A push by Sen. Tom Coburn to block a federal transportation mandate is threatening to force another partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration and road construction projects across the country.
The Oklahoma Republican vowed Wednesday he would block any unanimous consent request for the transportation and FAA bill already passed by the House unless a mandate that states spend 10 percent of the money on items such as highway beautification is removed.
He cited a long list of spending under that provision, including a sanctuary for white squirrels in Tennessee, that he said the country can’t afford, especially with so many transportation priorities going unmet.
Coburn said he would not object to moving the FAA temporary authorization separately.
“I will not give a unanimous consent as my right as a Senator ... for us to continue to spend billions of dollars on things that are not a priority when this country’s struggling to survive,” Coburn said. “Its very survival depends on us changing the way we do business. And if that means that the highway transportation bill does not get approved, so be it.”
Coburn added that it is “time to draw a line in the sand for the American people, for our future. It’s not popular. It’s certainly not expedient. But it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier Wednesday called Coburn a “dictator” and later took on the Republican on another front, filing cloture on a bill to provide $6.9 billion in disaster relief funding and blocking amendments. Coburn wanted the chance to offer up offsetting cuts elsewhere.
“He’s jeopardizing more than 2 million jobs,” Reid said of Coburn’s position on the transportation bill.
Reid said he could allow Coburn a vote on his amendment on the transportation measure, but Coburn is demanding the 10 percent mandate be dropped from the final bill.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.