Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has a habit of trying to prove his fiscally conservative bona fides by making mountains out of mole hills. A few months ago, he literally made a federal case out of a non-existent $16 muffin “scandal.”
Now Coburn is holding hostage $20 million in funding for the September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero, trying to force Democrats to make deep cuts to other programs by pushing an emotional hot button:
Sen. Tom Coburn is blocking legislation that would provide $20 million a year in federal funding for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at ground zero, demanding that co-sponsors of the bill come up with cuts to pay for the spending, his office confirmed to POLITICO.
“Our debt is our greatest national security threat, and Dr. Coburn makes no apologies for forcing Congress to make choices and avoid unnecessary borrowing,” said John Hart, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Republican. “If providing federal funding for this effort is a critical national priority, the sponsors should pay for this effort by reducing spending on lower-priority programs.
“It is also important to question why we need a $20 million earmark for a 9/11 memorial when private and patriotic Americans across the country are generously supporting this noble cause,” Hart added.
If Coburn believes the memorial is such a “noble” and “patriotic” undertaking, the more obvious question is why doesn’t he believe the government should support it with more than just words. By using the loaded term “earmark” to describe the project, his spokesman effectively lumped it together with wasteful boondoggles like the infamous bridge to nowhere.
This disparaging characterization of the 9/11 memorial (with phrases like “unnecessary borrowing”) makes it clear that Coburn does not consider it a “critical national priority,” as sponsors of the bill do.
Moreover, it’s deeply ironic that Coburn’s office cites his concern for “national security” to defend his opposition to commemorating the lives lost in the worst act of terrorism on American soil.
Political Correction points out that Coburn’s grandstanding is “substantively meaningless.” $20 million represents less than 0.001 percent of the federal budget, so contributing to the memorial would have virtually no effect on national debt. Last year Coburn also blocked a bill to provide health care and other benefits to 9/11 first responders who were sickened by dust from the attacks.