U.S. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today after the Senate defeated three Coburn amendments designed to cut wasteful and ethically-suspect spending from the omnibus appropriations bill. The Senate also rejected a Coburn amendment that would have fulfilled the Senate's pledge to fund the Department of Justice's effort to prosecute unsolved civil rights cases by reducing funding for lower priority projects.
"Instead of draining the swamp, Congress is protecting the polluters. The Senate could have removed 13 earmarks from this bill that are associated with the PMA Group, a K Street lobbying firm under investigation by the Justice Department over whether the firm made illegal campaign contributions to members of Congress who requested earmarks. Yet, the Senate decided to defend business as usual at the earmark favor factory. The American people want change now. They shouldn't have to wait for further investigations, search warrants and possibly prosecutions to motivate us to restore the public's trust in Congress," Dr. Coburn said of amendment 623 which was defeated by a vote of 43 to 52.
"I'm also disappointed the Senate refused to eliminate a handful of the most egregious pork projects in this bill including $1.9 million for a water taxi service at Pleasure Beach, Connecticut; $238,000 for the Polynesian Voyaging Society of Honolulu, Hawaii, which organizes sea voyages in ancient-style sailing canoes; and $1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Ames, Iowa. The American people have to make tough choices in their budgets every day. Yet, once again, Congress chose to borrow from the next generation to pay for today's excess," Dr. Coburn said regarding his amendment 610 which was defeated by a vote of 34 to 61.
The Senate defeated two other Coburn amendments. Coburn amendment 608 (defeated by a vote of 37 to 58) would have provided $10 million to help the Department of Justice prosecute unsolved civil rights cases through the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Act which Congress passed, but failed to fund, last year. Under the Coburn amendment additional funds to prosecute civil rights cases would have come from eliminating the wasteful Weed and Seed program at DOJ.
Coburn amendment 596 would have required all contracts, grants and cooperative agreements awarded under this act be competitively bid. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 38 to 57 even though all 57 Senators who voted no voted yes on an identical Coburn amendment to the stimulus bill.
"The Obama administration should not repeat the mistakes of the Bush administration who talked a good game against congressional excess and corruption but never took decisive action. Budge Director Peter Orszag's claim that the nearly 9,000 earmarks in this bill are last year's problem' is factually incorrect, fiscally irresponsible and a tacit endorsement of the pay-to-play special interest politics that dominate the earmark process in Congress. The most powerful budget or earmark reform any President could impose on Congress can be summed up in one word: veto," Dr. Coburn said.