National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Resumed

Floor Speech

By:  Thomas Coburn
Date: Dec. 4, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. I just wanted to spend a few minutes talking about Reed amendment No. 3255 and to point out to my colleagues I know this amendment will pass, but I believe we ought to be on record as voting to add $1.7 billion in additional funds that our kids are going to pay for.

This is paid for, but it is smoke and mirrors. We have used a trick in how we do this. Ultimately, what is going to happen is here is another bill that will require funding from the health account at the Pentagon, which is in operations and maintenance, which means we will not have $1.7 billion for naval exercises, for flight training, for tank training, for range training. In other words, out of this account is where it comes to all the preparedness.

I must give President Obama credit. He has recommended what the committee recommended doing for the last 2 1/2 years. Now we have an amendment that takes where the committee went to, actually, a small copay, increasing copay on pharmacy benefits for retirees, and reverses that and forces our veterans to have to use mail order. I am OK with mail order. I know we save a lot of money with that, but the CBO says as soon as we stop this one year, the mandate is going to go back the other way and the cost is going to be this amount of money. They have met the literal requirements of pay-go, but they haven't met the functional requirements. Here we have another amendment that we will take out of the operations and maintenance account, and that is important. But the most important issue in this debate is we continue to want to have benefits for our retired military that are growing faster than the rate of inflation--certainly faster than--and not have them help pay for the increase in the benefits.

We have $16.4 trillion worth of debt this morning. We have $88 trillion worth of unfunded liabilities, and now we are at this juncture where we are having a discussion between the Speaker of the House and the President on how we get over the fiscal cliff and start to solve some of these problems. We have an amendment put up because there is a very powerful force, all the service organizations and everything else, that said don't do this.

Everybody in our country, if we are to get out of the problem, is going to have to pay a small sacrifice. This is not a large amount of money, unless you are absolutely destitute, in terms of the copays. The President has recommended we do that, the committee recommended it and we are reversing it and using the gimmick so there can't be a budget point of order on it.

There will be a time in the not-too-distant future when the decisions to control our future will be out of our hands in terms of the economics and the debt. Delaying that now, because we do not want to yield against the popular criticism, will cause us to pay a further great price. The very people who are going to be asked to contribute as part of fixing our country are going to be paying a greater price.

I just received a book from our colleague, the Senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse. I received it today, and I have already finished half of it. It has a wonderful introduction. I would recommend to all my colleagues--I know they will get one--to read it. It is a collection of thoughts and sayings. If we read what Daniel Webster said, we read what Benjamin Franklin said, and we read what Winston Churchill has said about bowing to the public pressure rather than doing the best right thing, we will not regret it.

This is a popular amendment. It is going to pass. The service organizations want us to do it, but it is not the right thing to do. We have to begin, as we negotiate, to increase revenues from the very wealthy in this country, declining expenses at the Defense Department; everybody has to share, everybody in America. If they don't share now, they will share much more painfully in the future.

I don't have anything else to say on this other than I will vote against it, not because I want veterans to have to have a copay but because I want our country to get out of the hole we are in. Part of the sharing of that is a copay on retail pharmacy.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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