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Coburn: "I don't know one tea party leader anywhere that wants to eliminate veterans' benefits"

In the first installment of his 'Hot Mic' column, Morning Joe producer Ben Mayer writes about Sen.

In the first installment of his 'Hot Mic' column, Morning Joe producer Ben Mayer writes about Sen. Tom Coburn's appearance on the show this morning.

By Ben Mayer

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was defiant Thursday over the Morning Joe panel’s discussion of the Tea Party movement.

Coburn has endorsed Texas U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz who, with heavy Tea Party backing, easily won his Republican primary Wednesday over establishment candidate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

“He actually gets it,” Coburn said of Cruz. “I was really amused with you all’s conversation. I don’t think you get it. The Tea Party is every person in America who really is fed up with Washington and recognizes the way we got there is abandoning the core principles of our country.”

Moments earlier, amid discussion of the Tea Party’s image, New York Times columnist Gail Collins argued, “There’s a good reason people don’t relate to the Tea Party. It’s not because its name is ‘The Tea Party.’” It’s because it really wants to undo all the entitlements people really like. It wants to drastically reduce the size of the government. It wants to get rid of veterans’ benefits. It wants to get rid of education aid, all the stuff people actually like.”

Coburn returned to Collins' comments during his interview, “I don’t know one Tea Party leader anywhere that wants to eliminate veterans’ benefits. I’m appalled. That’s not a plank anywhere.”

But in 2011, Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann proposed $4.5 billion in cuts to veterans’ services, drawing the ire of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups. Army Times reported:

Proposed by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the freeze in veterans health care funding — along with a cut in disability compensation for veterans also receiving Social Security disability benefits — are part of a $400 billion package of spending cuts that the Tea Party leader says could be enacted to avoid increasing the $14.3 trillion cap on government borrowing.

Bachmann eventually took the cuts off the table, saying in a statement:

 "One point on my discussion list was a $4.5 billion proposal that would affect payments made to our veterans. That discussion point has received a lot of attention and I have decided to remove it from consideration. The problem of government spending must be solved, but not on the backs of our nation’s war heroes. I have always been a proud supporter of the United States military and I continue to stand with our veterans.  In the months ahead I look forward to working with our Veterans Service Organizations to ensure that we fulfill our commitments to those who sacrificed so much in their brave service for our country.”