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Entries in Tom Coburn (20)

Tuesday
Jun282011

Odd-Couple Coburn & Lieberman's Medicare Plan: Raise Medicare Age to 67

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., have introduced a bipartisan proposal to overhaul one of the most politically sensitive issues today: Medicare, which they estimate would cut $600 billion from the deficit over 10 years.

“We can't balance our budget without dealing with mandatory spending programs like Medicare,” Lieberman said Tuesday. “We can't save Medicare as we know it. We can only save Medicare if we change it.”

The proposal increases the eligibility age for Medicare, gradually rising to 67 from 65 starting in 2014, and would require seniors to pay more for their prescription drugs.  Most of the savings within the plan would come from an increase in premiums paid by seniors. The plan would require higher-income Americans to pay more for their share of Medicare Part A, B and D.  For Parts B and D, wealthier Americans will be asked to pay a hundred percent of premium cost.

“Our plan contains some strong medicine, but that's what it will take to keep Medicare alive,” Lieberman said. “We believe our plan administers the medicine in a fair way. It asks just about everyone to give something to help preserve Medicare, but it asks wealthier Americans to give more than those who have less.”

The odd-couple both pointed to areas where they each had to negotiate when pairing up for this proposal.  Lieberman, who once had wanted a one-percent cap on people making over $250,000 a year to be part of the proposal, gave that up. Coburn allowed wealthier beneficiaries to absorb more of the costs.

The battle over what changes to make to Medicare is a key debate in the ongoing debt negotiations, as health care for the elderly is one of the largest drivers in government spending. Democrats have said that they will not support any overhaul of Medicare that includes cutting benefits to seniors.

The two senators acknowledged themselves that there is just about something for everyone to dislike about their plan.  And they were right.

Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate made clear that this is something that they will not support.

“I thought it was a bad idea,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Tuesday.  “We should not be cutting benefits now.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the proposal is “unacceptable.”

So what’s next for this proposal then? Senators Coburn and Lieberman said that they hope they can get a few moresenators to sign onto the plan, and hope that eventually it will be part of the ultimate agreement on the debt ceiling.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Exclusive: Taxpayer Money Spent on Shrimp on Treadmills

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- You've probably heard of shrimp on the barbie, but what about shrimp on a treadmill?

The National Science Foundation has, and it spent $500,000 of taxpayer money researching it.  It's not entirely clear what this research hoped to establish, but it's one of a number of projects cited in a scathing new report from Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, exclusively obtained by ABC News.

It's not just shrimp on a treadmill.  The foundation spent $1.5 million to create a robot that can fold laundry.  But before you try to buy one to save some time, consider that it takes the robot 25 minutes to fold a single towel.

The list goes on.  Lots of people love to use FarmVille on Facebook, but lots of people probably don't love the government's spending $300,000 in taxpayer money to study whether it helps build personal relationships.

"What it says to me is, they have too much money if they're going to spend money on things like that," Coburn said in an interview.

But there's more.  The National Science Foundation has its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from Washington, D.C., a building it pays $19 million a year to rent.  But now that the 20-year lease is nearly up, it has decided that it is time to move; into a new building that will cost $26 million annually to rent.

Even gelatin wrestling has been the subject of an agency project -- in Antarctica, no less.  The foundation notes that the project is the work of contractors, not agency employees.

Whatever the case might be, Coburn said, the situation is another example that federal spending has gotten out of control.

"We have 12 different agencies doing pure research, and we're duplicating and we're not sharing the information across and it's siloed," he said.

In response to Coburn's report, the National Science Foundation launched a vigorous defense of its projects.  Agency officials said they "have advanced the frontiers of science and engineering, improved Americans' lives, and provided the foundations for countless new industries and jobs."

And the facts back up that statement.  One agency project helped lead to the creation of Google, while another led to the invention of bar codes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May202011

Sen. Coburn on Debt Outlook: ‘I Would Downgrade Us in a Minute’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If Sen. Tom Coburn was working for one of the credit-rating agencies, his take on the U.S. debt outlook is clear.

"I would downgrade us in a minute," Coburn, R-Okla., told ABC News in an interview featured on Top Line Friday. "Yeah, I would -- knowing what I know."

He also said rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's were too generous to the U.S. economy during the last fiscal crisis.

"I would tell you there's a basis on which a lawsuit could be filed against S&P, based on what S&P's evaluations were during the last financial crisis, and hold them accountable in terms of what the real numbers look like for our country."

Coburn also said he's not ready to give up on bipartisan budget talks developing into a consensus, though he walked away from the "Gang of Six" negotiations this week.

He suggested that he may support an agreement that includes new revenues: "The fact is we're at the lowest tax rate this country's been in a hundred years," Coburn said.

And Coburn took a swipe at American for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist, who has blasted Coburn for raising the possibility of supporting higher taxes.

