March 19, 2009

Lands bill displays Senate egoism over common sense

Senate defeats five Coburn amendments, accepts one

Press Release
Senator Tom Coburn M.D. (R-OK)

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today after the Senate’s passage of the Public Lands Act.

“Parochialism and short-term political expediency have once again trumped common sense in the United States Senate. The public lands bill handicaps future generations with additional debt and new barriers to both renewable and traditional energy resources in our own country,” Dr. Coburn said.

“Today, we rejected transparency and the ability to know the size and cost of federal property so we can better manage our resources. We rejected transparency because we prefer darkness and a lack of accountability. We rejected eliminating earmarks because we want to look good back home even if we undermine our future. We rejected the ability to access energy both renewable and traditional. We rejected prioritizing the needs of our national parks, which are deteriorating in the face of at least a $10 billion maintenance backlog because we prefer new ribbon cutting ceremonies to the hard work of upkeep and oversight,” Dr. Coburn said.

“The American people also should be disappointed that in a time of economic turmoil the United States Senate has devoted seven weeks to a bill that could have been done in two weeks. Seventy of the bills in this package, which I supported, could have passed by voice vote. Had the majority agreed to a simple and open amendment process months ago we could have been focusing on more important issues. The fact that one-third of the Senate supported some of my amendments demonstrated that this bill was too complex and controversial to pass essentially in secret with no debate, no amendments and no recorded votes,” Dr. Coburn said.

Background on Coburn amendments:

  • The Senate voted 79 to 19 to table, or kill, Coburn Amendment 680, which would have barred new construction projects for national parks until all current sites are fully operational and pose no health or safety threat to the public. The National Park Service is currently facing a $10 billion maintenance backlog.

  • The Senate voted 65 to 33 to table, or kill, Coburn Amendment 679, which would have nullified the provisions within the lands bill prohibiting renewable energy development on public lands.

  • The Senate voted 63 to 35 to table, or kill, Coburn Amendment 675, which would have prohibited the use of eminent domain for any provision authorized in the bill.

  • The Senate voted 58 to 39 to table, or kill, Coburn amendment 677, which would have required annual report detailing total size and cost of federal property.

  • By voice vote, the Senate accepted Coburn amendment 682, that will protect park visitors and scientists from criminal penalties for taking stones that may contain insignificant fossils.

  • The Senate voted 70 to 27 to table, or kill, Coburn amendment 683, which would have eliminated frivolous waste in the bill, including federal funding for a birthday party for St. Augustine, Florida, botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida, a salmon restoration project in California, a study of Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood estate in the Virgin Islands, and historic shipwreck exploration.