Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK and “Dr. No,” has been taking lots of heat this week for his insistence that Senate proponents of the bill providing federally funded health care benefits and compensation to 9/11 first responders allow amendments to the measure designed to reduce its cost.
But Coburn's resistence has yielded fruit in the form of a compromise that, among much else, reduces the measure's estimated total cost from more than $6 billion to about $4.2 billion.
“I'll stand in the way of anything that doesn't make sense and doesn't spend our money wisely, so you know, it doesn't matter what the issue is, we're in such a hole, Jon, that we don't have the luxury of not getting things right,” Coburn said in an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl shortly after leaving a closed-door meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“And so we've come to an agreement that costs less, doesn't allow double-dipping, doesn't allow exorbitant lawyer fees, and we've worked it out and so we're going to take care of the folks, but we're going to do it in a way that doesn't punish the people that are going to pay the bill.”
But something else Coburn said in the ABC interview is likely to prove far more important in the years ahead. Pressed by Karl on “what will be different come January,” Coburn responded, saying:
“Well, the difference is we're going to have to work together and there's 41 fiscal conservatives now in the Senate, and so us solving our financial problems is going to be paramount. Everything else that passes is going to be judged in light of that. And they know it and that's what's going to happen.
“There aren't going to be any big spending bills, we don't have any money left to spend, there is going to be no more big spending bills, period. And we're going to have to knuckle down and I'll have to give and other people are going to have to give. But we gotta keep our focus on what is important and that's the future of our country.”
In other words, with a $14 trillion national debt and a $1.4 trillion annual deficit, the country has reached the end of its fiscal rope. Government spending must be cut. The era of big-spending bills is over.
Nothing more vividly demonstrates this fact than Reid's recognition that there was no way his $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill, larded as it was with more than 6,600 earmarks, could gain passage.
You can watch the entire Karl interview with Coburn here.