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Public Statements

Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss what we are doing and why we are doing it and the overall evaluation of this bill.

We are going to run at least a $600 billion deficit this year, a real deficit. What is said out there is that it is going to be $410 billion, but it is not. We are going to take $150 billion worth of Social Security money and spend that, and then we are going to have this supplemental, which is now at $81 billion. So we are going to be at about $630 billion, $640 billion in deficit.

What is that deficit? That deficit is money we don't have today, that we are going to go borrow, but we are going to ask our grandchildren to pay it back. I don't want anybody to have any misunderstanding. I believe we need to have an emergency supplemental appropriation right now. I believe it ought to be designed for emergencies--true emergencies. That is what it is here for. I believe we ought to do whatever is needed for our troops and our efforts in the war on terrorism. I also believe we need to meet the commitments in terms of catastrophic weather events and the tsunami.

I think we ought to pass out of this body what can truly be spent on that in the near term. What I don't think we should be doing--and I realize I am in a minority--is spending money and authorizing money to be spent from 2007 to 2012 that is surely and obviously not an emergency. I will have a hard time going home and looking at some of the poor children in Oklahoma when we spend this extra $21 billion out of this emergency. Each one of those poor children, when they grow up, is going to have to pay back about $5,000. That is what the difference is personally to them after 30 years of us borrowing. It is interesting to note that we have not truly paid off any of our bills, except for one short period of time, around 1999, 2000. So when we borrow the money, it continues to go up and it continues to compound and it continues to undercut the standard of living of future generations of this country.

If there is anything our heritage teaches us, it is that the prices that were paid for us to have the opportunity we have today is something that we ought to transmit to future generations.

I understand there are going to be objections to me bringing up my amendments; they aren't germane. I understand I need to have unanimous consent to be able to bring those up. I am not going to call for them at this time, but I will continue to talk about each one of those issues. I think it is important that the American public understand what is in this bill.


(Purpose: To reduce appropriations for the Iraqi embassy to reduce outlays expected to occur in fiscal year 2007 or later)

On page 172, strike ``$592,000,000'' and insert ``$106,000,000''.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the first amendment deals with contracting in the Defense Department. There is no objection or intent to label anything other than the process under which we allow $40 million of expenditures to go out that does not go through a true competitive bidding process. There is no question it will benefit what we are doing. There is no question it is a need in terms of what we had. The question in bringing this amendment up is because of the process and the lack of open, competitive bidding associated with $40 million of the taxpayers' money.

I have no question that possibly the person who has this contract or will get this contract under the present bill may be the best, but the American people and future generations of this country need to make sure that is what happens and it happens every time so that we do not spend any money unwisely.

I believe it is tremendously prudent on our part, in reassessing where we are and the tremendous risks facing our economy from the valuation of the dollar, our deficit spending, and the difficulties we are going to be facing on Social Security and health care, that we pay attention to every detail. This was noted in the report language. There may be a much better explanation for it.

Without losing control of the floor, I yield to my chairman, the Senator from Pennsylvania.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want to make certain everybody understands. This was appropriated. It was not directed clear enough for the Department of Defense to want to spend the money. What we are seeing is they want a clearer direction. I do not fault the Senator from Pennsylvania at all for trying to give them a clearer direction. I would like to do that for some companies in my area as well.

The fact is, it is not the way to run an airline, it is not the way to run a company. The omnibus appropriations process is not the way to run a country either, and it is my hope we don't get there this year either.

Mr. McCAIN. Is the Senator aware--I misspoke. This is the language in this bill designating it for a Philadelphia-based company. Designating it for a Philadelphia-based company is in this legislation before us. I hope that is clear.

Mr. COBURN. The reason it is there is because they wanted the direction on where to spend it. I understand the intention of the Senator from Philadelphia, his purpose. The reason I raise this question is I believe this is the wrong way we should be doing things. We need to stop. Our future depends on the integrity of a budgeting and appropriations process that is not based on politics but is based on having the future best will for our country.

I don't have anything further to say on this, other than the Senator has given a great explanation. I understand what it is. He is trying to do something. The problem is, the military doesn't necessarily want to do that.

