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Entries in Tom Coburn (20)

Sunday
May262013

Sen. Coburn: Tornado Recovery Not Federal Government’s Responsibility

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation Sunday, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn said he was standing by his position that recovery efforts for major disasters should be handled at the local level and not by the federal government.

“We've kind of transferred the responsibility for storms and damage to the federal government instead of to the state government,” Coburn said. Coburn has come under fire in the past over for his stance that any federal disaster aid must be offset by other budget cuts, a position that he is maintaining even after the EF5 tornado struck Moore, Okla. last week.

“We’ve created kind of a predicate that you don’t have to be responsible for what goes on in your state,” he continued.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, also appearing on Face The Nation, disagrees.

“When the hand of God strikes in a very serious way, the localities can't handle it by themselves,” he said, “Americans band together and say, 'we're going to help the afflicted area.'”

Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, also stressed the need for federal aid.

“This is a massive debris field,” she said. “It's not just a couple of blocks. It's miles. It's 17 miles long. Almost a mile and a half wide.”

Fallin told Face the Nation her first request of the president, who is visiting Moore Sunday afternoon, will be to ensure that money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency keeps flowing to those in need.

“We know at different times in the past, money hasn't always come as quickly as it should, so I'm hoping that FEMA will be very prompt to get the relief here,” Fallin said.

The governor also said that the building of more "safe rooms" for use during tornadoes is a conversation that school officials need to have. The tornado in Moore killed 24 people, including several children when it flattened an elementary school. Fallin said many schools across the state were already looking into building safe rooms.

“Many of them have rebuilt rooms of some sort as a safe room in their school, and we're certainly going to encourage that, but I do think it's important to have a very vigorous discussion as to what can we do.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec092012

Sen. Tom Coburn: I’m Willing to Accept Tax Increases

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that he is willing to accept tax rate increases as a component of a fiscal cliff deal, as long as Democrats put “significant entitlement reform” on the table.

“What we ought to be working on is the other 93 percent, because even if you do what [Obama] wants to do on tax rates, you only affect 7 percent of the deficit,” Coburn said. “What we have done is spend ourselves into a hole, and we’re not going to raise taxes and borrow money and get out of it.”

“And so will I accept a tax increase as a part of a deal to actually solve our problems?  Yes,” he said.

But his Republican colleague in the House, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), disagreed.

He said that Republicans shouldn’t vote for a tax increase that they believe will harm the economy.

“No Republican wants to vote for a rate tax increase,” Hensarling said. “I mean, what that is going to do, according to the National Federation of Independent Business that commissioned a study by Ernst & Young, is cost 700,000 Americans to go from having paychecks to unemployment checks.”

Hensarling said that President Obama pulled a “bait and switch” on Congressional Republicans by adding a demand for tax rate increases after the election. In 2011 Obama had suggested that $1.2 trillion could be raised by closing loopholes and pursuing tax reform alone, without raising rates.

“The president, again … if he would do what he said before the election, as opposed to the bait-and-switch, what Republicans feel like is a little bit like Charlie Brown running to kick the football and Lucy pulls it away,” Hensarling said.

He added that Obama’s proposal to eliminate future Congressional votes to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling was “surprising.”

“I must admit, I didn’t know the president could surprise me once again, but to say that he no longer wants to have a debt ceiling — in other words, we no longer need even a speed bump on the — on the highway to bankruptcy — I mean, let’s look at Greece,” Hensarling said. “Greece has been very adept at increasing their debt ceiling.  And now they have 25 percent unemployment, 50 percent youth unemployment.”

Democrats on the panel, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) maintained that entitlement reform should be addressed only after tax cuts are extended for middle class families.

“Right now, the only thing I hear, the only thing we see is middle-class families being asked over and over again to be the ones who have the burden in solving this problem,” Stabenow said. “And we’re saying no.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec062012

New Report: Zombies Partly to Blame for Government Waste?

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to the dilemma of government spending, a zombie apocalypse hasn’t been a part of the discussion – until now.

