BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I plan on spending some time on the CJS appropriations bill, but I want to delay a moment. We are going to have a cloture vote, whether that is today or tomorrow or sometime, on the Energy and Water Conference Report. I was the one who objected to bringing that to the floor and for some very serious reasons. Unanimously, the Senate body agreed to an amendment that would create transparency in that appropriations bill. There were no objections; it was a unanimous vote. What we attempted to do was to bring to light, to the American people, not just the 30 Senators who were going to get the reports--70 percent of the Senate cannot see the reports--to the rest of the Senators and to the rest of the American people, the reports that are requested by Congress on the operation of this appropriation authority.
We put in there a very specific exclusion for anything that would affect security so those items would not be exposed.
There were no significant efforts to hold this in conference. So I wanted to explain for a few minutes to the American people and to my colleagues why it is important. What we have here are the following reports. The question you have to ask is, why does the Appropriations Committee not want the American people to see this information? What in the world could be a good reason for American citizens and 70 Senators to not be able to see this? There is not any good reason.
I will go through and list what some of the reports are in this bill. Then I will raise the question: Why are we not letting the American people see it? Why are we not letting 70 of our colleagues see it?
An annual report on the Department of Energy, on their financial balances, is important information to me. It should be to every Member of this body. But it also should be important to every citizen out there who is paying for the $1.6 trillion deficit we have this year. Actually, they are not paying, their kids are.
A report by Chief of Engineers on Water Resources, but the way it is phrased, it is on a ``water resource matter.'' In other words, someone very specifically tied that so they would have information others do not have. This is government in the dark; this is not transparent government.
A report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission identifying barriers to and its recommendations for streamlining construction of new nuclear reactors. If we want to get to clean energy, that is one way to do it. Yet the barriers for that construction, we are not going to know what they are. The American people are not going to find out and 70 Senators are not going to find out. We are not going to have that made available to us.
Two reports to report on the transfer of funds within the Department of Army, and a report on the transfer of funds within the Bureau of Reclamation for oversight activities--in other words, a report on the funds that are transferring for oversight, only appropriators get to see that. The American people do not get to see it. I do not get to see it. The President pro tempore right now does not get to see it. Only the appropriators. Why would we not want to share that with the American people? Is there some reason?
A report by the administration on detailed accounting of receipts into and obligations and expenditures from the inland waterways trust fund. Well, what most people do not realize is when we put out a number that is our budget deficit every year, that number does not recognize what we have stolen from multitudes of trust funds, including the inland waterway trust fund, which is very important to all of the things that go on along the Mississippi River, the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System, the Upper Mississippi River, the Great Lakes. All of those are funded by the inland waterways trust fund--except we steal all of the money out of it so there is no money in it. Here is the report on it, and they do not want the American people to see it. Why would you not want the American people to see that we are stealing from the funds we have set up that were supposed to be dedicated to do certain things? Because you really do not want a transparent Congress so the American people can see what is going on.
A report on remediation efforts by the Corps of Engineers through the formerly utilized Sites Remedial Action Program. Most of us do not even know what that is. But the fact is, if we have former sites that required remedial action, why should'nt we all get to see that? Why should we not be able to make a value judgment on whether the Corps did a good job and what they are doing with the money? But yet we cannot.
A report detailing the implementation and progress of the measurement plans for each funded energy innovation hub. We have these hubs out there to create alternative and renewable energy, except we are not going to see what they are doing. It is not going to be available to us. It is not going to be available to the American people, and they are paying for it. What happens if there is an idea and somebody reads about it and it gives them another idea?
A report by the Secretary of Energy to the Committee on Appropriations of the House and the Senate on the state of defined benefit pension liabilities in the Department for the preceding year. That is something we should all be aware of, not just a couple of staff members on the Appropriations Committee. The American people should know that, in fact, they do not have the money in the bank to fund their pension liabilities. Yet we are going to suppress that information. We are going to keep it from the sunshine. We are going to keep it from the light of day so the American people cannot see how miserably the government runs its own business. We do not want that out. We do not want you to see it.
I could go on and on. I have three pages of reports. Notably, some of them are security related and should not be released to the American public, which this amendment protected.
What this means is that 88 percent of the Members of the House and 70 percent of the Members of the Senate do not have available to them the tools with which to make decisions. But, more importantly than that, the American people do not have transparency in their government. They are never going to be made available for taxpayers to read. They are never going to see how sloppily the money is spent, how we borrow money from funds that are supposed to be dedicated and spend them on things that are pet political projects. We do not want them to see that. This is not controversial. The only place it is controversial is to those who are working in the dark. And the very fact that this did not come out of conference with transparency--every other appropriations bill we have passed so far has had this transparency for report language. So why would we bring it to the floor? We should be very concerned that was excluded from this conference report, for a republic cannot function, it cannot survive unless it is truly transparent to the people it represents.
