A picture of Senator Tom Coburn
Thomas C.
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    Continuing Appropriations

    by Former Senator Tom Coburn

    Posted on 2013-03-12

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    COBURN. Madam President, I was sitting in my office listening to Senator Reid, meeting with my staff on the bill we have on the floor, and I wanted to explain to the American people what this bill is.

    This bill was published last night at 9:00. We got it at about 9:45. It spends well over $1 trillion. And I agree with the majority leader, it is important that we pass this bill, but knowing what is in it before you can decide where you would like to try to amend it is asking something of Senators that they can't give.

    So I understand the majority leader's frustration, but I would also make a couple points.

    In this bill is $8 billion taken out of the victims' compensation fund. That is not tax money. That is money which criminals have paid into a fund to give restitution to children and women around this country for the harm that has occurred from the crime that has been committed upon them, and we are stealing $8 billion from that fund. In this bill, we are taking it away--not tax dollars but fines and penalties--and we are going to spend it somewhere else. You talk about being for women and children? This bill is exactly the opposite of that. Money that is due them we are not going to let them have. We are going to go spend it somewhere else.

    So knowing those things are in the bill is one of the reasons we ought to read the bill before we can know whether we are going to offer amendments on it.

    I would also make one final point. The vast majority of this bill passed the Appropriations Committee in the Senate last spring and early summer. There is not one of the things that are in this bill that the Appropriations Committee hadn't already done, and we had a deliberate choice to not put these bills on the floor last time. So if we are in a snit over the problems we are having, it is because the bills didn't come in regular order to the floor of the Senate so there could have been a conference.

    [[Page S1705]] By the way, the House passed 12 of the 13. Our committees worked 12 of the 13 out. So they came out in regular process. They were not allowed to come to the floor.

    We have just about finished studying the bill. We have no problems moving on the bill and giving consent to move on the bill once we have looked at the bill. But for the majority leader to say that Members of the Senate can't have amendments after having their staff work since 9:45 last night to look at the bill and attempt to make amendments to the bill, that doesn't fit on a trillion-dollar bill. And when the American people find out what is in this bill that should not be in it, and the options that we can offer of what should be in it, I think they are going to agree that maybe we ought to make some changes.

    I understand the frustration of the majority leader, but I also understand our rights. This is not about filibustering anything. This is about being an informed Senator who knows what you are doing and knows how to make a decision about how to amend the bill. We can call it something other than that, but it is not. It is about doing our job. The fact is, we got this last night.

    What I would say to everybody who was fine with us going on it without having read it, I would say there is a problem with their position in the Senate in terms of their oath to do what they were sent here to do, which is to read what you are voting on, know what you are voting, and prepare amendments to what you are voting on.

    We have this outburst at 16 hours after we got an almost 600-page bill? That doesn't fit with any common sense. We have instructed our side we are willing to go ahead and allow this to move forward but in a process that recognizes that this bill is not perfect, just as both the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the ranking member said. We do not have any problems with it moving forward. We do have problems spending money we don't have on things we don't need, and we ought to be able to offer amendments that would highlight that whether the body agrees with it or not--that would highlight it so the American people can see it. We may not be allowed, based on what the majority leader said, to offer any amendments. He is the majority leader. But if that is the case, we are probably going to be here all through the weekend because that is a right each Senator has and they ought to be able to offer them--especially on a $1 trillion appropriations bill.

    I hope Senator Reid has a good night's sleep. I will try to call him in the morning and work out an accommodation that will allow this bill to move so we do not have to be here on the weekend. I don't want to be here this weekend, but I will if it is the right thing to get the point out and let American people know.

    Right now we are having no tours of the White House. I can show you hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that are under the control of the executive that they could save that are a whole lot less important than tours of the White House. The same goes for us in the operation of our House, in terms of the Senate and the House.

    I am sorry I irritated Senator Reid. I am sorry he is upset with me, but I am going to do my job. I have been here, I am in my ninth year, and I have always kept my obligation to the people of this country to make sure I am thinking about the long term, I am thinking about priority on how we spend money and the best way, the right way, and offering amendments, whether they pass or not, offering those ideas. That is because that is not only my privilege but it is my obligation.

    With that I yield the floor.


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