October 16, 2008
Highlights of Senator Reid's Omnibus Lands Grab and Energy Restrictions Act Scheduled for Debate Next Month
Reid's Emergency Session of Congress to Focus on His Priorities, Not American's
The Senate Majority Leader
has announced his intentions to call back the Senate for a lame duck session in November to pass a 1,082 page bill that costs more than $8 billion, expands federal land control over millions of acres of U.S. property, and restricts energy exploration over millions of acres of U.S. territory. Attached is a detailed summary of the more than 100 provisions of the bill along with some highlights.
Highlights of the Omnibus Lands Grab and Energy Restrictions Act With families across the country struggling with their mortgages, excessive gas and food prices, and uncertain financial conditions, the Senate is scheduled to spend the few remaining legislative days of 2008 debating a bill that not only ignores these problems, but may exacerbate them.
The Senate Majority Leader has announced plans to force the chamber to pass an omnibus package containing over 100 bills, exceeding 1,000 pages in length, increasing government spending by more than $8 billion, prohibiting energy exploration on vast amounts of U.S. property, and adding even more restrictions for the use of millions of acres of federally managed lands.
The bill also includes a number of provisions that benefit the parochial pet interests of a few members of Congress, including:
· A $1 billion water project in California intended to settle a lawsuit with environmental groups. The minimum measurement of success outlined in the settlement is the restoration of 500 salmon.
· $1 million annually for a five year Wolf Compensation and Prevention Program designed to assist property owners with non-lethal efforts to prevent predatory behavior by wolves and a compensation program for those losing livestock and other animals to wolves.
· Conveys this land to Alaska to be used to construct a “road to nowhere” to connect King Cove (800 residents) to Cold Bay, so the residents of King Cove have access to the airport across the water in Cold Bay. The road would consist of a single lane and would require an estimated 17 miles of construction at $1-2 million per mile. In 1998, the Clinton administration provided $37 million for a hovercraft that would give King Cove residents access across the water to Cold Bay. The local government says the hovercraft costs about $100,000 a month to operate. King Cove also received an upgraded medical center. Residents say weather and high costs make the use of the hovercraft unpredictable. However, the proposed road may also be unusable in foul weather.
· $3.5 million to celebrate the 450th Anniversary of St Augustine, Florida in 2015. The City of St. Augustine celebrates its birthday every year and “the celebration grows each year.” This year included three full days of special events and a birthday party complete with cake and games. The events commemorate St. Augustine’s standing as the longest continually inhabited city founded by Europeans in what is now the United States. The mayor expects that the total cost of the 450th celebration to exceed $42 million.
· $250,000 for the Park Service to study whether Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood estate at St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands is suitable for designation as a new National Park unit. Coincidentally the Trust for Public Land announced it would be buying the Estate the same week as the legislation passed the Energy Committee. In its announcement, the Trust said “will acquire it on behalf of the Virgin Islands and eventually, plans call for it to be protected by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site. … The Trust is excited to be working with the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the National Park Service to preserve it.” In this case, taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for a study located on a tropical resort island in what appears to be a prearranged deal between the Park Service and the National Trust.
· Several tourism related measures, including a couple that have already become a favorite piggy bank to pay for congressional earmarks, such as the Save America’s Treasures program, the Preserve America program, and the Route 66 Corridor Preservation program. The Route 66 program is currently restoring aging gas stations, motels and restaurants. Unfortunately, tourism has declined with many Americans unable to afford the cost of gas and, as evidenced by this bill, Congress’ misplaced priorities threaten to drive up the cost of travel.
· $5 million for the National Tropical Botanical Garden to operate and maintain gardens in Hawaii and Florida. The Garden currently has $12.4 million in annual revenue, with operating expenses of $8.1 million and net assets of $59 million.
September 27, 2008
Coburn Comments on the Fiscal Year 2009 Continuing Resolution
Parochial Interests Prevent Congressional Leaders From Doing America's Business
FY 2009 Continuing Resolution
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Serious concerns with the economy should turn the attention of Congress away from parochial interests toward national interests.
Congress has focused on parochial interests for far too long, spending more time securing earmarks than doing the business of the American people.
Our nation faces an economic challenge today equal to any challenge we have previously faced and now requires our full attention.
The following snapshot of our economy should impress upon everyone the seriousness of the job ahead. The national debt currently stands at over $9.58 trillion, the largest in World history.
This year’s deficit, in real accounting terms, stands above $600 billion.