In his latest report on government waste, “Safety at Any Price,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., argued that Homeland Security funds allocated after 9/11 to shore up the U.S. anti-terrorism defense are being misused.  He pointed to a five-day counter-terrorism summit that included a “zombie apocalypse” demonstration.

According to Coburn’s report, the HALO 2012 Counterterrorism Summit was attended by law enforcement officials from around the country who were allowed to use DHS-awarded grant funds to pay the $1,000 entry fee.

Organizers of the conference at Paradise Point Resort & Spa outside San Diego say the skit was solely to add levity to an otherwise serious meeting on protecting the homeland. Proponents within the federal government have touted the “zombie apocalypse” campaign as an attention-grabbing way to get people to focus on being prepared for real-world disasters.

Coburn on the other hand, said it is just one more example of an estimated $7 billion in questionable homeland spending every year.

“That is $7 billion that your kids and my kids are going to pay back is something that we got no increased security for,” Coburn said.  "I don’t care if you use zombie apocalypse, what is the metric that said this was an effective use of the money.”

Coburn’s report is the result of a year-long probe by his office into one of the largest terror-prevention grant programs at the DHS – the Urban Area Security Initiative.  While the program’s original intention was to make U.S. cities less vulnerable to terrorist attacks, Coburn cites example after example of what he said are questionable uses of federal tax dollars.

There’s the $30,000 underwater robot that was purchased by the city of Columbus, Ohio, for bridge and train overpass inspection as well as search and rescue; the $69,000 hovercraft for Indianapolis; and the $2,700 teleprompter purchased by officials in Ascension Parish, La., to meet “the national priority to expand regional collaboration.”

No matter the price tag, the report questions whether federal funds intended to deter terrorism are being put to optimum use.

The sleepy town of Keene, N.H., for example, obtained a military grade BearCat armored vehicle early this year with DHS grant funds, citing the need to secure its annual pumpkin festival. Price tag: $285,933. The town has had only two murders in the past 15 years.

And while Fargo, N.D., also boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country, it received more than $8 million in Homeland Security grants and used $256,643 of them to buy its own armored truck.

Small towns across America – like Keene, Fargo, Syracuse, Manchester and Clovis – are now prime targets for the manufacturer of the BearCat, Lenco, which now includes an eight-page guide on grant writing on its website.

The Department of Homeland Security declined an interview with ABC News, but wrote in a statement that it “fundamentally disagrees with the report’s position on the value of homeland security grants” that “make our communities safer places to live.”

But Coburn said there’s too much waste. He says it’s “all over the government, everywhere you look – waste, incompetence, and stupidity.”

But then again, can you ever be too prepared for the zombie apocalypse?

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct152012

Washington’s Porkiest Projects: Sen. Tom Coburn Releases Waste Book 2012

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It’s becoming a tradition for Sen. Tom Coburn: The annual “Waste Book.”  Every year since 2010, the Oklahoma Republican has issued his blistering report highlighting the 100 most egregious abuses of taxpayer dollars.  This year, Coburn and his research team highlighted examples totaling $17.9 billion and ABC News got an exclusive first look.

For example, chances are when you think “nonprofit,” you don’t think of the National Football League, the National Hockey League, or the Professional Golfers’ Association.  However, each of these sport’s associations avoids paying tens of millions of dollars each year in taxes because they classify themselves as such.

The NFL loophole is Exhibit A in Coburn’s new report on government waste, which points out that the NFL alone pulled in more than $9 billion last year and paid Commissioner Roger Goodell more than $11 million.

“We have some of the biggest corporations in America paying no taxes whatsoever,” Coburn told ABC News Monday. “You know something is wrong with the [tax] code.”

Next up, the $325,000 squirrel robot.  Researchers at San Diego State University and University of California, Davis, spent a portion of their National Science Foundation Grant making sure a robotic squirrel looks so real it can fool a rattlesnake.

