October 20, 2008

Land grab bill laden with earmarks and anti-energy

Staff Report
Tulsa Today

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK)

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement regarding the Senate Democrat Majority’s plan to devote a week or more of the Senate’s post-election special session debating a 1,082 page, $3 billion earmark-laden omnibus bill that expands federal land control over millions of acres of U.S. property, and restricts energy exploration over millions of acres of U.S. territory.

“Congress’ approval ratings are at an all-time low because the American people understand that never before in our nation’s history have the priorities of the United States Congress been more at odds with the priorities of the American people. The majority’s willingness to spend a week or more debating a lands bill loaded with frivolous projects and radical environmental provisions when we are facing our greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression is a case study in Congress’ misplaced priorities,” Dr. Coburn said.

“While the Senate would prefer to pass this omnibus package after the election, the American people have a right to understand the Senate’s post-election agenda before they go to the polls,” Dr. Coburn said.

Egregious bills and provisions contained in the omnibus package include the following:

  • Bill S. 2229 that takes about 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil out of production in Wyoming, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The energy resources walled off by this bill would equal our domestic natural gas production for 15 years.

  • Bill S. 27 that would spend $1 billion on a water project designed to save 500 salmon in California. At $2 million a head, each salmon would be worth far more than its weight in gold.

  • Bill S. 2359 to spend $3.5 million to celebrate the 450th birthday of St. Augustine Florida in 2015.

  • Bill S. 2875 that spends $4 million to protect livestock from wolves.

  • Bill S. 1969 that spends $250,000 to help bureaucrats decide how to designate Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood home.

  • Bill S. 2220 to spend $5 million on botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida.

  • Bill S. 1680 to spend $3 million on a “road to nowhere” through a wildlife refuge in Alaska.
“I’ve objected to wasteful, pork-barrel spending bills for many years whether offered by Democrats or Republicans. This bill is among the most egregious I’ve seen not just because of what it contains but because it blatantly puts short-term parochial politics ahead of the long-term interests of the country in a moment of national peril. The American people want Congress to address our economic crisis, not erect new barriers to energy exploration and reward special interests in their states,” Dr. Coburn said.

“Voters who are eager for real change should tell their elected representatives it’s time to set common sense priorities. Treating salmon as worth more than their weight in gold is not change. Change also means focusing on the long-term health of our economy rather than the short-term politics of parochialism. If Congress had approached the housing bubble and mismanagement at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with as much foresight as we do the upcoming birthday of St. Augustine Florida in 2015 we would be in much better shape financially,” Dr. Coburn said. “And can we wonder why the public distrusts Congress when we are asking taxpayers to spend $250,000 not on the task of protecting their homes, but the boyhood home of Alexander Hamilton?”

“While the majority may complain about my ‘unprecedented obstruction’ I make no apologies for denying Senators the privilege of passing this reckless and irresponsible bill by a secret non-recorded voice vote that allows for no debate and no amendments. The Majority Leader, who sets the Senate schedule, could have forced an open debate and vote on this package whenever he wished this past year. Unfortunately, the majority wanted to delay action on this bill until after the election precisely because they did not want voters to hold them accountable for erecting new barriers to American energy exploration and spending billions on ridiculous pet projects,” Dr. Coburn said.

“The greatest obstruction to our economic recovery is not any one Senator’s insistence that the Senate do its job and debate bills in the open, but short-sightedness of members of Congress in both parties who have lost the will and ability to set common sense priorities,” Dr. Coburn said.

Editor's Note: Detail summary of the more than 100 provisions of the bill here.