Senate food safety debate: Coburn's counter - The Packer

Senate food safety debate: Coburn's counter

11/18/2010 03:01:20 PM
Tom Karst

From today's debate on the Senate food safety bill, remarks by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Coburn remarks taken from closed caption of telecast found on C-Span web site. At the end of the remarks, he brings up the fact that an amendment on banning earmark spending will be offered on the food safety.

MR. COBURN

Length: 15 minutes, 40 seconds

00:26:07 BECAUSE THE G.A.O.
00:26:08 DOES A WONDERFUL JOB OF TELLING US WHERE WE'RE FAILING, AND WE OUGHT TO ADDRESS EVERYTHING THAT THEY RAISED IN THIS.
00:26:20 AND THE QUESTION IS EVEN FURTHER THAN THAT, DR. HAMBURG, AROUND THE TIME WE WERE HAVING THE SALMONELLA WITH THE EGGS PROBLEM, RELEASED AN EGG STANDARD.
00:26:36 THE BUREAUCRACY TOOK 11 YEARS TO DEVELOP THAT STANDARD.
00:26:40 NOW, THAT FALLS ON THE SHOULDERS OF PRESIDENT BUSH'S ADMINISTRATION AS WELL AS THIS ONE.
00:26:46 I'M PROUD OF HER THAT SHE GOT IT OUT.
00:26:49 BUT THE FACT IS 11 YEARS TO DO WHAT YOU'RE RESPONSIBLE FOR, TO GET AN EGG STANDARD SO THAT WE DON'T HAVE SIGNIFICANT SALMONELLA POISONING COMING FROM EGGS.
00:27:01 AND THEN LO AND BEHOLD, AFTER THE EGG STANDARD IS OUT, THE F.D.A. INSPECTORS ON FARMS IN IOWA ARE VIOLATING THEIR OWN PROTOCOLS CROSS CONTAMINATING EGG FARMS, AS DOCUMENTED IN THE PRESS.
00:27:21 IT'S NOT A MATTER THAT WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH RULES AND REGULATIONS.
00:27:25 THAT'S BORNE OUT BY THE FACT THAT WE'RE CONTINUING TO SEE A DECLINE IN FOODBORNE ILLNESS.
00:27:31 THAT'S NOT THE REAL PROBLEM.
00:27:33 THE PROBLEM IS EFFECTIVELY CARRYING OUT THE REGULATIONS THAT ARE THERE TODAY.
00:27:43 SO WE HAVE A BILL ON THE FLOOR THAT HAS 150-170 PAGES -- I CAN'T RECALL EXACTLY HOW MANY IT IS.
00:27:53 HERE IT IS.
00:27:58 IT IS 266 PAGES OF NEW REGULATIONS, NEW RULES, NEW REQUIREMENTS.
00:28:04 LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ELSE I LEARNED ABOUT DEALING WITH THE F.D.A.
00:28:09 THE F.D.A. OVERALL IN THIS COUNTRY DOES A FANTASTIC JOB, THEY REALLY DO.
00:28:14 THEY ARE VERY PROFESSIONAL.
00:28:16 THEY ARE VERY SLOW SOMETIMES, BUT THEY ARE VERY PROFESSIONAL, AND THEY ARE VERY CIEWSHIOUS.
00:28:26 CAUTIOUS.
00:28:26 IN THIS BILL -- THEY ARE VERY IN THIS BILL IS A MANDATE TO REQUIRE RECALLS.
00:28:34 NOT ONCE IN OUR HISTORY HAVE WE HAD TO USE -- TO FORCE ANYBODY TO DO A RECALL.
00:28:42 IT'S ALWAYS BEEN VOLUNTARY.
00:28:43 AND YOU CAN CHECK WITH THE F.D.A. ON THAT.
00:28:47 THEY DON'T NEED THAT AUTHORITY.
00:28:48 AND WHY DON'T THEY NEED THAT AUTHORITY?
00:28:51 BECAUSE IF YOU'VE GOT A PROBLEM WITH YOUR PRODUCT IN THE FOOD SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY, YOU'RE GOING TO GET SUED, YOU'RE GOING TO GET FINED IF YOU DON'T RECALL THAT PRODUCT.
00:29:02 NOW, WHAT'S WRONG WITH A POTENTIAL MANDATORY RECALL?
