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Tom Coburn keeps his eyes on ‘stinky’ spending

BY CHRIS CASTEEL Modified: March 4, 2009 at 4:58 am •  Published: March 4, 2009
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn sought Tuesday to strip what he called "stinky” earmarks from a $410 billion spending bill.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, said that if he could, he would offer amendments to take out all of the nearly 8,000 earmarks in the bill. But he said Senate Democratic leaders had put limits on how many changes he could attempt.


Coburn, among the few lawmakers who do not request special projects, focused on 11 "that looked a little stinky to me.”

Among them are:


• $1.9 million for the Pleasure Beach Water Taxi Service in Connecticut.


• $1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Iowa.


• $200,000 for tattoo removal in California.


• $238,000 for the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii.

Coburn mocked each of the earmarks and said they couldn’t be considered federal priorities when Congress was going to borrow $6,000 per American to pay for the massive spending bill.

In an era of personal responsibility, he said, people who get tattoos should be personally responsible for having them removed.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, defended the money for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, saying it was an outreach effort for students to learn about deep-sea voyages.

Coburn also offered an amendment that would strip $16 million in earmarks to clients of a once-influential lobbying firm that has closed down amid an inquiry involving earmarks and campaign donations. He is also seeking competitive bidding for all of the grants and contracts in the spending bill.


BACKGROUND
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, has been on a crusade against earmarks and often tries to strip them from funding bills before Congress. After a break following his time serving in the U.S. House, Coburn succeeded Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles, a Republican, who retired in 2004 after 24 years in the Senate.

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