Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) added potential fuel for Democratic outrage over his block of a one-month extension of federal jobless aid earlier this week.
In a Tuesday phone interview with The Hill, Coburn said the Republican obstruction of $9 billion in extended unemployment benefits isn’t a big deal because it only affects “a relatively small group of people.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The easiest thing in the world is to pass this bill unpaid for, but consider the millions of Americans whose financial futures would be damaged, versus the relatively small amount of people who will be affected by this delay,” he said. “Now you tell me which vote takes the most courage.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The number of Americans temporarily losing their unemployment benefits this week because of Coburn’s block is around 212,000.
The congressman also said he intends to block all future Senate spending bills that aren’t “paid for” by cutting from other spending programs. He said he will “absolutely” object to any such bill.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The fact is that the country wants us to start making hard choices on spending, and if we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it on a $9 billion bill, then weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re certainly not going to be able to do it on our $1.6 trillion deficit,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The problems are so severe in our country, our debt is so severe and the impact is so great in the near and long term that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time for some of us to take a stand. We may lose. But weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going to give up on doing the tough things that Washington needs to do, and if that earns us consternation, so be it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
David Dayen of FireDogLake argues that Coburn’s ultimatum is superfluous because that kind of financial balancing are already mandated by a measure Congress passed earlier this year requiring statutory paygo restrictions that must pair new spending with offsets.
“Notice that Coburn only sees one possibility for offsets Ã¢â‚¬â€œ cuts to other spending. Revenue increases never get a mention,” he writes. “As for blocking other unfunded spending bills, I look forward to CoburnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s principled stand against the war in Afghanistan.”
Coburn has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for his record of blocking Democratic initiatives on Capitol Hill.