Sep 27 2007
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn moved Wednesday to close a government office in a powerful lawmaker's district.
An amendment offered by Coburn to the annual defense bill would discontinue funding for the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, Pa.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, said the center was established and survives only because of "directed spending” through the defense appropriations bill.
He didn't name the lawmaker responsible for getting the money, but it's Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees defense spending.
Earlier this year, a House Republican tried to strip funding for the center and wound up in a heated dispute with Murtha.
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Coburn said he was "not trying to castigate anyone.” He said the center had cost the Defense Department more than $500 million over the years and accomplished little.
"It's duplicative, it's unnecessary and it's unworkable,” Coburn said.
The Bush administration sought unsuccessfully to shut down the center two years ago. Though funded through the Defense Department, it is operated by the Justice Department.
Both Pennsylvania senators defended the office Wednesday, arguing it provided benefits that extended beyond its location.
Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican, quoted a memo from the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Oklahoma City that praised the center for providing valuable information in an investigation.
Specter said the location costs one-third of what a Washington office would cost.
A vote on Coburn's amendment could come today.