Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Senator Tom Coburn Responds to AP's Charges He's Holding Up Haiti Aid

Almost a month ago the Associated Press published the results of their investigation into the US Congress' failure to approve the release of aid to Haiti. Jonathan Katz and Martha Mendoza reported the $1.1 billion pledged by Secretary of State Clinton was being held up in the Senate by the junior senator from Oklahoma, Republican Tom Coburn (aka Dr. No). Katz and Mendoza seem to have got it wrong.

Twenty-two days later Coburn has written a response in the Washington Examiner to deny he is responsible and explain how if he were responsible he would be right. The column is a curious blend of pious concern for the federal deficit and a sort of pretend reasonableness designed to mislead the casual reader. Coburn’s reason for blocking the passage of the authorization bill? He’s not blocking the bill! It’s the State Department’s fault, and anyway, the US has already spent over 2 billion on relief for Haitians.

The crux of Coburn’s argument is NO NEW SPENDING. That’s right. The US government should authorize no new spending until…well, he doesn’t really make it clear. Coburn writes “…It is grossly irresponsible to for Congress to authorize or appropriate any new spending when we have a $13.6 trillion national debt that is strangling our economy.” Any new spending?

Coburn has a long list of wasteful projects Congress should cut before it authorizes any more expenditures - including fulfilling Clinton's promise. He offers two: cutting the funding of a Hawaiian think tank and eliminating the Overseas Private Investment Corp. funding. If this funding was cut Coburn would be perfectly happy to authorize the aid going to Haiti.

The bill Coburn is holding up is the $500 million dollar “Haiti Empowerment, Assistance, and Rebuilding Act” sponsored by Senator John Kerry. Coburn considers this bill, since it is not funded by cutting existing programs, to be “at the expense of the next generation”. This is the bill that will establish funding priorities for the next fiscal year.

“I do not object to fulfilling our pledge to assist Haiti recover. However, I believe our charity today should not come at the expense of the next generation. Therefore, any additional aid we provide must be paid for with cuts to lower priority programs elsewhere within the federal government’s bloated $3.7 trillion annual budget.”

Perhaps Senator Coburn would withdraw his objection if he was aware that the US occupation of Haiti and support for 35 years of brutal dictatorship had more to do with the state of Haiti than the earthquake.

Tom Coburn is playing politics with the people of Haiti in a shameless attempt to negate the entire concept of foreign aid and emergency assistance.
Today 19 human beings died from what is probably cholera in the Artibonite Valley in Haiti from tainted water, hundreds are sick, and 1.3 million Haitians are sleeping and going hungry in tents. I don’t care which bill you’re blocking, Mr. Coburn – you should be ashamed of yourself.

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