Coburn Blocks Quick Senate Vote on Transportation Extension

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has placed a “hold” on the transportation extension, along with a bill to continue sanctions against Burma and to provide disaster relief to areas affected by Hurricane Irene and other storms.

Sen. Tom Coburn. Photo: TPM

When just one senator objects to a “unanimous consent” vote — the quickest way for the body to pass legislation — the leader has to allow for 30 hours of debate. Coburn has an amendment he wants to introduce, and he was concerned that Majority Leader Harry Reid wasn’t going to allow for amendments. Coburn’s action ensures that he will be able to bring his measure to the floor. The amendment, as we have reported, would eliminate the 1.5 percent of federal transportation funds that go to Transportation Enhancements, about half of which is spent on bicycle and pedestrian programs.

Reid isn’t happy about Coburn’s use of the hold to delay important legislation. “It’s a pretty good way to legislate around here, be a dictator and say either take this or leave that,” Reid was quoted as saying in a story by CQ.

In addition to his amendment to strip TE funds, Coburn wants to offer an amendment that would offset the cost of the disaster aid, so that it doesn’t add to the deficit.

As we’ve said, the votes will still go through, just more slowly. And while we at Streetsblog are no experts on the disaster relief bill, we think the odds look good that enough senators will be frustrated with Coburn’s insistence on slowing down the process that they will vote against his push to kill Transportation Enhancements.