Oct 15 2009
“That makes no sense!”
That’s a phrase I find myself saying more and more this year.
Did you know that 43 cents out of every dollar the U.S. Congress now spends is borrowed?
Or that the Senate has markedly increased spending for every appropriations bill it has considered this year?
Yet, no one in Washington seems at all alarmed.
While the mainstream media has turned everyone’s attention to the important health care debate, Congress is busy passing appropriations bills that will grant federal agencies outrageous budget increases.
For example, by a lopsided vote of 77-21, the Senate recently approved the annual funding bill for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill increased overall spending by 16 percent, including a 33 percent increase for the EPA.
This bill allows federal agencies to spend over $260 million to buy more land when they already occupy one of every three acres in the entire nation and one out of every two acres in the West. These same agencies face a $13 billion to $19 billion maintenance backlog on existing federal lands that threaten the health and safety of visitors.
The bill also includes a $1 million earmark for an historic home on Capitol Hill that regularly hosts political fundraisers and parties for staffers.
And in one of the most disappointing votes I have witnessed in my time in the Senate, Congress just saw fit to give itself a performance bonus.
In approving the bill that funds internal Congressional operations, and in the midst of a deep financial and fiscal crisis, Congress increased funding for itself by more than three times the rate of inflation (for a total of $4.6 billion).
As companies across America are laying off employees, this bill included $4 million for Democrat and Republican leadership to hire more consultants.
The very people who are asking Americans to sacrifice future prosperity in the form of mounting federal deficits, and who should be demanding more efficiency throughout the federal government, could not find any area in its own operations to reduce.
The time has come for every Member of Congress—Republicans and Democrats alike-- to demonstrate that they can run their own branch of government more efficiently. Every year, I return a large portion of my own office budget, over $400,000 annually, to demonstrate that Congress can run itself more efficiently.
I can assure you that there is plenty of room to cut on Capitol Hill.
Leadership involves a willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good, and it involves leading by example.
I would say Congress is earning its 16 percent approval rating, wouldn’t you?
So as we continue the important debate in Washington over health care, we cannot lose sight of Congress’ continued spending binge.
This week, the Senate is voting on an Energy and Water appropriations bill that includes over a thousand earmarks, totaling over a billion dollars in special interest spending.
Congress is counting on the fact that the health care debate will continue to crowd out a closer inspection of the appropriations bills.
With nearly $12 trillion in debt, it is my hope that we will prove them wrong.
If you’re interested in monitoring the spending habits of your Congress, check out these links:
To track appropriations bills, click here.
If you have amendment ideas on future appropriations bills, submit them here.
To track our growing debt, click here.
Tom A. Coburn, MD
Senate Adopts Several Coburn Amendments to Protect Property Rights, Secure our Border, and Increase Transparency.
Amendment #2523 - This amendment will not allow any federal funds to be used to impede, prohibit or restrict activities of the Secretary of Homeland Security to enforce border control laws on federal lands. Click here for additional background. National Border Patrol Council letter of support. Eagle Forum letter of support
Amendment #2482 - This amendment requires all private property owners to be notified of a National Heritage Areas designation near their property and allow them to decide whether or not to opt in. Click here for additional background. Read the letter of support from the Property Rights Alliance here.
Amendment 1878 - This amendment will require that any report required to be submitted by a federal agency or department to the Committee on Appropriations of either the Senate or the House of Representatives in an appropriations act be posted on the public website of that committee upon receipt by the committee.
Investigation Reveals Millions in Highway and Bridge Funding Being Spent on Beautification Projects, Museums, and Other Low Priority Items.
U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) recently released a report today on transportation spending entitled, “Out of Gas: Congress Raids the Highway Trust Fund for Pet Projects While Bridges and Roads Crumble.” The report includes newly published Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis the two Senators requested on how Congress is spending Highway Trust Fund receipts.
According to the Senators’ report, GAO auditors found that over the last five years, $78 billion in Highway Trust Fund receipts has been used for “purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges” such as bike paths, pedestrian walkways and facilities, “scenic beautification” and landscaping projects, and road-kill prevention projects.
Senate Doctors Continue to Challenge Government Takeover of Healthcare.
The Senate’s only two physicians have established an online video segment in an effort to bring their medical expertise to the health care debate in Congress. Offering alternatives to government run health care, sharing personal insights, and answering your questions, the Senate Doctors Show airs live online each Tuesday and Thursday. To view a segment, or submit your questions, follow this link.