And then there’s No. 6, which the report labels “Out-of-this-world Martian food tasting.”   NASA is spending nearly $1 million a year researching food for astronauts to eat on Mars, despite the fact it has no plans for a manned mission to the red planet.

The Lake Murray State Park airport in Carter, Okla., receives $150,000 a year from the FAA, despite providing a runway for just one flight a month. Oklahoma’s Aeronautics Commission which spends less than one percent of that funding on the Lake Murray airport itself, admits it keeps the scarcely used airport open to funnel the money to other airports and projects.

“Is there anybody in the world who would say ‘No thanks government! We don’t want this money?’” OAC Commissioner Wes Stucky told ABC News.

Coburn, for his part, points to a government system that he says encourages waste.

“We put that [example] in there to show people how stupid the federal government is,” Coburn said. “We have a system that says you can collect money because you have an airport open even though nobody uses it so you can collect money to spend on other airports.  Why wouldn’t we have a smarter system?”

Coburn says his report is proof that Congress, despite all the talk about government spending and the fiscal cliff, is still wasting as much money as ever.

“Every family in America has been struggling for the last three or four years and they’ve made hard choices. Congress refuses to make the hard choices,” Coburn said.

And so with no major accomplishments this year and a trillion dollar deficit, the Waste Book in fact lists Congress itself as a waste of money.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun222012

Senate Votes to End Public Financing for Party Conventions

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The party is over, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., declared on Thursday.

The Senate has voted to end public financing for political party conventions.  The measure passed as an amendment to the Farm Bill by an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of 95-4.

“Fortunately, the Senate said the ‘party is over’ when it comes to travel and meetings paid for by taxpayers,” Coburn hailed after the vote.  “In these tough times, there is no justification for spending public funds on booze, balloons and confetti when both parties are awash in campaign donations.”

Convention financing comes from the little box on your tax return where taxpayers can dedicate $3 of their income tax to go toward public financing of political campaigns.

Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney is accepting public financing for their campaign operations.

But as of May, the Republican and Democratic parties have each received checks from the U.S. Treasury for a total of $36.5 million to be spent on their conventions in Charlotte, N.C., and the Tampa, Fla., this summer.  By law, if that money is not spent, it stays in the campaign fund to be used four years later.

Coburn says if this country couldn’t do this small thing then the country is “doomed,” so he was happy with the outcome of Thursday’s vote.

“Ninety-nine percent of the American public has no idea when they check the box that we’re going to take actual American taxpayer dollars and subsidize party conventions for candidates who have better already been decided,” Coburn said moments before the vote on his amendment.

The Farm Bill, which includes the convention measure, still needs to be passed in the House of Representatives before coming law.  It would not take effect until the next general election in 2016.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May252012

Ethics Panel Admonishes Sen. Tom Coburn

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Ethics committee has slapped the hand of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK., for engaging in communication with an ex-aide of the disgraced former Sen. John Ensign.

The committee said there was “improper conduct” between the Coburn and ex-Ensign aide Doug Hampton, by violating the Senate rule, which bars contact on legislative matters within the first year of a staffer’s departure.

“The Committee found that you met with Mr. Hampton on official business even though you had reason to know that he was legally prohibited from requesting or participating in such a meeting,” the letter written Friday to Coburn from the Ethics Committee says.

The Senate’s Post-Employment Contact Ban prohibits former senior staff, like Hampton, for one year from knowingly communicating or appearing before their former Senate colleagues if their intent is to influence official action and they acting on behalf of any other person – called the “cooling off period.”

Hampton is an employee of Allegiant Air. The committee found that during Hampton’s cooling-off period he met with Coburn in March of 2009 and discussed both personal and business related matter, including the FAA reauthorization and “substantive matter of legislative concern to Allegiant.”

The Ethics Committee says the communication and meeting was “improper,” which reflects poorly on the Senate. But, they determined that the “Public Letter of Qualified Admonition” sent today is enough punishment.

