Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dr. Coburn Says Congress’ Addiction to Pork and Fear of Debate are Undermining Change Agenda

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today after the Senate Majority Leader used a rare Sunday session to hold a procedural vote on a $10 billion omnibus lands bill loaded with earmarks and provisions that erect new barriers to domestic energy exploration.

“Today’s action in the Senate shows that the greatest threat to change is a Congress that is addicted to power, pork and the politics of the past. In a time of economic turmoil, the United States Senate has bigger fish to fry than a pork-laden omnibus lands bill that puts parochial projects that spend $1 billion to rescue 500 salmon in California ahead of our serious economic challenges. We could face an historic $1.8 trillion deficit next year. Spending money we don’t have on many projects we don’t need is unconscionable,” Dr. Coburn said, adding that it is reckless for Congress to spend $10 billion on new parks and other areas when the National Park Service currently has a $9.6 billion maintenance backlog.

“I’m also disappointed the Senate Majority Leader refused to allow any amendments to this legislation and instead chose to hold a rare Sunday vote when few Americans are watching C-SPAN. Had the Majority Leader accepted my offer to limit debate and amendments in all likelihood this bill would have already passed the Senate with a full, open and transparent debate,” Dr. Coburn said.

Dr. Coburn noted that the bill contained the following egregious provisions. Dr. Coburn attempted to strike these provisions but the Majority Leader blocked all amendments.

  • A provision that takes 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil out of production in Wyoming, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The energy resources walled off by this bill would nearly match the annual production levels of our two largest natural gas production states – Alaska and Texas.
  • $3 million for a “road to nowhere” through a wildlife refuge in Alaska.
  • $1 billion for a water project designed to save 500 salmon in California. At this price, each salmon would be worth far more than its weight in gold.
  • $3.5 million to help celebrate the 450th birthday of St. Augustine Florida, in 2015.
  • $4 million to protect livestock from wolves that Congress helped reintroduce into the wild.
  • $250,000 to help bureaucrats decide how to designate Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood home.
  • $5 million on botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida.

“The Majority Leader’s tactics will not diminish my insistence on open debate, but the Senate’s ability to come together to pass meaningful legislation. I’ve commended President-elect Obama, with whom I’ve worked with closely, for reaching out to Republicans because he understands that attempting to pass major legislation like economic stimulus packages or health care reform is impossible without soliciting a broad range of ideas,” Dr. Coburn said.

“Yet, the Majority Leader has blocked all but one Republican amendment in the past six months. If this trend continues, he will not strengthen his position but severely weaken his party’s ability to advance President-elect Obama’s agenda. Offering amendments is a right and responsibility of Senators, not a special privilege or scheduling inconvenience,” Dr. Coburn said.

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