CAREGIVERS AND VETERANS OMNIBUS HEALTH SERVICES ACT OF 2009


Thomas "Tom" A. Coburn M.D.U.S. Senator
[R] Oklahoma, United States

Length: 10 minutes, 33 seconds


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Mr. COBURN. Going back to the Congolese, most of the victims were women, children, and the elderly. Some were decapitated. Remember, these are U.N. peacekeeping forces--peacekeeping. Others were chopped to death by machete, beaten to death with clubs as they tried to flee.

They may not have been actual U.N. officers, but the U.N. was supplying all the logistics, all the transportation for this group of people. Where is the oversight? U.N. contribution: Compiling forecasts of global agriculture production and identifying areas of likely famine and the risk of severe hunger, to facilitate food assistance. We make a contribution to the U.N. The Food and Agriculture Organization is currently hosting a U.N. conference, a food summit in Rome, where the opening speaker is Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe who has literally destroyed his Nation, which used to be the bread basket of Africa and which is now dependent on food imports. We are helping to pay for President Mugabe--who can't travel hardly anywhere else in the world because he is such a rogue dictator--we are sponsoring, through our dollars, meetings where he is the headline speaker.

The meeting was branded a failure within a couple of hours of its start after the 192 participating countries unanimously rebuffed the United Nations' appeal for commitments of billions of dollars in yearly aid to develop agriculture in poor nations.

It is not because they don't care about people having problems with food; it is they recognize the U.N. is ineffective at doing that and they are not going to commit more money, but we continue to commit more money.

The U.N. Environment Programme spends $1 billion a year--20 percent of it our money--on global warming and its effect on agriculture.

The U.N. has coordinated efforts by the global shipping industry and governments to prevent and respond to acts of piracy on the high seas.

It was totally ineffective. Do you know why we decreased the amount of piracy on the high seas? It is because of Task Force 51, which was formed by the U.S. Navy because the United Nations was totally ineffective in accomplishing that purpose.

I could go on and on. But the fact is, the United Nations is not only morally bankrupt in its leadership and efficiency, it is filled with fraud, waste, and, as noted, tremendous acts of violence through the peacekeeping armies it sends throughout the world. Yet we are going to have people say we shouldn't take some of that money away. We are not taking all the money away with this amendment anyway; we are just taking a small portion to pay for our bill.

We are going to have people actually vote to continue to do these things, instead of taking care of our veterans and not steal it from our children.

I heard Senator Tester speak about the wonderful things in this bill to help people who drive to VA clinics and VA hospitals. There is a better idea. If a veteran is deserving of care, give him a card. Let them go wherever they want. [Page: S11530] Why should they have to drive 160 miles, when they can get the care right down the street from somebody they trust and they know. But instead we say: We are going to promise you health care, but you can only get it here. Real freedom for our veterans--real health care for our veterans is to honor their commitment by saying: Here is your card, you served our Nation, go get your health care wherever you want. If you want to get it next door or if you want to go to the M.D. Anderson or Mayo Clinic, you can. You can go wherever you want because we are going to honor your commitment.

I recognize our VA hospitals have done a magnificent job in improving their care, but I will tell you the test for the VA hospital system is this: Go ask any doctor coming out of training who experienced part of their time in a VA hospital and ask them to choose for their family: Do you want your family treated at a VA hospital or somewhere else where you trained? Nary a one will pick a VA hospital because the care isn't as good. It is better, and it is getting better all the time, but it is not as good. So we are saying to veterans: Here is where you have to go, when what we should say is: Thank you for your service. Here is what we owe you. Go get care wherever you want to get it or wherever you think you can get the best treatment.

On prosthetics, the VA is the best in the world. Nobody compares. On post-traumatic stress disorder, they are the best in the world. Nobody can compare. They are underfunded in those areas. This bill is right on that. But the real commitment is to give the choice. The veteran fought for freedom. Give them the choice, the freedom to choose what they want for them.

Why is it important we change how the Senate operates in terms of making hard decisions? The reason it is important is there are millions of these little girls out there. I have five of them, five grandkids just like her. She has a little sign around her neck. She says: ``I am already $38,375 in debt and I only own a dollhouse.'' Of course, when you divide up the $12 trillion which we passed this week in directly owned debt; it doesn't count the billions--I mean the trillions--we have borrowed from Social Security and the other trust funds, such as the waterway trust fund and all these other organizations we have stolen from, it doesn't include that.

But that is for every man, woman, and child in this country. It is over $30,000 now, this year. I think when you look at her, you have to say, certainly, we ought to be making some changes. By the way, between now and 2019, that number goes to over $96,000 per man, woman, and child. But she is a child. This doesn't apply to veterans, but it applies to almost everything else we are doing.

This is what Thomas Jefferson said: The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work to give to those who would not.

