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Dr. Coburn released the following letter on his hold regarding S. 653, the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013. 

February 25, 2014


The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, D.C.

Dear Senator McConnell:

I am requesting I be consulted before the Senate enters into any unanimous consent agreements or time limitations regarding S. 657, the Foreign Prison Conditions Improvement Act of 2013.

While I support the intent of this legislation, I believe if Congress decides to spend American taxpayer dollars on prisons, those taxpayer dollars should be spent on improving our own correctional facilities.  Furthermore, there does not appear to by any Constitutional role for Congress to spend American taxpayer dollars on improving conditions at foreign prisons, nor would this proposed expenditure enhance our own national security, or assist foreign nations in enhancing their own law enforcement capabilities. 

Also, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that enacting this bill will increase discretionary spending by $695 million over five years, and I want to ensure there is a clear offset for this additional cost.  I remained concerned that we continue to fund new programs, particularly foreign aid programs, without prioritizing our spending.  We could easily find $695 million in current spending on low-priority or under-performing initiatives to offset this cost. 

The U.S. national debt is $17 trillion, and despite pledges to control spending, Washington instead adds billions to the national debt every day.  Congress must start making tough choices and stop jeopardizing the future standard of living of our children by borrowing from future generations.                                                                              


Tom A. Coburn, M.D.

United States Senator