Our President was elected on the promise of bringing greater transparency to Washington, not only just to the workings of the Federal Government but to our daily workings as we tend to government. Congress should have supported this effort.
I serve notice on the Senate that any conference report that does not have transparency, which I will offer and have offered to every bill, that comes back from a conference, I will do everything I can to block it until that is put back in it. The American people deserve no less than that. It is, in fact, their government, not 30 appropriators' government. It is not just the 30 appropriators who get to govern this country. The fact that this piece of good government, of transparency, of putting out for everybody to see what we are doing has been precluded sends exactly the wrong message to the American people. So it will be that I will come here again, and I will not give up until such time as the American people truly get to see a transparent government.
The President and I passed a bill called the Transparency and Accountability Act. You can go to usgovernmentspending.gov and you can see where we are spending money. Sometime this spring you are going to see it all of the way down to the subcontractor, subgrantees level. You are going to be able to go online and see where every penny, except for national security purposes, is spent and who got the money. That is real open government. That is real democracy. That is real freedom. That is real liberty.
Without that, based on the demonstration that we make here today by bringing up a bill that keeps us cloaked in secrecy, that keeps the American people in the dark, what we will have and continue to have is less and less confidence of the American people as we try to lead this country back to the greatness it once had.
I am now going to spend a few minutes, if I may, talking about the Commerce-Justice appropriations bill. This is another in a long line of bills that has a double-digit increase in the size of the government, on the back of a double-digit increase last year, and on the back of a $16.2 billion shot in the arm from the stimulus.
We were at $60 billion, essentially, last year, and we are going to increase it by $7.59 billion. That is a 12.6-percent, 12.7-percent increase. I brought a chart out here last week. I will bring it back again today as we debate the amendments I have. But not counting the stimulus, if we keep passing appropriations bills at the rate at which this body has passed this year, the size of the Federal Government will double in 3.5 years.
I think that is probably just exactly the opposite mood of the American people today. Yet we turn a deaf ear to the fact that 43 cents out of this $67 billion that we are going to spend--43 percent of it we are going to directly borrow from our kids.
We do not have the money in the bank to pay for this. We are going to finance it through a lower standard of living for our children. There is no question a portion of this increase is related to the census. The Census Bureau is in a mess. We have a good new Director. It was completely mismanaged by the Bush administration, there is no question about it, by the Secretary of Commerce, and also the Director of the Census.
We had a great caretaker who replaced the previous Census Director, and he did what he could. Now we have a new, very experienced Director of the Census by the name of Dr. Groves, who is handling a very difficult problem.
But it is going to come out that it is going to take $60 a person--hear this--to count the people in the United States.
Please give me that contract for 10 cents a person. Please let me do it for 10 cents a person. We are going to spend 60 cents a person--pardon me, $60 a person, $60 a person to count the people in the United States.
Go figure. Let's outline what happened to the Census. The Census routinely uses no-bid, cost-plus contracts. Whatever it costs, do it. Well, it just so happens their plan went awry. They paid bonuses to a company that failed to deliver what was ordered. The Census failed to be clear about what they wanted in terms of the electronic devices. So we have $750 million worth of junk we cannot use. Somebody ought to be held accountable for that.
Do you know who that is? That is us. How dare we waste almost $1 billion on one contract, because it was a cost-plus, was not overseen. We did not know what we were asking for, and yet the people who supplied it did not lose a thing. That is a very profitable contract.
That is why we have problems in the Federal Government. That is why we have $50 billion worth of waste a year in the Pentagon: because we do not know what we want, and there is no capital at risk for the people who are bidding these contracts. So, consequently, they just do whatever because it is cost-plus. They just send a bill at the end of the month, and we pay it. So we are going to have an $18 billion census that has a high likelihood of being the least accurate census we have ever had. There are probably going to be numerous lawsuits over this census.
My hope is that Director Groves can, in fact, salvage the census. But when we get it, it is not going to be accurate. It is going to displace six House seats because it is going to count illegal aliens who should not be counted in terms of the apportionment for the seats in Congress.
There are 561 earmarks in this bill. Two-thirds of them--hear me clearly--go to members of the Appropriations Committee. Is that not a coincidence? One-third goes to the other 70 Members of the body, but two-thirds goes to the 30 members sitting on the Appropriations Committee.