"People like him -- who are a lobbyist -- have to use hyperbole to justify their positions. Right? I don't care what he says -- he's like a fly on the wall," Coburn said. "If you’re scared of Grover Norquist you have no business being up here."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May202011

Leading GOP Budget Hawk at Odds with Republican Leaders

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told ABC News that the federal debt is now so out of control that the credit rating of the United States is in jeopardy -- and the only way to deal with it is a bipartisan agreement that increases tax revenues.

"The fact is we're at the lowest tax rate this country's been in a hundred years," Coburn said. "And nobody believes that we're going to get a bipartisan agreement without some way to increase revenue for the federal government.  We're also at the lowest level in a long time in terms of revenues coming in."

Increasing tax revenues, Coburn said, does not mean increasing tax rates.  Higher revenues could be accomplished by closing tax loopholes for individuals and/or corporations.

"Do I want tax rates to rise?  Absolutely not. Will I fight that? Yeah," Coburn said. "Would I agree to a plan that would create great economy that would markedly increase revenues to the federal government?  You bet.  And that's what I want to do."

Earlier this week, Coburn dropped out of the so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of Senators that has been working for months to find an agreement to curtail entitlement spending and reduce the deficit.

Coburn says he left the Gang of Six because he reached an impasse with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) about the need for specific cuts to Medicare and other popular entitled programs and needed "a good cooling off period."

"We had a conversation, very frank and where I needed him to go, he couldn't and where I wanted to go, he couldn't so what you need to do is back off and see if you can do something different," Coburn said.

He still hopes the Gang of Six can eventually reconvene and come to an agreement.  In the meantime, Coburn is going to put together his own list of spending cuts totaling a whopping $9 trillion over 10 years -- a level of spending cuts that would go far beyond even the $6 trillion in cuts proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May192011

Coburn: Newt Needs to 'Keep His Mouth Shut'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse for Newt Gingrich, a prominent conservative senator tells him to “keep his mouth shut.”
 
In an interview on ABC’s Subway Series with Jonathan Karl to be released Friday morning, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says Gingrich needs to “keep his mouth shut” about Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan until he has his own plan to deal with skyrocketing entitlement spending.
 
“If you haven’t put a plan on the table, you need to keep your mouth shut because the problem hasn’t gone away,” Coburn told ABC News in an interview on the Capitol subway.  “You’re elevating yourself by being critical of someone else.”
 
Gingrich has backtracked from his criticism of Ryan’s Medicare plan -- on Sunday he called it “right-wing social engineering” -- but Coburn sees Gingrich’s remarks as part of a pattern going all the way back to his time as Speaker of the House.
 
“You know, he used to have a little deal in his office that said listen, learn, help and lead. And he rarely followed it. He went the other way. And instead of ready, aim, fire, you got a fire, ready, aim,” Coburn said.  “I think it’s unfortunate for him and unfortunate for the country.”
 
The full interview, including surprising comments from Coburn on tax increases and the fate of the Senate’s so-called Gang of Six, will be released Friday morning.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May172011

'Gang of Six' Becomes 'Gang of Five' as Tom Coburn 'Takes a Break'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If a month ago the Gang of Six was running the risk of irrelevance, today they're falling apart.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has decided to "take a break from the talks," according to a spokesman.

"He is disappointed the group has not been able to bridge the gap between what needs to happen and what senators will support," Coburn spokesman John Hart said. "He has decided to take a break from the talks."

"He still hopes the Senate will, on a bipartisan basis, pass a long-term deficit reduction package this year," Hart noted. "He looks forward to working with anyone who is interested in putting forward a plan that is specific, balanced and comprehensive."

Coburn's departure could spell doom for the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators that has been meeting for months in an effort to hatch a deficit reduction deal.

The group, which also included Democratic senators Dick Durbin, Kent Conrad and Mark Warner and Republican senators Saxby Chambliss and Mike Crapo, began working in January to reach a deal that could gain traction on Capitol Hill. For a while it sounded like the group was making progress. Just before Congress’ Easter recess, Durbin told ABC News that the group was “very very close,” noting that if they waited too long to release a report, “we may not be players.”

But after recess, talks stalled. Coburn went home to Oklahoma to deal with a family emergency, Conrad voiced plans to plow ahead with his own proposal as Senate Budget Committee chairman, and suddenly everything was up in the air. The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, even said the only deficit reduction talks he cared about were the ones led by Vice President Biden.

Now with Coburn's departure, the Gang of Six isn't even the Gang of Six anymore.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar012011

New GAO Report Has One Senator Fuming: 'It Is All Congress' Fault'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With Congress currently embroiled in a contentious spending fight, the Government Accountability Office has found that a staggering level of duplication is plaguing the bloated federal budget, chewing up billions of dollars in funding every year and making at least one senator furious.

“Makes us look like jackasses,” Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told ABC News on Tuesday. “What would you think? You are paying men and women to come to Congress to be good stewards of the money and then you get a report out like this that says you are absolutely not good stewards of the money.”

In a new report obtained by ABC News, the GAO determined that “reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services.”

