NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, is blocking $20 million a year in annual taxpayer funding for the National September 11 Memorial.

“The legislation creates a permanent duplicative federal funding stream for a privately operated facility,” Coburn wrote in a letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell. “The museum has received more than $75 million in federal assistance over the past two years and remains eligible to apply for additional funds from a variety of federal programs if necessary. Yet, this legislation authorizes at least $200 million over the next ten years for the effort, but does not include any provision to pay for these potential costs, adding to our more than $15 trillion debt.”

Almost 2 million people from around the world have visited the Memorial since it opened on the 10-year anniversary of the attacks. Coburn makes it clear he has no objection to the memorial and museum, just the annual federal funding.

“The events of September 11 hold a special place in our nation’s history and in each of our hearts,” Coburn wrote. “The national and personal significance of this tragic day has been, and continue to be, appropriately memorialized and remembered.”

“A full accounting of previously awarded federal funding, as well as detailed breakdown of the project with itemized cost estimates, would be useful for learning more about current sources of funding, and potential need for this legislation,” Coburn wrote.

Click here to read Coburn’s letter

Lee Ielpi, a retired New York City firefighter who lost his 29-year-old firefighter son Jonathan on 9/11, is speaking out and urging Coburn to change his mind.

“This is not a museum. This is a learning experience,” he said.

“I would say to him, ‘We need this museum. Not because of the museum, but because of what it’s going to translate when it comes to education worldwide’,” he added.

Jim Riches, who also lost a firefighter son on 9/11, agrees with Coburn.

“For the economic situation we’re in right now, to give them $20 million dollars with no oversight at all, and no say in it, I think it’s crazy.”

Government support for these types of memorials is by no means uniform. For example, the Oklahoma City National Memorial gets no government funding, but the U.S. Holocaust Museum gets about $50 million a year.

“I will meet with Senator Coburn. We don’t have the same political philosophy, but we respect each other. I’m going to tell him that this is sacred ground and we just want to fund it the way we fund other memorials,” Sen. Charles Schumer said.

Coburn’s approach isn’t sitting well with National Sept. 11th Memorial Museum and Foundation board member Debra Burlingame, who says that the memorial will remain a target for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

“These are very real security costs that shouldn’t be born by a private non-profit — that is a responsibility not just of New York but of the entire country,” Burlingame told 1010 WINS.

“Why would he want to stand in the way of contributing to the security of that site when the alternative is to put it in the hands of small donors — and that’s where most of the money has come from, the donation money is from small donors, over 900,000 of them,” Burlingame said.

“I invite Sen. Coburn to come down to ground zero and let us walk him through the museum that he hasn’t been able to see. This is a huge enterprise, it’s 70 feet underground, this is a very complicated security issue and he should come and see it for himself.”

What do you think? Sound off in our comments section below.

Comments (15)
  1. Skinnyclauz says:

    You GO Tom. All of our hearts are sad for what happened 9/11. Let’s see how sorry the Muslim community living in our country is by providing the $’s for this wonderful Museum.

  2. BC says:

    I agree. Enough is enough. If the families of first responders who perished in the towers want to fund this memorial, they can donate out of their multi-million dollar settlements with the city.

    As sad of a day as 9/11 was, I dont want taxpayer money being thrown at something that will be an endless funding pit. Not to mention they will probably hire some executive director who will be paid $500,000 per year to do a part-time job and get a government defined-benefit pension.

  3. Lonie Wielewinski says:

    I agree. This and more; with what we blow up on the 4th of July, we could cure cancer. With what we spend on printing everything in Spanish we could cure heart disease AND feed the world’s hungry – and GO GREEN. Just to begin to name a few.

  4. John Habernathy says:

    $20 Million a year????? I would object to $1 million a year.

  5. Richard Burgess says:

    This isn’t about accountability or the deficit. The senator just doesn’t approve of anything in which our government is involved, so you must not take it personally. He opposes most types of government spending and even voted against funding the war. However, like many other Republicans he does believe that preventing gays from getting married and stopping women from having abortions are legitimate functions of the national government. In other words he approves of government spending only for the causes he believes in.

  6. Moshe says:

    $50 million a year for the Holocaust museum? They must be kidding. How can any single museum need $50 million every year. Somebody or some group is getting rich from this museum.

    1. Michael H. says:

      The museum is free to visitors. It’s one of the most visited museums in DC. It costs a lot of money to run a building like that. Security, maintenance, staff, utilities. $50 million is not an outlandish number when you look at what goes into running the museum.

      1. The Realist says:

        If the expenses are so high, it should start charging admission.

        1. Michael H. says:

          Every single Smithsonian Museum (there are 11 on the National Mall where the Holocaust museum is located) is free. None of them charge admission. Keep in mind that these museums don’t receive all of their funding from the government. The Holocaust Museum receives around 2/5 of its funding from private donations and merchandise sales. Preserving our rich history and providing it for the world to see is a vital function of our civilization and should be available to all at no charge. Funding our national museums should be always be one of our nation’s priorities. We need to know where we’ve been to figure out where we’re going.

  7. Native New Yorker says:

    Did people actually READ the article, or did everybody stop at the headline? He wants to remove ONE Federal funding stream and leave THE OTHER ONE intact.

    Of course, that raises some questions:

    (1) Why should there be TWO Federal funding streams?

    (2) Why should there be ANY Federal funding? A museum should be SELF-SUSTAINING.

    (3) Why is it so essential that NOBODY be held accountable for how the money is spent?

  8. hoax 911 says:

    enough crying about 9/11 we need to move ON, Japan moved on after you nuked them and killed them for generation. stop being crying babies

  9. Joe says:

    Yes , I agree with you VY.

  10. VY says:

    Maybe our NY-NJ Senators should block any federal funding for the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial sight.
    Maybe that’s the only way to wake up this numb-nuts trying to hide behind the national debt as his reason to block $20 million per year.

    1. The Realist says:

      Why do you support ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY?

    2. KPMc says:

      I guess reading the article would have been too much effort for you. I respect peoples opinions except when they are so grossly uninformed.

      “Government support for these types of memorials is by no means uniform. For example, the Oklahoma City National Memorial gets no government funding…”

      Personally, I don’t need to spend 20 million dollars a year to remember one of the darkest days in American history. I lived through it.

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