This year alone, taxpayers will spend more than $230 billion just to pay the interest on the national debt.
Since 2006, gas has risen from $2.24 per gallon to nearly $4 a gallon.
More Americans are out of work; the unemployment rate has increased from 4.9 percent in January, to 6.1 percent in August.
In 2008, over 600,000 jobs have been lost.
According to USDA projections, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is forecast to increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2008. For example, since 2006 the price of milk has increased approximately 16%.
According to Reuters news service, the total tab for government rescues and special loan facilities this year is more than $900 billion, not including the proposed $700 rescue of the financial markets in the Paulson Plan.
Already this year, the federal government has taken drastic steps to stabilize the economy, all using taxpayer dollars. While several of these amounts may be fully repaid to taxpayers, they involve huge liabilities and expenditures:
· $200 billion was authorized for use in rescuing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Treasury will inject up to $100 billion into each institution by purchasing preferred stock to shore up their capital as needed.
· $300 billion for the Federal Housing Administration to refinance failing mortgage into new reduced-principal loans with a federal guarantee.
· $4 billion in HUD grants to banks to help them buy and repair homes abandoned due to mortgage foreclosures.
· $85 billion loan from the Fed for AIG, which would give the federal government a 79.9 percent stake and avoid a bankruptcy filing for the embattled insurer.
· At least $87 billion in repayments to JPMorgan Chase & Co for providing financing to underpin trades with units of bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers.
· $29 billion in financing from the Fed for JPMorgan Chases’ government-brokered buyout of Bear Stearns & Co in March.
· At least $200 billion of currently outstanding loans to banks issued through the Federal Reserve’s Term Auction Facility, which was recently expanded to allow for longer loans of 84 days alongside the previous 28-day credits.
Starting last year, Social Security and Medicare projected expenditures exceed revenues. Over the next 75 years, this will cost $41 trillion in present value terms.
Of that amount, $34 trillion is related to Medicare and $7 trillion to Social Security.
By one account, the current unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security are above $100 trillion.
If we think that the current economic troubles are a concern, wait until the bill comes due for all of the reckless spending Congress is engaging in today.
Members should focus like a laser on these issues rather than concentrate their efforts on political games and earmarks.
Instead of doing any of this, Congress is now planning to ram through an irresponsible continuing resolution to keep the government operation during fiscal year 2009.
None of these issues are addressed in the bill, but only compound the problems – Congress seems to have not learned its lesson.
The appropriations process is broken and excludes members from considering serious issues.
The Senate is preparing to vote on an appropriations bill that will cost $634 billion, which will include funds for all of our national security agencies, disaster relief and a continuing resolution for the 2009 fiscal year.
Yet, the text of the bill only came available late on Tuesday night, with no one having seen a word of it except for a few Democratic staff and members in the House.
Further still, a joint explanatory statement was released yesterday afternoon
This must be what the House Appropriations Committee meant when he said that the Continuing Resolution would be drafted in “secret.”
The following is an excerpt from an article yesterday in Bloomberg News:
The plan outlined by Obey would give Republicans less than 24 hours to scrutinize legislation spending more than $600 billion on the defense, homeland security and veterans' affairs agencies including thousands of pet projects known as earmarks.
Asked if the process of has been secretive, Obey said: ``You're d**n right it has because if it's done in the public it would never get done.'' He said he wanted to avoid his colleagues' ``pontificating'' on the content of the legislation, saying ``that's what politicians do when this stuff is done in full view of the press.'' He said ``we've done this the old fashioned way by brokering agreements in order to get things done and I make no apology for it.''
It is easy to understand why the House Appropriations Chairman would want to conduct his business in secret, as one who received $51.5 million in earmarks for his district.
The one constitutional duty of the Congress is to pass legislation funding the operations of government, and yet this duty has been entirely abandoned by the majority.
Congress is now less than one week away from the beginning of fiscal year 2009, and yet it has not passed one appropriations bill.
The only bill to receive a vote by either body is the Military Construction – Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that passed the House of Representatives.
No appropriations bills have even been brought to the floor of the Senate during the entire calendar year 2008 thus far – though the Senate is now expected to vote on three of the largest bills having had 36 hours to review the $634 million in spending they contain.
The appropriations process should have begun long ago – it is unfair to taxpayers when Congress chooses to pass large spending legislation in the dark of night rather than debate them for all to see.
Congress now finds itself considering major national security legislation in one day under pressure of both a government shutdown and delay on an important piece of economic legislation.