Even when it comes to chickens and eggs, there's a tangle of redundant programs. It's almost embarrassing. Take the overlap between the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture: The FDA is responsible for ensuring eggs are "safe, wholesome and properly labeled."  The Department of Agriculture, too, is responsible for "eggs processed into egg products"

The Department of Agriculture is also responsible for the "health of young chicks" while the FDA oversees the safety of "the food they eat."  Got that?  All told, 15 separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.

In agency after agency, the report finds overlapping programs wasting billions of dollars and programs that are almost never assessed to see if they are working.

“We are mismanaged, misled and incompetent and the American public needs to hold us accountable,” Coburn said.

Need some more examples?  The report found 82 different programs with similar descriptions in 10 different agencies for roads and trains. 

Senator Coburn, who asked for the report, says it is an indictment of Congress, which ultimately creates all these programs.

“It is all Congress’ fault,” Coburn said. “This is an indictment [on] both Republicans and Democrats and on administrations run by both Republicans and Democrats not leading.”

Coburn says the report it all adds up to hundreds of billions in spending on overlapping programs and over a trillion dollars in waste over the course of a decade.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec202010

Most Wasteful Government Programs of 2010

Photo Courtesy - Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Republican senator has drafted what he calls a "wastebook" -- a guide to what he considers to be the top 100 examples of wasteful government spending in 2010.

Highlights include the $700,000 awarded by the Department of Agriculture to the University of New Hampshire to investigate methane gas emissions from dairy cows. The National Science Foundation spent $216,000 to study the use of "ambiguous" statements by politicians.

"I would tell you that there's hundreds of billions of dollars every year, that if the American tax payer could go down through it, they'd say "wipe this off, this off, this off...we don't think any of this is important," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK.), the author of the report, who acknowledges his examples represent a tiny fraction of government spending.

The combined cost of studies of cow burps and political statements was less than a million dollars, but some of the other items in Coburn's report are far more costly.

The government spends $28 million a year just to print The Congressional Record, a daily chronicle of every word uttered in Congress and countless more words submitted "for the record." The Congressional Record is available online which is the way most people who want to read it find it.

Coburn says the blame for most of this lies not with the White House, but with Congress. What's needed, he says, is for the president to fight Congress to stop these programs.

"We've never had a president, that I know of in my lifetime, that's willing to take on Congress," Coburn said. "None of them.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec152010

End in Sight for Tax Cut Debate? Senate Passes Key Bill

Photo Courtesy - Christopher Zacharow/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate  passed a bill to extend tax cuts for all Americans by an overwhelming majority after a call from President Obama Wednesday morning to send the bill "swiftly" to his desk.

The bill now moves to the House, where it faces stiff opposition from liberal Democrats who argue the president caved in too quickly to Republican demands. Wednesday morning, President Obama, continuing his campaign to pass the contested tax cut extension, had urged Congress to move quickly on the issue that has caused much rebellion within both parties.

"I'm absolutely convinced that this tax cut plan, while not perfect, will help grow our economy and create jobs in the private sector -- it will help lift up middle-class families who no longer need to worry about a New Year's Day tax hike," Obama said.

Calling the tax cuts a "critical economic package" that's "a win for middle class families," the president for the second time this week pushed lawmakers to put aside their differences.

"We can't afford to let it fall victim to either delay or defeat," he added. "I urge members of Congress to pass these tax cuts as swiftly as possible."

Before the final vote, senators voted on three proposals, all of which failed.

The votes were on a proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to pay for the cost of extending unemployment benefits with spending cuts; a plan by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to permanently extend the tax cuts and repeal the estate tax; and a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to extend the tax cuts only for the bottom 98 percent of taxpayers and extend the Making Work Pay tax credit that was part of the stimulus plan instead of a payroll tax holiday.

Unlike in the House, the tax cut bill in the Senate garnered bipartisan support for the most part.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep232010

Senate Still Stuck in Food Safety Stalemate

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For 15 months now, a bill to boost the nation’s food safety has been languishing in the U.S. Senate.  The bill would help prevent massive outbreaks of tainted food by giving the Food & Drug Administration the authority to order mandatory recalls and require more frequent inspections of high-risk food processing plants.  But some, like Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, continue to block its passage.

At a hearing on the egg recall on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged lawmakers to advance the bill with a defined amendment process, saying, “There’s no excuse to wait any longer.  Let’s move this common-sense bill and pass it.”  To do so, Reid needed every lawmaker to agree to his request, including Coburn. But to no one’s surprise, Coburn objected.

“We now have a bill that’s going to cost the American public $1.5 billion over the next five years and it doesn’t fix the real problem – and the real problem is the lack of focus of the agencies to do their job,” Coburn said.

Coburn told Reid he would only agree to move forward with the bill if the $1.5 billion cost was eliminated by offsets written into the bill itself, rather than subjected to specific votes during the amendment process. Coburn also wanted to remove an amendment that would ban the chemical bisphenol A from children’s food and drink containers. Reid said he’d think about it.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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