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Children's Health Yields to the Senators From Pork

Tom Coburn's challenge to his colleagues: ear infections or earmarks?
Tom Coburn's challenge to his colleagues: ear infections or earmarks? (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The United States Senate yesterday was confronted with a stark choice: health care for children, or pet projects for lawmakers' home states.

The final tally?

Pet Projects 68, Kids 26.

In truth, the children never had a chance. "I predicted 24," the measure's sponsor, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said cheerfully after his defeat.

It was, Coburn's many opponents grumbled, a political stunt. But, as stunts go, this one was particularly revealing. The Oklahoma physician, a foe of the unhealthy cut of congressional pork known as "earmarks," proposed an amendment to a major health spending bill that said no lawmakers' pet projects would be funded until "all children in the U.S. under the age of 18 years are insured by a private or public health insurance plan."

Among the earmarks this jeopardized:

• $130,000 for the National First Ladies' Library in Ohio.

• $500,000 for a "Virtual Herbarium" in New York.

• $400,000 for the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

• $100,000 to celebrate Lake Champlain's quadricentennial.

• $500,000 for "field experiences" on the Chesapeake Bay.

• $50,000 for an ice center in Utah.

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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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