The Tulsa World’s May 14, 2007, editorial misrepresented my position on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) the U.S. Senate is scheduled to consider this week. The World suggested I labeled the Tar Creek clean up as “frivolous” when I made no such statement.
I have two concerns with the bill, which I hope to address this week on the floor. First, it’s inappropriate for Congress to fund new projects when we have failed to pass a bill that will fund our troops who are in harm’s way. For that reason, I filed as an amendment to the WRDA bill a clean, earmark-free emergency war funding bill. I believe, as does Senator Inhofe, that Congress should immediately fund our troops.
Second, this bill is another example of Congress refusing to do what American families do every day, which is to set spending priorities among competing goals and desires. The WRDA contains many important projects and there’s little disagreement for the need to maintain our aging federal infrastructure and to fund critical national flood control priorities. What is in doubt is Congress’ ability to prioritize our infrastructure needs.
For instance, the WRDA bill now before the Senate allocates almost $29 million to add sand to a San Diego beach and would build a Louisiana visitors center while Hurricane Katrina victims still live in FEMA trailers. Each dollar spent on such lesser priorities is a dollar that can’t be used for Tar Creek or other top national priorities.
Considering the Corps of Engineers already faces a backlog of more than 500 projects, or $58 billion, it seems to me adding even more to the Corps’ “to do” list without setting priorities is unwise.
One only has to look at the history of Tar Creek to see the ill effects of spending without accountability or setting priorities. When I represented the area as a congressman, I fought continually to hold the Corps accountable for every dollar spent on Tar Creek. It’s a fight I resumed when I came to the U.S. Senate. It’s important the federal government is held to account for Tar Creek which is why I’ll keep fighting to ensure that Congress keeps the promises it has already made before making new promises.
Tom A. Coburn, M.D.