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Coburn Urges Senate Leaders to Hold Full and Open Debate on $11 Billion Omnibus Spending Bill

Location: Washington, DC

Coburn Urges Senate Leaders to Hold Full and Open Debate on $11 Billion Omnibus Spending Bill
Calls on Senate leaders to end obstruction of civil rights investigations, medical research, energy exploration

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today in advance of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan to consider a massive $11 billion omnibus spending bill this weekend.

"Once the Senate completes work on a meaningful energy package that will help lower the price of gas and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, I would welcome a full and open debate on Majority Leader Reid's election-year omnibus spending bill," Dr. Coburn said. "However, I'm troubled that on the eve of the Majority Leader's planned weekend debate he has so far declined to accept my offers to expedite consideration of his package of unrelated bills."

Dr. Coburn offered the following compromises to Majority Leader Reid in a July 17 letter.

I would strongly recommend that the underlying bill or the managers' package would include offsets that would pay for the cost of any new spending authorized by the bill by reducing lower priority federal spending elsewhere as well as an explicit assurance that there would be no limitations on energy or mineral exploration resulting from the bill. This would be my preference and would require no amendments or lengthy floor debates. It would also set an important precedent that any new spending approved by Congress will be paid for rather than continuing Congress' "borrow and spend" policies that have resulted in a $9.5 trillion national debt.

If there is no willingness to pay for the cost of the omnibus, then I would request a fair amount of time to debate the contents and have the opportunity to offer a fixed number of amendments to address cost and any other related negative impact of the bill.

Some potential agreements include:

· One related amendment and one hour of debate for each $1 billion authorized in new spending by the omnibus;

· One related amendment for each new government office, government program federal commission, park, heritage area, wilderness area, or museum created by the omnibus with at least 30 minutes to debate each amendment; or

· One related amendment for each of the individual bills wrapped into the omnibus with 30 minutes of debate for each amendment.

"Senator Reid has refused to agree to any of these common sense proposals, and he has failed to provide a CBO score of this bill, as he pledged to do in a letter," Dr. Coburn said.

"The Senate has a nine percent approval rating because its current leaders prefer demagoguery over debate and politics over progress. Many of the bills in this omnibus package are case studies in the triumph of mindless partisanship and spin over common sense solutions," Dr. Coburn said.

"For instance, Senator Reid and others continue to claim I am blocking civil rights legislation like Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act (S. 535) when they have voted against additional funds for this effort in order to protect their pork. These Senators also continue to block a common sense compromise I offered that would allow this bill to pass today," Dr. Coburn said.

"Senate Democrats first blocked passage of this bill in 2006 after its sponsor, Senator Jim Talent (R-MO), agreed to offset the costs of the bill. Democrats objected to this agreement because they wanted to deny Senator Talent a legislative victory in the midst of his re-election campaign," Dr. Coburn said.

"In October 2007, Senators Reid, Durbin, Dodd and Leahy all voted against an amendment I offered to increase funds for the Department of Justice's effort to investigate these crimes by redirecting funds from less vital special interest pork projects. Unfortunately, each of these Senators put their own pork projects ahead of victims of civil rights cases. Senator Dodd voted to protect $450,000 for a submarine at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Senator Leahy voted to protect $300,000 for the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in Vermont for the ‘Eye-In-The-Sky' Program. Senator Durbin voted to protect $300,000 for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago," Dr. Coburn said. See related Amendment summary and Vote breakdown:

"Majority Leader Reid has now taken the step of effectively drawing a moral equivalence between legislation related to botanical gardens and victims of unsolved civil rights cases. The Majority Leader could pass the Emmett Till bill today if he brought it up as a stand alone bill with spending offsets I have already identified. Instead, the Majority Leader has linked the issue of unsolved civil rights cases to other causes that are unrelated and, in some cases, frivolous," Dr. Coburn said.

"I have detailed reasons for asking for debate on each of the bills in Reid's omnibus bill. In many cases, I support the bills in the package but believe the Senate should live within its means, like every American family, and pay for new programs by reducing spending elsewhere. Any Senator who can't find offsets in a government that wastes $300 billion every year through fraud or duplication doesn't deserve to be here," Dr. Coburn said.

"Regarding the omnibus' medical research component, I look forward to explaining why various bills in this package that could block entities like the National Institutes of Health from conducting life-saving medical research. The disease specific earmarks in the Reid's omnibus would essentially put career politicians, congressional staffers and Washington lobbyists in charge of medical research in this country. Medical research dollars should be directed by trained scientists and physicians, not politicians, lobbyists and celebrity activists," Dr. Coburn said.

"I hope the Majority Leader will give the American people what they deserve: legislation that allows us to live within our means, or at least a full and open debate that will allow him to explain why we should not," Dr. Coburn said.

"Finally, what the Majority Leader defines as my unprecedented obstruction is my desire to see the number of bills that pass the Senate in secret with no debate, no amendment and no recorded vote be reduced by less than ten percent. I have supported 855 unanimous consent or ‘hotline' requests in the 110th Congress while I am presently urging further debate on less than 80 bills. What is unprecedented, therefore, is not anyone's obstruction but the Majority Leader's secret spending and refusal to debate critical legislation," Dr. Coburn said.

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