“There’s not a dispute about doing that [designating federal funds for disaster relief],” clarified Coburn in response to a litany of Democrats who took aim at Republicans from the Senate floor for opposing the bill. “There’s a dispute about how much that [funding] should be.”
“The greatest dispute … is whether we ought to spend another $6 [billion] or $7 billion by borrowing,” continued Coburn. “Whether we ought to reduce spending somewhere else to pay for a much more important and proper role for the government to be involved in.”
Coburn was striking back after Democrats battered Republicans this week for voting to stop progress on the $6.9 billion FEMA funding bill by showing photos of devastation and the dire need that resulted from the numerous natural disasters that have struck the nation this year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Coburn without naming him on Wednesday morning for standing in the way of the bill and indirectly endangering the jobs of 80,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees.
Reid explained that the Senate on Tuesday had received a package from the House to extend funding for the highway system and the FAA but that under Senate rules, the upper chamber cannot take up the bill until it clears a bill to fund FEMA, which is currently pending and Coburn is delaying.
Reid said the FAA part of the package received from the House expires on Friday, and if it is not renewed would immediately leave 80,000 employees out of work on Saturday.
Sixty-one senators already voted on Tuesday to move the FEMA bill forward, indicating that Coburn likely would be unable to outright kill the legislation, but if he continues to insist that the bill pass through the many cumbersome and time-consuming hurdles required by Senate rules, Reid will be unable to take up the FAA and highway bill before it expires.
Coburn on Tuesday afternoon also took issue with one aspect of the highway funding bill, saying that states ought to have the right to opt out of the 10 percent of funds designated for improving the aesthetics of roads, signs and bridges.
“I’m not saying they are bad,” said Coburn of the projects designated in the transportation enhancement mandate portion of the funding. “But when we have bridges falling down in this country … I would think we would want to repair the … bridges rather than spending money redecorating a sign.”