00:29:06 WHAT'S WRONG IS IT'S GOING TO MARKEDLY RAISE THE COST OF FOODS, AND LET ME EXPLAIN WHY.
00:29:13 IT'S CALLED COBURN'S BUREAUCRATIC PRINCIPLE.
00:29:19 DO WHAT IS SAFE FIRST IN THE BUREAUCRACY RATHER THAN WHAT IS BEST.
00:29:23 AND HERE'S WHAT I IMAGINE HAPPENING WITH A MANDATORY RECALL.
00:29:29 IS BECAUSE WE HAVE A PROBLEM, WE'RE GOING TO RECALL SOMETHING.
00:29:35 AND WE'RE GOING TO FORCE A MANDATORY RECALL.
00:29:38 EVEN THOUGH THEY MAY RECALL IT VOLUNTARILY, SOMEBODY IS GOING TO PULL THE TRIGGER EARLY BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT ANY CRITICISMS.
00:29:44 AND THERE IS A GREAT EXAMPLE FOR THAT.
00:29:47 HOW MANY PEOPLE REMEMBER THE TAMOXIFEN -- TOXOGENIC E. COLI JALAPENO PEPPER EPISODE?
00:29:58 VOLUNTARY RE VOLUNTARY RECALL FOR TOMATOES.
00:30:02 BECAUSE WE SAID IT HAD TO BE IN THE TOMATOES.
00:30:04 AND SO THEY DID THAT.
00:30:08 THAT COST $100 MILLION TO THE TOMATO FARMERS IN THIS COUNTRY AND DIDN'T SAVE ONE LIFE.
00:30:18 BECAUSE THEY GOT IT WRONG.
00:30:20 THEY DISCOVERED ABOUT TEN DAYS AFTER THAT THAT IT WASN'T THE TOMATOES, BUT THE DAMAGE WAS ALREADY -- I CAN REMEMBER ORDERING MY HAMBURGER AT A SPECIAL PLACE IN MUSKOGIE, "MY PLACE BARBECUE," AND I COULDN'T GET A TOMATO ON IT.
00:30:39 THE REASON WE COULDN'T GET A TOMATO?
00:30:40 THERE WASN'T ANYTHING WRONG WITH TOMATOES IN THIS COUNTRY.
00:30:43 IT WAS BECAUSE A RECALL HAD BEEN SUGGESTED BY THE F.D.A. AND THE TOMATO GROWERS RESPONDED TO IT.
00:30:50 BUT WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO SEE IS A HEAVY HAND RATHER THAN A WORKING, COORDINATED BASIS WITH WHICH WE DO RECALLS, LIKE WE DO NOW.
00:30:59 WE'VE NOT HAD ONE INSTANCE EVER WHEN A FOOD NEEDED TO BE RECALLED THAT IT WASN'T VOLUNTARILY RECALLED.
00:31:05 WHAT I WORRY ABOUT IS THE FACT THAT WE'LL HAVE RECALLS THAT ARE MANDATED MUCH TOO SOON ON THE TIME.
00:31:11 WRONG PRODUCTS, AT THE WRONG AND WE DON'T HAVE A TRACK RECORD TO SAY THAT THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS ADDITIONAL POWER.
00:31:15 AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE F.D.A.
00:31:17 DOESN'T SAY THEY NEED ADDITIONAL POWER.
00:31:27 SO JUST TO SUMMARIZE FOR A MINUTE, WHERE'S THE CRISIS IN FOOD SAFETY WHEN THE SCIENCE DEMONSTRATES THAT WE HAVE THE SAFEST FOOD IN THE WORLD AND WE'RE ON A TREND LINE TO HAVE IT EVEN SAFER?
00:31:41 WHERE'S THE COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS IN TERMS OF WHAT WE'RE GOING TO GET FROM SPENDING ANOTHER $1.5 BILLION IN TERMS OF LOWERING THAT NUMBER?
00:31:51 THERE'S NOTHING IN THIS BILL TO SHOW THAT.
00:31:57 WHAT IS IN IT BILL -- TREMENDOUS NEW SETS OF WHAT IS IN THIS BILL IS REGULATIONS AND AUTHORITIES ON TOP OF THE AUTHORITIES THAT BOTH C.D.C., F.D.A. AND DEPARTMENT OF AG ALREADY HAVE.
