U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today released the following statement after the Senate rejected Coburn amendments that would have forced Congress to shift earmark funds back toward vital operations and maintenance. By a vote of 25 to 73, the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Dr. Coburn that would have restored to the troops $165 million earmarked within the Defense appropriations bill's maintenance and operations accounts for congressional earmarks.
"In a time of war it is unconscionable for members of Congress to divert funds from vital operations to less-than-vital parochial pork projects. I regret the Senate voted today to protect their pet projects at the expense of our troops," Dr. Coburn said.
The Pentagon has also expressed concern over the excessive amount of earmarks Congress has requested:
"Every dollar that we are forced to spend on things which we do not need requires us to take money from things which we do need. And the people who lose in that trade-off are our troops and the taxpayers," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman.
The operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts ensure military readiness by providing much needed funds for training troops for combat and for maintaining tanks, airplanes, ships, and related equipment such as the purchase of spare parts. O&M accounts also fund a wide range of activities such as civilian personnel management and payments, transportation expenses, health care, and child care. In May 2009, the U.S. Navy ran out of O&M funding and had to reduce training hours for carrier air wings and at-sea time for some ships. The earmarks funded in the 2010 Defense appropriations bill raid these accounts that are essential to the protection of our troops and our nation's defense to pay for $165 million or earmarks not requested by the military.
"The Senate is putting favorable headlines back home above our men and women fighting on the front lines. American families are prioritizing and eliminating waste in their own budgets, it is a disgrace that Congress has refused this common sense approach to spending taxpayer dollars," said Dr. Coburn.
Coburn amendments to the bill included:
Amendment 2566 -- To restore over $165 million in operations and maintenance funding to members of the Armed Forces to prepare for and conduct combat operations by prohibiting funding of earmarks from operations and maintenance accounts, defeated by a vote of 25 to 73.
Amendment 2565 -- To require the National Guard and Reserve Component to submit their modernization priorities to the entire Congress, and seek input from Secretary of Defense Gates, defeated by a vote of 28 to 70.
Coburn amendments accepted:
Amendment 2563-- To require all reports authorized in this bill be publicized and accessible to the public once completed.
Amendment number 2585 -- To restore $100 million in operations and maintenance funding to members of the Armed Forces to prepare for and conduct combat operations by accounting for the August 2009 Congressional Budget Office economic assumptions and reducing funding for low-priority research and development earmarks.