Coburn Says He May Block End-Of-Year Spending Bills

Thursday, December 6th 2007, 9:26 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Senator Tom Coburn says he is considering blocking Senate action on any bills this month that would expand government or cause it to spend more money. The Oklahoma Republican, known for targeting what he considers to be inappropriate federal spending, said that he wants to prevent the traditionally high volume of legislation that Senate leaders try to pass near the end of the year through a process called "unanimous consent," “The Oklahoman” reported from its Washington bureau.

That procedure doesn't allow for debate or the proposal of amendments to bills. Many bills for which the procedure is used are considered non-controversial.

"At the end of the year, the time pressure comes and everybody wants to get something passed," Coburn said during a speech on the Senate floor. "And so what happens is we do a poor job of legislating because we don't look at it, we don't amend it, we don't have a debate so the American people can know about it. We just pass it."

Coburn sent a letter to the other 99 senators to let them know of his intentions. Senate rules allow a single senator to block consideration of any bill, a process known as a "hold," and Coburn is stalling action on 95 bills.

Among those stalled bills is one that would fund a campaign about swimming pool safety and authorize grants to states that approve certain pool regulations. The bill calls for $29 million in new spending. Coburn's spokesman, Aaron Cooper, said the senator supports the bill's intent but that Congress "must make tough choices and prioritize spending."

Lisa Ackerman, a spokeswoman for the bill's sponsor, Senator Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, said Pryor wants to reach a compromise with Coburn. Ackerman said that Coburn wants to cut the bill's cost by 70% but that Pryor believes Coburn's concerns can be addressed.

Other senators have criticized Coburn's past efforts to block legislation.