Students spark senator’s position switch
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, changed his status on a bill at 3 p.m. Tuesday after OU students engaged in an 11-night, 12-day demonstration showing their discontent with one of Coburn’s decisions.
OU students participated in an 11-day “sleep out” in front of the Chase Tower, protesting the hold Coburn placed on the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. This bill would allocate $40 million to war-affected areas of Uganda.
Coburn said in earlier press conferences he would only lift his hold if the bill was amended to specify where the money will be taken from.
Coburn has a history of saying no to bills that spend government money. He ran his campaign by promising the country he would make great efforts to reduce the deficit.
“We may have differences in opinions on the role of the government, but those differences should not prevent us from working together to insure our charity today does not come at the expense of future generations of Americans,” Coburn said in his bill criteria released in 2007.
The students who participated in the protest say this was not a campaign against Coburn, only an effort to challenge the senator on this particular decision, according to their Web site, coburnsayyes.com.
“We were sleeping out just so he could agree to have a 10-minute meeting with us,” said Matthew Mead, international studies sophomore.
That meeting finally came through a phone call two hours after the hold was lifted.
Students traveled from across the United States to sleep out for this bill, and many local residents stopped by for shifts. The community supported the protesters with food and media attention.
“We never had to buy meals because donations were always pouring in from friends as well as local businesses,” Mead said.
In the phone call, Coburn said the groups’ efforts heavily influenced his decision to lift his hold on the bill, said Mark Nehrenz, OU alumnus.
“I think our actions put pressure on him to work for a compromise that wouldn’t have been there had our presence been absent,” Mead said.
The group hopes its efforts will raise awareness, but that was its secondary goal, Nehrenz said.
“Our first goal was to get this bill passed,” Nehrenz said. “The fact that this bill was even on the floor was because of four to five years of hard work. We didn’t want another five years to pass without any action, and we didn’t want that hard work to be in vain.”
The Daily’s phone calls to Coburn’s office for his comment were not returned.