“In deciding to issue a qualified admonition, the Committee took note that it was one meeting that you have since candidly acknowledged was wrong and taken full responsibility for arranging,” they write. “The Committee recognizes and appreciates your contrition.”

The Ethics Committee’s six-member panel says they now deem the “matter closed.”

Senator Coburn’s office will be issuing a statement shortly.

Former Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign resigned from Congress in 2011 after having an affair with Hampton’s wife.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Coburn says in a statement to ABC News that the Senate Ethics Committee's letter was "gratuitous," and says the burden of compliance should be on those under the lobbying ban, not members of Congress.

Full paper statement below:

“The burden of compliance should be on individuals under the lobbying ban, not on the thousands of employees on Capitol Hill who are now being asked to access a database of banned individuals each time they get a phone call or meeting request.  Admonishing Dr. Coburn for failing to know Hampton was only seven weeks shy of ending his year-long cooling off period is gratuitous, particularly when Dr. Coburn cooperated fully with the ethics committee and went out of his way to acknowledge that he could have taken additional steps to learn that Hampton was under the ban – even though, again, the burden of compliance was on Hampton.  It is unfortunate the committee has impugned Dr. Coburn for their failure to provide workable guidance for a law that was passed nearly five years ago.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec052011

GOP Senator Says Payroll Tax Cut Extension Will Pass

Steve Cole/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite disagreement in Congress over how to pay for extending payroll tax cuts, a Senate Republican said on Sunday that he expects the extension sought by President Obama to pass before they expire for most Americans at the end of the month.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told Fox News Sunday that “probably” both the tax cuts and an extension of unemployment benefits will go through.

“The question the American people ought to ask is where is the backbone in Washington to actually pay for these extensions in the year the money’s spent,” he said.

Democrats have not proposed a realistic way to pay for the payroll tax cuts, said Coburn, who opposes an increase in taxes to pay for it.

“Whether or not we continue a reduction in the amount of taxes that come to Social Security, that’s one thing, paying for it -- we have so much waste in Washington to take 10 years to pay for it is ridiculous,” he said.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will propose a compromise plan to extend the payroll tax.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., also appearing on Fox News Sunday, said Reid called him about it Saturday night.

“It’ll be paid for.  It will be paid for in a way that’s credible and serious.  It will represent a compromise from what was voted on last week.  It’s a serious attempt to move this ball forward,” Conrad said.

Conrad said extending the payroll tax cuts is necessary to keep the economic recovery moving.

If the payroll tax cut is not extended, middle-class families will see their taxes go up by $1,000, President Obama said in his weekly address.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

Sen. Tom Coburn Has Surgery for Prostate Cancer

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was recovering Tuesday from surgery to treat an early stage incidence of prostate cancer.

“He is expected to make a full recovery and return to his full-time duties later this month,” Coburn spokesman John Hart said in a statement to ABC News.

Coburn, 63, has twice had cancer before. In 1975 he had malignant melanoma and in 2001 he had colon cancer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep302011

Senators Cry Foul over Plan to Trim Watchdog Agency

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- A group of the most fervent budget hawks in Congress have found at least one spending cut that they don’t like: proposed cuts the Government Accountability Office’s budget.

Claiming that the proposed 7 percent cut will be “overly burdensome” to the government watchdog agency, five senators, including four Republicans and one Democrat, sent a letter to the appropriators Thursday in protest.

“We are, however, concerned that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is being unfairly singled out with both excessively deep cuts and overly burdensome new mandates that will consume the agency’s more limited resources for no apparent benefit,” they wrote.

The letter is signed by Senators Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.; and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

This month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Chairman Ben Nelson’s, D-Neb., plan -- within the fiscal year 2012 Legislative Branch appropriations bill -- to cut Congress’ spending by 5.2 percent, amounting to a $200 million saving.

“These cuts are strategic and sensible.  But make no mistake, they are real and will force Congress and the agencies on Capitol Hill to live with less,” Nelson said of the proposed cuts earlier this month.  “As Congress works to bring down federal spending, bring down the debt and balance the federal budget, Congress must tighten its own belt.”

