The Senate is currently considering the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act, legislation that would authorize $40 million per year over five years to fund research into the possible links between breast cancer and the environment. The proposal has over two-thirds support in the Senate.
But the bill’s passage has been stalled, as a senator placed a “hold” on it. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) released a statement announcing that a single Republican senator was blocking the bill. Reid called it “unconscionable” that one person would “singlehandedly block our ability to have a reasonable debate on a bill.”
It appears that this lone senator may be Dr. Tom Coburn (R-OK) — “an obstetrician who sees patients one morning a week.” Yesterday, when Reid brought the bill to the floor for a vote, Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) “objected” on behalf of Coburn:
REID: Upon the disposition of all amendments…the Senate proceed to vote on the passage of the bill as amended.
WEBB: Is there an objection? Senator from Arizona.
KYL: Mr. President, on behalf of Sen. Coburn, there is an objection.
WEBB: Objection is heard.
Watch the floor exchange:
The evidence strongly suggests it was Coburn who placed the hold. In 2006, he put a hold on the same bill, claiming it “would take the authority for research out of the hands of scientists and put it into the hands of politicians.”
In March, the Senate Health, Education, and Labor Committee passed the breast cancer bill, overriding Coburn’s efforts to amend it. Coburn reportedly unleashed the “threat of 15 amendments” to alter the legislation.
Despite being an obstetrician, Coburn’s record on women’s rights and health care is abysmal and at times, even offensive. In 2005, he proclaimed that silicone breast implants “make you healthier.” When running for Senate in 2004, he suggested the death penalty for abortion doctors.
ThinkProgress contacted Coburn’s office multiple times but received no response.
Scientists and Engineers For America Action Fund is asserting that Coburn is the one placing the hold.