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Sen. Tom Coburn: America in debt crisis ‘not because we didn’t agree, but because we did’

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn turned conventional Washington wisdom on its head Sunday, telling NBC’s David Gregory that “the reason we’re in trouble on deficits and debts is not because we didn’t agree, but because we did.”

Coburn appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to discuss the bipartisan budget deal that scuttled certain sequester cuts in exchange for spending reductions down the road. Gregory asked Coburn whether Republicans, in the wake of last week’s deal, would still demand concessions for raising the debt ceiling by next February.

Coburn opened with a subtle swipe at his own party. “I guess I can’t really speak for Republicans,” he claimed. “My thoughts are, the American people don’t believe we have a debt ceiling because we always increase it, and they don’t believe we have the discipline in Washington.”

The senator then took aim at Gregory’s implications that these “tough issues” can only be solved through bipartisan compromise. “The reason we’re in trouble on deficits and debts is not because we didn’t agree, but because we did,” Coburn contended. “We agreed to spend $740 billion we didn’t have last year. We agreed to waste $30 billion — as I put in the Wastebook — this year. We agreed to continue to let Medicare have $80 billion a year in fraud in it. We’re going to have $80 billion a year in fraud in Obamacare. We agreed to all those things. (RELATED: Coburn calls out ‘do nothing’ government as top waste item of 2013)

“So the story coming out of Washington, that we don’t get along? I would dispute that,” the senator declared. “We get along just fine with the status quo of the government being ineffective and inefficient. So we pass a bill that raises spending and raises taxes and denies what we promised the American people, and everybody says “Oh my goodness how great! You grew the government some more and you charged us more taxes and you didn’t fix any of the problems.”

Schumer essentially ignored Coburn’s critique of the Washington narrative, instead confidently claiming Republicans will “back off any hostage taking, adding extraneous, irrelevant issues to the debt ceiling.”

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