U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement Wednesday after voting against the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Conference Report, H.R. 3043.
“The spending priorities in this bill show that many members of Congress seem to be less interested in addressing health and education needs and more interested in serving their own political needs,” Dr. Coburn said, referring to the 2,242 earmarks in the bill totaling more than $1 billion.
“I’m particularly disappointed the Senate decided it was appropriate to violate the new ethics and reform law, the ‘Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007,’ by airdropping new earmarks in the conference report that had not been approved by either the House or Senate,” Dr. Coburn said.
One airdropped earmark included $1 million for the Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy in South Dakota.
“It is disappointing that some politicians wanted to honor one of their own by violating both the new ethics law and a core campaign pledge. Prioritizing spending in this way was irresponsible when Republicans were in charge and it’s still irresponsible,” Dr. Coburn said.
“Finally, it is appalling that members of Congress are expected to read, digest and vote on an 853 page bill that wasn’t released until Monday night. Moreover, the fact that this bill wasn’t released in a searchable format makes a mockery of Congress’ supposed renewed commitment to honesty and transparency. Of the 853 pages in this bill, exactly 151 pages were filled only with earmarks that included very little explanation. Taxpayers are tired of learning what is in spending bills after they are approved by Congress,” Dr. Coburn said.
Questionable earmarks in the bill include:
· $130,000 for the National First Ladies’ Library Catalogue in Ohio
· $350,000 for an arts center in Iowa
· $100,000 for a celebration around Lake Champlain in Vermont
· $500,000 for the “Virtual Herbarium” in New York c
· $50,000 for an ice center in Utah
When the Senate considered the Labor/HHS bill last month Senators agreed to a Coburn amendment that removed a $1 million earmark for a Woodstock museum in New York. However, Senators refused to accept a Coburn amendment that would have delayed funding for their earmarks until the Secretary of Health and Human Services certified that all children in the U.S. had public or private health insurance.