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Tom Coburn on Government Reform

Republican Jr Senator; previously Representative (OK-2)


Expose phone-marking: earmarks by verbal request to agencies

Proposed earmarks like the Bridge to Nowhere and the Woodstock Museum--a museum celebrating the famous free love gathering in 1969 that now received free money--finally forced Congress to accept an earmark moratorium in 2011, yet the culture of parochialism and careerism in Congress is alive and well. For instance, members continue to push for parochial projects through phone-marking--a tactic members use to avoid a paper trail and transparency rules by calling agency heads to cajole them to fund certain grants or risk budget cuts to their agency. President Obama, in fact, threatened to make public requests that continued to come this way. It's a shame he didn't make good on that threat.
Source: The Debt Bomb, by Sen. Tom Coburn, p. 48 , Apr 17, 2012

All bills should cover new cost by offsetting other spending

In the Senate the "hotline" is a favorite tool of the "party of yes" to spending. The hotline process allows bills to call up and pass by "unanimous consent," which means passage by automatic voice vote, if all 100 senators either say yes or fail to signal dissent.

The hotline was created to quickly dispatch innocuous and noncontroversial motions, such as naming post offices or moving along perfunctory resolutions. 80% of hotlined bills fit this mold. However, the process has expanded to pass not just mundane bills but an enormous amount of costly and significant legislation.

As I came to understand how broken the hotline process had become, at the beginning of each Congress I began sending my colleagues a letter explaining my intention to not grant unanimous consent or "hold" bills that are unconstitutional or spend new money that is not offset.

Source: The Debt Bomb, by Sen. Tom Coburn, p.115 , Apr 17, 2012

Clear away duplicative programs instead of creating new ones

In January 2012 a report from the GAO revealed there are at least 209 federal programs supporting science, technology, engineering and math education, costing $3.12 billion. Yet, industry continuously sounds the alarm that we don't have enough highly trained workers in these areas. Duplication itself is a barrier.

Our sustainable debt is the real wake up. It should prompt us to stop spending money we don't have on things we don't need. We can start by clearing away duplicative programs instead of creating new ones.

When the GAO report was initially released, both sides of the aisle viewed it was an unbiased and authoritative call to action.

Source: The Debt Bomb, by Sen. Tom Coburn, p.181-2 , Apr 17, 2012

Earmarks are consistent with socialism, not conservatism