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Coburn's Captives

July 21, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

(Updated below)

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has single-handedly blocked dozens – perhaps as many as 100 – bills from being approved by the Senate. When the 110th Congress convened in January 2007, he circulated a letter (pdf) to his colleagues outlining a set of criteria bills must meet in order for him to allow them to come to the floor. Since then, no matter how popular or needed a bill is, if it doesn’t meet his criteria, he puts a hold on it and effectively blocks it from being taken up.

At this point, just about every member of the Senate has had a bill that they care deeply about blocked by Coburn. That’s why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is preparing to hold a vote on a “”“>Coburn Omnibus”: legislation that will contain between 40 and 80 of the blocked bills. The idea is that by combining all of these popular bills into one giant omnibus, there will be a little something in it for almost every senator, and together they will all work to bypass Coburn’s objections.

Here’s a very abbreviated list of the blocked bills that will likely be included:

S.757 Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act of 2007

>A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to make grants for the development and operation of research centers regarding environmental factors that may be related to the etiology of breast cancer.

S.1183Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act

>A bill to enhance and further research into paralysis and to improve rehabilitation and the quality of life for persons living with paralysis and other physical disabilities, and for other purposes.

S.1382ALS Registry Act

>A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the establishment of an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Registry.

S.1810Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act

>A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to increase the provision of scientifically sound information and support services to patients receiving a positive test diagnosis for Down syndrome or other prenatally and postnatally diagnosed conditions.

H.R.985Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007

>To amend title 5, United States Code, to clarify which disclosures of information are protected from prohibited personnel practices; to require a statement in nondisclosure policies, forms, and agreements to the effect that such policies, forms, and agreements are consistent with certain disclosure protections, and for other purposes.

S.647Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007

>A bill to designate certain land in the State of Oregon as wilderness, and for other purposes.

S.2034Copper Salmon Wilderness Act

>A bill to amend the Oregon Wilderness Act of 1984 to designate the Copper Salmon Wilderness and to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate segments of the North and South Forks of the Elk River in the State of Oregon as wild or scenic rivers, and for other purposes.

S.2344Internet Safety Education Act of 2007

>A bill to create a competitive grant program to provide for age-appropriate Internet education for children.

S.1117Vision Care for Kids Act of 2007

>A bill to establish a grant program to provide vision care to children, and for other purposes.

S.2983Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act

>A bill to amend the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to authorize appropriations, and for other purposes.

S.898Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act of 2007

>A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to fund breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease research while providing more help to caregivers and increasing public education about prevention.

S.1551Comprehensive Tuberculosis Elimination Act of 2007

>A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act with respect to making progress toward the goal of eliminating tuberculosis, and for other purposes.

S.2511Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act of 2008

>A bill to amend the grant program for law enforcement armor vests to provide for a waiver of or reduction in the matching funds requirement in the case of fiscal hardship.

S.535Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act

>A bill to establish an Unsolved Crimes Section in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and an Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office in the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and for other purposes.

S.840Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act of 2007

>A bill to amend the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998 to authorize assistance for domestic and foreign programs and centers for the treatment of victims of torture, and for other purposes.

S.2020Tropical Forest and Coral Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2007

>A bill to reauthorize the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998 through fiscal year 2010, to rename the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998 as the “Tropical Forest and Coral Conservation Act of 2007”, and for other purposes.

UPDATE: More details on the Coburn Omnibus are available today. Click here for a pdf from Coburn that lists all the bills that will be included. And here’s a 14-page statement from Coburn.

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  • Sparhawk2k 07/21/2008 11:11am

    While I agree with most of what I’ve browsed through so far and hope it passes I am curious what the total cost is. It seems like most of his objections had to do with growing debt which is reasonable. Though that should be considered when they debate the bill, not when one man decides to block everything.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 07/21/2008 12:21pm

    The Senatus blog posted some info on a letter Corbun sent to Reid today RE: the omnibus.

    Coburn writes:

    “The omnibus is likely to cost around $25 billion when the costs of all of the bills are added together. I would request an expedited Congressional Budget Office analysis and score be made available to all Senators prior to the omnibus’ floor consideration.”

    Of course, it’s still in development, so this is a very rough guess.

    Also, on your second point about the floor debate, check out the potential agreements Coburn offers for how it could be conducted.

  • Anonymous 07/21/2008 11:21am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    Why care about debt? The foreign aid debt/grants are five year budgets including US government agency and employee hiring. The cost is 100s of billions between PEPFAR and MCC and Global AIDS, etc. We’re in five year debts that we can’t afford. We will be going broke as we send this free money overseas for another five years.

    This doesn’t seem like five year overseas debt worth hundreds of billions, so why care?

  • Anonymous 07/21/2008 11:23am

    Donny, what are you hearing about the Biden-Hatch child pornography bill (S. 1738)? The Surviving Parents Coalition (dot org) is on its way to the Hill today to lobby for inclusion in the package, along with PROTECT.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 07/22/2008 12:21pm

    It’s in there. See the link I posted above in the update.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 07/21/2008 12:33pm

    I haven’t seen any specific mention of this in relation to the omnibus, but Coburn is guessing it will contain “over 100” bills, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is included.

  • sod1 07/22/2008 3:10am

    The top three are proof enough that this doctor has a different agenda. The ALS Registry Act is already being tested in 3 cities with approved funds. Why do we waist time with senate committees review if bills can be blocked? His war on the CDC has to stop, people are dying while he plays watchdog.

  • Anonymous 09/26/2008 10:57am

    Just learning about this; but you look at the mess were in today and I have to say Keep it Up. I’m sure there are some good bills in all that he’s stopped but look at how much money he’s saved us on all the bad. We have to stop somewhere sometime and today should be the day since yesterday is gone. Lets get back to people helping people and keep government and their sticky fingers out of it.

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