In his annual "Wastebook" report, released Monday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) accused the government of wasting $11.5 billion in 2010.
Coburn, a longtime fiscal hawk, detailed 100 spending projects from the past year that he said constituted government waste that contributed to record deficits.
Projects identified by Coburn include $1.8 million in spending this past year to gather and display historic Las Vegas casino signs, as well as $165,000 to the University of California at Santa Cruz to help its library digitize its collection of Grateful Dead materials.
"During these difficult times when families are struggling to make ends meet, the federal government can best assist hard working Americans by keeping their taxes low and not burdening them with higher debt," Coburn wrote in the introduction to the report. "Congress can do so by not spending money we do not have on things we do not need, like the over $11.5 billion of examples provided in this report."
The Oklahoma conservative's report identifies a number of spending projects, some of which were funded by earmarks sought by lawmakers for home-state and district projects. Earmarks have emerged as a strong political issue for fiscal conservatives, who in recent months pushed the Republican establishment in the House and Senate to adopt bans on earmarking. Anti-earmark pressure also contributed to last week's failure of an omnibus spending measure packed with the projects.
Coburn's report also comes as deficit reduction has become an increasingly salient political issue. President Obama's fiscal commission this month recommended spending cuts and tax reforms as a pathway to addressing long-term U.S. debt, and the GOP-held House appears eager to slash spending next year.
Earmarks make up a small portion of government spending. Entitlement spending is seen as a larger contributor to rising deficits, and the tax-cut deal President Obama will sign into law this week is expected to heap hundreds of billions more onto the deficit.
"Well-intentioned people across the political spectrum will argue about the best way to get us back on track," Coburn said. "But we can all agree that cutting wasteful and low-priority spending from the budget is not only sensible, but essential."