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Department of Defense Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. That is fine. I have no choice but to accede to the Senator's wishes, so I will.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Would the Senator from Oklahoma yield for a question?

Mr. COBURN. Absolutely.

Ms. MIKULSKI. I have a section of this bill, and I wonder if that amendment is relevant to my bill, and I would extend some courtesy.

Mr. COBURN. This is updating per capita damage indicators and the process for determining declarations. Oklahoma has had more declarations declared, but we haven't updated the per capita indicator for a long time, so we have had no increase in that. So what is happening is that it is too easy to get a declaration declared. I am trying to have them update that to where it is more reflective of the true cost.

Ms. MIKULSKI. I appreciate the Senator's advocacy for Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. This would actually hurt Oklahoma.

Ms. MIKULSKI. But what I am wanting to say to the Senator from Oklahoma is that my subcommittee deals with coastal impact, so the issue the Senator wishes to raise is with the Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

If it dealt with my part of the bill, I would say--because I know what the Senator is trying to do, and I appreciate it, which is trying to move the Senate forward in an expeditious way.

Mr. COBURN. I thank the Senator.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. We have a bill before us that is $64 billion, and I have spent the last week trying to get the OMB and Department of Commerce the background on all of these requests, and what I can tell you is there is an immediate need for about $24 billion that we ought to be passing through this Chamber to take care of immediate needs over the next 2 years in relationship to this tragedy in terms of Sandy.

Almost every amendment I am going to offer or hope to offer is about transparency, is about limiting who can have access, such as people who are in arrears on their taxes for years and years.

What we learned on the Homeland Security Committee, which has the authorization of most of these programs, which I will become ranking member of, is that out of the $100 billion-plus we spent on Katrina, $11 billion of it got wasted. One of the reasons it got wasted is because we didn't have transparency, we didn't have good-government amendments on it. And we are getting ready to make that mistake again.

So I was asked to come down, by our side of the aisle, to have amendments pending, and now that I can't have amendments pending, I think I will just talk in general about this bill for a moment, if I might.

There is no one in the Senate who does not want to meet the needs of the people who have suffered from this horrific storm. How we do that is important. Meeting immediate needs in terms of the insurance fund for flooding--that is something on which everybody would agree. Nobody is going to object to that. We are going to be short on that. But also what is important in that is that we should have a provision that if you were in a floodplain and didn't buy the insurance, we certainly should not be ponying up our grandkids' money to pay for you when you chose not to insure it.

The reason that is important--there are two moral principles on why that is important. No. 1 is that we are going to endorse irresponsibility. No. 2 is that if we don't put that provision in this bill, the NFIP is never going to work because in the future everybody is going to say: Don't worry, you don't have to buy the flood insurance. Congress is going to take care of it.

So it is those kinds of good-government things that I am trying to put into this bill, and now I am unable to bring amendments to the floor. There is no reason not to bring amendments to the floor right now.

We are going to pick and choose what amendments we are going to bring to the floor when we have good-government amendments? I am at a loss to know why we would object to good-government amendments.

I understand the majority leader's reasoning. We now have five amendments pending on this bill of $60 billion. You take five or six of the agencies, this bill is going to be more than what all five of those agencies spend in a year, and 64 percent of this bill would not even get obligated until 2015 at the earliest.

I also would remind my colleagues that on this $64 billion bill, we don't have to offset any spending anywhere under the rules. So here we have this $64 billion, when we know we are wasting hundreds of billions every year in agencies throughout this government, and we are going to borrow $64 billion and not do the good-government cleanup, transparency.

One of our amendments is about creating a Web site so everybody can see. One of our amendments is about not having no-bid contracts or sole-source contracts. We have all this experience from Katrina where we know the money was wasted. Yet now we are precluded from putting amendments on the Senate floor that would keep us from wasting that very money in this emergency supplemental bill. It shows the dysfunction of the Senate.

In 2005 and 2006, we would not have had this happen. Amendments would be offered, they would get voted down or embarrassed into not asking for a vote, or withdrawn. Now we are going to pick and choose good-government amendments. In other words, we are saying we don't want good government. We don't want to do the hard work of making things efficient and effective when we go to spend $64 billion.

I don't get it. I don't understand it. Generations will not understand it that follow us.

I yield the floor.


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