U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement last week after the Senate rejected the Coburn Amendment #1738 by a vote of 52 to 46. The Coburn amendment, which needed 60 votes to pass, would have eliminated $10 billion in duplicative and unnecessary spending that has been identified in two reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Last year, Dr. Coburn offered a similar amendment after GAO released its first report on duplication in March 2011. At that time, the Senate agreed to a similar amendment by a vote of 64 to 36. This year several senators switched their votes and defeated the Coburn amendment.
“[The] vote shows that the problem in Washington is not gridlock or partisanship, but incompetence. Senators have agreed to borrow and spend far beyond our means yet refuse to eliminate wasteful spending, even when another agency has done the hard work of oversight for them. This was an easy vote, not a hard vote. Our reluctance to take easy steps toward savings speaks volumes about why we have a $15 trillion national debt and historic-low approval ratings,” Dr. Coburn said.
The GAO has identified the following areas of duplication, which could produce savings well beyond $100 billion annually. Findings include:
• 209 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education programs run by 13 agencies
• 200 overlapping DOJ grants for crime prevention programs
• 160 housing assistance programs run by 20 entities
• 94 initiatives to encourage “green building” in the private sector run by 11 agencies
• 82 teach training programs run by seven agencies
• 56 financial literacy programs run by 20 agencies
• 47 job training programs run by nine agencies
• 14 programs to reduce diesel emissions
“GAO has told Congress what the problems are in two reports outlining hundreds and billions of dollars in duplication. This amendment would allow $10 billion in immediate savings for this year.”
“We have 209 different programs spending $4 billion across 8 different agencies to encourage science, technology, education and mathematics. Can anyone in this body explain why we have this many programs? We have 100 different surface transportation programs. We have 94 separate programs and 16 different agencies to incentivize green energy, not one of which has been tested for effectiveness. We have 82 separate teacher training programs run by seven agencies, not one of which has been tested. Nobody can defend having this many programs because they realize this is the height of stupidity”
“We’re going to ignore the knowledge [GAO has given us] and continue to produce duplicative programs because nobody wants to do the hard work. We have a real problem. We are going to pay for two years worth of highway spending with ten years worth of reductions. This amendment alone will pay for the Highway Bill. Why would we not want to eliminate duplication? Why wouldn’t we want to become efficient and effective in terms of how we spend our children’s money?
“The easiest way [to start saving] is to consolidate and eliminate duplication. If this amendment does not get 60 votes, what should the American people learn from that? That it’s not about gridlock, it’s not about partisanship it’s about incompetence, and that there a lack of thoughtful consideration for the people who will follow us. Are you here to protect some small program that doesn’t work and wastes your children’s future? If you voted for [this amendment] in April 2011, I would appreciate your vote again. If you didn’t, I would ask, are you here to protect waste? Are you here to perpetuate incompetency? This is an easy amendment to vote for.”