The President proposed that two programs be absolutely terminated because they have zero worth, value, and contribution to the Federal Government. They are both funded in the bill. The bill is one of many we will pass that will have double-digit increases. I wonder how many families right now are seeing a double-digit increase in their income. That is a rarity today in our economy. Yet we put on the floor almost a 13-percent increase which is about the average of everything else we have been putting out here, in spite of the fact we just spent $800 billion of our kids' money on a stimulus package, and this agency received a significant portion of that.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Nelson of Nebraska). The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. COBURN. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want the American people to know where we stand financially. The war on terror will not defeat us. We will defeat ourselves. Every known republic to the world collapsed through fiscal mismanagement. We can read the history, Alexander Tyler on the Athenian empire, several other scholarly works throughout the last two to three centuries.
What we are really talking about is our kids. They are not my kids. My kids are grown. They are all in their 30s. We are talking about youngsters this age. She makes a great point. She is already $38,375 in debt, and all she owns is a dollhouse. The sad thing is, she totally underestimates, because her obligation for things we have promised ourselves for which she will have to pay above and beyond income tax rates we have today, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes, is just a mere $400,000. So by the time she becomes 20, she will owe $800,000, if we count the interest which is coming. It is not long before we will be spending a trillion dollars a year on interest. And this number, by that time, will be $118,000. So now we will have her at $918,000 that she is going to have to pay off for us.
Think about that as a moral question. Should we in fact cut the legs off our grandchildren so that politicians and political leaders today can spin things and avoid making the most difficult choices that we now need to make? If one follows the news, especially the financial news, the problem the United States faces today is the fact that the world is losing confidence in the dollar. There is a reason for that. What is the reason? The world is starting to sense that as we continue to borrow more and more billions and trillions of dollars that we will not be able to pay it back. Therefore, the world's valuation of our currency becomes less confident. Therefore, the cost to borrow in the future becomes higher. The figure I just quoted, the $918,000 per child who is born over the next 30 years, is based on today's interest rates of 3.4 percent on a 10-year note that the Government offers. What happens when the interest rates are 10 or 11 percent? We are talking about a fiscal collapse that has never before been seen in the history of the world. Yet we continue to put spending bills on the floor and laud the fact that we are only borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar we spend this year.
There will come a time when we can't borrow 43 cents out of every dollar we spend. What will we do then? What will happen then? What will happen is the following: We will either see a totally debased currency which means everything we worked for our entire life will be markedly decreased in value or we will see 15, 20, 30 percent inflation. There is no other exit for this other than for us to do the following: We have to start making the hard choices now.
This bill doesn't do it. From 2008 to 2009, the fiscal year ended September 30, we increased CJS by 15.5 percent. This bill comes back and increases it another 12.6 percent. Compound that out and we find, without the stimulus money they also got, that we will double the size of this agency in less than 4 years. I am not sure that is what we want.
Here is what we have done so far. If we look at the bottom corner, inflation is expected to be less than 1.6 percent. Yet we see the following percentage increases: 5.7; 7.2; Energy and Water, 1.4--the only reason it was 1.4 is because they got $45 billion from the stimulus--Agriculture, 12.6; Treasury-HUD, 22.5; Interior, 16.2; and now CJS, 12.6.
Most families--and I know almost every business--are making hard choices right now about what they spend money on and what they do not. They are in tough times. Somehow that hasn't reverberated to this body. If it has, it has not reverberated to the appropriations committees of the House or Senate. That will be an amendment to freeze spending at last year's level, which could easily be done, but we don't have the courage to do that. There will be several other amendments offered. They are working on an agreement at this time.
I will be offering three amendments. I will wait until the Senator from Maryland comes before offering them. I understand they don't want me to call them up at this time. So I will not. One of the amendments limits funding to the National Science Foundation. It has created quite an uproar with political scientists that we would dare decrease the amount of money we spend on figuring out why politicians are vague or why certain people vote a certain way or the other way. What happens when we spend money on obvious answers is that money for the National Science Foundation doesn't go to cure a disease. It doesn't go to make an absolute impact on some child who is suffering from a chronic disease that unless the research dollars are there, they will never have a normal life or lifestyle. In fact, everybody screams when some of their money gets attacked.
So the political scientists in the country, those who get this money, $91.3 million over the last 10 years that we have doled out to political scientists, that $91 million could have gone to the study of biology or chemistry or pharmaceutical science or fields of endeavor such as micronutrients or cellular metabolism or genetic manipulation so we can cure a disease. Instead, where do they spend the money? Campaigns and elections, electoral choice systems, political change, domestic conflict, party activism, political psychology, and political tolerance.
