Press Room

Oct 23 2007

Dr. Coburn Chides Senate for Putting Pork Before Kids

Defeated amendment would have delayed funding for pork until kids are insured

^(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), a practicing physician, expressed his disappointment today after the Senate killed his amendment, “The Children's Health Care First Act,” that would have delayed funding for special interest pork projects until the Secretary of Health and Human Services certified that all children have health insurance. The Coburn amendment was defeated, or tabled, by a vote of 68 to 26.

“The American people have heard a lot of chatter in Washington about who cares more about children’s health care. The fact is lawmakers in both parties agree that Congress has a moral obligation to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. Yet, when asked to sacrifice their own pork projects, Washington politicians of both parties chose to abandon children,” Dr. Coburn said. ^

“Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), was right when he said this bill would ‘demonstrate to the American people what our priorities are.’ This vote reminds disenchanted Americans yet again that one of Congress’ highest priorities is protecting business-as-usual pork barrel politics,” Dr. Coburn said.

“The earmarks in this bill are designed to enhance the health of politicians, not our children. Senators earmark dollars for projects instead of sending those project requests through a competitive grant process because they want to receive maximum political, and sometimes fundraising benefit, for their actions. The Senate’s refusal to ensure that kids are insured before it funds lower-priority pork projects makes a mockery of Senators’ claims about their concern for our children,” Dr. Coburn said.

The more than 1,000 earmarks in this bill, costing $470 million, could have provided health insurance to more than 200,000 children.

“The cost of a single earmark in this bill – a $42 million hand out to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO) – could have been used to purchase health insurance for more than 18,000 low income children. It’s disgraceful for Senators to put such dubious earmarks ahead of the health care needs of our children,” Dr. Coburn said, noting that the ILO is part of the United Nations system that, according to the United Nations’ own internal auditors, has 43 percent of its procurement contracts tainted by mismanagement and corruption.

Other earmarks in this bill that were prioritized ahead of children include:

  • $400,000 for Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa, for exhibits, education programs, and community outreach; 
  • $100,000 for a celebration around Lake Champlain in Vermont; 
  • $500,000 for field trips in the Chesapeake Bay; 
  • $500,000 for the “Virtual Herbarium” in New York; 
  • $50,000 for an ice center in Utah; and 
  • $130,000 for the National First Ladies’ Library Catalogue in Ohio.

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