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Enid News - Coburn Hoping to Change Expectations in Congress

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Enid News - Coburn Hoping to Change Expectations in Congress

By Cindy Allen
Enid News

September 8, 2006

When Sen. Tom Coburn ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, he said his goal was to "change the culture" of the Senate.

He may be nearing part of that goal as his Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act is expected to go before the Senate for a vote next week and the House the week after.

Coburn co-authored the bill with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. The bill requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure a single, searchable Web site providing free public access to information about contracts, grants, loans and other forms of federal assistance.

"It puts online by 2008 everywhere the government spends money so everyone can see it," Coburn said Thursday in a conference call with northwest Oklahoma news media.

The bill has not been without its detractors. Sens. Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens tried to hold up the bill, but Coburn said the attention of the national press has had an effect.

"I think it will pass," Coburn said. "It has bi-partisan support and tremendous backing across the country. It's going to change expectations for people who are wasting our future."

Coburn has complained long and loud about waste in government spending. He believes making spending decisions transparent to the public will make Congress more accountable. Unless the people know what's going on, they won't know to complain, he said.

Coburn called the legislation the "biggest thing to reform federal government."

His tenacity on the issue hasn't won him very many friends in his own party, he said. "Let's just say I eat dinner alone a lot," he joked.

"When I ran for this seat, I said my goal was to change the culture of the Senate," he said. "There are a lot of great people here, dedicating their lives to public service. But, they do things in a way, in the long run, I think are going to hurt us."

Coburn called the last six months spent working on the bill "rough," saying challenging former leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties has been "uncomfortable."

But, it is something that has to happen," he said. "The American people have to start holding us accountable, and they have to have the tools to do that."

If the bill passes Congress and is signed by President Bush, people will be able to track, for free online, who receives earmarks or grant money and how much it is. It can be tracked by state and county, he said. The purpose of having this tool is so citizens can know where federal money is being spent and can speak with their congressional representatives about it, Coburn said.

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