What are some of the good things NSF does? NSF scientists have developed new computer-generated robotics to help people with severe disabilities. They can do what we can do, those of us who don't have a physical disability, except they can now do it with a robot. They become independent again and get their life back. NSF supported engineers that created a bone substitute that blends in tendon tissues which mimics natural bone and provides better integration so that people with lost movement in their joints have it returned. NSF created technology with their grants to engineer the next generation of biofuels. We are seeing the science. They created a new type of fiber reinforced concrete that bends without cracking. It is 300 to 500 times more resistant to cracking and 40 percent lighter in weight which means we can build bridges that will never fall down. We won't have a Minnesota tragedy again. That is the real science from the National Science Foundation.
Let me give a little hint of what the National Science Foundation projects for political science have been.
There is $188,206 to ask the question: Why do political candidates make vague statements, and what are the consequences? We all know the answer to that. They make vague statements because they want to get reelected. They do not want to get pinned down. It is not hard to figure out, but we blew a lot of money on it.
How about a grant for political discussion in the workplace? That has to be an important priority for the country now that we are running a $1.6 trillion deficit.
Here is one: television news and the visual framing of war. I am certain that is an important research topic that we should sacrifice our children's future for, and I know it must be a priority for her, this little girl, whose daddy or mama was smart enough to recognize what the real consequences of our behavior are.
Or how about another study: Why people are for or against military conflicts? Nobody is for military conflicts. They are for the defense of our country. But to spend money to study why people are for or against? Tell me what that contributes to her future?
I am accused of being a flatlander. I do come from Oklahoma. I was born in Wyoming. But there is one difference with us flatlanders: we actually have worked in our lives, we understand common sense, and we have had to make hard choices before.
How about this study, the impact of Medicare reform on senior citizens' political views. I can tell you what it is. We take away a benefit, they are not going to like it; we add a benefit, they are going to like it. Send me the check. I will do it for free. It is plain, old common sense. It may be nice to have the statistics behind that, but we all know the answer to those questions.
Here is another one: evaluate whip counts. Let me tell you what a whip count is. Every party has a whip so they can count the votes before they happen so they think they know what is going to happen on the vote, so they know what votes to bring up and what votes not to. We are going to have a study by Congress: How do whip counts impact party leaders in the legislative process? Who cares. Nobody should care about that. What we should care about is her future. We have our priorities totally upside down and turned on their ear.
How about a conference on the effect of YouTube on the 2008 election. Now, the people who are interested in that are politicians because ``how do we use YouTube to get reelected?'' Should we be paying for that with your tax dollars? ``How do we keep incumbents incumbents?'' I would think a better study of political science is, how do you throw us all out. That is a better use of the funds. How do you get rid of us since we are doing such a terrible job managing the finances of this country?
Or how about the ``NewsHour'' with Jim Lehrer--to pay for complete, live, prime-time gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic and GOP National Conventions. Guess what. They were covered by three other networks free. We did not pay them a penny. Yet we pay this.
We are going to increase NSF's budget in this bill 8 percent, the National Science Foundation. It is the one we ought to be increasing 12 or 15 percent, but it ought to be on real science, on pure science, on science that has an outcome we can measure that is not related to the observation of common fact but is new research that will derive great benefits for the people of this country.
So I will be offering an amendment to limit the amount of money. We are going to hear all sorts of claims. What we have heard already on the blogs is that National Science Foundation political science research contributes to our understanding of democracy. I think we have pretty well figured what democracy is. ``Our ability to have a free and open democratic process would be significantly harmed without this research.''
You know what is being harmed is her generation, as we foolishly spend dollar after dollar on things that are not a priority--hundreds of millions of dollars on program after program after program that 90 percent of Americans could say: That might be fine if we were in a cash-rich position, but at a time when the Federal Government is about to double every 4 years and the debt is about to double every 5 years, wouldn't it be smart to not spend money we don't have on things we don't need? So that is what this amendment is.
There is another claim: The loss of National Science Foundation funding will significantly harm political science research in this country. Let me give you a few facts about that. The University of Michigan--they are the receiver of the largest grant under the NSF--has a $7.5 billion endowment. That is just one of the universities--$7.5 billion--and we are supposed to keep sending, every 10 years, $100 million for political science research.
Here is the political science--here it is: The heritage of this Nation is that one generation creates opportunity for the next by sacrificing, making the hard choices they need to make to make sure what has worked in the past will provide them opportunities in the future. This does not do any of that. What it says is, the ones who are on the ins, the people who are well connected now, the people who are dependent on millions of dollars of funding--when they are sitting with billions of dollars in their endowments--are worth more than she is. That is exactly the problem.
Until we figure out we are going to have to make some tough sacrifices, her future is at risk. Unless we do this fairly soon, we could very well be on an irreversible course. Two or three more years of spending the way we are spending and borrowing the way we are borrowing will doom her to a standard of living 40 percent below what we see today. Those are not my words, the economists agree. The governments are going to end up consuming 45 or 50 percent of our total GDP. We are at 10 percent this year--the highest in our history with the exception of being in the midst of World War II. Never have we been in such shape as we are in today.
