Mar 31 2011
Dr. Coburn on the Senate Floor Urging Members to Allow for Votes on His Commonsense Savings Amendments
“We’re in tough times, we’re going to take a lot of tough votes”
Mr. Coburn: I'm coming to the floor because we've not seen much action on the floor on this bill because we're hung up over the right of senators to offer amendments.
The senate works best when we have a free and open process of offering amendments, and one of the amendments in particular that I was going to offer on the blending requirements for ethanol I plan not to offer at this time.
I've made that known to the majority leader but have still not been able to get an agreement to offer other amendments.
Our country's in a pickle. We have $20 billion worth of cuts that under the vast majority of the people in the senate would vote for yet can't get those amendments up because people don't want to take the difficult votes. And I understand that.
Senator Reid has been more than gracious in working with me. I understand his problem. But the problems are a lot bigger than the problems in the senate. The problems facing our country are tremendous.
They're not only tremendous, they're also urgent. And -- and here we have a small business bill. We're trying to create jobs, but one of the ways we create jobs is making sure we're not sending money out of here that doesn't create jobs. And so I come to the floor somewhat worried about our process and not critical of Senator Reid in any way.
I wouldn't have his job. Being the majority leader's the toughest job in Washington. But it is -- it is somewhat worrisome and yet amusing that we won't take a vote to eliminate unemployment payments to millionaires.
I mean, that's amazing to me. We can save $20 million starting tomorrow by quit making unemployment check payments to people who make a million dollars a year through their investments but they're unemployed.
I mean, $20 million. We could do that. We could put a garnishee on the billion dollars that's owed by senate employees and federal employees in back taxes that's already been adjudicated that they haven't paid, but we can't get an amendment up to do that.
Isn't that strange? That here we're running a 67 trillion deficit and we can't go about solving our problems a billion dollars at a time to get rid of that? We can't have the right to offer an amendment to that? Or the fact that the G.A.O.
Three weeks ago issued a report on duplication, and according to my calculations, there's at least a hundred billion dollars in savings in that and I have an amendment that will save us $5 billion over the rest of this year on the easiest part of an elimination to carry out can't get that amendment up.
We can't vote on it. We can't do the things that will start getting us out of the problems? Even though I've withdrawn the amendment on ethanol that's so controversial?
Can't -- still can't get them u up? Covered bridges, $8.5 million. It's a good thing to do if we had money, but old bridges that are of historical significance we shouldn't be spending 5 million on right now because we're borrowing the money to do it. An amendment to identify and disclose every federal program. One of the things the G.A.O.
Report said is it would be very if every department would give every year a list of all their programs. There's only one government agency that does that today and it's the department of education. The rest of them don't know all their programs.
Isn't that interesting? They don't even know their programs? And yet we can't get an amendment up that will help us solve some of the problems with duplication and inefficiency?
So I come to the floor tonight to say, what is the deal? You know, this is the senate. You're expected to make tough votes. If you -- if you want to continue to pay millionaires unemployment, then vote against it, but don't keep an amendment from coming to the floor that saves us a million dollars.
If you think federal employees shouldn't pay their back taxes, then vote against it. But we could collect a billion dollars. A billion dollars that we wouldn't have to borrow.
Vote against it. But don't block the amendments from coming up. I have an amendment, I understand it's controversial. I don't think there's a role anymore for us funding the corporation for public broadcasting to the tune of a half a billion dollars a year. You may not like it, you may not agree with it but vote against it.
Don't say you can't have an amendment. Because what goes around, comes around, and we don't want to get into the dysfunctional state that because somebody can't have an amendment, somebody else isn't going to have an amendment.
And that's what we're going to degrade into. And it won't be because we won't want a vote on them. So what happens is the senate gets paralyzed.
So the unfortunate thing is I have $20 billion worth of cuts that we can make and yet we're not allowed under senate tradition to offer an amendment, even though the most controversial one I've said okay, I won't offer at this time, and yet can't offer an amendment.
To me, I think that tells the American people what they already know -- we don't care about what the real problems are, we care about the politics.
And we no longer have the pleasure or the time to worry about political outcomes.
We need to be worrying about what the outcome is of the future of this country. And to say that a sitting senator can't offer $20 billion 7 trillion budget on a bill that's related to small -- to business and this $20 billion will be money that we won't be competing with against them for the capital to create jobs in this country, to me strikes me that we've lost balance, that we need to re-write the ship.
