the tough choices, and the reason we don't make the tough choices is politicians don't want to offend anybody. It is not only unconscionable that we will not make the tough choices; what we are doing is immoral. We are stealing opportunity. We are stealing the potential American dream of our children and grandchildren because we are going to shackle them with a debt they cannot get out of.

I delivered babies for a living before I came up here. I have delivered thousands of babies. When I deliver a baby now, it is a mixed blessing. It is a wonderful thing to see that new life come into the world, to look at the parents' faces, to see the glow and to think about all their hopes and dreams for that young child. But the downside is, if you are born today, you have the responsibility to pay off the interest of over $480,000 of expenditures that are coming that we haven't provided the revenues for.

Now, think about your grandchildren and your children. Do you really want to load them down with that kind of number? Just paying the interest--if interest is 5 percent--you are talking about they have to make up $20,000, at least, before they are even just carrying the debt service on that kind of load.

We are destroying this country through the lack of discipline and the cowardice of not making the hard choices that need to be made right now--not tomorrow, not next week, right now.

For us to bring a bill to the Senate floor that increases the Interior spending by 16 percent, in a time when we have 1.6 percent inflation, and to not make the hard choices about priorities and getting it to where we do not spend any more right now so we start creating that hope of opportunity for our next generations, I do not understand.

I walk off this floor and beat my head against the wall because I do not think the Senate gets it. They do not understand what the average family is doing today in terms of making these hard choices. They are making the hard choices at home, only to see us not make the hard choices, and to offset the tremendous difficulties you have in making those hard choices by making sure your kids are going to have to make even tougher ones.

Even when the economy turns around, this does not go away. America is the longest surviving Republic in the history of the world. If we look at the history of the republics--all of them that have ever been created--what happened to them? They all collapsed. Do you know why they collapsed? Some of them were defeated externally, but the reason they were defeated externally is because they became a fiscal mess, much like we are, and they all ultimately collapsed over the lack of fiscal discipline and limiting the size of the government's take in terms of the size of the economy.

It is projected that in America, in 10 years--if things keep going the way they are--the Federal Government will consume 40 percent of our GDP. When it gets to 50 percent, we are over, we are gone. What we have today is a situation that is not irreversible. But all prophetic indications would say, if we keep doing this, it is going to be irreversible.

I know those are tough things, but let me tell you how Senators think. Senators think in the short term because it seems too often the most important thing is getting to the next election. So we do the short-term, expedient things that make us look good to a group of people in one State by sacrificing the greater good of the country.

What is needed today in America is people with long-term visionary thought, combined with the courage to lose an election to do what is best for the American public in the long run. What is best is for us to get back to the roots and our oath that is outlined in the Constitution of the United States.

This bill strays a long way from that, and my amendments will show some of that. We no longer have a limited Federal Government. We have an overly expansive Federal Government. It is not going to be long when we will not need States because the Federal Government is going to be involved in everything and telling the States what to do on everything anyway--and there comes the collapse of our Republic.

These are just little warning symptoms that say we do not have our eye on the ball, that we have our eye on the wrong ball, that we do not believe in the oath we took to honor the Constitution and its prescribed method of maintaining a limited Federal Government, with everything else, as depicted in the 10th amendment, left and reserved for the States and the people of this country.

When we are growing the Department of Interior by 16 percent, what we are doing is abandoning that. There is no justification. If you read this appropriations bill and the report that goes along with it--if the American people were to read it, they would throw up. They would throw up at the lack of priorities. They would throw up at the tremendous parochialism that says we put our State ahead of our country. They would throw up at the waste, and they would throw up at the earmarks. They would be literally sick.

So we find ourselves with multiple appropriations bills that are inexcusable, given the situation we find ourselves in, and, more importantly, the sacrifices that American families are having to make now in their own budgets. But, more importantly, it is inexcusable to steal the hope and future from the next two generations, and this bill does that, and so do the rest of them.

We are stealing. We are selfish. We are saying: I would rather be reelected to the Senate than do what is best for America. I would rather protect my parochial interests than do what is better for America. I would rather not have to make the hard choices of eliminating some things that are not a priority rather than do what is in the best long-term vision for this country.

It is discouraging. It is disappointing. The only way it changes is if the American people demand that it start changing. There should not be 10 votes for this bill, but it will get 60 or 70 because there is no backbone. There is no backbone to do the right, best thing for the country, even if it costs us. Serving your country means sacrificing. Service without sacrifice is not service at all. If it is not costing you something, you are not doing anything, and we shun the responsibility of doing the best and the right thing for America.