Had the Majority Leader taken action earlier this year, members would be free to concentrate fully on the Treasury Proposal. Instead, they are distracted by making sure that their earmarks and pork-barrel projects are in the CR.
The CR has been loaded down with billions of dollars in wasteful earmarks.
Despite having had only one and a half days to look over the bill, it is plain that there are a large number of highly questionable earmarks set to receive funding in 2009.
In just the three appropriations bills for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs/Military Construction, there are 2,627 earmarks worth $16.1 billion dollars.
This means that without even funding the remaining nine appropriations bills, Congress has nearly reached the dollar value of all earmarks in fiscal year 2008.
According to Citizens Against Government Waste, there were 11,620 earmarks worth $17.2 billion for all 12 appropriations bills in 2008.
In fiscal year 2008, the average dollar amount of each earmark was $1.48 million dollars.
In the continuing resolution before the Senate, the average dollar amount for each earmark is $6.1 million – more than five times higher.
Every dollar that goes to an earmark in this bill is a dollar that will not go to important national security programs at the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense.
What kind of projects are receiving earmarked funds out our national security agencies in 2009?
$3.2 million for the High Altitude Airship (Rep. Sherrod Brown)
· After spending millions to investigate and develop a blimp-based platform for ICBM surveillance, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) cancelled the program—called the High Altitude Airship—due to a myriad of capability limitations.
· MDA did not request funding for the program for FY08. However, $2.5 million in earmarks in the 2008 Defense Appropriations bill revived the cancelled program, despite the fact that no one else at the Pentagon had expressed interest.
· After shopping the program around, Lockheed Martin managed to pass the program to Army Space and Missile Defense Command, which will now begin investigating if there is any utility for them with the program.
· The project has been based in Akron, OH, funded by a $1M earmark toward the program by Sen. Brown, who has a long record in opposition to missile defense.
$2 million for Hibernation Genomics (Sen. Ted Stevens)
· This earmark would provide funding to the University of Alaska for research into the hibernation genomics of Alaskan ground squirrels.
· University of Alaska lobbyist, Martha Stewart (no relation), claims that the research into squirrel hibernation will one day help wounded soldiers in the battlefield.
· According to Ms. Stewart, the University is well equipped to do the work. She insists: “We have a number of ground squirrels that are in various stages of hibernation in Fairbanks.”
$800,000 for the Columbia College Chicago Construct Program (Sen. Dick Durbin)
· Columbia College claims to be the “nation’s largest private arts and media school in the nation.”
· It offers a wide selection of coursework in audio arts, dance, film, journalism, poetry and radio.
· According to the school’s annual report, it received $2.7 million in federal grants during 2007 from the Department of Education, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Corporation for National and Community Service, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Health and Human Services.
· Since 2000, Columbia College Chicago has received over $275 million in grants, cooperative agreements and direct payments from the federal government.
$800,000 for Partnership in Innovative Preparation for Educators and Students and the Space Education Consortium (Sen. Wayne Allard, Sen. Ken Salazar)
· The Space Education Consortium was created by the Air Force in 2004 as a partnership with the University of Colorado and others to promote science education for professionals as well a “getting space technology and curriculum infused throughout the U.S. education system from kindergarten to post-graduate work.
· "It is a chance to grow a cadre of space professionals from the launch pad to the stars," said Air Force General Lance Lord, commander of the Air Force Space Command.
· A July 2008 report by the DOD Inspector General stated that this earmark was not consistent with the Department’s mission "to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country."
$24.5 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center (Rep. John Murtha)
· Every year, millions of dollars for our national defense are siphoned away from the military’s budget to pay for a single program administered not by the Pentagon, but by the Department of Justice.
· This funding is directed to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), which the Department of Justice has asked Congress to shut down.
· The former director of NDIC even confessed to U.S. News, “I recognized that a lot of [NDIC] reports were God-awful, poorly written, poorly researched, and, in some cases, wrong.”
· Another former director even admitted, “I’ve never come to terms with the justification for the NDIC” and “the bottom line was that we had to actually search for a mission.”
· According to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office, NDIC duplicates the activities of 19 drug intelligence centers that already existed.
· Since 1992, the center has received over $500 million in federal funding.
$15 million for Waterbury Industrial Commons Redevelopment Initiative (Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rep. Chris Murphy
· According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, “This would clean up a decades old munitions factory to be used as a city-owned industrial park.”
