Search for...
Follow @ontheissuesorg
OnTheIssuesLogo

Tom Coburn on Government Reform

Republican Jr Senator; previously Representative (OK-2)


We must have government that spends less and does less

We need to seriously rethink the role of the federal government. We must have a government that spends less and does less. And in those specific areas where government has a legitimate role, it needs to do less much more efficiently.

Rethinking the role of government means having a national debate over who got it right: our Founders, or today's big-spending Washington politicians who are always wanting to expand government?

Throughout our federal government, duplicative and wasteful spending continues to crowd out private investment, dampens innovation, and leaves us with nothing but staggering debt.

Source: Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint, p.122 , Jan 10, 2012

Expose widespread waste and duplication in federal spending

In 2011, Coburn released a report assessing the effectiveness of federal programs. The report exposed widespread waste & duplication in federal spending.

"This report confirms what most American assume about their government. We are spending trillions of dollars every year and nobody knows what we are doing. The executive branch doesn't know. The congressional branch doesn't know. Nobody knows," Coburn said.

Here are just a few of the findings and examples of duplication, mismanagement, and waste in the federal budget as exposed by Coburn's report:

Source: Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint, p.130-131 , Jan 10, 2012

Earmarks are unconstitutional perversion of Congress' duties

Sen. Coburn has aptly called earmarks, or porkbarrel spending, the "gateway drug" to spending addiction. He is right--and he explained it quite effectively in a March 2008 statement regarding a vote on an amendment for a modest one-year moratorium on earmarks:

"In addition to being an unconstitutional perversion of our duties, earmarks also drive spending higher and distract Congress from its oversight responsibilities. Earmarks are the gateway drug to spending addiction in Congress because they encourage members of Congress to vote for bloated bills they would otherwise oppose. Earmarks also waste money outright, contrary to the views of many members. If Congress stopped earmarking we could reduce spending by the same amount. We are not helpless victims to the budget rules we set for ourselves. Plus, the effective legislator is not one who sends money back to his to her state through pork. Instead, the effective legislator is one who prevents money from leaving their state."

Source: Fed Up!, by Gov. Rick Perry, p. 64-65 , Nov 15, 2010

Earmarks are gateway drug for wasteful government spending

Solving serious problems requires our discovery of what caused them. The bottom line, root cause of much of America's current overspending, debt, and governmental dysfunction is the practice of earmarking. There is nothing in Washington that symbolizes special interests and the deterioration of constitutional government more than earmarking. My friend Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma has described earmarks as the "gateway drug for wasteful government spending." He's right. And that means earmarks are one of the primary reasons for the growth and dysfunction of government, and America's slide toward socialism.

I began my political career believing earmarking was a harmless and important way to represent my district. After a few years in Congress, my mind began to change as I saw the damage the practice of earmarking was doing to our government and country. It became clear that asking for earmarks for my state stood in direct contradiction to my solemn oath to defend the Constitution.

Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p.113-114 , Jul 4, 2009

Rejected a road bill that came with a bribe

Q: Did you vote against money that would have provided much-needed transportation, highway road-building money for your state and your district because you didnít like the overall package?

A: The Republican Congress had agreed with Bush that weíd have a Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Immediately thereafter, they spent $27 billion we didnít have. Iíve put every project in that bill that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation asked me to put in that bill. I was then offered a bribe by the committee to vote for the bill, I could have $15 million to spend wherever I wanted to. I donít believe thatís the kind of government we want. Thatís what weíre seeing in Congress now with some of the ethical problems there. In fact, when the bill came through, I did vote against it, but I made sure that every bit of that money went to Oklahoma, including the $15 million bribe. I drive on Oklahoma roads. I have grandchildren on Oklahoma roads. Theyíre vitally important to me.

Source: Coburn-Carson 2004 debate on Meet The Press with Tim Russert , Oct 3, 2004

Voted NO on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted NO on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted NO on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted YES on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted NO on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.

A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 29, 2006

Voted NO on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.

An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-077 on Mar 28, 2006

Voted NO on banning soft money and issue ads.

Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT; Bill HR 417 ; vote number 1999-422 on Sep 14, 1999

Sponsored bill prohibiting non-legislated earmarks.

