Coburn to Introduce Coconut Road Amendment

Posted April 14, 2008 at 4:11pm

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) plans to introduce an amendment to the highway technical corrections bill that would attempt to establish the author of a multimillion-dollar earmark for a controversial Florida road project.

A Coburn aide confirmed that the Senator will seek to establish a bipartisan panel to investigate who inserted the earmark into the highway bill, which is expected to come up for a cloture vote Monday evening.

The disputed earmark seeks $10 million for the Coconut Road project near Fort Myers, Fla. The earmark was slipped into the bill after both chambers of Congress passed it, and no one has claimed responsibility for it.

The highway project was sought by Daniel Aronoff, a Florida real estate developer and contributor to the campaign of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Young maintains he had nothing to do with the earmark making its way into the technical corrections bill.

The Coburn aide explained that the earmark was supposed to be deleted through the normal technical corrections process, but Coburn, a die-hard earmark foe, wanted to take further steps to ferret out its origins.

“He thought it was a violation of public trust. There needs to be an investigation so it doesn’t happen again,” said the aide.

The Coburn amendment would establish a bipartisan panel selected by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The panel would investigate who is responsible for the earmark and how it got into the bill and report its findings.

However, the panel would not have any authority to issue or enforce any penalties against the parties involved. The committee would only be able to report to Congress and submit its conclusion to the Senate and House ethics committees.