I think we have a lot of things wrong. But the No. 1 thing we have wrong is we have forgotten that service is about sacrifice. Service is about giving up something of you so somebody else gets ahead. We cannot expect the American people to model that behavior if we are not willing to do it. If everything we do is about protecting our own vested political interests and protecting our campaign contributors and protecting the well connected and not excluding and divorcing ourselves from all of that and making great commonsense judgments, we are history as a nation.
I wonder when it started. I wonder when it started that we decided we were more important than the country. I wonder when it started when we decided we would push our hand and say: Stop the heritage of this country. When did it start that we decided we were worth more than the generations that follow us? When did it start that we decided we were not brave enough to take the hits to make the hard choices so the Republic can be preserved? When did it start? When did that cowardice start because it is ever present now as we go through the appropriations process.
I ran a business for 9 years, and I learned a lot doing that. I learned a lot about people. But I also learned a lot about making tough choices. We, in fact, can make tough choices and preserve what is good and best and brightest in all of us. As a matter of fact, hope comes from that, when people make those tough decisions that, in fact, consider the very personal nature of how individuals are affected and they are at work for the common good for the long run.
You see, there is not a business out there today that is surviving just thinking only in the short run. If they are, they will not be here 2 years from now. They are all thinking in the long run. They are all positioning, planning, managing, developing. The same with families. They are doing that right now at the dinner table--positioning, planning, developing what is going to come next: How we are going to get where we want to go. We are in a rough period now. What do we cut back? What is the thing that we sacrifice today to secure the future for our family tomorrow?
Ashamedly, not much of that exists in Washington. What does exist is a willingness to say yes to everybody, and then wink and nod and try to have it both ways. I am not a both ways kind of guy, and neither is America. The great sheet is about to be lifted over the, I would use, imbecilic methods of Washington. When transparency gets its full view, America is going to make some major changes, and I am not talking Republican-Democrat. I am talking both.
This is a problem of elitism. This is a problem of short-term thinking by the political leaders of this country on: How do I manage my political career and to heck with the rest of the country. Nobody in their right mind would bring appropriations bills to the floor that have these types of increases at a time when we are stealing $1.4 trillion from our grandkids. How do we justify it? How do we justify growing the Federal Government at a time when families are struggling like they have never struggled except during World War II and the Great Depression? How do we justify that?
We do not justify it. We cannot justify it. What we can do, and what will happen in the debate on the amendments I bring forward--they will be ignored. They just will not debate it. It will go away. That is what happens when we bring critical amendments to the floor and question the wisdom of growing the Federal Government larger and larger without developing a way to pay for it and without taking a critical look at all of those programs out there.
There is $350 billion worth of waste, fraud, and duplication in the Federal Government right now. The American people ought to be clamoring that we freeze spending everywhere until we have done a review of every government program that is out there--just like they are doing with their own families, just like they are doing with their own businesses, just like every organization in America today is having to do, except governments.
How is it this can happen? How is it we can go down the sewer drain just like other republics, knowing what history says will happen to us if, in fact, we abandon fiscal sanity? That is what this appropriations bill does, and all the rest of them we have passed because, in fact, we will double the size of the Federal Government in the next 4 years, based on 2008, 2009, not counting the stimulus.
If we are running a $1.4 trillion deficit--actually $1.8 trillion when we count everything we have stolen from Social Security and everything we have stolen from, for example, the inland waterways trust fund and the other trust funds; and we have not funded any Federal pensions; and, by the way, we have not funded anything else we have an obligation for, such as VA health care or military retirement--none of those things are funded--what happens when we get in the crunch?
What happens when nobody loans to us anymore? Wouldn't it be prudent to prepare for that? Wouldn't it be prudent for us to dig in as a nation--Democrats and Republicans and Independents--and say: Time out. Let's look where we are. Let's quit wasting $350 billion a year. Let's eliminate the duplication. There are 800 programs outside the Department of Education that are run by the Federal Government for education--outside the Department of Education. How about eliminating them or at least putting them in the Department of Education and consolidating them. And oh, by the way, education has done a wonderful job at the Federal Government level. As soon as the Federal Government got into our educational system, our scores started declining, our graduation rates started declining, and our college graduation rates started declining. That is the record of the Federal Government's involvement in education in this country.