· The Fairfield Weekly reports that the State of Connecticut has turned down requests to fund this project – each year the Mayor of Waterbury “makes the trip to Hartford seeking the money, and each year comes back empty-handed.”
· Why should the American taxpayer fund that which State of Connecticut will not provide funding?
$4 million to the Go For Broke National Education Center
· This earmark is aptly named in light of the fact that Congress is helping the nation “go broke.”
$9.9 million for the U.S.S. Missouri Memorial Association
· Visitors can go aboard the battleship from World War II that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
· While preserving the nation’s history is important, this is not only something that could be funded privately, it is not a priority at this time.
$1.6 million for New Electronic Warfare Specialists Through Advanced Research by Students (Rep. David Hobson)
$4.5 million for the 2010 Olympics Coordination Center (Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Rick Larsen)
$800,000 Pseudofoliculitis Barbae (PFB) Topical Treatment – this goes to ISW Group in St. Louis, MO (Sen. Kit Bond)
$10 million for the Intrepid Museum Foundation
$4 million for the Nimitz Center
$1.2 million for the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Affairs 1,200,000 (Rep. Berman)
$10 million for the New Mexico State University Institute for Defense and Public Policy (Sen. Jeff Bingaman)
 Information obtained at www.USASpending.gov.
September 26, 2008
Reid Neglects Economy to Pursue Pet Projects
Undeterred by the uncertainty of America’s financial markets and other more pressing national concerns, Senator Reid announced this morning that he may again file cloture on the motion to proceed to the “Advancing America’s Priorities Act,” also known as the omnibus. This bill contains 35 separate pieces of legislation authorizing more than $10 billion. Over the past week, Dr. Coburn has worked to negotiate improvements to many of these bills. As of today, seven have been passed by the Senate, four more are expected to pass maybe as early as today, another three are now being held by other offices, and several others are still being negotiated.
Still remaining unresolved in the “Advancing America’s Priorities Act” is the creation of a War of 1812 commission costing $4 million, the construction of a $12 million greenhouse in Maryland, new regulations on the non-human primates that would cost $17 million to enforce, $5 million for a museum in Poland, a $1.5 billion earmark for the Washington subway, and a handful of other narrow proposals that are either unneeded or unpaid for.
Here is an update on each of the bills that we have reached agreement on: APPROVED BY SENATE
S. 2982, Runaway and Homeless Youth —authorizations reduced, new program struck, and one substantive change (passed last night)
S. 535 Emmett Till — no changes (passed earlier this week)
H.R. 3845 PROTECT Our Children — reduced authorizations by $700 million, some substantive changes, added SAFE Act (passed last night)
H.R. 4120 Effective Child Pornography Prosecution — never held, no change (passed earlier this week)
S. 2869 Enhancing the Effective Prosecution of Child Pornography — never held, no change (passed earlier this week)
H.R. 1199 Drug Endangered Children — never held, no change (passed earlier this week)
S. 1382 ALS registry – changes made (passed this week)
EXPECTED TO BE PASSED SOON
H.R. 3992 Mentally Ill Offender — no increase in authorizations, new program struck, 50/50 matching with no waiver in grant program (cleared both sides yesterday, should pass today)
S. 3169 Sea Grants – never held (will be hotlined tonight)
H.R. 390 Preservation of Records – Eliminated the new program, struck the authorization and made change to allow rather than require provisions to be enacted (hotlined today as a component of S. 3477)
H.R. 1492 Broadband Data Improvement – Authorization level to be removed (expected to be hotlined again soon)
BEING HELD BY ANOTHER OFFICE
S. 1582 Hydrographic Services – changed authorization from “such sums” to level funding from previous authorization bill (hotlined last night, was held by another office)
S. 2844 BEACH Act – reduced authorization, eliminated expansion and made policy change prohibiting earmarking of funds (now being held by Majority appropriations committee staff)
S. 496 Appalachian Regional Development – no change (being held by Majority)
More detailed information on the full contents of the omni are available here
September 17, 2008
Reid's Monkey Business Continues
Senate Leader Considers Protecting Primates an American Priority
Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated he plans to file cloture tonight on the motion to proceed to the “Coburn package.” The legislation is a compilation of 35 different bills, many being held by Senator Coburn and other senators because of policy and fiscal concerns. This will be the second time Senator Reid has attempted to move to this legislation. In July, the Senate defeated cloture on the motion to proceed to this bill by a vote of 52-40.
