Zadroga Bill: I'm Fine Being Bad Guy If It Saves U.S., GOP Sen. Tom Coburn Says

NY Daily News - December 27, 2010

by Thomas M. Defrank

WASHINGTON - The Oklahoma senator who tried to scuttle the 9/11 health bill insists he wanted to wring out unnecessary costs, not deny benefits to seriously ill first responders.

Republican Tom Coburn, the Senate's most relentless foe of excessive federal spending, told "Fox News Sunday" legislators must be willing to make politically unpopular decisions to avoid fiscal disaster for the country - like 15%-18% unemployment.

"Just like on the 9/11 bill this last week," Coburn said. "I took all the heat, but we solved the problem and spent $7.2 billion less than we would have, and there's not going to be any difference in the impact for the people we're trying to help."

In the compromise forged last week with Coburn by New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the cost of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was trimmed from $7.4 billion to $4.3 billion.

A congressional source said Coburn's $7.2 billion savings figure refers to the $11 billion the program would have cost over 20 years and the $4.3 billion, five-year deal that cleared the bill through the Senate.

Coburn predicted that if America doesn't get serious about slashing the federal deficit, "we're going to experience apocalyptic pain and it's going to be out of our control."

"If we don't put our house in order, we're going to look like Greece or Ireland or even Spain and Italy, which are coming [next]," he added.