If you think about what is happening in our country right now and how things are being shifted, what we are doing is, we are on the cusp of a dramatic change in our country in terms of balance. This huge bill, which I will talk about later, is a major move in that direction. Senator Byrd and I were talking this morning about this. In this bill is a 5-percent tax on cosmetic surgery. Just the day before yesterday, the U.S. Preventive Task Force Services recommended--because it is not cost effective--that women under 50 not get mammograms unless they have risk factors. You tell that to the thousands of women under 50 who were diagnosed with breast cancer last year with a mammogram. Tell them it is not cost effective. But also in this bill is a 5-percent tax on breast reconstruction surgery after they have had a mastectomy. They are going to tax having their breasts rebuilt after their breasts have been taken off because it is an ``elective'' plastic surgery. It is an elective cosmetic surgery. We are going to have a tax on it because we have taxed elective cosmetic surgery.

We are in trouble as a nation because we have taken our eye off the ball. I see the majority whip is back. I told him I would be happy to yield. At this time, I will reserve the remainder of my time and yield the floor to the majority whip.

Exhibit 1 Rebuttal of State Department Talking Points on Coburn Amendment 2785 The State Department Bureau of Legislative Affairs opposes the Coburn amendment to S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 (S. 1963). In its formal opposition, it lists a number of programs as reasons to support the U.N. and oppose the Coburn amendment.

Many of the programs and activities that the State Department listed have experienced severe problems in execution or are taking credit for activities by national governments or private entities. (Their document is after the rebuttal).

Below is a list of those ``accomplishments'' and facts that should be considered.

U.N. Contribution: Facilitating and holding elections in Afghanistan and Iraq (U.N. Secretariat).

Response: The United Nations cannot account for tens of millions of dollars provided to the troubled Afghan election commission, according to two confidential U.N. audits and interviews with current and former senior diplomats.

The Afghan election commission, with tens of millions in U.N. funding and hundreds of millions in U.S. funding, facilitated mass election fraud and operated ghost polling places.

``Everybody kept sending money'' to the elections commission, said Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. ``Nobody put the brakes on. U.S. taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a fraudulent election.'' Galbraith, a deputy to the senior U.N. official in Afghanistan, was fired last month after protesting fraud in the elections.

As of April 2009, the U.N. spent $72.4 million supporting the electoral commission with $56.7 million coming from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction states that the United States provided at least $263 million in funding for the election.

In one instance, the United Nations Development Program paid $6.8 million for transportation costs in areas where no U.N. officials were present. Overall the audits found that U.N. monitoring of U.S. taxpayer funds was ``seriously inadequate.'' U.N. Contribution: Monitoring nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran.

Response: In 2002, the North Korean government used United Nations Development Program, UNDP, aid to purchase conventional arms, ballistic missiles. It also transferred millions of dollars in cash to the government of North Korea with no oversight of how the money was spent.

In September 2009, North Korea announced to the United Nations Security Council that it was almost complete in ``weaponizing'' nuclear materials from its nuclear reactor. Last week, North Korea announced the processing was complete.

As of this morning, Iran had rejected the U.N. offer to send enriched uranium out of the country to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

U.N. Contribution: Funding 17 U.N. Peacekeeping Operations, including those in Haiti, Liberia, Lebanon, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Response: U.N. Peacekeeping operations plagued by rape and sexual exploitation of refugees--In 1994, a draft U.N. report was leaked detailing how peacekeepers in Morocco, Pakistan, Uruguay, Tunis, South Africa and Nepal were involved in 68 cases of rape, prostitution and pedophilia. The report also stated that the investigation into these cases is being undermined by bribery and witness intimidation by U.N. personnel.

In 2006, it was reported that peacekeepers in Haiti and Liberia were involved in sexual exploitation of refugees.

In 2007, leaked reports indicate the U.N. has caught 200 peacekeepers for sex offenses in the past three years ranging from rape to assault on minors. In all of these cases, there is no known evidence of an offending U.N. peacekeeper being prosecuted.

Just this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Congolese armed forces, supported by U.N. peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have brutally killed hundreds of civilians and committed widespread rape in the past three months in a military operation backed by the United Nations.

Most of the victims were women, children, and the elderly. Some were decapitated. Others were chopped to death by machete, beaten to death with clubs, or shot as they tried to flee.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission provides substantial operational and logistics support to the soldiers, including military firepower, transport, rations, and fuel.

The attacking Congolese soldiers made no distinction between combatants and civilians, shooting many at close range or chopping their victims to death with machetes. In one of the hamlets, Katanda, Congolese army soldiers decapitated four young men, cut off their arms, and then threw their heads and limbs 20 meters away from their bodies. The soldiers then raped 16 women and girls, including a 12-year-old girl, later killing four of them.

The U.S. now pays 27 percent of all U.N. peacekeeping operations. Reducing our contribution to these wasteful efforts could help ensure that U.N. peacekeepers are not funding widespread rape and exploitation of refugees.