00:32:13 THAT I DON'T BELIEVE -- AND I AGREE, I'M IN THE MINORITY ON THAT, BUT I AM TRAINED IN THE AREA OF MEDICINE, SCIENCE AND EPIDEMIOLOGY, I DON'T BELIEVE WE'RE GOING TO GET A SIGNIFICANT COST-BEEN FIT-BENEFIT FROM IT.
00:32:29 NOW, WE'RE GOING TO FEEL BETTER BECAUSE WE DID SOMETHING.
00:32:32 BUT AGAIN, THAT GOES BACK TO THE FIRST THREE PRINCIPLES.
00:32:36 IF WE DON'T TREAT THE UNDERLYING PROBLEMS, IN OTHER WORDS, HAVE THE OVERSIGHT HEARINGS TO MAKE SURE THE AGENCIES ARE ACTUALLY CARRYING OUT THEIR FUNCTIONS EVERY DAY ON A THOROUGH AND VETTABLE BASIS AND MAKING SURE WE'RE DOING THE RIGHT THINGS TO CREATE THE OPPORTUNITIES TO HAVE SAFE FOOD, WE'RE NOT REALLY ACCOMPLISHING.
00:32:59 BUT WE'RE GOING TO FEEL BETTER.
00:33:00 BUT YOU KNOW WHO'S GOING TO FEEL WORSE?
00:33:05 OUR KIDS.
00:33:07 BECAUSE THEY'RE GOING TO PAY -- IF WE APPROPRIATE THIS MONEY, WHICH I HIGHLY DOUBT A GOOD PORTION OF IT WILL BE APPROPRIATED, THEY'RE GOING TO PAY FOR IT.
00:33:21 IF YOU FOLLOW THE LAST WEEK IN THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCE, THE SCARE OVER THE -- IRELAND'S ABILITY TO REPAY ITS DEBT AND THE PRESSURE IT HAD.
00:33:32 AND WE GOT GOOD NEWS ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT TODAY, GOOD NEWS.
00:33:36 AND IT'S WELCOME NEWS BY ALL OF US.
00:33:42 BUT THE FACT IS, IS WHAT'S HAPPENING IN IRELAND AND GREECE AND SPAIN AND PORTUGAL IS GETTING READY TO HAPPEN TO US.
00:33:56 AND THIS IS A SMALL EXAMPLE OF WHY.
00:34:00 VERY GOOD-INTENTIONED, WELL-INTENTIONED PEOPLE TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING FIXING THE SYMPTOMS INSTEAD OF UNDERLYING PROBLEM.
00:34:09 AND OUR ANSWER IS MORE REGULATION HAS TO BE THE ANSWER.
00:34:15 THAT'S WHAT WE DID IN THE FINANCIAL REGULATION BILL.
00:34:20 THAT'S -- THAT'S WHAT WE DID ON THE S.E.C. AND BERNIE MADOFF.
00:34:25 EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THE S.E.C.
00:34:27 WAS ALERTED SEVERAL TIMES, BUT THEY DIDN'T DO THEIR JOB.
00:34:32 AND SO CONSEQUENTLY, WE PUT ALL THESE NEW RULES AND REGULATIONS TO NOT LET ANOTHER BERNIE MADOFF SCANDAL GO, WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE SAYING -- HOLDING PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE FOR NOT DOING THEIR JOBS.
00:34:42 SO I'M NOT AGAINST REGULATION BUT I THINK IT OUGHT TO BE SMART, IT OUGHT TO BE TARG HE TARGETED, IT OUGHT TO BE FOCUSED TO REAL PROBLEMS, NOT THE SYMPTOMS OF THE PROBLEMS.
00:34:52 AND I BELIEVE -- IT'S MY PERSONAL BELIEF -- THAT WE'RE TARGETING SYMPTOMS AND NOT THE REAL PROBLEMS WITH THIS BILL.
00:35:01 SENATOR HARKIN HAS LEANED OVER BACKWARD TO WORK WITH ME.
00:35:07 HE IS AN HONORABLE MAN.
00:35:09 HE IS INTERESTED IN FOOD SAFETY AND THE WELFARE OF THIS NATION.
00:35:15 NOBODY SHOULD EVER SAY OTHERWISE.
