Coburn: Congress Says 'Yes' Too Often

With Democrats in Congress still pushing for passage of a tax-and-benefit “extenders” bill that will add at least $55 billion to the national debt, we wanted to commend this speech by U.S. Senator and doctor Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who turns Beltway conventional wisdom about the “party of no” on its head.

Dr. Coburn’s speech can be viewed here along with the charts he used on the floor. Dr. Coburn spoke here in favor of an amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), which would have paid for the extenders bill. Dr. Coburn later used a parliamentary tactic known as the “clay pigeon” to divide his own offset amendment into 20 separate amendments, which would give senators 20 tough votes on spending. More details on Dr. Coburn’s amendment can be found here. Votes referenced by Dr. Coburn can be viewed here.

Speech by Dr. Coburn:

The minority party gets criticized all the time—and me in particular—for being the party of no. But let’s look at our votes. Here is what we have offered.

Reduce the national debt.  This body said no.

Sell unused property.  This body said no.

Reduce the printing costs—totaling $4 billion—of paper materials no one reads because it’s all online. This body said no.

Freeze total federal pay for now until we get out of the mess we are in. This body said no.

Live within our means—an amendment that said we have to live within the tax revenues that come in. This body said no.

Comply with pay-go. This body said no.

Cut agency overhead costs. This body said no.

Cut Congress’s own budget. This body said no.

Eliminate corporate welfare. This body said no.

Stop the Bridge to Nowhere, which happened four or five years ago. This body said no.

Make federal employees pay taxes. They owe $3 billion in unpaid taxes and we have no enforcement. This body said no.

Consolidate duplicative government programs that do the same thing. There are 70 programs to feed the hungry and 105 programs for math, education, science, and technology incentives across six different agencies. This body said no.

Eliminate bonuses for failed contractors in the private sector who don’t perform, which is $8 billion a year. This body said no.

Decrease nonessential government travel, which saves $5 billion a year. This body said no.

Require the Department of Energy to save energy. Ironically, they are the worst offender in the federal government in terms of wasting energy. This body said no.

Isn’t it interesting that, with 41 votes, we offer these items and every time they are rejected? These are commonsense choices everybody else in America expects us to be making, but this body says no.

Why should we pass the Thune amendment and pay for the extenders bill? I heard the chairman of the Finance Committee say a minute ago that having a 5% cut across the board in all of the agencies, except the VA and the Defense Department, would wreck the federal government. He obviously isn’t aware that President Obama has asked his own agencies to do exactly that. All Sen. Thune is doing in this amendment is what the President is asking the agencies to do. But do you know what? This body is going to say no.

Instead, they are going to grow the government, spend money we don’t have and give advantage to those who are well heeled and connected. We have lost control of what is important in America. If we were to pass the Thune amendment today, do you know what would happen? The international financial community would get the first signal from the American Congress that we are starting to make some steps toward austerity—the first signal. We don’t have any out there now.

Yesterday, it was reported that the M3 [measure of] money supply in this country is at the lowest level of GDP since 1932. Do you know what that predicts? It predicts that the economy is going to slow rather than increase. That predicts a double dip recession. We have tried everything Japan tried for 10 years, and it didn’t work. It is a lost decade in Japan. It is stimulus money and failing to cut the spending of the government. We are going to do that again. We are going to continue to increase the government.

People may say, ‘Why would you want to freeze total federal wages?’ Well, it is easy. The average federal employee in the United States today makes $78,000 a year. They have benefits of $40,000 a year. The average private sector employee makes $42,000 a year and has $20,000 worth of benefits.

Shouldn’t we, when we are running a $1.6 trillion debt say, time out, no increases, except for stellar performance, in the federal government, until we get our house in order? But this body is going to say no again. They are going to say no.

The question is what can we do to fix our economy? Borrowing money that we don’t have to spend on things that we don’t absolutely need is not the answer to solving the problems with our economy.

The answer is for us to live within our means, create a stable environment where business will invest and can plan on what is coming next from Congress. We have them so skittish that they won’t spend. That is the reason we are going to have a double dip recession. That is the reason the money supply has shrunk in spite of zero percent interest rates at the Federal Reserve. People will not take a risk because we are not leading with something that gives them confidence about the future. We have to change that.

I will end with this. The problem is not the party of no, but the party of yes. 

Increase the national debt. Yes.

Violate pay-go. Yes.

More corporate welfare. Yes.

Increase the debt limit. Yes.

Fund the Bridge to Nowhere and every other earmark like it. Yes.

Increase Congress’s own budget at a time when we should be austere. Yes.

Tax breaks for special interests. Yes.

Borrow trillions from our grandchildren. Yes.

Create duplicative government programs. Yes.

Finally, create a lower standard of living for us, our children, and our grandchildren. Yes

That is not what we are about, except that is what the Baucus bill does. It thinks in the short term and ignores the long term. It ignores the reality that this government has to get smaller for us to not become Greece. It plays the games that are typical of Washington, which the American people are rejecting.