Coburn introduced prohibiting non-legislated earmarks

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to prohibit Federal agencies from obligating funds for appropriations earmarks included only in congressional reports.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bill would prohibit Federal agencies from obligating funds which have been earmarked only in congressional reports. This legislation is designed to help reign in unauthorized, unrequested, run-of-the-mill pork barrel projects.

Report language does not have the force of law. That fact has been lost when it comes to appropriations bills and reports. It has become a standard practice to load up committee reports with literally billions of dollars in unrequested, unauthorized, and wasteful pork barrel projects.

We simply must start making some very tough decisions around here if we are serious about improving our fiscal future. It is simply not fiscally responsible for us to continue to load up appropriations bills with wasteful and unnecessary spending, and good deals for special interests and their lobbyists. We have had ample opportunities to tighten our belts in this town in recent years, and we have taken a pass each and every time. We can't put off the inevitable any longer.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management & Government Information; hearings held; never came to a vote.

Source: Obligation of Funds Transparency Act (S.1495/H.R.1642) 05-S1495 on Jul 26, 2005

Sponsored bill allowing individual votes on each earmark.

Coburn introduced allowing individual votes on each earmark

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide greater accountability of taxpayers' dollars by curtailing congressional earmarking.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bipartisan bill changes the Senate rules to allow points of order to be raised against unauthorized appropriations and policy riders in appropriations bills and conference reports in an effort to reign in wasteful pork barrel spending.

In 1994, there were 4,126 Congressional earmarks added to the annual appropriations bills. In 2005, there were 15,877 earmarks, the largest number yet, that's an increase of nearly 300%! The level of funding associated with those earmarks has more than doubled from $23 billion in 1994 to $47 billion in 2005.

Our bill would establish a new procedure which would allow a 60-vote point of order to be raised against specific provisions that contain unauthorized appropriations, including earmarks, as well as unauthorized policy changes in appropriations bills and conference reports. Successful points of order would not kill a conference report, but the targeted provisions would be removed from the conference report.

To ensure that Members are given enough time to review appropriations bills, our proposal would also require that conference reports be available at least 48 hours prior to floor consideration.

To promote transparency, our bill requires that any earmarks included in a bill be disclosed fully in the bill's accompanying report, along with the name of the Member who requested the earmark and its essential governmental purpose.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.

Source: Pork-Barrel Reduction Act (S.2265) 06-S2265 on Feb 9, 2006

Prohibit voter intimidation in federal elections.

Coburn co-sponsored prohibiting voter intimidation in federal elections

Makes it unlawful for anyone before or during a federal election to knowingly communicate false election-related information about that election, with the intent to prevent another person from exercising the right to vote. Increases from one year to five years' imprisonment the criminal penalty for intimidation of voters.

Introductory statement by Sponsor:

Sen. OBAMA: This bill seeks to address the all-too-common efforts to deceive voters in order to keep them away from the polls. It's hard to imagine that we even need a bill like this. But, unfortunately, there are people who will stop at nothing to try to deceive voters and keep them away from the polls. What's worse, these practices often target and exploit vulnerable populations, such as minorities, the disabled, or the poor. We saw countless examples in this past election.

Of course, these so-called warnings have no basis in fact, and are made with only one goal in mind--to keep Americans away from the polls. We see these problems election after election, and my hope is that this bill will finally stop these practices. This bill makes voter intimidation & deception punishable by law, and it contains strong penalties. The bill also seeks to address the real harm of these crimes--people who are prevented from voting by misinformation--by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed voters with accurate information so they can cast their votes in time.
Source: Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (H.R.1281 & S.453) 07-S453 on Mar 1, 2007

Ensure delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas.

