Conference call with Sens. Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint

Senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint spoke today in opposition to efforts by Democrats on housing and energy, calling their solutions “short term” and politically expedient rather than cogent and effective.  Coburn says that this is the problem with Harry Reid’s omnibus spending bill, too, which is why Coburn has placed procedural holds on it.  It spends too much money and focuses only on short-term, politically expedient solutions rather than long-term strategies on a range of issues.

Coburn wants a debate on the 39 bills that Reid has aggregated without allowing any amendments.  Coburn wants to use the debate to highlight the upcoming economic crisis that will result from the constant growth of the government, especially at the risk of financing it through sale of notes to foreign governments, especially China.

Jim DeMint says that Reid wants to paint Coburn as “unreasonable” for wanting the ability to offer amendments.  Reid, DeMint said, wants to force bills through the Senate on his say-so.  Only 53 bills so far has gone to a roll-call vote; most of them get approved by acclamation.  Reid is “ruining the institution,” DeMint says.  He wants to pass everything without serious debate and skipping roll-call votes.  It’s an effort to circumvent transparency.


  • Is it time for us to roll back the way we’ve calculated the budget deficit to pre-1964 to get better accuracy? — Coburn says it’s time to report it honestly.  The federal government has borrowed tremendous amounts of money from Social Security which hides the real size of the debt.  It has to start with a mandatory balanced budget, which will force Congress to set priorities.  Congress is doing the same thing Enron did — reporting false numbers to the public.
  •  When does the 60-hour debate begin? — Not until Reid files cloture, and we have to finish the energy debate first.  Republicans will need to keep the focus on energy, so it may take a while.
  • What is the total for this authorization? — Over $11 billion.  The authorization keeps expanding government, and does nothing to address duplications in the bureaucracy.  It also has no metrics for oversight in any of the programs.
  • Me: Do you have the votes to stop this, given that many of these authorizations have Republican co-sponsors?  It’s not a matter of policy at this point, but of principle.  If Reid wins, the minority will have no rights left in the Senate.  However, there are plenty of reasons to oppose the bill on policy, too.  The Christopher Reeve allocation duplicates what the NIH is already doing, and will dilute the overall effort.  The Non-Human Primate bill will keep people with assistance animals from traveling.
  • Me: Did Republicans do this as well?  Only twice during Bill Frist’s entire tenure as majority leader.  Reid has done it 14 times.  Also, Reid files cloture as soon as he introduces bills, which he then claims as “filibusters” from Republicans.
  • Why does Reid want to move away from the energy debate with it being the biggest issue facing the nation?  Because he doesn’t want to have to take the obvious action of increasing domestic supplies.  He’s more concerned with power than what’s best for the country.  Republicans need to keep the debate open on this issue.
  • Do you expect any Democratic support for your position on the authorization?  No.  I think it will be a leadership issue with the Democrats and that they will whip the members hard.  DeMint expects Republican solidarity.
  • What do you think of T. Boone Pickens’ wind farm?  Coburn supports it — but it’s not the only thing we should do, which Pickens also says.  We should be doing it all.

Here’s the background on the omnibus bill:

After weeks of public sniping and behind-the-scenes talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and conservative gadfly Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) over Coburn’s use of holds to block legislation, the chamber’s top Democrat appears ready to force a showdown by introducing a package of stalled bills aimed at breaking GOP support for Coburn.

According to Senate leadership aides, Reid today will begin the process of moving the “Coburn Omnibus,” a set of bills that have broad bipartisan support but have been held up because of Coburn’s objections.

Debate on the bill could begin Friday, and Coburn has raised the possibility of using the chamber’s arcane rules to grind the Senate to a halt.

Earlier this year, the two lawmakers’ relationship quickly degenerated over Reid’s decision to use procedural tactics to circumvent a deal he had cut with Coburn on a package of lands bills.