Dr. Coburn offers Amendments to Cast Sunshine and Sanity on Budget Process
Last night the U.S. Senate accepted one amendment and rejected two amendments offered by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) to H.R. 2361, the Interior Appropriations Act. The Senate accepted into the base bill a Coburn amendment calling on the Senate to not under-fund defense in order to support increased non-defense discretionary spending.
One rejected amendment would have lifted the veil of secrecy that conceals the process of inserting special projects - or pork - into appropriations bills. That amendment failed by a vote of 33 to 59.
"If we hope to promote transparent democracy abroad we need to practice it at home," Dr. Coburn said. "Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal course yet Congress is refusing to communicate honestly with the American people. We are going to set another all-time on-budget deficit record this year of $541 billion, which is an extra $2,000 in debt per man, woman and child in this country. Unfortunately, Congress seems more interested in planning for the next election rather than the next generation."
The amendment would have required that any limitation, directive, or earmarking be included in the bill's conference report. Current Senate procedures allow the Senate to automatically approve earmarks or special projects included in the House version of an appropriations bill. Many earmarks that become law do not even come up for a vote in the Senate, a process that essentially hides millions of dollars of pork from public view.
Dr. Coburn also offered an amendment to transfer $121 million from land acquisition accounts to Indian Health Services divided equally between the Special Diabetes Program for Indians and Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the unspent balances for federal land acquisition at the end of the current fiscal year will be $92 million. However, that amendment failed by a vote of 17 to 75 on a budget point of order.
"Native Americans suffering from diabetes and alcoholism are underserved while our land acquisition accounts are awash with unspent funds. Unfortunately, the Senate decided to invest in land, not people," Dr. Coburn said.