There is a lot we can fix, not just my ideas. The question I am asking is, Why aren't we asking the question? Why aren't the American people challenging their elected Members to the Senate and the House? Where are your priorities? Does she not matter? Does their future not matter? Answer the question: With $918,000 worth of unfunded liability and debt for which at 20 years of age she will be paying--we will be paying the interest, which means the taxes for that interest will come back to her eventually--how will she get a college education? How will she own a home besides a dollhouse? How will it happen? Will Tinker Bell just come down and give it to her? That isn't going to happen. So as we think outyears, we ought to be thinking about what our actions today are going to cost. Yet we don't.
These are disturbing times. These are not just disturbing times because we face a war on terror, and they are not disturbing times because we have an economic downturn. What is disturbing is that we absolutely have avoided leadership in bringing this country back to its commonsense basics of spending money we have for things that are an ultimate priority, not spending money we don't have on things we don't need. A large portion of these appropriations bills spends money we don't have on things we don't need. We may want them. There is no question that politicians want them. There is no question that the National Science Foundation political science grantees want them. Do we need them? That is the question. And we have no leadership that will discern, at a crucial juncture in our history, a path that will bring us to not only a recovery from this recession but a recovery for an opportunity for every child her age.
It is deeply personal with me. I have five grandchildren. I look in their eyes, and I see the potential of their lives and all of these other children who are out there. There is tremendous potential in them. You know what, we are going to waterboard them. That is what we are going to do. We are going to waterboard them. We are going to flood them with debt. We are going to shackle their opportunities. We are going to limit their possibilities because we don't have the courage to make the difference for their future.
Mr. President, I will yield the floor, and I will come back and offer my amendments when the Senator from Maryland arrives.
With that, I note the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to talk about amendment No. 2667. This is a fairly straightforward amendment.
The House has $5 million for renovation of the Hoover Building. There is no question that we need to have a continuing ongoing project of renovating that. However, in the Senate, we have $17.5 million.
If we look at the Commerce Department and what is going wrong, what we see is that because we are limited by funds, we don't have an active enough oversight of what is going on inside; otherwise, we could never account for the billions of dollars of waste on the census.
This is a straightforward amendment. It just says: Of that $17.5 million, we are going to take $5 million, which still puts us at 2 1/2 times what the House has, and direct it toward the Inspector General's Office of the Commerce Department. What that does is it enhances oversight, enhances transparency, and enhances communication back to the Commerce Department so we can see what is going on with an agency that is obviously troubled.
The inspector general's department, and agency-wide, is fielded by tough, great people who probably would pretty much agree with everything I spent the last hour talking about. The fact is, they are limited in what they can do. They are limited by the funds we give them. So we now come down again to priorities. Do we build bicycle racks out in front of the Herbert C. Hoover Building or do we spend money making sure the inspectors general and the auditors can actually see what is going on in this agency?
It is very straightforward. It is going to be a fun vote. I understand how amendments go on the Senate floor when we are in the mood to spend money and not act responsibly. But do we really want transparency, do we really want to know what is going on, do we really want to discover the reason we are in such big trouble, and do we really want to fund the inspector general at a level that will give us the information upon which we can make better decisions? That leaves alone the question of whether we will make better decisions. I have a lack of confidence on that, but at least with the right information, we will be able to, in fact, see what is going on.
We continue not to prioritize funds. The Department of Commerce is going to get a 52-percent increase in funding in our version of this bill. It receives $7.9 billion in additional stimulus funds. That was 85 percent of what they received entirely in 2009, which means in a matter of 2 years we will have given them on average three times what they receive normally in a year. So we are talking about taking a small portion--$5 million--and directing it to the Inspector General's Office so they can do what is needed to be done in terms of carrying out their responsibilities.
There is no question in my mind that the Department of Commerce is suffering from mismanagement. I am not directing this to the present Secretary; I am directing this backwards through the Bush administration. Here are some statements that were made in the Senate report accompanying this bill:
The committee is extremely concerned about the persistent pattern of cost overruns and schedule slippages on major projects and missions carried out by the agencies in this bill.
The committee remains apprehensive about the management of the census.
Reports have exposed a culture within many agencies that exhibits a lack of accountability in oversight of grant funding.
The committee is concerned that the Census Bureau has failed to implement three recommendations by the IG.
NOAA's satellite programs have undergone extensive independent reviews after experiencing cost overruns, delays, and setbacks.
The National Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite system has struggled for years with cost overruns and schedule delays and a high risk of gaps occurring to the Nation's weather and climate satellites.
The committee remains concerned by the lack of progress in reducing patent pendency and the overall patent backlog.
