Dr. Coburn Criticizes Senate for Silencing Lobbying Reform Debate
Votes for cloture, Wyden amendment protect culture of secrecy in Senate; keep pork on the menu
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released the following statement tonight after voting against a move to cut off debate on lobbying reform legislation, S. 2349, and an amendment offered by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that enhances the ability of Senators to pass millions in pork spending in the middle of the night. The motion to invoke cloture on S. 2349 passed by a vote 81 to 16. The Wyden Amendment passed by a margin of 84 to 13.
"The Senate's decision tonight to silence the debate on lobbying reform without considering earmark reform has turned this process into a charade. When disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff described Congress as an 'earmark favor factory' most Americans were reminded that earmarks are key aspect of the culture of corruption in Washington. The Senate's willingness to ignore this connection illustrates the degree to which many career politicians are disconnected from reality. I fear that the process of reconnecting to reality will be especially painful for many politicians come November," Dr. Coburn said.
"I suspect the American people will not consider banning former members from the House gym or outlawing $25 lunches as trust-building exercises when the Senate does nothing to reform the process that helped put a former member of Congress, Duke Cunningham, in prison. The tragic episode of Rep. Cunningham trading favors for pork projects showed the public how earmarks are the gateway drug or currency of corruption in Congress," Dr. Coburn added. "Keeping earmarks out of this debate is like keeping alcohol off the agenda of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting."
"Since the Senate has decided earmark reform was not worthy of debate in the context of lobbying reform I am convinced that the American people, now more than ever, deserve an extended and thorough debate on each individual earmark or pork project Senators propose this year," Dr. Coburn said.
The Senate tonight also voted for an amendment that cracks down on Senators who wish to place holds on, or block, legislation they wish to review further.
"The Wyden amendment is an attack against the right of every Senator to block bad legislation and limit the growth of government. As a personal policy, I don't place secret holds. I tell members directly when I have a hold on their legislation. Yet, holds are an important tool that allows a single Senator to stop new spending measures from being steamrolled through the Senate. The current process of slipping pork projects into bills in the middle of the night unless a Senator is around to place a hold is indefensible. Holds help ensure that elected Senators, not unelected staff, have more than 5 or 10 minutes to read the bills they are being asked to support," Dr. Coburn said.
"Senators should be allowed time to review legislation without being bombarded by lobbyists, other politicians and administration officials who want to ram another spending bill through Congress. The Senate is not the House, where members are routinely strong-armed on the floor. The Wyden amendment has taken the Senate even further from the path of real reform," Dr. Coburn said.