WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn has a hard and fast rule about any legislation that creates new programs and isn’t "paid for” — he’ll block it.
That’s even if one of the main supporters of the bill is fellow Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, and even if the legislation has more than 50 co-sponsors from both parties. Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is pushing for action on a bill aimed at helping capture the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, providing aid to victims of that group’s reign of terror and stabilizing local governments in the area where the LRA operates. Backed by liberals and conservatives, the bill also is being pushed by an outside group called Resolve Uganda, whose Web site is encouraging people to call or e-mail Coburn to release his hold. But Coburn, R-Muskogee, has been the target of such campaigns in the past when he single-handedly blocked legislation from coming up for a vote. In November, he drew national attention for blocking consideration of a bill that would provide aid to people who care for disabled veterans.
Agrees with goalCoburn said last week that he agrees with the goal of the Uganda bill but that he wasn’t going to back off his position that the $40 million authorized in the bill should have an "offset,” that is, spending cuts somewhere else in the budget to pay for the Ugandan bill. "Even when it’s something I adamantly agree with, like on the veterans’ bill, we’re going to pay for it. We’re going to offset,” Coburn said. "And so if (Inhofe) doesn’t want to offset it, that’s fine; it won’t happen. "Doing good things — you can do them one or two ways: You can do something good and hurt our children (by adding to the deficit), or you can do something good and help our kids.” Coburn called his approach to blocking new spending "a firm rule.” If supporters of the bill want to overcome his procedural hurdle, he said, they can get 60 votes "and go around it and not pay for it.” But, Coburn said, "In this climate in America, the American people are going to understand.
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BACKGROUNDInhofe speaks out about group Sen. Jim Inhofe said Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, is "deranged” and recruits children in the areas where the group is active — Uganda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. He said the bill would demonstrate that the problem, largely ignored, is now a U.S. priority. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants in 2005 for Kony and some other LRA leaders. The legislation directs the administration to develop a regional strategy to eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the LRA, to enforce the rule of law and to ensure full humanitarian access in areas affected by the LRA.