Sen. Coburn Blocks September 11 Memorial

February 01, 2012 4:06 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Sen. Tom Coburn

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who previously held up a bill providing benefits for sick 9/11 responders, is now blocking funding for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at ground zero:

Sen. Tom Coburn is blocking legislation that would provide $20 million a year in federal funding for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at ground zero, demanding that co-sponsors of the bill come up with cuts to pay for the spending, his office confirmed to POLITICO.

"Our debt is our greatest national security threat, and Dr. Coburn makes no apologies for forcing Congress to make choices and avoid unnecessary borrowing," said John Hart, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Republican. "If providing federal funding for this effort is a critical national priority, the sponsors should pay for this effort by reducing spending on lower-priority programs.

This is the kind of substantively meaningless stunt Coburn likes to pull: The $20 million in funding for the September 11 memorial is less than 0.001 percent of the federal budget. It would have essentially no effect on our debt. Coburn has built his reputation as a fiscal hawk by grandstanding like this

If Coburn really wants to find a way to pay for the September 11 memorial, he could stop standing in the way of Democratic efforts to eliminate tax breaks that give five hugely profitable oil companies $2 billion a year. Eliminating those breaks would pay for the memorial, with $1.98 billion left over for deficit reduction. Of course, that would mean standing up to the oil and gas industry, Coburn's second-largest source of campaign funds, so he'll probably just keep blocking the September 11 memorial instead.