Tom Coburn joins bid to fight earmarks

BY CHRIS CASTEEL Modified: January 8, 2009 at 4:41 am •  Published: January 8, 2009
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn joined a new effort Thursday to eliminate pork-barrel projects, and he praised President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to appoint a special spending watchdog.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, also said he didn’t plan to back down from his battles over spending, even if Democratic leaders tried to make life tougher for him.

Coburn joined with Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to propose legislation that would make it easier for lawmakers to strip "earmarks” from spending bills. One provision would allow a senator to challenge an earmark that hadn’t been approved previously by the Senate; it would take 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to override the challenge.

McCain, a longtime opponent of lawmakers’ pet projects, said the goal was no longer to make it easier for people to identify earmarks.

"Our goal is elimination of earmarks,” he said.

Feingold said the senators hope to make their proposal part of the economic stimulus bill Congress is expected to write in the next few weeks.

Praise for watchdog
Coburn, who has battled for the past four years against wasteful government spending, said Thursday that Obama’s appointment of a chief performance officer to scour the federal budget for savings was "great.”

Meanwhile, Coburn said he wasn’t worried about escalating tension between himself and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The Hill newspaper, quoting an anonymous source, reported this week that Reid may target Coburn’s position on the Judiciary Committee.