Entries in Tom Coburn (4)


9/11 Museum Funding Held Up by One Senator

David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- There’s a controversy brewing in the halls of Congress, pitting budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., against two New York senators and touching on a politically and emotionally sensitive subject.

Coburn is singlehandedly holding up federal funding for the 9/11 memorial museum at Ground Zero.

Legislation before the Senate calls for $20 million a year, $200 million total over the next 10 years in federal funding for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero.

Coburn is calling for equivalent cuts to be made to pay for the added government spending on the project.

In a letter sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Wednesday, Coburn says that while the “merits” of the museum project are not in question, he has “concerns” about the legislation.

“This legislation authorizes at least $200 million over the next 10 years for the effort, but does not include any provisions to pay for these potential costs, adding to our more than $15 trillion debt,” Coburn wrote.

Coburn’s office said the dispute could be solved “in minutes” if the sponsors would just look for areas of waste and duplication in the general government already identified by the Government Accountability Office.

“Coburn believes we can best honor the heroism and sacrifices of 9/11 by making hard choices and reducing spending on less-vital priorities, rather than borrowing money,” Coburn spokesman John Hart told ABC News Wednesday. “Finding $20 million in savings is the least we can do to demonstrate that Congress also understands the value of service and sacrifice.”

Even better would be if members of Congress could encourage the effort to fund the project using local sources, or -- as is the case with the Oklahoma City bombing memorial -- private sources, Coburn’s office said.  

His office noted that the 9/11 museum is “already receiving generous private support from hundreds of patriotic Americans, businesses and corporations across the country,” so it shouldn’t need the extra federal money.

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, two of the co-sponsors of the bill, on Wednesday responded in anger to the lone senator standing in the way of government funding for the museum.

Schumer said the project needs to be funded with some federal money in substance and for the sake of symbolism.

"This is sacred ground not only to New Yorkers but to Americans, and to have the memorial, the museum, in as good a way as possible not limited by lack of funding makes eminent sense,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday. “Clearly, if you talk to [New York] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg and others, and there’s been very generous support from the private sector, there is not enough money to keep, to have the memorial function in the way it should.”

Schumer and Gillibrand plan to sit down with Coburn “soon” to discuss his concerns.

“We hope that Sen. Coburn will relent,” Schumer said.

Coburn, in his letter Wednesday, demanded a “full accounting of previously awarded federal funding” for the museum, as well as a “detailed breakdown of the project with itemized cost estimates.”

“It is, after all, our obligation as stewards of the treasury to scrutinize for taxpayers how every penny we spend is put to use,” Coburn wrote, “even for the best intentioned projects.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Another FAA Partial Shutdown to Come? Senate in Stalemate

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The current funding for the Federal Aviation Administration expires this Friday, threatening to put 80,000 people out of work by Saturday, unless Congress sends a bill to President Obama.

But as of now, the bill does not have a way forward in the Senate with both sides pointing fingers at the other party, one Republican Senator standing in the way of anything moving forward, and the Senate majority leader all-but calling that Republican Senator a “dictator” for holding up the bill.

The House of Representatives passed a joint bill Tuesday to continue temporary funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and federal highway, transit and highway safety programs.  Now in the Senate, the bill is being objected to by one Republican: Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is upset over the funding that states must invest in surface transportation as part of the Highway bill, which is tied to the FAA bill.

But to make matters more confusing and head-shaking, the Senate’s $6.9 billion package to fund FEMA is also being dragged into this debate because of the Senate floor procedure.  The Senate on Tuesday passed a cloture motion to proceed on the disaster aid bill, meaning procedurally the FEMA bill must be passed first.  This basically puts a hold on the FAA/highway bill until FEMA is fully passed.  But, some Republicans, including Coburn have concerns over the FEMA bill, too.

As of now, unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., were to set aside the FEMA bill and call up the FAA bill, which he likely will not do, the FAA bill is being held up, forced to be addressed second.  The FAA bill though has a deadline of Friday evening, when funds will run out.

Wednesday on the Senate floor, without naming names but clearly targeting Coburn, Reid likened his actions to a dictator in threatening to hold up the bill.

