U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) expressed his disappointment today following Senate votes defeating two Coburn amendments to the emergency supplemental bill. Coburn amendment #657 offsetting the costs of crop disaster and livestock assistance and removing "emergency" spending for sugar beet, sugar cane, and Christmas and ornamental tree assistance was defeated by a vote of 24 to 73. Coburn amendment #648 striking $100 million "emergency" funding for the 2008 political party conventions was defeated by a vote of 45 to 51.
"With this emergency spending bill Congress has reached an all-time low and showed that its 28 percent approval rating is well-deserved. This bill undermines our troops in the field both by giving them a vote of no confidence, and by using their plight as political cover for pork. I urge President Bush to veto this shameful and embarrassing bill the moment it hits his desk," Dr. Coburn said.
"The American people should take special note of the politicians on both sides of the aisle who voted to preserve $100 million for the 2008 political party conventions and hold them accountable. Borrowing $100 million from the next generation to help politicians have a party is unconscionable. As a result of this vote, politicians and campaign operatives can enjoy cigars and champagne with peace of mind while our soldiers continue to face bullets and suicide bombers," Dr. Coburn said.
The $100 million in emergency funds for the political party conventions could have been spent to protect our troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and provided the following equipment:
31,797 sets of body armor
658 up-armored humvees
529 up-armored ambulance humvees.
"According to Congress' own budget rules, emergency spending must be reserved for priorities that are unforeseen and cannot be planned for in advance," Dr. Coburn added. "The intellectual dishonesty behind the claim that Presidential conventions, which have happened every four years since 1832, are an emergency is breathtaking. Senators will also have a hard time explaining to the American people that they have been taken surprise by the conventions when so many senators are running for president, or aspire to be president."
"If Congress wants to fund convention security it should do so during the regular appropriations process. Never before has Congress attempted to fund convention security through an emergency spending bill. It is political cowardice to exploit post-9/11 fears in order to make the case for emergency spending. Politicians who refuse to make tough choices between competing budget priorities during a time of war are no different from soldiers who abandon their posts during battle. It's not surprising that most Americans believe Congress is AWOL when it comes to fiscal responsibility," Dr. Coburn said.
The National Taxpayers Union, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the Republican Main Street Partnership and Club for Growth endorsed Dr. Coburn's amendments.
"This is bill is a Christmas tree, both literally and figuratively," Dr. Coburn added in reference to his agriculture amendment. "Providing emergency funds for sugar beet, sugar cane and Christmas tree assistance, as provided for in this bill, will do nothing to help our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also don't know of any Oklahoma farmers who want their grandchildren to pay for additional farm aid when Congress could finance even more generous assistance by rooting out the more than $200 billion in waste, fraud and abuse in the federal budget."
Dr. Coburn's amendment would have stripped the following questionable provisions:
$6 million for flooded Crop & Grazing Land in North Dakota;
$24 million for sugar beet and sugar cane disaster assistance.
$40 million for the "Tree Assistance Program" The bill defines "tree" as a tree including Christmas, ornamental, nursery and potted tree, and a bush including a shrub, nursery shrub or nursery bush, ornamental shrub, potted bush and potted shrub, and a vine including nursery and ornamental vines.
$20 million for "Insect Infestation" in Nevada, Idaho and Utah.
$30 million for "Administration" for the hiring of additional Farm Service Agency personnel and computer upgrades.