U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today regarding his vote against H.R. 1591, the "U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act of 2007." The bill passed by a vote of 51 to 47. The Senate did accept by voice vote a Coburn amendment eliminating a $2 million earmark for the University of Vermont that was offered by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as a tribute to former U.S. Senator James Jeffords.
"Handing our enemies a timeline for withdrawal gives them a date-certain for victory. The terrorists understand the stakes in Iraq; it is unfortunate that the Senate does not. The terrorists are waging a relentless war to destroy the fledgling democracy in Iraq precisely because our mission in Iraq is a vital front in the war on terror. Moreover, the generals on the ground who are vastly more knowledgeable about the topic do not want such a timeline," Dr. Coburn said.
"We don't need 100 Secretaries of State or 100 armchair generals in the Senate," Dr. Coburn added. "What we need are 100 senators who will do what they were elected to do, which is to make difficult decisions between competing priorities. If senators don't want the war in Iraq to continue, for instance, they should defund it, not micromanage it."
"The abuse of Congress' emergency spending rules in this bill was unprecedented," Dr. Coburn continued. "Never before has Congress claimed that the costs associated with the presidential conventions, which have happened every four years since 1832, were unforeseen emergencies."
Dr. Coburn explained that in the past decade both parties have habitually abused Congress' emergency spending rules in order to evade budget caps. Emergency spending is like an emergency credit card that borrows money from future generations and does not count against Congress' annual budget caps. Designating spending as an "emergency" enables members of Congress to spend more money than they otherwise could if they had to cut spending elsewhere in order to pay for new programs or priorities.
"The American people voted for change in the last election. Unfortunately, they are getting more of the same political bribery that put Jack Abramoff and members of Congress in prison," Dr. Coburn said in reference to the special interest spending that was used to bribe members to vote for the flawed Iraq withdrawal timeline.
The Senate did accept by a voice vote a Coburn amendment that stripped a $2 million earmark to set up an institute at the University of Vermont named after former Senator James Jeffords. Senator Leahy said the earmark could be considered an emergency because of Jeffords' failing health.
"My heart goes out to not only former Senator Jeffords and his family, but to every American with failing health and their families as well. However, it is imperious to suggest that the only individual Americans with failing health that deserve special treatment in an emergency supplemental bill are former senators. I applaud Senator Leahy for wanting to honor his friend and colleague but this is not an appropriate way to do so, particularly when the University of Vermont has received just over $400 million in federal grants since 2000," Dr. Coburn said.