Holding Government Accountable to Taxpayers

Keeping a Watchful Eye on Federal Agencies

Most of the waste, inefficiency, and abuse that occurs within the federal government persists because Congress has abandoned its duty to perform oversight of the laws and programs it enacts.

As chairman of the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee in 2005 and 2006, Dr. Coburn conducted forty-eight oversight hearings – more than any other subcommittee in the entire Senate – investigating the management practices of the Federal Government.

These hearings uncovered and helped to eliminate billions of dollars in wasteful spending.

Now as the Ranking Member on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Dr. Coburn is actively leading investigations into problematic federal agencies and programs. To date, he has issued ten comprehensive investigative reports including a groundbreaking report on the mismanagement of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which threatens the safety of our bridges and highways. His efforts to expose frivolous federal agency conference spending have resulted in substantial management reforms.

Most recently, Dr. Coburn released two major reports regarding federal stimulus spending. Following the release of his investigations, several stimulus projects have been reconsidered or modified.

Finally, the Congress has adopted several amendments from Dr. Coburn requiring competitive bidding for government contracts, thereby eliminating the insider, no-bid contract deals that have become a Washington trademark.

Keeping a Watchful Eye on Congress


During his first term in the Senate, Dr. Coburn has introduced hundreds of amendments – more than any other senator during a comparable period – many aimed at challenging the legislative practices that have long undermined the confidence of the American people in their Congress.

“Earmark Watchdog”-- Dr. Coburn’s efforts have helped to shine a light on the secretive practice of special interest earmark spending and the corrupting influence it has on representative government. Dr. Coburn has successfully identified earmarks as “the gateway drug to overspending” and has exposed the now infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska and the Woodstock Museum in New York and hundreds more. His efforts have led to important reforms in the earmarking process that will begin to allow Americans to hold their elected leaders accountable.

“The Hotline”—Few American realize that the Senate passes more than 90 percent of its legislative business undemocratically without debate, amendment, or recorded vote. This process, called the Senate hotline process or Unanimous Consent, allows Senate leadership to quietly pass legislation by simply notifying (with an e-mail or recorded phone call) each Senator or his senior staff of bills they propose to pass. If no senator raises concerns (“holds” the bill), the bill passes with no further discussion and no recorded vote. Remaining quiet is considered a “yes” for the bill. Billions of our tax dollars are allocated in this way, with no opportunity for the public to review the legislation in advance.

At the start of the 109th Congress, Dr. Coburn sent a letter to every member of the Senate notifying them that he would not give his consent (“yes”) to any bill being considered under this process that either increased spending without first reducing lower priority spending elsewhere, created duplicative programs, or increased the federal share of any project.

Dr. Coburn is pushing for major reforms will give members of the Senate and all Americans the time to review these bills before they are passed and also give voters an important tool to hold their senators accountable.

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