Oklahoma Senator Puts Hold On Bill To Fund 9/11 Memorial

Thursday, February 2nd 2012, 5:55 pm
By: News 9

An Oklahoma Senator is criticized for standing in the way of funding for the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

Dr. Tom Coburn said he's only trying to hold the 9/11 Memorial to the same standard put in place for the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Dr. Coburn put a hold on a bill calling for an extra $20 million a year in federal funding for the memorial and museum at the World Trade Center Site.

Coburn explains the National Memorial for the Oklahoma City bombing site does not get any money.

Kari Watkins oversees the operations at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Watkins explains the memorial is designed to be self sufficient.

"Has it been easy? Absolutely not," Watkins said. "We operate this memorial and this museum on funds we raise through the front door."

The Oklahoma City Nation Memorial and Museum also receives private funding and collections from the museum gift shop. Watkins says Congress initially authorized $5 million to get the memorial started but one million of that is still owed.

"We have just never had the luxury of turning it over to the government and saying will you give us the money," she said. 

Much different than the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. It received more than $75 million in federal assistance in the past two years. In a letter to the sponsors of the bill, Dr. Coburn explains how he does support having a memorial for the 9/11 victims and family but it's important to minimize unnecessary borrowing. The Senator asked the co-sponsors of the bill to help reduce spending by making cuts to museum's budget rather than asking for another $200 million over the next 10 years. Watkins said it's doable.

"I think they can develop a budget that is sustainable," Watkins said. "I think you have to rely on a lot of public funding."

Watkins has worked with the directors of the 9/11 Memorial in the past and says she could offer help again in the future.

"We have tried to say this is what has worked for us," she said. "What we do here is very unique in the museum business."

Watkins says people are often confused by the private-public partnership and explains federal funds are given to the National Parks Services to place park rangers at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum but none of that money goes through or to the Memorial Foundation. Coburn's press secretary provided a letter from the "9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims" showing support for Coburn's hold on the bill.

Read the letter of support to Senator Coburn from the 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims

Read Dr. Coburn's letter regarding Senate Bill 1537.

Read the letter Dr. Coburn sent to all senators on March 2, 2011 outlining his criteria for holding bills his colleagues would like to pass by unanimous consent.

Dr. Coburn will also hold a town hall meeting this Saturday, February 4, at 4:00 p.m. at the University of Central Oklahoma in the Nigh University Center. Dr. Coburn will discuss current events and the budget before opening the floor to questions.