Coburn was trying to get his language onto an amended H.R. 1, which Democrats are using as the vehicle for the Sandy relief bill. Republicans have argued for weeks that the bill is too costly, and have proposed several options for reducing costs.
"The Corps of Engineers was paid $62 per cubic yard to manage debris removal in Katrina," he said Thursday. "Through five layers of contracting, the people who actually did the debris removal in Katrina were paid $9 a cubic yard.
"So we paid six times what it actually cost to get the debris removal done because we did not have competitive bidding and we had multiple layers coming from the Corps of Engineers to national contractors, to regional contractors, to local contractors, to the actual guy with a backhoe and with a scoop and a dump truck."
On Friday, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSaudis hire lobbyists amid 9/11 fight Consumer bureau remains partisan target after Wells Fargo settlement Overnight Healthcare: Planned Parenthood deal in sight in Senate | A new 'public option' push MORE (D-N.Y.) argued that competitive bidding is not appropriate during disasters, and said Coburn's language does not include any exceptions.
"This will hurt people, and hurt them badly, and in many instances will end up costing us more," Schumer said.
But Coburn said many federal disaster contracts are pre-negotiated, which means no time is wasted during emergencies.
Coburn also proposed language that would have taken out language that gives the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to choose which flood and storm risk mitigation projects to pursue without congressional oversight. But he withdrew that language after Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinOvernight Tech: Pressure builds ahead of TV box vote | Intel Dems warn about Russian election hacks | Spending bill doesn't include internet measure Intel Dems: Russia making 'serious effort' to influence US election GOP senators: Obama rebuffed negotiations on 9/11 bill MORE (D-Calif.) said the language was recently changed to ensure that this authority is narrow, and deals only with projects dealing with damage caused by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac.