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Coburn’s Objection to Defense Bill Threatens Government Shutdown

Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is refusing to go quietly as he exits public office, threatening to hold up the National Defense Authorization Act over an objection to a land package contained in the bill. Coburn told Politico that lawmakers should pull the bill from the Senate floor if they are worried about a government ...

Sen. Tom Coburn Holds News Conference On Wasteful Government Spending In 2013
<> on December 17, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is refusing to go quietly as he exits public office, threatening to hold up the National Defense Authorization Act over an objection to a land package contained in the bill.

Coburn told Politico that lawmakers should pull the bill from the Senate floor if they are worried about a government shutdown. If Congress does not pass a new spending plan by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, the federal government will have to close.

“I’m not holding it up. I’m just going to try to get amendments; try to fix it; talk about it. I’ll keep that stance ‘til I’m through all the points I want to make about what a mess it is,” Coburn reportedly said.

Senate Democrats were hoping to quickly pass the defense bill, which cleared the House earlier this week. Without moving on defense authorization, the Senate would not be able to clear the queue and get to the omnibus spending package needed to keep the government funded.

Coburn’s office did not return calls for comment. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has also complained about the package of more than 60 land-use bills attached to the National Defense Authorization Act that would create new national parks and increase resource development in some states. Lee also criticized the inclusion of provisions to arm and train Syrian rebels.

“We have testimony from some of America’s top military leaders warning us of the immense risks involved with this program. They have told us that there is no way to guarantee that these efforts won’t backfire, further embroiling the United States military in volatile and unpredictable Middle East conflicts,” Lee stated on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Yet here we are, forced to reauthorize this risky program in order to provide for our troops and the Defense Department.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned his colleagues that they will have to work through the weekend if they gum up the works and prevent Congress from passing the omnibus spending bill on time.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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