00:35:20 BUT MY EXPERIENCE LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THAT IT ISN'T GOING TO ACCOMPLISH THE VERY PURPOSE THAT HE WANTS TO ACCOMPLISH, AND MY RECOMMENDATION IS TO GO BACK AND WORK IN THE NEW CONGRESS TO DEVELOP A TRUE FOOD SAFETY CENTERED ORGANIZATION WITHIN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT COMBINES ALL THE FACTORS.
00:35:38 DO YOU REALIZE RIGHT NOW WHEN YOU BUY A PIZZA AT THE GROCERY STORE, IF YOU BUY A CHEESE PIZZA PIZZA, IT COMES THROUGH THE F.D.A.
00:35:51 BUT IF YOU BUY A PEPPERONI PIZZA PIZZA, IT GETS APPROVED BY THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
00:35:57 HOW MANY PEOPLE IN AMERICA THINKS THAT MAKES SENSE?
00:36:03 THE OTHER THING WITH THIS BILL -- AND I'LL FINISH WITH THAT AND YIELD THE FLOOR -- IS THIS BILL WANTS MORE INSPECTIONS INSPECTIONS.
00:36:16 THAT'S GREAT.
00:36:18 THERE'S NO QUESTION INSPECTIONS WILL HELP.
00:36:19 THE QUESTION IS: WHAT'S THE RETURN ON THE DOLLARS THAT YOU SPEND FOR IT?
00:36:28 BUT CAN -- IF YOU -- IF YOU'RE GOING TO USE MORE INSPECTIONS, THERE'S NOT NEAR ENOUGH MONEY IN THIS BILL TO DO IT EFFECTIVELY, IF THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO TRUST.
00:36:38 LET ME TELL YOU WHY I THINK WE HAVE THE SAFEST FOOD IN THE WORLD.
00:36:42 BECAUSE WE'VE GOT THE BEST LEGAL SYSTEM IN THE WORLD.
00:36:45 THAT'S WHY WE HAVE THE SAFEST FOOD.
00:36:49 BECAUSE THE MARKET FORCES APPLIED ON SOMEBODY SELLING FOOD INTO OUR COMMERCE ARE SO GREAT AND THE CONSEQUENCES LEGALLY ARE SO NEGATIVE THAT IT IS ONLY IN THEIR BEST INTEREST TO BRING A SAFE PRODUCT TO THE MARKET.
00:37:08 AND WHEN WE HAVE FOOD SCARES, MOST OF THE TIME IT'S NOT AN INTENTIONAL ACT THAT CREATED THE PROBLEM.
00:37:14 IT'S AN UNINTENTIONAL ACT.
00:37:18 IT'S A FAILURE OF SOMEONE IN CARRYING OUT A PROTOCOL THAT SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED.
00:37:24 NOW, WE -- ANYBODY THAT SELL -- UNDER THIS BILL, ANYBODY THAT SELLS MORE THAN $500,000 WORTH OF FOOD -- THAT'S ALMOST EVERY AMISH FARMER IN AMERICA OR CO-OP OF AMISH -- AT EVERY FARM WILL HAVE TO HAVE A DETAILED, LAID-OUT PLAN WRITTEN DOWN, DOUBLE-CHECKED, CROSS-CHECKED AND EVERYTHING ELSE.
00:37:48 WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT'S GOING TO DO TO THE COST OF FOOD?
00:37:54 DO YOU THINK AS WE IMPLEMENT NEW REGULATIONS THOSE COSTS AREN'T GOING TO BE PASSED ON?
00:38:03 SO ADDS WE GROW THE REACH AND GROW THE GOVERNMENT IF, IN FACT, WE'RE TREATING SYMPTOMS NOT UNDERLYING PROBLEMS -- AND I DON'T HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH REGULATIONS THAT REALLY ADDRESS A REAL PROBLEM -- ALL WE'RE DOING IS RAISING THE COST AND MAKING OURSELF LESS COMPETITIVE.
00:38:19 DECREASING NUMBER OF THE JOBS THAT ARE AVAILABLE IN THIS COUNTRY AND NOT TRULY ENSURING AN INCREASED LEVEL OF SAFETY WITH OUR FOOD SUPPLY.
00:38:31 IT'S HARD TO DISPUTE THE FACTS ABOUT OUR INCIDENCE OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS.