I note the committee routinely takes money away from patent fees to use on other funds. As such, the committee has provided bill language to transfer funding to the Office of the Inspector General for the express purpose of conducting all audit engagements in the oversight of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Despite these concerns--and I didn't list them all--with the Commerce Department, and a 52-percent increase in spending in the bill, if you were concerned, why would you increase spending that much? That is No. 1. The account for the inspector general is increased only by 4.4 percent. So this is a measly little $5 million out of a $17.5 million increase. The House only has $5 million for the Herbert C. Hoover Building. So we put 2 1/2 times what the House does in the building, and we actually give the IG the money he needs to do his job. There isn't an agency that needs more oversight and more work by an inspector general than the Commerce Department.
I will limit my comments on this at the present time, and I will defer to the chairman, if she wishes to speak; Otherwise, I will discuss one of the other amendments.
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Mr. COBURN. We have communication from the GSA that says this amendment will not inhibit any of the plans, upgrades, or improvements to the Herbert C. Hoover Building. No. 2, we all admit there are problems at the Commerce Department. We have a 12.6-percent increase in spending but we increase the IG by 4.4 percent. We are going to increase spending three times faster than the ability to track it and oversee it. We did increase it 4.4 percent, but we increased the agency 12.6 percent. We have our priorities backward. We should be increasing the IG by 12.6 percent and the agency 4 percent, or 1.6 percent to match inflation.
This amendment will not, in any way, according to GSA, impede their ability to make the corrections that they need to make in terms of health and safety at the Herbert C. Hoover Building.
I thank the chairman for her recognition of the problems at this agency. The answer to solve it is to let the dogs run. Let them find it. Let them go after it. Let them bring to light transparency, and let them bring the reports that we need so we can make the changes we need.
AMENDMENT NO. 2632
I want to spend a few moments on my next amendment, No. 2632. This is a very similar amendment. I spoke about it earlier. This amendment says that whatever reports we ask for, whatever answers we want from these agencies, in fact, unless it has to do with national security or defense, should be reported to every Senator, not just the Senators on the Appropriations Committee. And more importantly, it should be reported to everybody in America. This is a great open government amendment which says we will be transparent.
We are requesting numerous reports in this bill. Why should the American people not get to see what those reports show? Why should we not get to see how we are spending our money, why we are spending our money, and whether the effect of spending the money is having the desired outcome? H.R. 2847 requires reports, audits, and evaluates all decision documents and expenditures by the Bureau of the Census. We all know that has been a problem. And I dispute that Secretary Gutierrez did anything about the problem, other than talk the former leader of the census into leaving. Secretary Gutierrez should have been following the census to know before it ever got in that kind of shape. We have a wonderful leader there now, and I fully support him. I supported his nomination, and I supported his approval by the Senate.
This would also require a quarterly report by the Attorney General regarding the costs and contracting procedures related to each conference held by the Department of Justice. Why should not everybody get to see that? Why should not Americans, who are actually paying for that, and their grandkids, such as this young lady in the photo, get to see it? Why should she not get to see that? This is straightforward. We will have a vote on this amendment. I have learned my lesson on not getting them accepted. When they go to conference, we still hide it from the American people. So we will have a vote on this amendment and see whether people want to hide what we are doing or want it exposed fully to the American people. It is a good government amendment.
We also have a request for a report that the Secretary, within 120 days of enactment of this act, shall report to the Committee on Appropriations that audits and evaluates all decision documents and expenditures by the Bureau of Census as it relates to the 2010 census. Why just the Senators on the Appropriations Committee? Why not the American people? Why should they not see that?
The other thing it will do is allow us to conduct better oversight. The committee chairman--I have great regard for the Senator from Maryland, because I think she does care about oversight. I cannot say that about all of our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee. We would have done a lot of oversight on the Census Bureau in the Government Affairs Subcommittee. I can tell you that we have great employees there. We have had terrible leadership until now. At $60 a person to count people in the United States, people ought to ask why. How did we allow this to happen?
This amendment is one that the vast majority of Americans concur with and the vast majority of my colleagues, I hope, will concur with.
I yield to the chairman of the committee.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank the chairman for her words on this amendment. I have learned a very critical lesson. We have an Energy and Water Appropriations bill that we did the same thing on. For some reason, it didn't come out of conference. Transparency didn't come out. I don't doubt the veracity of the senior Senator from Maryland, but I would just as soon have a recorded vote, if she would not mind.
I also want to answer the story of the rat, which is a great example of the mismanagement at the Department of Commerce.
It does not relate to the present Secretary at all. If, in fact, you have plumbing problems in the building, the management is supposed to raise that issue. In fact, the Department of Commerce received a large sum of money with the stimulus. The House has only $5 million for the Herbert C. Hoover Building. GSA says this amendment will not limit at all their ability to accomplish what they want to accomplish there.
So if, in fact, $17.5 million is enough to get it done, why would we object to having more than that--if GSA says it is only going to pay $17.5 million, why are we putting $22.5 million in it in the first place?
