WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who was vilified for voting to allow debate on gun legislation, got more of a mixed response last week when he voted against proposals to expand background checks and to ban certain types of semi-automatic weapons.
Some praised him, while some accused him of being a coward.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, never planned to vote for a bipartisan proposal on background checks — he considered it unworkable — or for any outright prohibitions on sales of guns or magazines. But he wanted to debate the bill in part to offer his own proposal to improve the national instant background check system and make it more effective in blocking sales to criminals and those with mental illness.
Coburn's vote to advance the bill for debate led to a strong — and often obscene — backlash on his Facebook page, and in calls and emails to his office, from those who considered him a “traitor” to the 2nd Amendment.
Last week, after Coburn joined 45 other senators in defeating the bipartisan proposal to expand background checks — a vote that effectively killed the bill — Coburn got some strong backlash from the other side.
“Such a disappointing vote,” one person from the Oklahoma City area wrote on his Facebook page. “I was hopeful you would be above the politics of this moment.”
“How could including Gun Shows in the background checks infringe on some Redneck's right to own and carry a gun in this Wild West atmosphere we have in Oklahoma?” another from the Oklahoma City area wrote. “If you can look at a picture of one of those babies killed at Newtown and vote that way, you are less of a human than I thought.”
But there were also many notes thanking Coburn for his vote.
“Thank you for voting to protect our 2nd amendment rights Tom,” one wrote. “I've given you a lot of flack over these last few weeks on here, and through emails. You did your constituents right, and you should feel PROUD of your choice, regardless of what your peers may say about you.”
Inhofe says tuition assistance program restarted
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said the military branches had restarted the tuition assistance program that helps military personnel attend college while serving.
Inhofe and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-NC, got an amendment passed last month requiring that the program continue despite deep budget cuts at the Defense Department.
Inhofe said, “I applaud the services' decision to restore tuition assistance in full for our active-duty military members, an earned benefit many rely on to improve their quality of life and pursue leadership opportunities.
“One of the top reasons men and women join our all-volunteer military is for the opportunity to pursue higher education, and it is important we keep this promise to those who have sacrificed greatly for our freedoms.”
According to Inhofe's office, about 300,000 service members participated in the program in the last fiscal year. In the same time period, more than 50,000 degrees, diplomas or certificates were earned by service members enrolled in the program.
The U.S. government built 33 federal courthouses between 2000 and 2010 that included 3.6 million square feet of extra space. That extra space was the result of poor planning and oversight, and inefficient courtroom use, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm.
And that surplus space cost $835 million to build and requires $51 million each year to operate and maintain, according to the GAO.
A GAO official testified to a House committee last week that the space had been built for 119 judgeships that never materialized.
The judiciary adopted an Asset Management Plan in 2006 to assess future courthouse projects, and the GAO lauded that as progress. But 10 of the 12 courthouse projects on the judiciary's five-year plan weren't evaluated under the Asset Management Plan — and 10 wouldn't qualify for construction under that plan, according to the GAO.
“While 10 additional AMP evaluations would involve some additional costs, not conducting those evaluations could involve spending $3.2 billion over the next 20 years on courthouses that may not be the most urgent projects,” the GAO said.
The GAO said the judiciary should put a moratorium on its new projects until AMP evaluations are conducted. But the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts strongly disagrees, saying that would equate to a six-year delay while the current facilities continue to deteriorate.
“Budget constraints have already resulted in unfortunate, but understandable delays and we acknowledge this may continue,” the director of the U.S. courts office told the GAO. “But it is unfair, and dangerous, to expect these communities to endure further delays caused by needless additional analysis and data collection.”