National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Thomas Coburn
Date: Nov. 28, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I would like to spend a few minutes noting why I am against the expansion of the Dale Long Public Safety Officers' Benefits Improvements Act. And it is a great example of where we find ourselves in the country. If you read the Constitution and look at the enumerated powers, we have a Federal program to benefit what is really the responsibility of States. Now, nobody is going to say this isn't a beneficial program to those poor families who might need this. And the chairman of the Judiciary Committee has done a wonderful job in terms of offsetting this so that there is no additional cost, and for that I congratulate him. But this is a great example of why we have $88 trillion in unfunded liabilities and are $16 trillion in debt--because we are doing a function that is truly the responsibility of the States.

The PSOB Program was originally designed, in its original design, to be a model so that the States would set up and demonstrate to them how they could structurally set up their own programs. Over the last 30 years, Congress has continued to expand this program, and now we spend about $81 million to $85 million a year on this program. I am not saying it is not needed money for the families, but we are going to expand a program that is truly not a Federal responsibility.

I have no hopes this will be defeated. I know it won't. But I wanted to raise this question: Given what is in front of us, it is one thing to meet the needs under our Federal requirements for Medicare and Medicaid, but when are we going to stop expanding programs that aren't truly our responsibility? The cause is great. It is appropriate for a government agency to help in times for the people who actually put their lives on the line for us. But is it a Federal responsibility? The answer is no, it is not. It is a State responsibility. As we assume more and more responsibilities for the States, with budget deficits in excess of $1 trillion, what we are going to do is find ourselves at a point where we are going to have to make cuts in programs that are our responsibility.

All I ask you to do is think about whether this is truly a responsibility of the Federal Government and whether we ought to be expanding the program. It is well-intentioned and does great work, I don't discount that. It is well-deserved, I don't discount that. But is it a responsibility of the Federal Government?

I would state to the chairman that I would be happy to have a voice vote on this and not force a vote because I know the outcome and we shouldn't waste everybody's time to do that. So I ask for a voice vote and to vitiate the vote that is scheduled for 6 o'clock.


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