The proposal calls for a 7.6 percent cut to the GAO, the independent, nonpartisan agency that served as a Congressional watchdog investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer’s money.

“While we agree GAO must face the same harsh fiscal realities being applied to every other federal agency and program, the cut to the agency’s budget represents more than 10 percent of the entire reduction proposed within legislative branch spending,” the bipartisan group of Senators wrote in the letter to Chairman Nelson and Ranking Member Hoeven on the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “There is no question oversight of the federal government, a primary function of the legislative branch, will suffer as a result of this dramatic cut to GAO funding.”

In an op-ed in The Washington Examiner Thursday morning, Sen. Coburn dubs this the “Senate appropriators’ secret war against oversight.”

“The logic of the committee’s proposal is tough to decipher,” Coburn wrote.  “At a time when we are running a $15 trillion debt and are borrowing $4.5 billion a day to keep government open and our military deployed, every agency needs to tighten its belt.  Yet, the Appropriations Committee proposal looks like mismanagement at best and pay back at worse.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

Sen. Tom Coburn Questions Use of Funds

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- These are examples of how Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., took issue with the way funds were allocated on the Senate floor Wednesday to give more weight to his argument that the FAA/highway bill should not be passed in its current form in the Senate.

Coburn cited examples including $110,804 for an observation area for white squirrels in Tennessee, $250,000 for the construction of a twin dragons gateway to the Chinatown area in Los Angeles, $198,000 for a Corvette simulator at a museum in Kentucky and $3.4 million for a turtle and wildlife passage in Florida.

A key Democrat accused Coburn of obstructionism, but Coburn argued the examples show states across the country are using millions of dollars of federal funds in odd ways, while in many cases bridges are in need of fixing. Coburn deemed that questionable and unnecessary.

Coburn is trying to repeal the federal mandate in the House-passed bill that requires states to spend 10 percent of funding provided by the Surface Transportation Program for “Transportation Enhancement Activities.” Transportation enhancement activities can include museums, pedestrian walkways, bike paths, landscaping and scenic beautification. Or, as Coburn pointed out Wednesday, they can actually fund things like the white squirrel observation deck and the Corvette simulator.

“I’m not saying they’re necessarily bad,” Coburn said. “But when we have bridges falling down in this country and concrete, like the summer before last in Oklahoma, falling out of an interstate highway bridge, injuring somebody, falling into their car as they drive under it, I would think we would want to repair the 146,000 bridges rather than spend money redecorating a sign.”

Coburn’s amendment would provide states and communities the flexibility to enhance safety rather than beautification and to meet local needs at their discretion, his office said.

“All we’re saying is if your state wants to continue to spend money on something other than safety and bridges and roads, fine. You can,” Coburn said. “But don’t make those of us that already have a big problem with safety have to spend money on something that doesn’t protect our citizens, doesn’t enhance their highways, by spending money on something that’s called an enhancement but doesn’t enhance their safety or their ability to commute.”

During a Twitter town hall Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was asked if Congress will reauthorize funds for the FAA bill that is tied to the highway bill -- and took the opportunity to lay into Coburn over the most recent threat of a partial shutdown over the FAA funding, which expires Friday.

“We have a Republican senator here that is holding them both up,” Reid said. “Why? Because he’s mad. Because he thinks that there should be no money spent on bike paths.

“I said, ‘OK, I’ll give you a vote,’ and he said, ‘No I don’t want a vote -- I just want it in the bill,’” Reid said. “And so we’ve gotten so far now that people won’t even take a vote. They are holding everything up just because they want to hold things up.”

Reid said he would go out on the Senate floor and ask for consent to pass the two bills Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ll keep pushing until we get this done,” Reid said. “We can’t have another FAA shutdown.”

Coburn suggested that the Senate split up the two bills -- the FAA and the highway bill -- but it is not clear at this point what will be done.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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