WASHINGTON — Meeting in a rare Sunday session, senators easily overrode Sen. Tom Coburn’s objections to a massive public lands bill and paved the way for passage possibly later this week.
By a vote of 66-12, the bill, which includes more than 160 pieces of legislation, cleared a procedural hurdle Coburn had thrown up. Coburn, R-Muskogee, objects to several of the proposals contained in the bill — particularly one that would make about 2 million acres of land in Wyoming off-limits to oil and gas exploration — and he wanted a chance to offer some changes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, rejected Coburn’s attempts to amend the bill and forced a Sunday vote to keep it moving.
Many of the bills were cleared by the House last year and by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Coburn blocked consideration of a similar package of public lands bills last year, and Reid made it a priority early in the new Congress to dispose of them.
Coburn complained on Sunday that senators were being asked to vote on a 1,300-page bill that few had read. He said the bill could ultimately cost up to $12 billion at a time when the nation is drowning in red ink.
Coburn said the vote on Sunday proved that "the greatest threat to change is a Congress that is addicted to power, pork and the politics of the past.
"In a time of economic turmoil, the United States Senate has bigger fish to fry than a pork-laden omnibus lands bill that puts parochial projects that spend $1 billion to rescue 500 salmon in California ahead of our serious economic challenges.”
Who wanted the bill?