U.N. Contribution: Compiling forecasts of global agricultural production, identifying areas of likely famine and risk of severe hunger, to facilitate emergency food assistance (FAO). [Page: S11531] Response: The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is currently hosting a U.N. food summit in Rome, where the opening speaker is Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is barred from travel to most Western countries because of his atrocious human rights record, but receives an exception for U.N. sponsored events. No G-8 leader attended the event save the Prime Minister of Italy, the host nation.

``The meeting was branded a failure within a couple of hours of its start after the 192 participating countries unanimously rebuffed the United Nations' appeal for commitments of billions of dollars in yearly aid to develop agriculture in poor nations.'' The U.N. Environment Program spends over $1 billion annually on global warming initiatives (and weighs in on its effect on agriculture) but there is almost no auditing or oversight being conducted. The U.N. Environment program has one auditor and one assistant to oversee its operations. According to the task force it would take 17 years for the auditor to oversee just the high-risk areas already identified in UNEP's work.

U.N. Contribution: Coordinating tsunami and earthquake relief projects in Indonesia and Pakistan (U.N. Secretariat/OCHA).

Response: The United States is the top contributor to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for funding disasters after they occur. In addition to billions in supplemental funding (above and beyond normal U.N. contributions) the United States military expends tremendous resources in money and personnel to be the first response for disaster aid.

U.N. Contribution: Coordinating efforts by global shipping industry and governments to prevent and respond to acts of piracy on the high seas (IMO).

Response: The key deterrence factor in combating piracy in Somalia is the creation of Task Force 151, which was formed by the United States Navy.

The United Nations has pushed the U.S. to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, the convention has no way to address piracy issues coming from failed states such as Somalia. Fighting piracy is being conducted by individual states patrolling their own waters and working with other nations to protect sea lanes that are in their national interest.

U.N. Contribution: Creating and maintaining systems to protect the intellectual property rights of American entrepreneurs (WIPO).

Response: Until last year, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, was run by Dr. Kamil Idris, who was appointed to that position in 1997. According to an internal investigation, he falsified his U.N. personnel file to drop nine years from his age--making it possible to extend his time at WIPO and to extend his ability to obtain a lucrative benefit package, including a possible payout of more than $500,000. The scandal was first reported in a leaked U.S. State Department cable authored by former Secretary of State Rice. The cable also states that this official is suspected of using U.N. funds for personal items such as the construction of a swimming pool at his residence.

WIPO has also been criticized for its working culture under Dr. Idris's leadership, with a report by accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers citing high levels of absenteeism, incompetence and inadequate disciplinary measures.

U.N. Contribution: Enabling the delivery of mail around the world (UPU).

Response: The Universal Postal Union, UPU, which coordinates international postal policies among nations, was created in 1874 (renamed in 1878). Its creation predates the United Nations by 72 years.

United Nations Funding CAREGIVERS AND VETERANS OMNIBUS HEALTH SERVICES ACT OF 2009 (S. 1963) Senate Amendment: Senate Amendment No. 2758 submitted by Senator Coburn to S. 1963. To transfer funding for United Nations contributions to offset costs of providing assistance to family caregivers of disabled veterans.

Department Position: Oppose amendment.

Talking Points: U.N. assessed contributions fund a wide range of U.N. activities that support high U.S. foreign policy priorities. Some examples include: Facilitating and holding elections in Afghanistan and Iraq (U.N. Secretariat); Monitoring nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran (IAEA); Funding 17 U.N. Peacekeeping Operations, including those in Haiti, Liberia, Lebanon, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo; Compiling forecasts of global agricultural production, identifying areas of likely famine and risk of severe hunger, to facilitate emergency food assistance (FAO); Coordinating tsunami and earthquake relief projects in Indonesia and Pakistan (U.N. Secretariat/OCHA); Detecting outbreaks of avian flu and H1N1 and other infectious diseases and defending against a world pandemic (WHO, FAO); Creating and maintaining systems to protect the intellectual property rights of American entrepreneurs (WIPO); Enabling the delivery of mail around the world (UPU); Coordinating international aviation safety standards (ICAO); Coordinating global use of electronic communications frequencies to ensure essential global telecommunications function smoothly (ITU); Coordinating efforts by global shipping industry and governments to prevent and respond to acts of piracy on the high seas (IMO).

Furthermore, the President has stated his commitment to paying U.S. dues to international organizations in full.

As Ambassador Rice has said, we meet our obligations. As we call upon others to help reform and strengthen the U.N., the United States must do its part--and pay its bills. Our dues to the United Nations and other international organizations are treaty obligations, and we are committed to working with Congress to pay them in full.

With the support of Congress, the U.S. has just cleared our arrears which accumulated over the past decade. The full payment of assessed contributions affects the standing and influence that the U.S. has at these organizations.

Going into arrears undermines U.S. credibility, particularly on matters dealing with budget, finance, and management of IOs, and negatively influences world opinion regarding U.S. respect and appreciation for the role of multilateral organizations that support and advance U.S. foreign policy. Arrears also have a real impact on the organizations, making it more difficult for these organizations to manage cash flows and execute budgets, and thus accomplish their missions.

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