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For Senate Republicans It’s Energy, or Nothing

Rallying behind Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Senate Republicans this afternoon killed a package of bills that would have provided billions to facilitate medical research, investigate unsolved civil rights-related crimes, prosecute child pornographers and fund a host of other non-controversial programs that have just one thing in common: All are being held up by Coburn, a notorious fiscal hawk who recently explained his opposition to The Washington Post:

"If we pass a new program, we either ought to get rid of the old program or we ought to make it to where it blends with this other one so it’s effective," Coburn said in an interview last week. "Almost everything that they’ve offered has a duplicate program out there that they’re not either eliminating or changing."

The Senate vote on a procedural hurdle was 52 to 40 — eight shy of the 60 needed to trump the GOP filibuster. Only two Republicans — Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.) — joined all voting Democrats in supporting the package. Much of that opposition rests on political, not substantial, grounds: Republicans are pushing Democrats to take up legislation addressing the nation’s rising fuel prices, vowing not to pass anything until an energy bill is addressed, Politico reported today:

[Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell [(R-Ky.)] held his ground, saying the Republicans were launching [a] blockade of everything not related to oil prices. The two sides are actually negotiating on energy amendments, but there was no breakthrough yet.

Senate lawmakers are scheduled to leave town at the end of this week for a month-long August recess. At this pace, they won’t have much to boast of when they return home.

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