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African Growth and Opportunity Amendment Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, first of all, I wish to say I appreciate the leadership for working to ensure a vote on this package. This package was slowed down not because anybody is truly opposed to what we are trying to do, but the package was slowed down because of the way we are paying for it. We are going to see that coming over from the House as well. It is not a Republican or a Democratic problem; it is a problem of all of us because there is going to be an emergency farm bill, a disaster bill, coming over that is going to spend almost $400 million, and it is paid for over 5 years. That has to stop. It has to stop.

Right now, in this country, every man, woman, and child is on the hook for $53,000 of debt. So the typical American family is on the hook for 212,000 bucks right now because of what we have done. So my objection was not with the AGOA package, it is not with Myanmar, it is not with any of that. Those are great policy things. My objection is we are addicted to not fulfilling our responsibilities and delaying.

So this is a very simple, straightforward message and amendment that does two things: One, it recognizes the recommendation of the Obama administration in terms of duplication and the need for consolidation. That is how we are eventually going to get out of the hole. We have $130 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and we have $16 trillion in debt. It was a good recommendation. We totally ignored it. We have ignored it. Nothing has happened on what they have recommended. There have been no hearings on what the Obama administration recommended in terms of combining some of the departments at OMB.

So this is just a step toward trying to meet in the middle with what the Obama administration has recommended and us actually paying the $200 million in costs over 2 years, with $200 million worth of savings in 2 years.

The bill, as it presently stands, takes 10 years to pay for $200 million. We have a $3.7 trillion budget--or CR--and we can't find--it is less than one-hundredth of 1 percent, and we can't find it. So what this does is delay the cost--the payment--for this bill over a period of years, all the way out to 2023. No family who is broke gets to operate that way--and we are. Nobody who has maxed out their credit cards gets to do that, and we have maxed them out. So what we are saying is there is a ton of money that is available that we can use.

We have had three amendments on this floor that everybody who is going to be in opposition to this have voted for to eliminate duplication. The vast majority of my colleagues on the other side have voted for it, and the vast majority of my colleagues on my side have voted for it. So we are going to use that same skill where we know there is waste and we know there is inefficiency. We have tons of GAO reports, tons of IG, and tons of oversight of the Homeland Security Committee in the Senate that shows where the duplication is. All we are asking is, let's pay for it. Let's pay for it.

This place is so manipulated, I couldn't get a score until yesterday because somebody was telling them don't give him a score. Then when we changed the amendment, all of a sudden, because we want to know what the amendment says, CBO says: Well, wait a minute. That might not work. The fact is CBO didn't read our amendment right, and they know they didn't. So OMB was consulted. They said this amendment is implementable, and it fits with what the President was recommending in terms of consolidation of programs.

So what it says is let's make this a start today. Let's actually start paying for things in the years in which we are going to spend the money, and let's not kick the can down the road. Let's not charge it to our kids because the history is we take 10 years to pay for something, we come back next year and we will change it. We will change it. So what was paid for this year all of a sudden is not paid for anymore, and it is smoke and mirrors for the American people.

So this is very straightforward. It is a clean pay-for. It uses two mechanisms to get there which have been scored that will accomplish it.

I fully support the AGOA. I am sorry we got delayed. I am actually sorry it took--because there has already been some damage done, than had we passed it when it came here. That was never my intent, but we can right that today. What I agreed to is if I lose the amendment, fine. But to not try to pay for things, to not create a discipline to get back where we should be--we are going to do this. We may not do this today, but I promise my colleagues the international financial community, in a very short period of time, is going to make us do this. So let's start doing it on our own under our own terms rather than what some foreign bondholder or the Chinese want to do.

The other objection that might be there is, well, if we do this, it will have to go back to the House. That is right. This passed on suspension. There was very little opposition to it. It will go back modified; they will pass it. I have talked to the Speaker. They haven't passed the other one first because they are waiting on us to act. We will hold ours at the desk because it has a revenue problem; they will modify theirs; they will do exactly what we did. I would just appreciate us standing up to the real problems in front of us.