At a time when Americans are struggling to afford rising gas and food prices and worrying about the uncertainty of Wall Street and out of control government spending, Senator Reid plans to use the Senate’s time to debate a bill that does not address a single one of these important issues. In addition, with the new fiscal year only two weeks away, Congress has failed to pass even one appropriations bill needed to fund general government operations.
Despite these pressing issues that should be addressed by Congress before adjourning for the year, Senator Reid will force the Senate to consider a 398 page bill that spends $10 billion of our grandchildren’s money, creates at least 35 new federal programs, and prioritizes the parochial wishes of many senators above the true needs of the American people.
Click here to read more
August 21, 2008
Coburn Applauds HHS Action on Physician Conscience Rights
The Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations that would protect the right of health care professionals to practice according to their conscience. This eliminates the physicians being forced to violate their conscience in order to remain in good professional standings.
Earlier this month Dr. Coburn and several other senators sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt urging him to initiate and complete the rule-making process to guide the implementation and enforcement of these provisions. Below is the letter to Secretary Leavitt. Click here to read the press release from the Department of Health and Human Services.
August 1, 2008
Democrats Hold Civil Rights and Child Pornography Legislation as a Political Hostage
Coburn Attempts to Pass Well Intentioned Bills, Democrat Leaders Object
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma is recognized.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I may speak for about 7 minutes. I will try to do it in less time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank the majority whip for being on the floor tonight. I am one of the reasons why he is here, so I beg his indulgence at this time.
The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act was first introduced in the 109th Congress. The Republican sponsor at that time on our side of the aisle agreed to the offsets in that bill. That wasn't agreed to by the other side, so that bill wasn't passed. Although the offsets were accepted, it was still opposed.
Over the past 5 months, two press conferences have highlighted my ``obstruction'' of this bill and questioned my motives for holding it. I sent two letters to the prime sponsors of the bill and to the majority leader offering to negotiate a compromise on the bill. None of those were ever responded to. No sponsor ever contacted my office in the 110th Congress to try to work on this. Instead, I chose to work, because I couldn't get a response, with Alvin Sykes, a wonderfully incredible man, who is behind this bill. He has my utmost respect and admiration.
I will submit for the Record an article dealing with his incredible life story and his commitment and arduous work for this legislation.
Mr. President, I reached a compromise with Mr. Sykes and the Emmett Till Campaign for Justice, whose board of directors has endorsed our compromise language.
I ask unanimous consent that an e-mail we got from Mr. Sykes be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
From: Alvin Sykes.
To: Bacak, Brooke.
Sent: Thu July 31, 2008.
Dear Senator Coburn:, First allow me to extend our appreciation and admiration for you and your staff's assistance and communication with us concerning S. 535 the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. While we still believe that the hold that you placed on our bill was not the good way to effect the institutional change in the manner that the United States Senate does business we do appreciate the open lines of communications and respect that your staff, in particular Brooke Basak and Tim Tardibono, have shown us in negotiating with us on proposed language and conditions that would address your concern and minimize the loss we have suffered from going this route. Therefore our Board of Directors has voted to endorse a unanimous consent agreement that would include the latest draft language that rectifies the concerns with the controversy over the Attorney having authority to reprogram funds from one congressionally directed fund to another by elleviating all reference to reprogramming and replaced with prioritizing spending request if Congress does not fully fund the Till Bill. Furthermore we support you having the right to submit this language as amendment in the cloture vote process as long as the floor debate time is limited and that you would not replace your hold on our bill if your amendment fails. Nothing in this request is meant to criticize the Senate Leadership on the enormous work that they have done to craft and advocate for the passage of this bill especially the good work of Patrick Grant in Senator Dodd's office and Darrell Thompson in Senate Majority leader Harry Reid who has kept hope alive on this historic bill. However we firmly believe that truth and justice can be best achieved by opening and maintaining effective lines of communication and searching for a win-win justice seeking solution. We further believe that since you started this by placing your hold on our bill you should be the one to finish it.
Therefore the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, Inc. request that you make an overture to the Democratic Leadership and the sponsors of the Till Bill by introducing the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, as proposed amended, under the unanimous consent agreement outlined above tonight in the interest of time, truth and justice.
Sincerely, in the pursuit of justice,
Emmett Till Justice Campaign, Inc.