Let me talk for a minute, if I may, about the amendments I have. I will preview those amendments and will not spend a lot more of the chairman's and ranking member's time. I have a total of seven amendments--actually eight. Let me talk about them since I cannot call them up.

One amendment is on transparency. My friend, President Obama, wants us to be a transparent government. Throughout this bill are tons of reports that you, as American citizens, will never get to see. As a matter of fact, I will not even get to see them because they are directed only to the Appropriations Committee. What is that all about? As a Member of the Senate I cannot see reports that are committed by this bill in terms of reporting back from agencies. Yet only the Appropriations Committee can see them? More importantly, you cannot see them to be able to hold us accountable to see whether we are doing our job? So one of the amendments just says, if there are reports required, and they do not compromise national security interests, everybody in America ought to get to see them.

In the last appropriations bill that amendment was accepted. But I will tell you what will happen to it. They will take it out in conference. They will say: Oh, it did not make it through conference. The American people cannot see this. They will not come out and say it. I will have to publicize it. But they will deny the ability for you to see the very reports they are asking for in this bill.

There is an earmark in this bill for a building less than two blocks from here called the Sewall-Belmont House. That house is used for a multitude of things. They have $4 million cash in the bank right now, and we are going to give them another $1 million. They have money in the bank, but we are going to give it to them anyway. Mostly what happens over there is fundraisers for Members of Congress, for which they charge $5,000 to use. They make money. Yet we have decided we are going to give them $1 million. Tell me that is a priority right now in this country.

So what we do is we take that $1 million and send that $1 million to the National Park Service because right now we have an $11 billion backlog in our national parks, and they are falling down. But we refuse to fund them because we are doing things like this.

There is another amendment I have. We now have a conflict between agencies where the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Interior will not allow Homeland Security to protect our southern border because they are afraid it will mess up the environment. So what we have done is we have said protecting wilderness areas is more important than protecting our border.

This amendment says none of the funds in this bill can be used to prohibit or impede the Department of Homeland Security from protecting us on the southern border. Yet it is happening every day. We have testimony. We have internal documents that show the Department of Interior is limiting the ability of Homeland Security to protect our southern border. It makes sense that we should not do that. We should protect the environment, but we will not have that environment if we do not protect our southern border.

What we do know is, those areas where our Border Patrol cannot get to are where all the infiltration is coming today. It is where the drug trafficking is coming today. It is where multiple, multiple people are being raped by the people who are transporting illegal aliens through those wilderness and fish and wildlife areas.

So what this amendment says is, you cannot use money in the Department of Interior to preclude Homeland Security and the Border Patrol from doing their job, which is to protect us from the illegal transport of people and drugs and weapons into this country.

I have another amendment. We want to try to become more energy independent. We have all the renewable we are trying to do--whether it is wind or solar--yet the Department of the Interior is blocking the ability to create the transmission lines from where we have renewable sources. They will not allow the transmission lines to go across those areas. We want to get off foreign oil. We want to decrease our carbon use. Now we have started to develop alternative, renewable sources, and we have an agency that is blocking the ability to get that power to us. It makes no sense.

We can do that in an environmentally friendly way. So we cannot allow the Department of the Interior to block that and the ultra-environmentalists, who say they want us to have renewable energy but, by the way, they do not want us to be able to use it. So we will develop it and not have a way to use it.

There is several hundred million dollars in this bill to be used for the Federal Government to acquire more land. The Federal Government owns about 35 percent of all the land in the country today, but we cannot take care of the land we have. I mentioned earlier the backlog at the national parks. The National Mall has a backlog. The Statue of Liberty has a $600 million backlog. Some of our biggest and best parks--the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, several others--have hundreds of millions of dollars in backlog.

All the national park backlog grew $400 million last year. In other words, we are letting what we have crumble as we go and spend almost $360 million more on buying more land. This amendment says: Do not buy the land. Put the money in fixing our national parks, bringing them up. They are falling down. We actually have testimony where we are putting visitors at risk because our maintenance backlog is so great.

Third from the last is an amendment to require a report so we know what we actually own. We don't know what we own. The last time we had any estimate it was of 658 million acres and that was 2005. Nobody has done anything to know what we own, prioritize what we own, or say what is important. What do we need to protect the most? What do we need to get the backlogs straight on? How do we manage what we own? You can't manage what you own if you don't know what you own. All it does is require a report on the total land owned by the Federal Government and the cost to maintain the land so we can make coherent judgments about how to make priorities of what is important and what is not. This appropriations bill shoots from the hip, because they don't have the facts with which to make the decisions on how to prioritize.

