Tales from the Trail

Let’s fight…

The overnight news of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation sets up a global battle over who will succeed him in the IMF’s glass-and-steel headquarters in Washington. But, of course, that’s not the only fight in town.

The bipartisan group of budget negotiators now known as the Gang-of-Six-Minus-One is expected to meet today to try to salvage hopes of a budget compromise after a shouting match over Medicare sent Republican Senator Tom Coburn to the exit door.

Medicare is the third-rail political issue that recently had Republicans showing signs of retreating from House Budget Chief Paul Ryan’s Republican reform plan. Critics call it a blueprint for privatizing the federal government’s healthcare program for the elderly.

But all politics is local. And the national Medicare litmus test is likely to take place far from Washington.

A proxy war over Medicare-as-2012-campaign-issue is shaping up around next week’s special congressional election in one of New York’s most conservative districts, where the Ryan plan has given Democrats the chance for an upset.  Conservative groups are pouring tons of money into the contest and veteran Capitol Hill staffers are expected to parachute in soon to help get out the vote.

Senator Coburn’s waste line — $11.5 billion in 2010 spending

Republican Senator Tom Coburn has released his “Wastebook 2010″ report, a list of government spending that adds up to over $11.5 billion which he considers wasteful.

It includes burping cows, Vidalia onions, a 2,500-year-old mummy, and finding love on the Internet. USA-TAXES/

“Even those lucky enough to have jobs have had to tighten their belts.  Yet, Congress continues to find new and extravagant ways to waste tax dollars,” Coburn said in a statement.

Senator Coburn cites Thomson Reuters at healthcare summit

USA-HEALTHCARE/Republican Senator Tom Coburn is obviously a big fan of Thomson Reuters. He cited Thomson Reuters reports throughout his presentation at the White House healthcare summit.

Coburn, an Oklahoma physician who opposes the sweeping Democratic healthcare overhaul, said lawmakers should focus first on reducing hundreds of billions of dollars of wasteful spending in the U.S. healthcare system. He cited recent studies by Thomson Reuters showing wasteful spending and how patients are postponing medical care due to cost.

They can be found here, here and here.

Coburn often cited these reports during Senate debate on healthcare reform. He wants to bring down costs by tackling waste, fraud and abuse, and limiting medical malpractice lawsuits. And like most doctors, he wants us to live healthy lifestyles and avoid junk food. He also wants to change some popular government programs that he said are contributing to unhealthy eating habits.

Republican to seniors: “You’re going to die sooner” with healthcare reform

Republican Senator Tom Coburn doesn’t mince words. He was crystal clear about what he thinks ofcoburn1 healthcare reform being debated in the Senate, saying to seniors: “I have a message for you: You’re going to die sooner.”

Senators are debating an amendment by Republican Senator John McCain that would send the bill back to the Senate Finance Committee with instructions to strike the Medicare cuts from the bill.  Democrats defended the legislation saying the proposed spending cuts would not reduce seniors’ health benefits.

“I’d like to once and for all lay to rest this false claim that the pending bill is going to ‘hurt seniors’ and it is going to hurt providers and it’s going to be this long parade of horribles that the other side likes to mention,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said.

Republican senators call for ending era of ‘permanent politicians’

Don’t expect the U.S. Congress — packed with old men and women who have been in office for decades — to embrace a proposal to term limit themselves.

Republican senators Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Sam Brownback offered such a measure on Tuesday, saying it would be good to get fresh blood on Capitol Hill. USA/

“Americans know real change in Washington will never happen until we end the era of permanent politicians,” DeMint said.

Senator Harkin defends earmark to research pig odor

Some might think it would be hard to defend spending $1.8 million on researching how to deal with the odor from pig manure, but Senator Tom Harkin found it pretty easy to do.GERMANY/

Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, succeeded in getting the funds included in the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that is pending in the Senate, drawing protests from some like Senator John McCain that it is wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.

“I’m sure that David Letterman will probably be talking about it and Jay Leno will be talking about it, we’ve got $1.8 million to study why pigs smell,” Harkin said on the Senate floor after an amendment was introduced aimed at killing the funding.