McCain, Coburn Threaten to Hold Up Legislation in Name of Fiscal Discipline

Posted January 28, 2009 at 4:57pm

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) told their colleagues Wednesday that they would block legislation they believe violates a series of government reform proposals the Obama administration unveiled earlier this month, including the creation of duplicative programs or earmarks over $25,000 that are not competitively bid.

Citing the continued economic crisis, the two fiscal hawks pledged in a letter to Senators to back Obama’s “Plan for Restoring Fiscal Discipline.” The duo argued that it will help ensure any legislation does not increase the national debt.

“This is why we believe it is essential that President-elect Barack Obama is successful in his pledge to bring change to Washington by changing Congress’ irresponsible spending habits,” Coburn and McCain wrote.

Obama’s reform plan is designed to eliminate most earmarks and redundant federal programs, require that new spending be offset by reductions elsewhere in the budget and require performance measures for new programs proposed in legislation.

While Coburn and McCain commit to holding up legislation that does not fall within those broad outlines, they also warn that other measures could end up being blocked as well.

“This is not an exhaustive list of all of the reasons we may individually object to a particular bill or a unanimous consent agreement for consideration of legislation, but these will be the fundamental parameters by which we will evaluate all legislation,” they said, adding that “our intent is not to be obstacles, but rather to give you the courtesy of knowing how we can work together to accomplish our individual and collective goals and to cooperate with our new President to help him succeed with his plan for restoring fiscal discipline to Washington in a bi-partisan manner.”

Coburn and McCain, Obama’s rival for the White House in 2008, have long been champions of the government reform cause in Congress, and they worked with Obama on a number of earmark and other reform measures in the past several sessions of Congress.

However, Coburn’s use of holds has often run him afoul of leaders from both parties, particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). In fact, he and Reid spent more than year battling over Coburn’s use of holds on a package of public lands bills.