UNANIMOUS-CONSENT REQUESTS -- (Senate - July 31, 2008)
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, at this time, I ask unanimous consent to call up and pass the modified Emmett Till Unresolved Civil Rights Crime Act, where it is paid for by taking money that is not appropriated. This is the problem everybody had, not offsetting. What this bill will do is, if we don't appropriate--and we won't this year, because we are going to have a continuing resolution--this will allow that money to be divided out in three categories in the Justice Department, which the Justice Department is accepting from both legal salaries, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshals--all the people working on these unresolved civil rights cases. I ask unanimous consent that it be called up and passed at this time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object, Mr. President, earlier this week, on Tuesday or Wednesday, we considered a package of bills, some 35 bills that had been held for a lengthy period of time--for months--which could have been considered, amended, changed, and brought forward. They were held with no chance for any kind of movement. This was one of them.
Sadly, this is a bill that has been considered and passed by the House of Representatives and has been out there for more than a year. I would like to see the bill passed--I would. But the fact that the Senator from Oklahoma worked out his differences with some person, as well intentioned as it may be, doesn't escape the reality that this bill has been the subject of hard work by a lot of Senators and Congressmen. Unfortunately, it was subjected to a hold by a Member on the Republican side. I hope that, in good faith, when we return, we can return to this bill. I would like to see this and all 35 bills in the package passed and taken as seriously as the Senator from Oklahoma is now taking this bill.
Unfortunately, at this moment, I must object.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, it is sad to note that this could not pass tonight. We could accomplish what everybody claims to want. The fact that nobody was willing to work on this bill, but held it without compromise and without offsets, it is the same issue again. We are going to grow the Government and not get rid of waste. There is $2 billion in waste a year in the Justice Department. Yet we are going to grow this program and not pay for it.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
Mr. COBURN. I also note for the Record that I spoke with Senator Dodd about the bill tonight. He had no objection whatsoever and he agreed with the compromise. He is the chief sponsor on that side of the aisle.
Mr. President, I call up and ask unanimous consent to pass a compromise bill on child exploitation. The bill, S. 3344, is the Protecting Children from Pornography and Internet Exploitation Act of 2008.
I had a conversation with Senator Biden this evening. He is in full agreement with this. He understands that others on his side of the aisle might not be in agreement. He is the chief sponsor of that bill. Our bill gives everything that was included, plus the SAFE Act, which everybody agrees needs to be a part of any approach we make. The authors on the other side of the aisle took a $1.3 billion authorization and compromised and lowered that. We compromised by accepting that spending on the basis that we would add the SAFE Act to it. This bill has been changed in substance in no way other than that.
I ask unanimous consent that it be called up and passed.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object, This is another bill of the 35 that have been held for an indefinite period of time by the Republican side of the aisle. We offered a package which had included measures for medical research, which has been held for an indefinite period of time on the Republican side of the aisle.
This bill which, ironically, was reported out of the Judiciary Committee, which Senator Coburn and I both serve on--I believe it was reported unanimously--is a bill that deals with child exploitation. I believe it is a bill that deals with Internet pornography, if I am not mistaken. It is something which should have not only gone out of committee unanimously, but it should not have been subject to the holds on the Republican side of the aisle for reasons that are not explicit. In desperation, an effort was made to bring these to the floor and ask for a bipartisan response and to pass them in a timely way. The Senator from Oklahoma voted against that, as did most of the Senators on his side.
Many are now coming to the floor trying to revive the bills they voted against a couple days ago. I wish the same level of interest and effort would have been taken during the period when these bills languished subject to their hold. At the last minute, virtually right after the Senate has adjourned and left, it is not fair to bring these up. I hope we can do this as soon as we return.
At this moment, I have to object.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for an extension of my time as I go through the rest of these. I will be as brief as possible.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. COBURN. I also note, again, there were hard efforts to work this out. The fact is, the majority has decided that all the bills will be in one package, regardless of the efforts we have worked on.
I also make the statement that this came out by a voice vote from the Committee. I didn't vote ``yes'' on the bill in the committee. No. 2, there is no requirement that a Senator, even if he votes for a bill in committee and is assured he can work on the bill after the committee, is obligated to support a bill that comes out of his committee.
The next unanimous consent request I have is on this same bill, S. 3344, titles I and IV, which include the PROTECT Act and the SAFE Act.
I ask unanimous consent that those two sections be called up and passed. They are identical; nothing has changed and there is nothing controversial. Again, I ask unanimous consent that they be passed.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object, I understand the embarrassment and pain the Senator feels having voted on these bills----
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, parliamentary inquiry.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator will state it.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, shouldn't an objection to the bill be stated?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator object?
