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 goal
Coburn 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.