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Public Statements

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Madam President, the CBO just announced this morning that February was the largest deficit month in this country. We have run $690 billion worth of deficits through the first 4 1/2 months of this fiscal year. We will have a $1.6 trillion deficit.

This amendment the Senate has voted on before passed with 64 votes the last time it was voted on. It is a very simple, straightforward amendment.

Before I get into the details of this amendment--we need a highway bill. Everybody agrees with that. This is the Senate, and the right to offer amendments has been secured, finally, after 2 weeks of negotiation.

Where are we as a country? I think it is interesting to look back from fiscal years 2011 to 2001. In 2001 the total bill for the Federal Government was $1.86 trillion. It is now almost $3.61 trillion. In 2001 we had a surplus. Now we have a $1.3 trillion to $1.6 trillion deficit coming into this year. I think the American people would like to see us do something about that. Yet, at every turn, on every occasion, we have not risen to the challenge of creating an environment where jobs can flourish. One of the reasons is the Federal Government is squeezing the jobs out of the economy by taking such a large segment of them.

This amendment is very straightforward and very simple. The GAO, through two reports now--one released just this last month and a second in a series of three which will become annual--has told Congress where the problems are. The problems are in continuing to do the same thing in multiple programs and multiple agencies. They have outlined billions, hundreds of billions--I can calculate at least $100 billion worth of duplication that they have outlined and said we didn't do anything about it last year when they gave us the first report. Now they are giving us another report that has probably another $30 billion or $40 billion worth of savings for the American people because of duplication.

So this amendment asks--it is very straightforward--it asks OMB to look at the GAO reports and give recommendations to us on what they would recommend that allows the executive branch to participate in terms of $10 billion worth of savings this year on duplication.

Why is that possible? Here is why it is possible. And this is just a small sample of what GAO has told us. We have 209 different programs spending $4 billion through eight different agencies to encourage science, technology, engineering, and math education in the United States. Can anybody in this body defend the fact that we have 209 different programs? No. Nobody will even stand and defend it.

So we ought to be able to--there is nothing wrong with us wanting to encourage that, incentivize that, help create that, because we know that is for a higher powered workforce in the future. But 209 programs? Why wouldn't we streamline it?

We have 200 separate crime prevention programs. As a matter of fact, the GAO said you have enough duplication just in the Department of Justice programs--they spent $30 billion over the last 9 1/2 years--that if you would eliminate that duplication, you would find billions to save.

How do you get rid of a $1.6 trillion deficit? The way you get rid of it is a million here, a billion there, $10 billion here, $15 billion there, a billion here. What this amendment would do is save us $10 billion this year through smart government. It does not question the motivation. It does not even question whether it is our authority. But it says: Let's do this.

The Senate voted 64 to 36 when this was brought up in April of last year--the same amendment. They thought it was a good idea. The reason they voted for it was because it was fresh on their minds, what the GAO had told us.

Let's take some others.

The Surface Transportation Program. Here we have the highway bill. They did, thankfully, eliminate a few programs. We still are going to have 100 programs involved in surface transportation even when this highway bill is completed. We did not do what we needed to do. We can do better and we can save money. Even if the same amount of money gets out to the American public, the administrative cost will shrink dramatically.

Private sector green buildings. We have 94 separate programs, 16 different agencies to incentivize green buildings, and not one of them has ever been tested to see if it has an effect, whether it is positive, whether it is efficient, whether it is effective--not one. Never. Why would we have 94 separate programs for green buildings?

We have 88 different economic development programs. Why? Nobody can answer the question ``Why?'' As a matter of fact, 2 months ago, I offered an amendment on this floor that asked of us to have the CRS tell us before we pass a new bill whether we are adding another duplicative program. Because that was a rule change, it required 67 votes, and 40 of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle said: We do not want to know whether we are creating another duplicative program, so it only got 60 votes. It required 67 and, therefore, we are not doing it.

So we are going to ignore the brains, we are going to ignore the knowledge, and we are going to continue to produce and create duplicate programs.

Teacher quality. This is one of my favorites. We have 82 separate teacher training programs run by the Federal Government, not for Federal teachers, for State teachers.

Eighty-two separate programs, and not one of them has been tested to see if it is effective or efficient, whether it has value, whether we actually get anything out of it, whether there is some teacher improvement coming out of it--and that is run from seven different agencies.

First of all, why would you have any teacher programs other than at the Department of Education? Yet we have 82. Nobody can tell me why. Nobody will stand on the floor and defend the fact that we have 82. Because they realize it is the height of stupidity. It is stupid to do multiple programs in multiple directions and waste the overhead. We are not talking about not sending money.

We have 47 job training programs. We are in the midst of releasing a report on all the job training programs as to how they affect Oklahoma, and I will tell you it is not a pretty picture.

There is so much waste, so much ineffectiveness through those 47 different job training programs. We are spending $19 billion of Americans' money every year and we are not getting a billion dollars' worth of benefit out of it. But nobody wants to do the hard work, nobody wants to stand and defend those 47 job training programs, but nobody wants to eliminate them either.

We have a real problem. This is a first step, a first amendment, where we can make this bill--by the way, we are having trouble paying for the highway bill. We are going to pay for it--2 years' worth of highway spending--with 10 years' worth of reductions. This amendment alone, if we pass it, will pay for the highway bill differential between the trust fund and what the EPW Committee says we ought to be spending on highways--this amendment alone.

So when somebody comes down and says they are not going to vote for us to eliminate duplication, you have to ask why. Why is it we would not want to eliminate duplication? Why is it we would not want to become efficient and effective in terms of how we spend not our money but our children's money? Because 40 cents--38 cents this year--of every $1 we spend we are tacking on to a decreased standard of living for our children in everything we do.

So tell me why somebody would not want to get rid of some of the duplication, would not want to do the commonsense thing that every one of the rest of us in our own personal lives does, all our State governments do, all our personal businesses and all our public companies are doing: doing more with less every year? The easiest way to do that is to consolidate and eliminate duplication.

So when you see the vote today, if it does not get 60 votes, what should the American people learn from that? Here is what they should learn: It is not about gridlock. It is not about partisanship. It is about incompetence and a lack of thoughtful consideration for the people who will follow us. This is easy stuff to do. We have hard stuff we have to do in our country. We are going to be making tons of hard decisions over the next 2 or 3 years. Everyone in this body knows it. They will keep kicking the can down the road, hoping they do not have to be involved with the very tough decisions we are going to have to make. This is the easy one. This is easy.

I would ask my colleagues to consider this. If you voted for it in April of 2011, I would appreciate your vote again. If you do not vote for it, I would ask you to reconsider why you are here. Are you here to perpetuate waste? Are you here to perpetuate incompetence? Are you here to protect some constituency's little small program that does not work yet wastes your children's future? This is an easy amendment to vote for.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this amendment is very similar to an amendment we voted on in the small business bill which passed 64 to 30-something--I can't remember the exact number. It is very straightforward. We ask the OMB to look at the two most recent GAO reports, combine $10 billion worth of savings, and send back to us a recommendation so that we can, in fact, accomplish that purpose.

The GAO is showing us exactly where we need to go in terms of saving money. We are involving the executive branch in that. They also have other plans they are working on and on which I am trying to work with the administration.

If you want to pick up the difference between what we really need to do for infrastructure in this country, the best way to do it is to support this amendment and go for another $10 billion in infrastructure.

I yield the floor.


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