Mr. DURBIN. I object.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, there is no embarrassment or any pain on my part to try to do this. I have worked on these bills to try to do what I thought was right. I reject any statement that I am embarrassed. I have no pain about this. I am proud of the work I have done in trying to stop excessive spending
and when we have appropriate programs to favor that spending through offsets of other wasteful spending.
I ask unanimous consent to call up and pass subtitle D of S. 3297, the Effective Child Pornography Prosecution Act. This was never held by anybody on our side. It was never objected to by anybody on our side. There was never a hold and never an objection.
I ask unanimous consent right now that we pass that one bill. Even if you want to play politics, the point is, here is one we can do tonight. Nobody has ever objected to it in the Senate. We can pass and still have the 34 or 33 bills. Here is one we can make a difference with tonight.
I ask unanimous consent to call up and pass this item.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object, this was part of the 34, 35 bills in a package that was held. For reasons I cannot explain, some Member on the Republican side did hold it. That is why it was put in the package.
The Senator voted against the package, and I object.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to call up and pass subtitle E of S. 3297, the Enhancing the
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Effective Prosecution of Child Pornography Act. This is a bill that also was never held on our side of the aisle.
Again, I make the same argument that, in fact, we can do something tonight. There is no controversy surrounding this bill, no controversy about what we should be doing. I ask unanimous consent that we pass this item.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object, same argument, same objection.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank the majority whip for his patience in dealing with this business tonight.
I will end my remarks with the following: What we have had in the Senate this past week is an attempt to change the Senate to the House. The Senate's tradition is debate and amend. Every one of the bills I have had a hold on, I proudly hold those bills. I have notified everyone involved in the legislation on why I was holding those bills. The fact that we had no response to negotiate any sort of compromise whatsoever on those bills tells us there was no good intent in the first place to try to pass those bills.
Let the record show that the Emmett Till bill could have been passed tonight, supported by the very people who started this bill in the first place, who started the effort to get it passed, who endorsed our efforts and, in fact, it was denied.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The assistant majority leader.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, let me just say I do respect the Senator from Oklahoma. He and I have worked together. I do respect the fact that when he puts a hold on a bill, he is public about it. There are many people who sneak around here who hold legislation and hope they will never be discovered. Senator Coburn from Oklahoma does not take that position. I respect him for that. I may disagree with him on many substantive issues, and we do disagree, but I do respect him for his approach.
Let's be very honest about this situation. These 35 bills are bills we wanted to pass. They are bills passed out of committee. They are bills sponsored by Democrats and Republicans. They are bills we tried to bring up by unanimous consent that were held by the Republican side of the aisle. In our frustration over these holds, we packaged them together and asked Republicans to join us and pass them in a bipartisan way.
Each and every one of these bills had virtual unanimous affirmation in the committees to which they were referred, and most of them had passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan votes in the House.
But now we have a situation where individual Senators--and it is the right of every one of us as Senators--are deciding: I will just take a cluster of these bills and hang on to them. I will let my staffers look them over. We will get back to you in a few weeks, maybe a few months, maybe never. That abuses the process.
I believe if someone has a serious problem with a bill, has a misgiving, they should announce their hold and the reason for the hold, and, I guess, out of respect for the sponsor, to go forward and explain what the problem is. If it can be resolved, fine, and if it cannot be, so be it.
I also want to say this: What is wrong with calling up these bills and those who don't like them voting against them? That is their right to express their displeasure on the record. But to hold the bill--if I can't have it my way, no one gets a chance to vote--I think pushes it to the extreme. To do that occasionally in your senatorial career, I can understand. But to make that the business of the Senate is to guarantee total frustration.
Today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I couldn't help but interrupt the proceedings and ask what the point was of deliberating on bills if some of the same Senators who were going to vote for those bills out of committee were going to hold them once they came to the floor and really make sure they never had a chance to be passed into law. That is fact. That is what has happened.
Because of the pain that has been caused by these earlier votes where Republicans have come to us privately and said: We are sorry we voted this way; some of these bills are bills we really wanted to vote for, now they have come to the floor and tried to pick them off one at a time and reduce the pain and--I will use the word ``embarrassment,'' although Senator Coburn says neither applies to him. I think for some of his colleagues there is embarrassment that they would vote against a bill to establish a national registry for victims of Lou Gehrig's disease, that they would put a hold on a bill that was designed to deal with paralysis, the Christopher Reeve bill, in an attempt to honor this man and all he did and try to help quadriplegics across the country; a bill cosponsored by Senator Cochran and Senator Kennedy to deal with stroke victims, that they would put a hold on that; a hold on a bill in which I have a great interest dealing with postpartum depression.