I yield to my chairman, the Senator from Pennsylvania.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. McCAIN. I object.

Mr. COBURN. I ask for a voice vote on the amendment, amendment No. 450.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. It is not in order to request a voice vote.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I would like to discuss amendment No. 471.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The amendment is pending.

Mr. STEVENS. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. COBURN. I will.

Several Senators addressed the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.


Mr. COBURN. I ask for the regular order on amendment No. 450.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. That amendment is now the regular order.

Mr. COBURN. I would like to ask for a voice vote on this amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there further debate? If not, the question is on agreeing to the amendment.

The amendment (No. 450) was rejected.

Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.

Mr. STEVENS. I move to lay that motion on the table.

The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.


The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want to visit amendment No. 471, which reduces funding in the supplemental for the Iraqi Embassy. According to the report language on this bill, $592 million is to be appropriated over the next 7 years for an embassy in Iraq. I do not have any objection. I think there ought to be tremendous hearings on the amount of money expended on that, but $592 million? Mr. President, $106 million of that is all that will be expended over the next 2 years. So what is going to happen is we are going to have $486 million hanging out there that will be rescinded and spent on something else.

First of all, we had a vote in this body, of which 61 Members of this body voting on the Byrd amendment this week agreed that the President ought to put everything that he sought for the war in Iraq and for its needs in the regular budget and the regular appropriations request he sends to the Congress.

By far, 61 Members out of 100 of this body will agree with the principle that I am bringing forward. They voted for it. The idea with this amendment is to trim the appropriations from what is expected to be spent for the next 2 years. And it is even questionable whether that is an emergency.

I also note that the House, in passing the supplemental bill, eliminated the ability of this money to be spent for an embassy. I will state that the purpose of the emergency wartime supplemental ought to be to fund operations and projects that are emergencies. Money that is going to be needed for this embassy and complex in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 can be appropriated at that time. It can be authorized before then, but it can be appropriated at the proper time.

Again, quite simply, the emergency supplemental should only contain items we need right now in order to fight the war on terror.

I will have trouble finding somebody who will actually debate on why we need to spend $586 million on an embassy complex, and we need to do it now rather than run it through the regular appropriations process.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I agree with everything the chairman said except he didn't talk about the issue I am raising. The issue I am raising is spending $400 million in the years 2007 through 2012 should go through the regular appropriations process. I want us to have an embassy over there. I want us to do the very things the chairman outlined.

But, again, we are playing a game with the appropriations process. The administration is playing the same game by requesting it. We have $592 million, and only $106 million is going to be spent in the next 2 years to accomplish what the honorable chairman of the Appropriations Committee said. Why not run the rest through the regular order? Why put this to the bottom line and not make us do what we need to do in time of parity in how it is spent?

Again, I think this extra money, this $486 million, ought to go through the regular order. We are going to go out and borrow and ask our kids and our grandchildren to pay it back. When you ask them to pay it back, it is going to be at a rate of about seven or eight times what we borrow. We are not paying back money, we are paying interest, and then we are paying interest on the interest. That very well equates to us abandoning the vision that we want to give the future of this country; that is, opportunity and freedom, and we can't do that if we continue. All of this money in this bill goes straight to debt. None of it goes through the budget process. There is no limit. We are going to go out and borrow the money tomorrow. It is going straight to debt.

I don't disagree with the chairman at all. I appreciate his working with me on this committee in terms of learning, of teaching a new Senator the ropes. He has been wonderfully kind to me. But the fact is, only $106 million is going to be expended over the next 24 months after this is put out, and the rest of it ought to go through the regular order. That is all I am asking. I am saying it should come through the regular appropriations process. That is all I am asking. I am not saying don't do it. I am saying do it in a way in which we are held accountable, and we are going to hold our children accountable. It isn't just about numbers. It is about the future of our country and whether we are going to change the process in Washington that truly recognizes that we have to start being responsible.

The South Korean Government, about a month ago, made one little, small comment about changing their mix on foreign holdings. The dollar fell 1.8 percent that day. We will not be able to hold the value of the dollar in the international financial community unless we are seen as being competent and secure about solving our problems and not spending money we don't have. This is a good first place to start.