Coburn co-sponsored ensuring delivery of absentee ballots for troops overseas

A bill to improve procedures for the collection and delivery of absentee ballots of absent overseas uniformed services voters. Congress makes the following findings:

  1. In the defense of freedom, members of the United States Armed Forces are routinely deployed to overseas locations.
  2. We live in what senior Army leaders have referred to as an 'era of persistent conflict'.
  3. The right to vote is one of the most basic and fundamental rights enjoyed by Americans, and one which the members of the Armed Forces bravely defend.
  4. The ability of the members of the Armed Forces to vote while serving overseas has been hampered by numerous factors, including inadequate processes for ensuring their timely receipt of absentee ballots, delivery methods that are typically slow and antiquated, and a myriad of absentee voting procedures that are often confusing.
  5. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires the States to allow absentee voting for members of the Armed Forces and other specified groups of United States citizens, was intended to protect the voting rights of members of the Armed Forces.
  6. 992,034 absentee ballots were requested in the 2006 general election. However, less than one-third of such ballots were ultimately received by local election officials, evidencing an unacceptable failure of the current absentee ballot system.
  7. Modern technology continues to rapidly advance, greatly expanding the range of potential solutions to these problems and increasing the ability to remove obstacles encountered by overseas members of the Armed Forces in the past in trying to cast their votes; [specifically]:
Source: S.3073 08-S3073 on May 22, 2008

Identify constitutionality in every new congressional bill.

Coburn signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 1. Protect the Constitution:

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA01 on Jul 8, 2010

Audit federal agencies, to reform or eliminate them.

Coburn signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington:

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality,

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA05 on Jul 8, 2010

Moratorium on all earmarks until budget is balanced.

Coburn signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 9. Stop the Pork:

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA09 on Jul 8, 2010

Sponsored bill requiring Internet disclosure of earmarks.

Coburn sponsored H.R.5258& S.3335

    The website shall be comprised of a database including the following information, in searchable format, for each earmark:
  1. The fiscal year in which the item would be funded.
  2. The number of the bill or joint resolution for which the request is made, if available.
  3. The amount of the initial request made by the Member of Congress.
  4. The amount approved by the committee of jurisdiction.
  5. The amount carried in the bill or joint resolution (or accompanying report) as passed.
  6. The name of the department or agency, and the account or program, through which the item will be funded.
  7. The name and the State or district of the Member of Congress who made the request.
  8. The name and address of the intended recipient.
  9. The type of organization (public, private nonprofit, or private for profit entity) of the intended recipient.
  10. The project name, description, and estimated completion date.
  11. A justification of the benefit to taxpayers.
  12. Whether the request is for a continuing project and if so, when funds were first appropriated for such project.
  13. A description, if applicable, of all non-Federal sources of funding.
  14. Its current status in the legislative process
Source: Earmark Transparency Act 10-HR5258 on May 11, 2010

Ban paid voter registration.

Coburn signed Voter Fraud Prevention Act

A bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to establish standards for the distribution of voter registration application forms and to require organizations to register with the State prior to the distribution of such forms.

    Prohibits any individual from distributing, for compensation, a voter registration application form for federal elections in a state if the individual:
  1. has been convicted of a felony under any state or federal law;
  2. does not sign and print legibly the individual's name on the form;
  3. does not provide identifying information to the proper election official; or
  4. does not certify, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has not received financial compensation based on the number of voter registration application forms submitted by the individual to an election official upon completion by the applicant, and that the information provided by the individual is accurate to the best of the individual's knowledge.
Excepts from this prohibition the distribution of a voter registration application form by an individual who is not compensated directly or indirectly for it.

Establishes criminal penalties for: (1) individuals not meeting such standards; and (2) anyone who employs such an individual knowingly, or who should reasonably be expected to know the individual is ineligible.

Source: S.1103 2009-S1103 on May 20, 2009

Sponsored bill that laws must cite Constitutional authority.

Coburn sponsored Enumerated Powers Act

A bill to require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws.

Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise explanation of the specific constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. The availability of this point of order does not affect any other available relief.

Constitutional Authority for This Act: This Act proposes to establish new procedures by which legislation shall be considered by Congress and is enacted pursuant to the power granted Congress under article I, section 5, clause 2, of the United States Constitution establishing that each House may determine the rules of its proceedings.

