U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today after the Senate Committee on Homeland and Governmental Affairs accepted an amendment banning earmarks in a key disaster-related program. The amendment was accepted during a Senate committee mark-up of S. 3249 the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Act of 2010, a bill that would reauthorize the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program (PDM). Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) cosponsored Dr. Coburn's amendment.
"I'm pleased my colleagues agreed taxpayer dollars should be spent to prevent disasters instead of financing special interest pork projects. This amendment will help protect taxpayers' lives and wallets," Dr. Coburn said. "In Congress, true change tends to happen in small steps rather than great leaps. This legislative earmark ban is a small step, but it crosses a rubicon. Never before has Congress accepted a legislative earmark ban as broad as this one."
The Coburn amendment would prohibit funding for earmarks in the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which has become a slush fund for earmarks.
Since 2008, approximately one of every three dollars in the $100 million program has been diverted to earmarks. According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, earmarks funded in the program did not meet FEMA's grant guidance and should have been ineligible for funding. For example, in 2008 earmarked grants went to emergency alert systems and fire suppression activities, which are not eligible for funding according to FEMA.