It is a great goal to want to help these areas. It is a great goal to put the sanctions back on Myanmar so that they can be adjusted and used to create freedom. Those are great goals. But there is a greater goal because none of those things are going to matter if our financial system, our way of life, crashes around us because we are not responsible here.

I reserve the remainder of my time.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, it is intriguing to me. We heard the Senator from Delaware absolutely assure us that if we defy this, the House is not going to do the right thing. My conversation with Chairman Camp was different from that. I do not know what the timing was between our conversations. But it is never the right time in Washington to fix our problems.

We do a lot of great things. You want to talk about job creation? Job creation has decreased by 1 million jobs a year in this country simply because we continue to add to our debt. And this bill adds to our debt. It is not paid for. It has another trick in there that actually charges more in corporate taxes just to get around pay-go.

So the point is--and I will not have any more to say on this bill so we can go on and get to the other--the point is, if we stood and did the right thing and led this country by actually paying for something at the time, the House would change it--just for the very reasons the Senator from Delaware said. It is important. If we had a strong vote that said: Yes, it is important, but, by dingy, we are not going to keep doing the same thing that has been bankrupting this country--but now we use an excuse to say: Well, here is our reason why we cannot do what is right.

America should spit us out of their mouth. We never find the right time to actually have the fiscal discipline that will solve our county's problems and create a viable future for our children, let alone African children.

So that is a real choice today. I do not expect to win

this because this place is not going to change until the people who are here decide that the future of our country is more important than anything else and we start acting like it. And we can do good things internationally, but we can do them the right way that will not put our children at risk. Our debt level is such that our GDP is decreased by 1 percent right now--it is proven--just because of the amount of debt we have.

So we are going to pass a bill with great intentions, with which I agree. It will have a great result; I agree with that. We can do both. We can actually do better. But it is because there is not the spine in the Senate to stand up and make the hard choice. This country is full of people outside of Washington who are used to making hard choices, and they are doing it in this tough economic time all the time. They are making hard choices. We lack the intestinal fortitude to do that. We should have them here and us home because they know how to get it done.

So what we are going to do is we are going to do the same thing we have always done. We are not going to make the hard choice. We are not going to do the best we can do. We are going to settle for second best because we have an excuse not to make the hard choice. The excuse right now is that the House will not move. Well, I will guarantee you, if it as important as Senator Coons and Senator Isakson say it is, and Representative Smith, and we sit here and say our position is that it is paid for within 2 years, I will bet you by tomorrow it will be paid for within 2 years. But we will not ever do that because we lack the courage to do the hard thing, the right thing. What has that gotten us? It has gotten us deeper in debt, a depressed economy, an anxious American citizenry that has no confidence about the future, which is so self-fulfilling in terms of driving the economy down even further.

It is time for us to lead. This is a small issue, but if we cannot even pay for $200 million over 2 years, we do not deserve to be here, we do not deserve it, because what we are really doing--we are helping people in Africa, we are helping the freedom in Burma, but what we are really doing is taking just a little bit of freedom away from our kids. That is the real vote here. It is really not about money; it is about destroying the future prospects of this country because we refuse to make a hard choice.

There can be a lot of flowery speeches about it. We can say we are going to do something good. I will tell you that well-intentioned desires by the Members of this body are what has us $16 trillion in debt.

I will not spend any more time. I have the greatest respect for the Senator from Delaware. I know he believes in this cause. He is bigger than this. He can make this tough vote. He knows how big the problems are. If we are not going to do it now, when are we going to do it? If we are not going to do it on something small, when are we going to do it?

We are not going to do it, and that is what the American people get. That is why there is an uprising in this country to get back to the basics of the Constitution. That is why there are people who are interested--because we have mismanaged it because we will not do the hard part.

Mr. President, I yield back my time.

I will ask for the yeas and nays at the appropriate time.


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