GOP senator threatens delay as Democrats object to his amendments Drama unfolded on the Senate floor Wednesday when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) citicized Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), floor manager for the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, for blocking five cost-cutting amendments proposed by Coburn.
Coburn threatened to "use the procedural tactics available to me as a United States Senator" in response to the denial of his amendments.
"If we are not allowed to do that [offer amendments] I am sure we are going to start going backwards again," Coburn said.
Coburn appeared to be referring to an agreement struck by Senate leadership earlier in the year that allowed an increased number of amendments to bills in exchange for senators’ cooperation on expediting the process.
When Coburn attempted to offer his amendments, one after another, to cut “wasteful spending” from the bill, Rockefeller objected to each, on the grounds that other Democrats would object and that there would not be enough time for votes on Coburn’s amendments.
"I can’t do that right now," Rockefeller said in response to Coburn’s repeated requests for consideration. "Its a difficult situation. It’s a rolling veto kind of situation in which we can’t have votes on amendments which are pending. But I am willing to look at what you have suggested."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the FAA bill on Tuesday night, which meant that time for debate was limited to about 60 hours.
Rockefeller seemed pained to note that several of Coburn's proposed cuts "stung pretty hard in my state."
Coburn's amendments would cut government funding to underused airports, downsize the scope of a program that subsidizes travel for people who don't live near major airports, and rescind unused earmarks.
“What has to happen in every program in this country is that wasteful spending, low priority spending, and duplicate spending has to be eliminated," Coburn said.
Whether and how Coburn may follow through on his threat are unclear, but he has a history in the Upper Chamber of using any and all procedural tools available to stall legislation to which he objects.