Coburn: There's 'Fire, Not Just Smoke' at Heart of Fast and Furious Cover-Up

Thursday, 21 Jun 2012 09:25 PM

By Paul Scicchitano and John Bachman

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One of the U.S. Senate’s leading experts on judicial matters and homeland security tells Newsmax that President Barack Obama’s invocation of executive privilege is a clear signal that there’s something the administration is trying to hide at the heart of the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.

“There’s fire there. It’s not just smoke, and there’s no other reason to have that,” said Sen. Tom Coburn in an exclusive Newsmax interview. “There is legitimate cause to be concerned about the untruthfulness of the attorney general — and his lack of forthrightness with oversight committees that are studying this.”

Despite the president’s assertion of executive privilege, Coburn believes that the information will ultimately find its way into the public eye.

“It’s going to eventually be exposed,” predicts Coburn, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “The question is ‘can they put it off until after the election? I suspect that’s why the president issued the executive order.”

Story continues below.




A possible U.S. House vote is due next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding certain documents from lawmakers. The documents relate to a months-long investigation into a controversial gun sting that allowed hundreds of weapons to reach violent Mexican drug cartels.

The controversial Operation Fast and Furious, which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began in 2009, became public after guns linked to the program were found at the site where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.

On Wednesday, President Obama asserted executive privilege over some of the documents, meaning the Justice Department could withhold specified materials. But the Republican-led House Oversight Committee voted the same day to recommend a contempt citation to the full House, setting up a possible vote on whether to cite Holder for contempt.

In a wide-ranging interview, Coburn also laid out the crisis behind Obamacare and discussed the fixes that will be necessary to America’s health care system no matter how the Supreme Court rules in a much-anticipated decision on the Affordable Health Care Act due next week.

Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who happens to be a practicing physician, said that soaring healthcare costs will only be controlled by connecting “payment with purchase” — a lesson we can take from the simple-living Amish.

“Nobody knows what the Supreme Court’s going to do. But what has to happen, if you want to control healthcare costs in this country, you have to reconnect payment with purchase,” insisted Coburn.

“Our problem in our country today — whether you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, employer-paid, or an insurance policy with a low deductible — is you’re assuming that somebody else is paying your bill — and they’re not.”

That’s where the Amish come in, a group of people who — undoubtedly with exceptions — tend to forego traditional healthcare insurance, as Coburn points out in his recent book, “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America.”

A three-time cancer survivor himself, Coburn said that the Amish are the best purchasers of healthcare that he knows. “They ask a question about what it costs. They try to pay cash in advance to get a discount,” he explained.

“If you’re going to have to do a test, they want to know where you can do that test cheaply,” he said. “If you’re going to do a test, they want to know what you’re going to do based on the outcome of the test. So they are actively involved in purchasing their healthcare and paying for it.”

That’s a lesson that all Americans need to learn, even when an insurance company is paying for medical services. “If that was not so expensive, you’d be getting a whole lot more money in your hourly rate,” he explained. “And so, what we have to do is to use the thing that we use everywhere else in the economy — and that’s market forces to allocate a scarce resource.”

Coburn charges that as much as $1 of every $3 now spent on healthcare in the United States is wasted. “It’s either fraud, wasted, or duplication, or error,” he said. “And if you want to clean that up, what you have to have is a competitive market where I have some connectiveness to what things cost.”

As a physician who specializes in family medicine, obstetrics and the treatment of allergies, Coburn acknowledged that cost is often the last thing that he and his peers think about in treating patients.

“When I’m taking care of a Medicaid patient, there’s no responsibility on me as a physician to be efficient with the tests,” acknowledged Coburn, who has delivered more than 4,000 babies. “I order tests because somebody wants —rather than because they need it. Or I order a test because I might get sued if I didn’t do the test — even though there’s no connection to a lawsuit whatsoever. So we have no responsibility for controlling the costs because we all think somebody else is paying the bill when in fact we’re all paying the bill.”

Coburn, who is one of the Senate’s most vociferous critics of wasteful spending, often introduces amendments to eliminate expenditures that he deems wasteful, such as $20 million included in the Market Access Program this week for the production of a reality television and fashion show in India to promote cotton.

“That doesn’t promote American cotton. That’s the funny thing about it,” he countered, noting that India is the world’s largest producer of cotton. “The goal was to promote cotton but when you do that in India, you’re just throwing $20 million down a rat hole. And we see that all the way across.”

He also questioned funding to help increase sales for a company that makes organic grooming products for dogs, cats and horses — and farm subsidies for those earning more than $1 million a year — a loophole that his colleagues subsequently closed through one of Coburn’s amendments.

“They know how stupid it is when you’re giving wealthy people money to do things that they’re already going to do,” he said. “Last year we paid out $91 million to people who made more than $1 million a year to do conservation projects on their own land, which is in their own best interest anyway.”

Coburn said that while Senate Republicans are committed to making the necessary spending cuts to tackle the burgeoning U.S. debt, they have not seen any signs that President Barack Obama is willing to meet them across the aisle.

“We certainly haven’t seen the president lead on that,” he charged. “We haven’t seen the majority leader in the Senate lead on that.”

But cuts are unavoidable in the end. “We’ve got to do this, whether we want to or not,” he said “The longer we put off solving these problems, the greater the pain’s going to be. And either we’re going to do it or we’re going to be told to do it by the people that are loaning us the money.”

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