“We’re told this is going to be held up by the Republicans,” Reid bemoaned.  “The Senator says he doesn’t want to vote.  He just wants to hold the bill up.  He said if we put in what we got from the house and stuck his provision in that, I think he would be happy.  I guess anyone would, madam president.  It’s a pretty good way to legislate around here, be a dictator and say either take this or leave it that.”

Coburn is concerned about the programs designed to increase bike lanes and green space on the roads -- which is part of the transportation bill -- and wants the funds taken out.  The senator wants states to be able to opt out of the transportation enhancement mandate, and to have that change written into the bill.

Reid warned that if the FAA funding expires on Friday there will be about 80,000 people out of work by Saturday: 4,000 out of work for the FAA and about 70,000 who are working on airport construction jobs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Scientists Rail Against Senator Who Belittled Research

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DURHAM, N.H.) -- A team of scientists who study pollution's role in global warming are outraged at a GOP Senator who they say has maligned their work as wasteful and petty by describing it as a study of "cow burps."

"This was not funded with earmarks and it was not a study about cow burps," said John Aber, an environmental scientist and provost of the University of New Hampshire.  "It's not wasteful," he said. "It's important."

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released on Monday his annual "Wastebook" report, a look at 100 projects that received federal funding which he says contributed to record deficits in the past year.

Among those projects was a $700,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture to a team of environmental scientists at the University of New Hampshire to study greenhouse gas emissions -- the chemicals associated with global warming -- in the dairy industry.

Coburn's "Wastebook" quotes one of the project's researchers telling a local New Hampshire paper that "cows emit most of their methane through belching, only a small fraction from flatulence."

Scientists at the University of New Hampshire say Coburn has cherry picked quotes and taken things out of context in an effort to undermine their research. They say the project's findings will not only help the environment, but also farmers and businesses involved in the dairy industry.

"This is a caricature of the research based on a few words or phrases for political gain," Aber said. "It was competitive. Much of the research was about how nitrogen in particular, affects ground water."

Furthermore, Aber said, the project was commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and was competitively bid on by different universities.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


$14 Trillion Fiscal Challenge Faces GOP

(WASHINGTON) -- Representative John Boehner, Photo Courtesy US House of RepresentativesA stern test of fiscal discipline almost immediately faces Republicans who took control of the House of Representatives last week with vows to cut federal spending.  Congress is set to raise the country’s debt limit yet again.

The debate is already raging over what to do. Neither option -- refusing to raise the debt ceiling and risking a fiscal crisis versus relenting and risking alienating voters who entrusted the GOP to tighten the purse-strings -- is politically attractive.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn said in a Washington Examiner op-ed Friday “If Republicans vote to raise the debt without insisting on spending cuts, whatever credibility we may have will be gone.”

But Representative John Boehner, the likely new Speaker of the House, told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Thursday that there are “multiple options” for how to deal with the debt limit.  “Increasing the debt limit allows our government to meet its obligations,” he noted. “And I think that there are multiple options for how you deal with it. But for our team, I think we’re going to have to demonstrate that we’ve got to have reductions in spending. The government’s spending more than what we bring in. We can’t afford it.”

At this point experts say it appears Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling  early next year. The national debt is fast approaching the limit of $14.29 trillion.

Raising the limit is easier said than done.  Just look at the last time Congress voted to increase it. Last February, the Senate vote fell strictly along party lines, with all 60 Senate Democrats supporting the raise and all 39 Senate Republicans opposing it. Come next year, the Democratic majority in the Senate will have shrunk to 53.

If Congress were to refuse to increase the debt limit, the consequences could be severe for the global financial system. Think of the debt ceiling like the limit on your credit card. If you max out, your life doesn’t automatically shut down, but you do have to find other means of funding, such as borrowing cash from family and friends or selling belongings. The government, for instance, could continue operating with cash on hand or cash coming in. Or it could can postpone or delay paying certain obligations, such as payments to contractors. But resorting to moves like that sends an unnerving message to the rest of the world.

While election momentum might be on the side of Republicans, history is on the Democrats’ side. No Congress has ever voted against approving an increase in the debt ceiling.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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