00:38:38 ONE CASE IS TOO MANY, BUT WE DON'T HAVE THE RESOURCES TO MAKE IT WHERE THERE'S NOT ONE CASE A YEAR.
00:38:45 NOT WHEN -- IT'S -- IT'S THE SAME QUESTION ON HOMELAND SECURITY.
00:38:48 CAN WE EVER SPEND ENOUGH MONEY TO 100% GUARANTEE THAT WE WON'T HAVE ANOTHER TERRORIST ATTACK?
00:38:57 ANYBODY THAT LOOKS AT IT SAYS NO.
00:38:59 WE CAN'T DO IT.
00:39:03 AND THE SAME IS WITH FOOD.
00:39:05 FOR EVERY ADDITIONAL DOLLAR EXPENDED, WHAT IS THE RETURN TO THE AMERICAN CONSUMER FOR THAT?
00:39:11 I MEAN, IF IT WAS AN ACHIEVABLE GOAL TO ELIMINATE ALL FOODBORNE ILLNESS, I'D BE RIGHT THERE WITH YA.
00:39:18 IT'S NOT ACHIEVABLE.
00:39:20 IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN.
00:39:23 THE QUESTION IS: CAN WE CONTINUE ON A SLOPE TO CONTINUE TO DECREASE THE FREQUENCY TO WHERE WE HAVE THE LEAST AMOUNT FOR THE DOLLARS THAT WE SPEND?
00:39:31 THERE'S A BALANCE AND WE NEED TO BE THERE.
00:39:35 AND I -- I WILL TAKE THE CRITICISM OF MY COLLEAGUES IF THEY THINK WE NEED TO SPEND THIS ADDITIONAL $1.5 BILLION TO GET IT FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD, BUT I'D STILL RAISE THE QUESTION HOW WE CUT IT IN HALF OVER THE LAST NINE YEARS -- OR FIVE YEARS AND DIDN'T SPEND ANY OF IT.
00:39:54 SO WE'RE ON A GOOD TREND.
00:39:55 WE'RE, UNFORTUNATELY, GOING TO HAVE COMPLICATIONS WITH OUR FOOD SUPPLY.
00:40:04 BUT WE HAVE A GREAT LEGAL SYSTEM WHERE WE HAVE BAD ACTORS, LIKE THE PEANUT BUTTER FACTORY IN GEORGIA, WHICH IS NOW SHUT DOWN, BANKRUPTCY, AND THE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO JAIL BECAUSE THEY INTENTIONALLY VIOLATED THE RULES THAT WE HAVE TODAY.
00:40:21 BUT HOW -- HOW'D THEY INTENTIONALLY DO IT?
00:40:26 BECAUSE WE DIDN'T HAVE EFFECTIVE CARRYING OUT OF THE REGULATIONS THAT WE HAVE TODAY.
00:40:34 SO I APPRECIATE THE GREAT MANNER IN WHICH SENATOR ENZI AND SENATOR HARKIN HAVE WORKED WITH ME.
00:40:42 I HAVE ANOTHER AMENDMENT THAT I WANT TO OFFER ON THIS BILL.
00:40:45 EVERYBODY KNOWS WHAT THAT IS.
00:40:46 THAT'S AN EARMARK AMENDMENT, AND I UNDERSTAND THE DISDAIN FOR HAVING TO VOTE ON THAT AND I UNDERSTAND THE PROCEDURAL MOVES THAT WILL BE MADE FOR THAT.
00:40:54 BUT WE'RE GOING TO VOTE ON THAT AND WE'RE GOING TO SUSPEND THE RULES TO GET THE FIRST VOTE.
00:40:59 BUT I CAN ASSURE NOW THE NEXT CONGRESS, WE'RE GOING TO GET A STRAIGHT UP-AND-DOWN VOTE ON IT, AND IT'S GOING TO PASS IN THIS BODY BECAUSE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE EXPECT IT TO PASS.
00:41:09 IT'S SOMETHING THAT WE OUGHT TO PUT AWAY UNTIL WE GET OUT OF THE PROBLEMS THAT WE'RE IN NATIONALLY.
00:41:15 WITH THAT, MR. CHAIRMAN, I'D YIELD THE FLOOR AND NOTE THE ABSENCE OF A QUORUM.



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