Oklahoma’s senators split Wendesday on a couple of big votes. The votes were in character, showing both senators holding fast to principles they’ve articulated many times in the past.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, who has spent more than 10 years (counting his time in the House) in Washington railing about misplaced priorities and excessive spending voted against a huge water projects bill. Coburn complained that the bill violated rules on “earmarks” approved earlier this year by the Senate and authorized funding for projects that weren’t urgent priorities.
Coburn was one of only four senators to oppose the bill, which includes millions of dollars for water projects in Oklahoma. He tried unsuccessfully last week to block consideration of the bill and tried unsuccessfully this week to reorder some priorities.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, not only supported the bill. He helped write it. Inhofe, who also helped write the huge highway bill that passed two years ago, has said numerous times that he considers government spending to be justified in two areas _ defense and the nation’s infrastructure.
“Oklahoma’s water resources are one of its greatest assets,” Inhofe said. “We have taken an important step towards securing significant federal funds to study the use of water within our state in order to identify our water needs and plan for the future.”
The other split came on a mostly symbolic procedural vote about the Iraq war. Coburn voted with most of the Republicans in the Senate for an amendment that would have called for redeploying U.S. troops if the Iraqi parliament voted to request it.
The amendment would also have set benchmarks for progress by the Iraqi government and allowed the president to withhold rebuilding aid if the benchmarks weren’t met. Most Democrats voted against it because they thought it was too weak; there was no requirement that the president withhold foreign aid under any conditions.
Inhofe was one of only three Republicans who opposed it.
Coburn has consistently called for accountability in spending, something that the amendment made at least a gesture to. And Inhofe has consistently resisted attempts by Congress to tell the administration how to conduct the war in Iraq.
The amendment got 52 votes, a majority, but failed to get the 60 votes necessary to pass.