There is nothing wrong with sending it through the appropriations process on the regular order. It makes it a little harder for the appropriations team; I understand that. They have already done what they have been asked by the administration to do. But we need to send a signal to the administration to quit asking for money in outyears on the appropriations process so we don't look as bad when we count the so-called deficit. Remember, this is going against the deficit. It won't go against the published numbers. It is outside the rules of the game because we call it all an emergency. Money spent on an embassy in Iraq in 2011 is not an emergency to anybody in this country I know of. I think we would have trouble finding it.

With that, I will cease discussion on that issue and discuss amendment No. 467.

Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, will the Senator yield before he abandons this issue?

Mr. COBURN. I would be happy to yield to the chairman.


Mr. COBURN. Madam President, again, great words. True. We need to do it. But that doesn't address the issue of why that money should not go through the regular process on the outyears. I understand the tough job the chairman has to do.


With that, I will move, if I may, to the next amendment, No. 467.

Madam President, this is an amendment that ought not have to be brought forward. There is no question that there was, in fact, significant damage and flooding at the University of Hawaii. There was, in fact, significant loss of records and volumes at the University of Hawaii. There was, in fact, over $30 million in FEMA money that was sent to the University of Hawaii. There was, in fact, a $10 million matching contribution from the State of Hawaii for that matching grant. There is at least $25 million in insurance proceeds to go with the State assembly that was also trying to actively increase that amount, and public statements were made by the president of the University of Hawaii outlining the damage assessment, with this $10 million that is not truly an emergency anymore in this bill.

This is not directed toward the Senator from Hawaii in any way. I wanted to talk about this, and then I am going to withdraw this amendment, if I have a unanimous consent to do it. But I want to use it as an example of what we shouldn't be doing.

The fact is, they haven't even spent all the money that has been sent out there for the repair of this facility right now. On an emergency basis, we are going to appropriate $10 million more. If you total up everything, if you take what the University of Hawaii said and others have said about the total cost of the flood, $50 million, there is going to be $100 million that goes toward the University of Hawaii for a $50 million flood. That is bad enough. But this is not the way we ought to be doing this process.

I am standing on the floor of the Senate today to offer amendments, not critical of any one individual but critical of the process because I believe if we don't have a functional, structural process change in how we appropriate taxpayer dollars in this country, we are going to undermine the standard of living for the next few generations. We very well could be the first generation of Americans to leave the next generation worse off.

I believe things that are in an emergency bill ought to be truly emergencies. No. 1, they ought to have to be spent out in a short period of time, and with that comes the authorization for further spending so the appropriations committees can have the direction, so they don't have to spend it all and then rescind it.

I believe we need to change things. We look around to our children. We see a future, we see hope, we see promise. But we see all of that in light of what we see today. We don't think down the road about what potentially can happen to our country--now $9 trillion in debt, with $600 billion worth of trade deficit every year with multiple poor countries in the world that export agricultural products holding large amounts of our dollars that are also dependent on our dollars staying at a certain value.

We have to think long range about how we do this.

I am challenging how we think, not to make a mark or to direct anything toward any individual person. We have to change. I will stand on every appropriations bill to come in the future and I will personally read the appropriations report language to find out what is there, and use the privilege granted to me as a Member of this body to raise these issues until we change how we do it.

It is my hope I don't have to do that. I don't want to have to do that. But it is very important we start down a new road. It is not a partisan issue. It does not have anything to do with Democrats or Republicans but it has to do with our children, the future of our country, the viability of defending ourselves.

Every dollar we waste or do not spend appropriately is $1 we cannot use to defend ourselves or create the technology to compete in this global economy. We have to do what is right for future generations.

I will withdraw this amendment, as well, but I want to put my fellow Members on notice that I will be bringing this up. It is time to change. I don't do that with any ill will. I don't do it saying I have all the knowledge. But what I do know is I want a future for our country and for the children. We cannot continue doing what we are doing in terms of spending. We cannot continue either the process or the procedure on how we are doing it.

With that, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw amendment numbered 467.

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