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Tom Coburn and His Giant Charts


Sen. Tom Coburn came to the Senate floor Wednesday to address a problem that he says is too big to be addressed within the confines of the Senate’s chart regulations.

The Oklahoma Republican brought a series of bright yellow charts to the floor with a series of tables outlining duplication and redundancy in federal government programs, based on reports from the Government Accountability Office.

“I ask permission for these oversized charts because the detail behind them cannot be seen unless you have it on a chart this size,” Coburn said. He later argued that “it’s absolutely asinine what we’re doing” in terms of wasting money.

Coburn needed unanimous consent to use the monstrous charts because they actually exceed a published rule for regulation of the Senate that dates back to 1993. Under the regulation, no chart may be displayed with a size in excess of 36 inches by 48 inches. The charts must be displayed on an easel positioned next to the desk of the senator making the presentation or at the rear of the room.

Coburn’s charts appeared to be at least twice as large as the normal ones.

The use of charts as visual aids is a longstanding practice in the Senate’s television era. The best charts have developed something of a cult following. As previously reported by HOH, a Senate floor chart Tumblr appeared last November. The Senate’s chart printers may have more time to produce such large charts, though, after the retirement of Sen. Kent Conrad. The North Dakota Democrat was the chamber’s most prolific user of charts.

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