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Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 - Conference Report - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, D.C.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I believe we are going to be considering the Homeland Security conference report. I want to spend a few minutes talking about that so that the American public might realize what we are doing. This year's spending totals have averaged, on individual appropriations bills, anywhere from a high of 24 percent to a low of about .6 percent, on one bill that had received twice its annual appropriation in the stimulus. We have of course a conference report that is $42.7 billion. That is a 6.5, almost 7-percent increase over last year, the same the year before, and a 23-percent increase the year before that. There is no question, homeland security is an important part.

The issue I want to raise with my colleagues and the American people is, we had inflation of 1.5 percent last year. We do have one bill, one bill that has come in at inflation or less. All the rest are averaging around 10, 11, 12 percent increases. We ought to be concerned about what the Congress is doing in terms of increasing the spending in light of the fact that we have just finished a year in which we had a published $1.4 trillion deficit. But those are Enron numbers. That is Enron accounting because we didn't recognize all the money we borrowed from trust funds that don't go to the public debt, that are internal IOUs that our children nevertheless will still have to pay back.

The real reason I want to talk about this bill is because it purports to have an amendment on competitive bidding. I will grant that the amendment is better than no amendment, but the American people should be outraged at what we have done on competitive bidding in this bill. What we have said is we want competitive bidding--except for our friends. If you are connected to a Senator through an earmark or if you are connected through a grant process, what we have done is taken a large number of grants and directed them specifically without competitive bidding. What does that mean to the process? What does that do to the integrity of the process? It says if you are well heeled and well connected, then in fact you can have what you want on a noncompetitive basis, because that is what the amendment in the bill says. But if in fact you are not, then you will have to compete on the basis of merit and price like everybody else in the country.

Once again we have earned our lack of endorsement by the American public because of what we have said: ``Unless otherwise authorized by statute without regard to the reference statute.'' Those are fancy words for saying we want competitive bidding on everything except earmarks and the congressional directive we have in this bill.

That means if you have a business and you have an earmark, you didn't have to be the best business to get that, to supply the Federal Government whatever it is. If you are a grant recipient and got earmarked, you didn't have to be the one with the greatest need, No. 1, or the most efficient way to generate the dollars through that grant. What it does is it puts on its ear any semblance of fair play, No. 1; and, No. 2, it takes away the initiative for everybody else who now is going to get a competitive bid. What it is going to do is drive a greater demand for earmarks in the future.

We ought to ask ourselves the following question: If this is taxpayer money and our grandchildren's money--because 43 percent of this bill is going to be borrowed--is it morally correct, is it intellectually honest that we would say: If you are connected, if you have an ``in,'' you don't have to meet the same level of responsibility and accountability as those who are well connected? I think that is a great question for us to debate.

Unfortunately, a real competitive bidding amendment was not agreed to in this bill that would put all of it at competitive bidding. Senators have the right to say we ought to do something. But they don't necessarily have the right to say we ought to do something and this person ought to benefit from it. It is not ours to give away. When we do things as we have done in this bill to protect those most well heeled, those most well connected to the Congress, by saying everybody else is going to play under one set of rules but if, in fact, you have a friend or a connection or an earmark or a directed grant, you don't have to play by those rules, not only is it unfair to everybody else who does not have to play by those rules, it actually undermines the value of what we do.

On the basis of that and the spending levels, I plan on opposing the Homeland Security conference report. My hope is that we will get better, that in fact we will not play games with the American public, that we will not say our friends get to get treated differently than anybody else in this country and that every dollar we spend we can assure to the American taxpayer is going to go to the best firm to do that based on a competitive bid so we actually get the best value for the hard-earned dollars that are being spent.

I yield the floor.


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