The belief on that side of the aisle is, it is all right; we can hold them until they are exactly the way we want. That has gone on too long, for months and even longer.
When it comes to some of these bills relating to criminal sections, some of these should be passed in a hurry. I don't know any one of us who does not want to deal with Internet pornography that threatens our children and grandchildren, kids in our communities. We had this bill ready to go. This bill should have been passed quickly, and it was held on the Republican side of the aisle until we had to bring it up in this package and then voted against, voted not to bring it forward.
In their frustration, they have now tried to come out at the close of the week and have something to point to: I tried to come back on the floor, I tried to bring the bill up, but Democrats objected. The true story is those bills have been held up for months. They have been held up on the Republican side of the aisle.
I sure hope my colleagues will understand they cannot run the Senate the way each one wants to run it. We cannot let every single Senator decide the agenda of this Senate or it will be dysfunctional and chaotic and many good pieces of legislation will never see the light of day.
Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
July 28, 2008
Reid Omnibus: By the Numbers
0 . . . . . . . . . . . . Provisions increasing the American energy supply
0 . . . . . . . . . . . . Minutes of floor debate before Reid filed cloture to end debate
$3.96 . . . . . . . . . Average cost for a gallon of gas
9 . . . . . . . . . . . . Percentage of Americans who approve of Congress
13 . . . . . . . . . . . Average number of injuries caused to human caused by captive chimps in the U.S. every year
35 . . . . . . . . . . . Bills included in the omnibus
36 . . . . . . . . . . . New government programs
43 . . . . . . . . . . . Required reports to Congress from agencies and other entities
398 . . . . . . . . . . Pages of legislative text
855 . . . . . . . . . . Bills passed by secret without debate, amendments, or votes this Congress
$5 million . . . . . . Earmark for a museum in Poland
$12 Million . . . . . Earmark for a greenhouse in Maryland
$17 million . . . . . Funding to protect Americans from injuries resulting from chimps and other non-human primates
111 Million . . . . . Households in America worried about gas prices
$1.5 Billion . . . . . Earmark for the DC Metro ($2,066 per rider)
$10 Billion . . . . . . Total cost to taxpayers
What Does $10 Billion Mean for 111 Million American Families?
27 gallons of milk – a half gallon a week for a year
84 loaves of bread – a loaf a week for a year and half
321 diapers – a diaper a day for almost an entire year
No more monkeys jumping in the bed!
July 25, 2008
CBO Says Reid Omni Costs $10 Billion to Implement
Sen. Coburn Identifies $45 Billion of Government Waste to Offset the New Spending Authorized
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this afternoon sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a letter stating that his omnibus bill would cost $10 billion to implement over the next 5 years. pork report8
Senator Coburn immediately sent Senator Reid a letter offering a menu of $45 billion in government waste that could be eliminated to pay to offset the cost in new spending authorized by the omnibus.
Reid Offset Letter and CBO Omni Score.
July 24, 2008
Dr. Coburn's Good Faith Negotiations Ignored
Coburn attempts to stop obstruction of civil rights, investigationsand medical research.
Dr. Coburn has offered in good faith to limit debate on the Majority Leader’s omnibus package of unrelated items. He has also identified for the Majority Leader specific offsets totaling $45 billion that could help pay for his new programs. Unfortunately, Dr. Coburn hasn't received the courtesy of a response. Most of the bills in this package could pass today if the Majority Leader would take the simple step of doing what every American family does every day and agree to live within our means.
July 21, 2008
Reid's National Priorities?
Senator Reid unveiled his long threatened omnibus bill yesterday that he called the Advancing America’s Priorities Act. The Reid Omnibus is 398 pages and contains approximately 35 various bills.
So what are America’s priorities according to the Senate Majority Leader? A close examination makes it obvious why the approval ratings of Congress have dropped to historic lows in the single digits.
S. 1498, the “Captive Primate Safety Act” (S-CHIMP?)
S. 1079, the “Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission Act”
S. 1446, the “National Capital Transportation Amendments Act of 2007”
For more on Reid's national priorities click here
Dr. Coburn's speech on Reid's "national priorities"
$31,664.43 Per Citizen