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Department Of State, Foreign Operations, And Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to spend a few minutes talking about where we are. There is no question the chairman of the Appropriations Committee has finished his bills, and they have not come up. But the quality of the work doesn't meet with the depth of the problem we have today, No. 1; No. 2, it doesn't address the concerns of the American public.

So we are going to have a continuing resolution that we are going to pass through this body tonight, probably by a vote of about 80 to 20 or 75 to 25. But the signal we are sending is based on our tin ear. We are going to continue spending at the same rate we have been spending. We are borrowing $4.2 billion a day under this continuing resolution. The government now is twice as big, in terms of expenditures, not including the war, as it was in 1999. We are not addressing what the American people want us to address; that is, that we ought to start living within our means.

I will not offer an amendment to the bill. There are several amendments. My colleague from South Dakota offered one that will bring us back to 2008 levels, but that is not enough. The fact is, we have to engage the American public in what is rightfully a cogent criticism of the Congress; that is, that we are allowing wasteful Washington spending to go on, not by intent--and I am not questioning anybody's motives--but the fact is, we have not done our job in terms of oversight.

We heard Senator McCain talk about the tax cuts and raising taxes during a very soft economic time. The vast majority of the Americans don't want us to do that. I don't know why we are not discussing it, and I don't know why we are leaving town before we send that signal, but that is way above my pay grade.

What I will tell you is, I can take any group of Americans and sit down and go through this with them and show them, without question, $350 billion worth of waste every year in the Federal Government. The amendment of my colleague from South Dakota is cutting less than $50 billion from what we are going to spend--in fact, we did it in 2008, other than for homeland security, defense, and veterans. So even though I love what my colleague is doing, it doesn't go nearly far enough compared to what the real need is for us.

There are two real needs. One, if we are going to finance the debt we have today, we have to send a message and signal to the world that we are interested in getting our house back in order, that we are interested in becoming efficient, and interested in becoming austere with our taxpayers' money. The second message we need to send is to those who have capital in this country; that they, in fact, can have confidence that we are going to right this ship, and we will start seeing them deploy some of those assets to create the very jobs we so desperately want for the American people who do not have them today.

I have been here long enough to know what is going to happen. But what I wish to do is register my dissatisfaction that we are not addressing the real problems in front of our country today. Instead, we are ducking out on tough decisions so we can go home--and I am up for reelection as well--and get to the voters. My question is a much more powerful message than going to the voters; it is us making hard choices that the American people want us to make.

This week, the 2010 fiscal year is coming to a close. On October 1, 2010, it will become the new budget year. Here is what we failed to do as a body--our fault just as much as yours. We didn't pass a budget. We didn't set priorities. We didn't decide where to spend and where to save. We didn't pay for new spending--$266 billion in the last 6 months in this Congress on new spending that we waived pay-go on and borrowed it against our children. We didn't pass any appropriations bills. We didn't make any tough choices. We didn't conduct any significant oversight on the waste, fraud, and abuse in the Federal Government or the duplication in the Federal Government. We didn't eliminate any duplicative or ineffective programs--not one. We didn't do our job. No wonder America is disgusted with us.

What did we do? We increased the debt limit to more than $14 trillion. We added more than $1.4 trillion to the deficit and charged it to our grandchildren. We ignored the Constitution and expanded Washington's reach into our private lives, shrinking freedom and growing government. We put ourselves first and the country second. Despite promises from us that government programs can solve every challenge, taxpayers are getting ripped off. We sent $1 trillion of their income to the Treasury this year just to watch it waste $350 billion. At the same time, we created a lot of new programs, and some people are very proud of them. I am very worried about them. But I give you the credit that you went down the road you thought was right and did it.

The real problem is, we are continuing the same old habits. The real issue is, until we truly understand the severity of the difficulty we are in and start acting like we understand it, this ship is going to continue to sink. We are not going to create the confidence in the American public or the $2 trillion that is sitting on the sidelines right now if, in fact, they had a clear signal it would start flowing into investment and capital that would create jobs.

