The tornado that hit Oklahoma on Monday resulted in more than 20 deaths and is expected to cost the federal government untold billions of dollars in aid and recovery. But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has long objected to federal funds being spent on everything from veterans benefits to relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is already insisting that any additional appropriations should be paid for with cuts elsewhere. “That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Coburn spokesman John Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.”
Indeed, during his time in Congress, Coburn has portrayed his efforts to rein in federal spending as a principled stance against accumulating larger deficits and passing debt to future generations. But Coburn hasn’t always opposed government spending that is not offset by budget cuts. The senator known as “Doctor No” has voted to fund the war in Iraq, the 2008 bank bail out, and even relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:
— 2005: The “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act” (H.R. 1268) provided $82 billion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coburn voted for the measure.
— 2006: The Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R.2863) provided approximately $40 billion for the war in Iraq. Coburn voted for the measure.
— 2006: “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act,” (H.R. 4939 ) provided $72 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coburn voted for the measure.
— 2005: After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Congress passed two relief bills, allocating more than $50 billion and allowing the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow more money. One of the measures was adopted by unanimous consent and Coburn voted for the other.
— 2006: Congress approved a Department of Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 5631), including approximately $70 billion for the war in Iraq. Coburn voted for the measure.
— 2008: In October 2008, the Bush Administration and Congress enacted a rescue package to stabilize the financial system by creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Coburn voted in favor of the measure.
By insisting that funding for tornado relief be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, Coburn representing his ideological purity rather than the needs of his Oklahoma constituents.