Tom Coburn speaks out against waste in Violence Against Women Act
During a speech on the Senate floor on Monday outlining his concerns with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn sharply criticized overspending and program duplication by the Justice Department.
Pointing to charts showing the web of redundant and expensive Justice Department grants, Coburn argued that the last thing the Senate should do is add to the mess.
“Department of Justice grants — 253 different programs, not just run by the Department of Justice, but nine other agencies besides them — [are] spending $3.9 billion a year,” he said, while displaying a cost chart. “And we might say that’s okay. Now let’s look at the organization.”
The Oklahoma senator pulled out a second chart with hundreds of boxes and lines drawn between them. (RELATED: Coburn blasts USDA for spending $300,000 on caviar promotion)
“Layer over layer over layer of administrative cost — all of these programs very well intended, all of them highly inefficient,” he said.
VAWA, he said, is particularly wasteful.
“Now what are we doing with this bill? We are going to add more to it. We are not going to add a lot of metrics to see what we are doing actually works,” he said. “The other thing were are doing with this bill is we have an authorization that is far greater than any of the amount of money we are ever going to be spending on it. Now why would we do that?”
“This legislation significantly violates one of the principles that we have to do to get out of the hole, and that is to eliminate duplication and consolidate what’s in front of us,” he continued.
The senator, known for being a waste hawk, said that while the legislation has small attempts at consolidation, it exacerbates the problem of program duplication at the department.
“There are several VAWA grant programs that are so broad they duplicate one another — providing multiple opportunities, as I spoke before, to double dip into federal loan programs.”
“They also duplicate significant programs in Health and Human Services, so you can get a grant at Health and Human Services and get a grant at the Department of Justice,” he said, pointing to one of three amendments he filed last week that would consolidate overlapping programs within the Justice Department and Health and Human Services.
The goal of the amendment is to streamline sex crime cases and eliminate the backlog of DNA that has yet to be analyzed.
It would then use the $600 million in savings to help solve sex crimes and pay down the deficit. The Senate will vote on the amendment on Tuesday.
Coburn also went into detail about the other two amendments he filed last week. One amendment, which would remove a provision of VAWA granting tribal courts jurisdiction over non-Native Americans who commit a domestic violence crime on Native American territories, failed Monday night.
His final amendment, which is also scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, would allow for the testing of perpetrators for STDs, so that victims can quickly know whether they are at risk.
“I don’t expect this to pass,” an exasperated Coburn said after discussing each amendment.