Last December, my office spent 3 weeks just looking at duplicative programs. When we passed the debt limit, we agreed with an amendment I inserted that the GAO would give us a list of those. They are starting that work, and this February we will see the first large tranche of that. It is going to take 3 years to compile that because the government is so big.

We ought to have a little taste, and the American people ought to have a little taste, of what we didn't get rid of and didn't fix. We have 1,399 Federal programs that serve rural America; 337 of them are considered key. One thousand of them aren't considered key. They are not considered substantive. That is before you even take the test of saying whether they are authorized by the U.S. Constitution.

The Federal Government operates 70 programs costing tens of billions of dollars that provide domestic food assistance--70 different programs--and many of them overlap or are inefficient. Most of them cannot demonstrate they are effective. That is according to a recent review by the Government Accounting Office. We didn't fix it. We could have saved taxpayers some of that money. There are 14 programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education related to foreign exchanges and designed to increase opportunities for students to study abroad. Why do we have 14 programs? Why not have one good one that meets the needs of Americans?

We fund 44 job training programs, administered by 9 Federal agencies across the bureaucracy. The cost is $30 billion a year, and we don't know what the overhead is because we have 44 programs instead of 2 or 3. We didn't address any of that. There are 17 offender reentry programs across 5 Federal agencies, costing $ 1/4 billion. There has been no oversight. In other words, we have not looked where the problems are. We have not looked to say: How do we make this government more efficient?

What we have done is to say we are going to raise taxes--or at least we are not going to vote on raising taxes until after the election. No matter whether you are middle income, lower income, or upper income, it makes no sense for us to say we need more money here, when we will not do the very simple job of eliminating the waste.

I don't question the motivation for job training programs; I think they are necessary. I don't question the motivation for food programs; I think they are necessary. But 44 and 70 different programs, with 70 sets of bureaucracies and 44 sets of bureaucracies? Then we are going to tell Americans they should pay more tax, when we will not even do the simple thing to save $100 million here or there. With a $30 billion program, if you save 10 percent, that is $3 billion. So all you have to save is one-tenth of 1 percent or three-tenths of 1 percent. We will not even do that.

I have a book full of duplicative programs. It is available to anybody who wants it. We ought to ask what kind of rating or grade would the American people give us--Republicans and Democrats alike--in terms of running the government, funding the government, and working to make the government efficient and effective. I don't think we have any good defense. I think people's intentions around here are excellent, but we never get around to the hard work of holding the bureaucracies accountable.

Senator Carper had a great hearing today on the Defense Department and the fact that the Defense Department is trying to get where they can manage what they are doing by measuring it with a significant system, in terms of IT. It is just $6.9 billion over budget. Where is the oversight on that procurement? What the GAO said is the following: The management was ineffective at looking at those programs. The management was ineffective in the testing of those programs during their development. The management was ineffective in terms of the procurement of those programs. When I asked the heads of every branch in the military whether they agreed with that, they said, yes, they agreed they were ineffective.

We don't have anything in the appropriations bills to change that effectiveness. We didn't have anything in the Defense authorization bill to change that effectiveness. We are just going to let it go on, and next year it will be $7.9 billion or $8.9 billion over. So we are not doing our job.

That is not to question my colleagues' motive; it is to raise the awareness that the jig is up. The American people know we are not doing our job. They want us to start doing our job--both Republicans and Democrats.

We have several colleagues on the floor. Rather than take more time, I just note that I am consistent in terms of coming down here and worrying about our future. I have done so for 5 1/2 years--much to the chagrin of a lot of my colleagues. I wish to leave you with one statement.

Our children deserve to have the same opportunities in this country that we have experienced. By us failing to do the very duties that are called upon us in a rational, straightforward basis, of doing oversight of the Federal Government and making the hard choices, we abandon our oath, but, more importantly, we steal the heritage that was given to us.

I yield the floor.


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