Source: S.1319&HR450 2009-S1319 on Jun 22, 2009

Other candidates on Government Reform: Tom Coburn on other issues:
OK Gubernatorial:
Mary Fallin
OK Senatorial:
James Inhofe
Matt Silverstein

OK politicians
OK Archives

Retiring in 2014 election:
GA:Chambliss(R)
IA:Harkin(D)
MI:Levin(D)
MT:Baucus(D)
NE:Johanns(R)
SD:Johnson(D)
WV:Rockefeller(D)

Retired as of Jan. 2013:
AZ:Kyl(R)
CT:Lieberman(D)
HI:Akaka(D)
ME:Snowe(R)
ND:Conrad(D)
NE:Nelson(D)
NM:Bingaman(D)
TX:Hutchison(R)
VA:Webb(D)
WI:Kohl(D)
Senate Vacancies 2013:
HI:Inouye(D,Deceased)
HI:Schatz(D,Appointed)
MA:Kerry(D,Resigned)
MA:Cowan(D,Appointed)
MA:Markey(D,elected)
MA:Gomez(R,lost special election)
NJ:Lautenberg(D,Deceased)
NJ:Chiesa(R,Appointed)
NJ:Booker(D,running)
NJ:Lonegan(R,running)
SC:DeMint(R,Resigned)
SC:Scott(R,Appointed)

Senate races Nov. 2014:
AK:Begich(D) vs.Miller(R) vs.Treadwell(R) vs.Sullivan(R)
AL:Sessions(R) vs.Bright(D)
AR:Pryor(D) vs.Cotton(R)
CO:Udall(D) vs.Buck(R) vs.Hill(R) vs.Baumgardner(R) vs.Stephens(R)
DE:Coons(D) vs.O`Donnell(R)
GA:Gingrey(R) vs.Nunn(D) vs.Perdue(R) vs.Handel(R) vs.Broun(R) vs.Kingston(R)
HI:Schatz(D) vs.Hanabusa(D) vs.Cavasso(R)
IA:Braley(D) vs.Whitaker(R) vs.Ernst(R) vs.Clovis(R)
ID:Risch(R) vs.LaRocco(D)
IL:Durbin(D) vs.Truax(R) vs.Oberweis(R) vs.Hansen(L)
KS:Roberts(R) vs.Tiahrt(R)
KY:McConnell(R) vs.Bevin(R) vs.Grimes(D)
LA:Landrieu(D) vs.Cassidy(R) vs.Maness(R)
ME:Collins(R) vs.D`Amboise(R) vs.Bellows(D)
MI:Land(R) vs.Peters(D) vs.Wiedenhoeft(R)
MN:Franken(D) vs.Abeler(R)
MS:Cochran(R) vs.McDaniel(R) vs.Childers(D)
MT:Edmunds(R) vs.Daines(R) vs.Bohlinger(D) vs.Walsh(D)
NC:Hagan(D) vs.Tillis(R)
NE:Sasse(R) vs.Osborn(R) vs.Stenberg(R)
NH:Shaheen(D) vs.Martin(R) vs.Brown(R) vs.Smith(R) vs.Rubens(R) vs.Testerman(R)
NM:Udall(D) vs.Sanchez(R)
OK:Inhofe(R) vs.Silverstein(D)
OR:Merkley(D) vs.Conger(R)
RI:Reed(D) vs.Carcieri(R)
SC-2:Scott(R) vs.Wade(D)
SC-6:Graham(R) vs.Stamper(D) vs.Mace(R) vs.Bright(R)
SD:Rounds(R) vs.Weiland(D) vs.Pressler(I)
TN:Alexander(R) vs.Carr(R)
TX:Cornyn(R) vs.Stockman(R) vs.Roland(L)
VA:Warner(D) vs.McDonnell(R) vs.Radtke(R)
WV:Capito(R) vs.Raese(R) vs.Tennant(D) vs.McGeehan(R)
WY:Enzi(R) vs.Cheney(R)
Abortion
Budget/Economy
Civil Rights
Corporations
Crime
Drugs
Education
Energy/Oil
Environment
Families
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Immigration
Jobs
Principles
Social Security
Tax Reform
Technology
War/Peace
Welfare

Other Senators
Senate Votes (analysis)
Bill Sponsorships
Affiliations
Policy Reports
Group Ratings

Contact info:
Fax Number:
202-224-6008
Mailing Address:
Senate Office SR-172, Washington, DC 20510
Phone number:
(202) 224-5754

Page last updated: Dec 27, 2013