By Ricky O'Bannon
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn each voted against the legislation that increased the federal debt ceiling, saying the compromise didn’t do enough to address the nation’s growing debt.
Despite not receiving the votes of Coburn and Inhofe, both Republicans, the bill passed the Senate Tuesday with a 74-26 vote and was signed into law by President Barack Obama later in the day. The House passed the bill Monday. Rep. Frank Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma’s third district, voted for the bill.
“I voted against this agreement because it does nothing to address the real drivers of our debt,” Coburn said in a statement. “It eliminates no program, consolidates no duplicative programs, cuts no tax earmarks and reforms no entitlement program.”
Coburn, a Republican, is a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Six,” which consisted of three senators from either party who designed a plan to cut the deficit by nearly $4 trillion.
He eventually left the Gang of Six for a period because he felt the group’s plan didn’t do enough to cut spending on entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
Coburn also released a 620-page report called “Back in Black” that called for a deficit cut of $9 trillion by targeted what he called “specific excesses... waste and duplication.”
“I was among the first members of Congress to call for using the debt-limit debate as leverage to force spending cuts,” Coburn wrote. “I’m glad I did. Even though the cuts didn’t materialize, the debate informed the American people of the scope and magnitude of the problem.”
Inhofe, a Republican, said in a statement that he voted against the deal because it included defense budget cuts and didn’t include a balanced budget amendment.
“Since taking office, President Obama has gutted our nation’s military year after year with drastic cuts,” he said. “The further defense cuts included in this compromise, possibly as much as $492 billion, could be enacted without full Congressional consideration, and cuts of that size would effectively disarm America.”
Inhofe had supported the “Cut, Cap and Balance” alternate plan. The plan would have required a balanced budget amendment be sent to the states for ratification prior to any future debt limit increases.
Several state lawmakers had publicly declared their intent to ratify such an amendment, including Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing; Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison; and Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater.
The compromise does require that both chambers of Congress vote on a joint resolution that would send a balanced budget amendment to states for ratification. Lucas said this was one of the reasons that he voted for the legislation when it was in the House.
“This legislation requires a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment before the end of the year,” Lucas said. “This is the most fiscally responsible change we could make to the constitution, and I have always supported this amendment. The federal government cannot continue shoveling money out the door without making proper spending cuts.
“While the legislation is not perfect, I believe it is the best opportunity to make real common sense cuts in federal spending and prevent a default on our national debt.”