Everybody in this body wants to vote on the 1099. We know it was a mistake. I don't think there will be -- there will be very few people who will vote against it. There's a controversial amendment, the Inhofe amendment, but this is the senate, let's vote it, whatever way it turns out.
Let's let the body do its work rather than not let the body do its work. And so my hat's off to senator Reid. He has been cooperative. But we can't run the senate this way, saying people don't have a right to offer amendments.
I'll never forget when I first came to the senate seven years ago. I had an objection to an amendment I offered and another senator from the other party came to me and said, you can't do that, this is the senate. We debate amendments.
We vote on amendments. So somebody on the other side of the aisle defended the process in the senate. The fact is, is we're in tough times. We're going to be taking a lot of tough votes.
If not now, a year from now, but they're going to get every year we take them -- they're going to get tougher every year we take them because the writing is on the wall for America in terms of its spending and its debt. And if you look what's happened to interest rates just on our t-bonds the last nine days in a row, t-bonds have shrunk, interest rates are going up. What does that mean to us?
That means that our historical average interest rate on our debt is about 6.07%. We paid 1.97% last year.
For every 1% that rises, that's $140 billion additional that doesn't help the first American. So we ought to be about getting rid of things that we can get rid of that will survive okay on their own, that are not duplicating things that we should be duplicating.
The senator from Alaska and I put into an amendment on the bill getting rid of all earmarks, money that's parked. Save us a billion dollars. So the fact is, is we can do this if we'll stand up and do the job we were hired to do.
And the job we're hired to do is to make the difficult decisions. So my hope is that things will break loose and will revert to the best of the tradition of the senate is have a real debate about real amendments, taking the tough votes and defending them on principle.
And take the political calculus out of it. It is not popular for me in Oklahoma to eliminate the blenders credit on ethanol. We have a lot of corn farmers. But the fact is the very people who get this, British petroleum, Valero, Exxon Mobil, chevron don't want it.
I've got a letter from them saying they don't want the blenders credit. That's who gets it. Only 16% of the ethanol is produced by farmer cooperative ethanol plants. 84% Is not.
It's produced by the big boys. They're saying they don't want it. So why don't we save $5 billion between now and the end of the year? Because we're going to borrow 47% of it. Why would we do that to our children? So I relented on that.
We'll vote on it. I'll have to have a 67 threshold to do it. Senator Reid knows that we're going to eventually vote on it. We ought to be grownups and go back to the best traditions of the senate and taking the tough votes. Our country's in a tough time. Families are having tough times.
Why would we want to duck making tough decisions? And the only reason we would want to do is that political. It's so somebody can gain a political advantage rather than do the best right thing for our country today.
So I -- I call on my colleagues, whoever it is that's objecting to commonsense amendments that doesn't want to fulfill their obligations to their own constituents by casting a vote to look what the you're doing to the senate.
There's no reason we should get into this conflict that the -- because I can't offer amendments, I'm going to eventually not allow other people to offer amendments? I mean why would we go to the childish resolution of this rather than the adult resolution?
And the adult resolution is give people their amendments, vote on them and go down the road. And if you don't agree with them, then defend it. If you do agree with them, vote for them. But don't duck not taking a position.
That's belying the oath that you have to be a senator. So to those that are objecting to cutting $20 billion out of this government, out of a $3.6 trillion budget, wake up. You're going to be cutting this money in the next two years whether you cut it today or tomorrow, it's coming.
Let's do it now. Because every day we do it a but it also preserves and enhances future for our kids. So I won't harp on this other than to say I'm really disappointed because we had started this year out pretty well in terms of going to amendments.
The leader -- both leaders have worked hard to make sure that that can happen. And now that we have tough votes, people want to revert to childish behavior and – and really not honor the reason they were sent near the first place. You know, not voting on something is the chicken's way out. It's the coward's way out.
Voting on something and defending your vote is honorable. You don't have to agree with me, but don't say you can't have an amendment and you can't have a vote. Because I assure you I know the parliamentary procedure is to get a vote on every amendment that I offer.
We will get votes on these amendments. So the question is, if you're trying to duck not having a vote on an amendment because you don't like the political choices, you're going to get it voted anyway. So why degrade the senate into childish behavior because you want to duck a vote. We're not going to duck these votes. We're going to have them.
I promise you we're going to have every one of these votes eventually. And I'm talking over a short period of time or we're not going to do anything.
We're going to live up to the tradition of the senate or we're not going to function at all.
With that, I yield the floor.
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