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Tom Coburn Predicts Fiscal Cliff Will Be Avoided

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo

On the heels of releasing a report declaring Congress itself the biggest waste of government money, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) remains optimistic that lawmakers will strike a deal in the upcoming lame-duck session to at least avert going off the fiscal cliff.

“Politicians tend to do the hard things when not doing them is more painful, and so I think you’re going to see a resolution in the fall to the cliff one way or the other because the pain of not doing it is so great,” Coburn said today. “What that will be, I can’t tell, but I can tell you I think it will get resolved.”

Coburn said in an interview with Roll Call that while the 2012 edition of his annual “Wastebook” released Tuesday featured 100 examples of government waste, he could have found more than 1,000 programs for the list. But he reserved the No. 1 position for the legislature, citing statistics showing that this Congress has been the least productive in decades.

“We’ve never faced this serious of a situation in our country’s history in terms of our debt deleveraging, in terms of our total debt, in terms of ... our unfunded liabilities, and yet Congress has done nothing to address any of those issues this year,” Coburn said. “What we did was do nothing ... because there’s an election coming up, at a time when the country’s problems are the greatest.”

Neither party’s leadership has placed much emphasis on resolving fiscal issues until after the elections, which Coburn acknowledged.

“We haven’t had leadership from the president, we haven’t had leadership from [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid; quite frankly, we haven’t had leadership out of the House of Representatives either,” Coburn said.

Coburn renewed his criticism of Reid over his floor management style and habit of precluding Republicans from offering amendments that may be politically difficult for Senators within his caucus.

The Nevada Democrat says that GOP opposition has contributed to the collapse of comity that had traditionally allowed robust debate on the Senate floor. Reid has frequently had trouble getting bills on to the floor for consideration over the past few years, facing filibusters of procedural motions.

“I’ve had to file motions to overcome 382 filibusters in six years. Now, I know the Senate has changed since Lyndon Johnson was the Majority Leader, but during the six years that he was the Majority Leader, he had to file cloture once,” Reid said before the Senate departed in September.

Coburn said that, given the opportunity next year, he plans to resume his routine of offering amendments to cut what he perceives as wasteful government spending, regardless of which party is in control. He has often frustrated Republicans and Democrats alike by targeting other lawmakers’ pet projects.

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