ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: A big question looming over President Obama’s negotiations with Capitol Hill over the stimulus is whether there’s any changes he can order up that would attract broad bipartisan support.
Sam Donaldson and I interviewed Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Politics Live today -- and the strong suggestion from this particular senator (one of the leading conservatives in the Senate) was an emphatic no.
Asked what can be done to make it palatable, Coburn responded: “I think it has to be broken down into its parts. If you don’t solve mortgage, the toxic mortgage problem, if you don't solve the liquidity problem we can spend $2 trillion and it's not going to accomplish anything for the economy.”
“There’s a couple important points. One is what got us into this problem in the first place and that's spending money we didn't have on things we didn't need. This bill is doing entirely doing that same thing again. There's very little stimulus in the bill. So I think it has to be broken down. You need look at things that will truly be stimulative. You can forget the rest of it.”
On the politics, Coburn said he is confident that Obama wants bipartisan support: “Yes, I really do think he would like to see that. First of all, he doesn't want to own this thing all by himself because it's probably not gonna work. Especially the way it's outlined today. So what he needs is the cover politically so he can have a bill that has Republican support so when it doesn't work everyone's pointing their finger at each other rather than one party taking responsibility for it.”
What would work for him?
“Well I think he could personally make it about half the size of what it is today. It's not a 900 billion dollar bill Sam. It's a $1.2 trillion bill because you gotta calculate what the interests costs are gonna be over the next 5 years on this bill. And they haven't even calculated that.”
And regarding the nomination of former senator Tom Daschle to become secretary of Health and Human Services, Coburn said he’s poised to vote no.
“With this new light shed on his tax problems plus the fact that he failed to report income, consulting income of $83,000, that's called tax evasion. The question we have to ask, had he not been nominated for this position and not been up for a great job at the White House, would he have ever paid the taxes? And the answer to that is probably no. We have to reestablish character and integrity in the leaders in this government and this doesn't pass it. It's going to be a very difficult time for him. And even if he does get confirmed, the American people are gonna reject this. They're gonna say how can you say you're gonna create a new standard of openness and awareness and transparency and have two of your key people have problems with the IRS where you and I had we done the same thing we'd be going to jail. “