Finally, we have this idea of national heritage areas. We now have four times more than was ever authorized in the original bill. What happens is we create a national heritage area and pretty soon you are out there on your farm or in your neighborhood and because it is a national heritage declaration, we fund special interest groups that come in to lobby to make sure what happens to your land is what they want to happen, not what you want to happen with your land. So what we say with this amendment is if we are going to create a national heritage area, all the landowners ought to be notified. If they want to be included in that, allow them to opt in. Allow them to choose to be in the national heritage area. But if they don't want to be, their property rights ought to be secure. So what we say is allow them to decide whether they want in or out and they have to opt in if they want in.

Our Bill of Rights guarantees our right to our property, an unfettered right. The national heritage areas destroy that and allow groups with an interest that is funded by the Federal Government--you didn't get any of the money--to come in and have the power and the money to lobby to change the restrictions and land codes against your will. Most people who have found themselves in a heritage area don't know it until they get ready to do something with their own land and find out that: Oh, my goodness, the Federal Government has caused somebody to change my ability to do what I want to do with my land. I am not talking crazy; I am talking responsible action by a landowner. So what we are doing is denying a fundamental right guaranteed under the Bill of Rights as we create all of these heritage areas.

It is fine if you want to be in one, but if you don't want to be in one, you ought to have the ability to not be in it and it shouldn't be assumed you are in it because we in Washington say you should. You ought to be able to say you should and you ought to have the knowledge with which to make that decision. That is called real transparency. That is called protecting freedom. That is called letting people be responsible for their property rather than us mandating from Washington what will and won't happen with our property.

Then, finally, an amendment I offer on every appropriations bill. It comes from what President Obama said he wanted to do, and that is to mandate competitive bidding on everything we buy--no more well-connected, well-heeled inside deals but competitively bid so that the American taxpayers truly get value for the dollars they are sending here and, even more importantly, the 43 percent our kids are going to be paying for, that they get value. Since we are borrowing their money, we are borrowing their future, at least when we borrow it, we ought to--and we are going to do misguided priorities and we are going to overspend and we are going to grow the government and double it in the next 5 years--the least we could do is to get real value when we go to spend your money and your kids' money.

As my colleagues can see, I am not a very big fan of this bill. As a matter of fact, I am not a big fan of any of the appropriations bills, because the whole premise under which they operate is: Here is what we had last year and we are going to start from there, without ever looking at: Here are how many billions we are spending and is it being spent properly? Is there great oversight? No, there is not. There is terrible oversight. Is there duplication? We don't even care; we don't even look. We don't make the hard choices that the next two generations need us to make.

The most powerful committee in the Senate and the most powerful committee in the House is the Appropriations Committee, and $400 billion of your money will be appropriated this year that is not even authorized. The appropriators don't even pay attention to the authorizing language because they are going to appropriate $400 billion of things that aren't authorized. So then we have this parliamentary rule that says you can't legislate on an appropriations bill. Yet they legislate all the time by funding things that have never been authorized or have expired authorizations for spending. So we can eliminate $400 billion tomorrow by following the rules of the Senate and the rules of the Constitution, but we play the game and people come to kiss the rings, to get what they want at home, to look good at home. Consequently, we are extorted to pay with a vote for a bill that is like this one--this big 16.28 percent increase--so we can look good at home.

I want to tell my colleagues the American people are waking up. There is a rumble out there like I have never seen. It is a rumble I have been praying for. This country needs to be taken back by the people. This country needs to hold the Members of this body absolutely accountable. The only way that happens is if the citizens stay informed.

I will end with this. There was a President named Ronald Reagan. My little 3-year-old daughter at the time called him President Raisin because she couldn't say Reagan. He said one of the most profound things I have ever heard said. He said: Freedom is a precious thing. It is not ours by inheritance. It is never guaranteed to us. It has to be fought for and defended by each and every generation.

I am telling you in the last 20 years, our generations haven't come up to defend it. He wasn't talking about our military; he was talking about us being well informed citizens, holding us accountable, creating the pressure for us to be transparent so that you can, in fact, know and count on us doing the right, best thing every time and that we put ourselves second and the country first. That is what he was talking about.

The rumble that is occurring in this country can't come soon enough or big enough to change both the Senate and the Congress. It is not partisan. It is sick on both sides of the aisle. What we need is a real revolt against the status quo and an engagement and an enlistment by the average American to speak out, to come out and hold us accountable to do what is best for the generations that follow and cause us to reembrace what built this country, which is a heritage of sacrifice today to create opportunity for the future.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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