Public Citizen Urges Senate to Counter Obstructionist Tactics, Pass Package of Popular Bills

July 25, 2008

Public Citizen Urges Senate to Counter Obstructionist Tactics, Pass Package of Popular Bills

Lawmakers Should Not Let Coburn Block Non-Controversial Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today sent a letter to all U.S. senators encouraging them to bring to an end the delay tactics of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and pass the “Advance America’s Priorities Act” (S. 3294), a package of bipartisan and highly popular bills.

In an effort to derail legislative successes in the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, Coburn has placed holds on a wide swath of non-controversial bills, ranging from creating a centralized database to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease to grants to crack down on child pornography.

“This is obstructionism at its worst,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Arcane rules in the Senate allow any single senator to place a hold on any bill. This prevents consideration of the legislation unless 60 senators vote to override the hold – often a lengthy process. Altogether, Coburn has placed a hold on about 90 bills, many of which faced very little opposition in the House and Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has selected from Coburn’s vast vault of legislative holds 35 bills that are particularly non-controversial and combined them into one legislative vehicle (S. 3294). This way, all the bills can be brought to the Senate floor by a single supermajority vote (requiring the approval of 60 senators) and swiftly passed into law by voice vote. Each of the bills in this package enjoys wide support among both Republican and Democratic senators. Many of the bills are sponsored by Republicans.

“The 35 bills in the legislative package – also known as the ‘Coburn Omnibus bill’ – have gone through normal legislative channels of committee consideration and formal votes in the House and Senate,” said Craig Holman, governmental affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “Despite Coburn’s claim to the contrary, these bills are not secretive earmarks.”

A vote on the package is expected as early as Monday. If 60 senators vote to override Coburn, the package is expected to be approved easily on the Senate floor by a simple voice vote. To read Public Citizen’s letter to the Senate, go to https://www.citizen.org/our-work/government-reform/articles/coburn-omnibus-letter.