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Omnibus Appropriations Conference Report

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. I thank the Senator for his question.

I think the people need to know what the GAO actually does. The GAO is nonpartisan; they are not Democrats or Republicans. They are accountants, and they are investigators, and they are the most valuable tool we have because we won't do the oversight of calling agencies up here. I think the numbers are that we are going to lose 400 investigators and auditors out of the GAO. One question to ask is, Why is it we are cutting the GAO more than we are cutting our own budget?

Let me make one additional point. Things are not right in our country because things aren't right in the Senate. This 1,200-page bill that should have come out here appropriations bill by appropriations bill--11 or 12 appropriations bills--has over $3.5 billion worth of phonemarks in it. We don't have earmarks anymore; they are all phonemarks. The corruption is still here. The pay-to-play game is still going on in Washington. Now we just don't do it in the bill, we do it by telephone, and we threaten agencies: If you don't give this money to this person, your money will be cut the next year.

So the fact is, although we have an earmark ban, there are thousands of earmarks in this bill. And what do we do? We cut the very agency that is going to be required to help us solve our financial problems over the next few years; we cut them more than we cut our own budgets. Now, they can be cut, and appropriately so. Everybody is going to have to share. But to cut the GAO 6.4 percent--40 percent more than we are cutting our own budgets--out of spite? They and the Congressional Research Service do the best work on the Hill. They do better than we do. Yet we are going to take away a tool that is going to help this country solve its very difficult financial problems. I think it is outrageous. It nauseates me.

Mr. McCAIN. I would ask my colleague, I identified $3.5 billion unrequested, unauthorized, no-hearing-on projects--$3.5 billion. Since Dr. Coburn has taken a broader view of things, I wonder how many billions he would estimate totally there are of these unauthorized, unrequested projects in the entire bill.

Mr. COBURN. I would just respond to the Senator, I don't know for sure because we haven't been able to go through the whole bill, and the creativity associated with parochialism and getting reelected by helping the very well-connected few in this country is unbelievable. So it is hidden, and it takes a long time. It doesn't take 48 hours.

We got this bill at 2:00 Tuesday morning. That is when we got it. And of course nobody is around at 2:00 Tuesday morning, are they? So we will have 72 hours to read a 1,200-page book, and then we have to figure out what is in it. As the Senator said, we are not going to know what is in it, not until the next Solyndra comes, not until the next person goes to jail, not until the next Senator goes to jail. We are not going to know.

The fact is, what we are seeing is irresponsible behavior on the part of the Congress with this bill, and if we don't break this cycle of protecting incumbency through spending money, we are not going to have a country left. It is not just wrong, it is immoral. It is immoral.

The Senator talked about research at the Department of Defense. There are good reasons to do medical research at the Department of Defense, but we have the world's premier institutes, the National Institutes of Health. Now, we are not increasing them significantly, but we are markedly increasing the study of MS at a military research facility instead of through NIH, where we are spending $100 million already a year on it? So we are going to duplicate it.

I have said it before: We have taken a stupid pill. We have either taken a stupid pill or a corruption pill. I don't know which it is. But I know that the long-term effects of doing this kind of legislating at this time in our history, when we have the greatest difficulty and the greatest landmines ahead of us financially--for us to do what we are doing here today to please a very small group of Congressmen and Senators who happen to make up the Appropriation Committee and to address their election concerns and their knowing better than the authorization committees--it won't surprise the Senator that in this bill, this conglomeration of what I will call an omni-terrible, is over $400 billion in spending that is unauthorized, that has never been authorized or the authorizations have expired long ago and the authorizing committees don't reauthorize it for a reason, and yet we keep spending the money.

So I think it is amazing that we have as high as a 9-percent approval rating. And I am saddened not just for us, I am saddened for the future of America that we would now, right before Christmas--because we are running on a deadline to go home we are going to pass a bill that is essentially irresponsible, inept, and loaded with political favors instead of doing the best right thing for this country.

The GAO, in late February, early March, put out a report on duplication in the Federal Government. Most of my colleagues applauded it. It was a great deal of work that they spent a lot of time on. The second and third component of that, of the Federal Government, is coming out this February, and in it were hundreds of billions of dollars of duplicative programs. Not in one place in this bill that we have been able to find so far has any of what the GAO said should be eliminated, should be discontinued--none of it has happened.

What is the consequence of spending $200 billion of borrowed money--money we don't have--on things the GAO says we don't need? What is the consequence of that? The consequence of that is impoverishment of our children. It is the theft of opportunity from our children. That is what it is. So I don't say the word ``corruption'' lightly. When you are stealing opportunity and you are impoverishing those who follow, that is corrupt. It is also immoral.

We won't be able to defeat this bill. We won't be able to amend this bill. We won't be able to offer amendments to what the GAO said is absolute stupidity because of the way we are bringing this up and the fact that we didn't bring these bills through here. And the bills they did bring through, they limited the amendments on anyway. So the voice of the average American doesn't get heard in the Senate under the way it is operating right now. Good ideas that actually will improve our country and save us money don't ever get heard. That is not the America I know. That is not the country I love.

So we are leading by example into our demise, and this is one of the greatest examples of that I have seen.

Mr. McCAIN. May I also point out, as my colleague did, that all of us as Members of the Senate are guided to some degree by seniority, which means assignment and ranking in various committees. But we should have an equal opportunity to represent our constituents and our priorities and our views and our goals.

This document was signed by 37 Members of the House and 17 Members of the Senate, so really this system hands the important decisions that all 535 Members of the House and Senate are responsible for over to 37 in the House and 17 in the Senate. Neither the Senator from Oklahoma nor I had a single time to discuss with our colleagues all that is in this bill. Not a single time did we have a chance to say: Wait a minute, let's not put in that cultural repository for Guam. Not a single time did we have a chance to say: Hey, this Combat Dragon II is not really something we need to fund. You know, the Civil Air Patrol is really a great outfit, but we don't think we need to add $7 million in these difficult times. We think helicopters needed to be upgraded, but why should we add $25 million to helicopter upgrades when the military says we don't need $25 million for helicopter upgrades? This is what is wrong with this system.

Mr. COBURN. If I could respond, that $25 million is going to go to one company--we don't know where yet--that is well-connected and well-heeled to either a Member of the House or the Senate. Mark my words, that is where it is going. Somebody--one individual business, one individual constituent--is going to benefit from that at the expense of our children and our future.


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