The example proves my point: Management is lacking. With vigorous leadership and a vigorous, strong inspector general force that is funded at the same level of increase that we fund the government, as far as percentage of increases, we could hope to accomplish that.
AMENDMENT NO. 2631
I will move to my other amendment No. 2631. I spent a lot of time talking about this amendment before the chairman came to the floor. I will not repeat everything I said, but I will discuss the question of priorities.
I have a great respect for a lot of what the National Science Foundation does. I have very little respect for their grants for political science as a science. Part of that is because I think it is low on the priority of where they should be spending money when we can create things through NSF to save lives and also because of some of the grants that have been spent and put out there.
I will review a few of those over a short period of time and then will yield the floor to my colleague, the chairman of this subcommittee.
How do you back up the fact that the National Science Foundation gives a
grant for political science--here is the question asked: Why do political candidates make vague statements and what are the consequences? In the realm of science, being a physician, being trained in the sciences, first of all, it is a question to which we already know the answer. We know why politicians make vague statements. Because they don't want to get pinned down. But most important, they want to get reelected or elected. For us to send money to study something that stupid, that low on priorities is beyond me.
Or why are people for or against military conflicts? Do we need that science to tell us so that the next time we are in a military conflict we go out and manipulate the American people or do we have military conflicts based on the national defense and security interests of this country, even when there are political consequences to it?
The real world would never fund such stupidness. They would never allow millions and millions of dollars every year to be spent on silly things to help politicians understand why they spin or why they do not answer questions or why people might be for or against war. It is pretty easy to figure out.
Or studying how Medicare reform affects seniors' political views. That is pretty easy: If it hurts me, I am ``agin'' it; if it helps me, I am for it. Yet we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars paying for grants, through the National Science Foundation, to universities that have billions and billions of dollars in endowments. As a matter of fact, Tufts University has billions in endowments. They charge their students $40,000 a year in tuition alone. They are the recipients of some of this grant work, and they are the ones squawking the loudest.
So here we have an entitled class of professors in political science who now don't want their gravy train taken away when I say right now there is no way this can be a priority for this country with the debt we have and the economic situation we have. It cannot be as important as a multitude of other things for this young lady. It cannot be.
I do not have any illusions about what is going to happen to this amendment. I know the appropriators reign supreme. What I am hoping is that the American people ultimately reign supreme. So as we vote to vote down this amendment or they vote to table this amendment so they do not have to directly vote on the amendment, one has to walk back and say: What is going on in Washington that you will not clean up the excesses in a time of great national distress? We will not and we haven't, and that is why we have a giant increase from last year and this year. We entered the recession in 2007, remember? That is why we borrowed 43 cents out of every $1 we spent this year because we will not make these hard, tough choices about why politicians are vague, while we continue to spend millions and millions of dollars so somebody can sit in an office and pontificate and you can see the same answer--all you have to do is look at the news shows and you get the same answers.
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Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Ms. MIKULSKI. In a minute. What I wish to make clear is that the National Science Foundation has helped fund the work that laid the groundwork for a talented person to win not only the Nobel Prize but to come up with the kind of ideas where maybe we could win markets and jobs. The Department of Defense thought enough of the National Science Foundation's Social Science Department to come up with an $8 million--and it is not a lot of money--but an $8 million agreement to fund 17 projects, where they are going to be studying things such as authoritarian regimes, terrorist organizations, the impact on religious and cultural change, and how maybe they could avoid us being blown up. If one of those studies helps one policymaker make one decision to save one marine, I think it is worth the 8 million bucks, and I am willing to put it in the Federal budget.
I will be happy to yield for a question.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, will the Senator agree that the Defense Department funds all sorts of research in all sorts of scientific areas, and they don't necessarily do that on the predicate--they do it on the basis of what their need is. There is a very big difference, does the Senator agree, between the social sciences and political science?
Ms. MIKULSKI. Will the Senator from Oklahoma agree that political science is one of the branches of social science?
Mr. COBURN. Sure, and I am only targeting with my amendment political science, not social sciences, if the Senator reads my amendment.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Within these DOD grants, I am not sure which ones are sociology, anthropology or political science because it is in that one directorate.
Mr. COBURN. I thank the chairman for allowing me to ask a question.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I oppose, as you can see, the amendment of the Senator from Oklahoma. He wants to eliminate $9 million from the political science program at the National Science Foundation. I don't like targeting an individual science area. Today it might be political science. Another Senator might target biology. Remember how we stifled science under the gag rules and gag guidelines of stem cell research?
Also, I don't like trivializing academic research and academics, that somehow or another there is worthwhile science and then there are others that can be minimized or trivialized.
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