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Sen. Tom Coburn: Obamacare tactic won't work

by Chris Casteel Published: September 23, 2013

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday and reiterated the position he has held for several weeks on the effort to defund Obamacare through a must-pass spending bill. Coburn told host Bob Schieffer that Senate Democrats have the votes to foil the move and, even if it succeeded, Obamacare wouldn’t be defunded.

COBURN: Well, I think it’s a great attempt to raise the issue of some of the weaknesses and the problems with Obamacare, but it’s not — it’s not a tactic that we can actually carry out and be successful, and I am sure that the Senate is going to move that bill forward. You know, the ironic thing, Bob, is that the answer now in the Senate, by those who proposed this strategy, is to filibuster the very bill they said they wanted. And that’s what’s wrong with the tactic. We don’t have the ability, both according to CRS, nor politically do we have the ability to put a total stop and defund Obamacare. It would be nice if we did. I’d be in the fight. So I think they’re going to get a chance again this next week to vote again and send us something different than that, because Harry Reid and the votes are in the Senate that this is going to be changed and sent back to the House.

SCHIEFFER: So there is no way — what you are saying this morning, there is no way that this could possibly pass in the Senate. And so why did they do this, do you think?

COBURN: Well, there was a tremendous demand among special interests to try to prevent this bill from totally being implemented because of the dangers to our country, the ultimate costs. I agree with them that, if we could do this, we should do it, but we can’t. And the political reality — you know, tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is, and we do not have the political power to do this. And so we’re not — we are not about to shut the government down over the fact that we cannot, only controlling one House of Congress, tell the president that we’re not going to fund any portion of this, because we can’t do that.

SCHIEFFER: What — what do you think the fallout from this is going to be? Some people are going so far as saying that Republicans might lose control of the House next time, the reaction might be so severe, because there is no question, I think this time around, don’t you agree that it will be Republicans who will take the blame if by some chance the House — the government was shut down? I, like you, do not believe that will happen, but I don’t see any good coming out of this for Republicans.

COBURN: Well, I think the exercise is fine. I don’t think we will shut down the government. I think right now, with our economy where it is, the lack of confidence in our country, we actually have a crisis of confidence in our country right now, both in Congress and with the president. We have got trillions of dollars sitting on the sideline that aren’t being invested. We are not going to shut the government down. What we — it takes away from the real focus. The real focus is the $250 billion to $300 billion Senate that’s totally wasted every year by Congress in the federal government, and what we ought to be is about that. And, you know, we have changed 14 times, we have made changes to ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act, and we need to make more. I would love to stop it and send it in a direction where we still have the safety net and really have competitive pricing for health care and transparency but we are not going to get a chance to do that. So the real issue is to not talk about something that Republicans can win on, which is, for the first time since the end of the Korean War we will have actually decreased discretionary spending in this country two years in a row, which is a real achievement, and we haven’t even touched the surface of the waste and fraud that is out there.

SCHIEFFER: There was a very serious incident as you well know at the Washington Navy yard last week, Senator. What are we going to do about that? I mean, you know, I know there’s a big argument over gun control and all of that, but it seems to me the argument should be about how do we keep weapons out of the hands of deranged people? And I don’t see us making any progress on that.

COBURN: I agree, Bob. You know, that was my greatest disappointment over the gun debate. We had a great — some great amendments. There are things we can do. The first thing is when people are having auditory hallucinations and they are telling that to people in the V.A., and they are not doing something to actually interchange with that, it sounds to me like the history that a complete mental status as a physician, a complete mental status exam should have been carried out. We would have seen some of these problems. You know, we have to make it where the health care professionals in this country, when they see somebody that is having symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia, that they can act on that by notifying the do not sell list so that people can’t buy a gun. He bought a gun in spite of the fact that, at several interchanges, people were aware of his psychosis. The other question is, is how did he walk into the Navy yard with a shotgun?

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, that is a question that nobody right now has been able to answer. Thank you so much.

COBURN: You bet. Thank you, Bob.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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