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Sen. Tom Coburn Retires

Last week, Sen. Tom Coburn announced [1] that he is retiring from the Senate:

Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we’ve received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer. But this decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires. My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms. Our founders saw public service and politics as a calling rather than a career. That’s how I saw it when I first ran for office in 1994, and that’s how I still see it today. I believe it’s important to live under the laws I helped write, and even those I fought hard to block.

Michael Brendan Dougherty profiled [2] him for TAC in 2011:

To his credit, Coburn does go after many big-ticket items in the budget, even in defense. And he makes some politically daring criticisms of the Pentagon. “When you can come out of the military after 20 years and get healthcare for you and your family for $486 a year, when everyone else is paying over $4,000, it has to stop; it’s going to stop.” He doesn’t agree with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the military should look for $100 billion in savings only to spend it elsewhere. “I want to take $100 billion away from them.”

I have long been impressed by Sen. Coburn’s work, especially on fiscal issues, since he is one of the relatively rare Republicans that has generally been consistent in his commitment to fiscal responsibility. Whether that meant attacking something as trivial as earmarks or pursuing things as important as entitlement and military budget reform, Coburn has been one of the leading opponents of excessive and wasteful spending. The Senate and his fellow Republicans in Congress will be worse off without him.

Rod Dreher saluted [3] the senator:

Washington will be a lesser place without him. Every time I heard him talk, I knew I wasn’t necessarily going to agree with everything he said, but I knew that he wasn’t going to b.s. his listeners.

Despite his disagreements with Coburn, Jonathan Bernstein also praised [4] him:


Still, I applaud Coburn’s pragmatic streak, typified by his opposition to Ted Cruz’s government shutdown plan, and his interest in policy on everything from the deficit to abortion, even when I think he got things badly wrong. There are plenty of Members of Congress who vote with their party and otherwise sit around waiting until they can cash in. Coburn was never one of those. From what I could see, he has taken the job of being a Member of Congress seriously. Overall, he’s been a valuable politician, and he’ll be missed.

2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "Sen. Tom Coburn Retires"

#1 Comment By balconesfault On January 20, 2014 @ 10:20 am

I had a lot of respect for Coburn, before he joined the “filibuster every administration nominee” brigade that finally forced Reid in exasperation to scrap the filibuster for those types of appointments.

I could fully appreciate Coburn’s hard anti-deficit position. But that seemed totally out of place with his embrace, along with the rest of the GOP, of tactics that were primarily aimed at disrupting the ability of the POTUS to run his executive branch – in essence hamstringing effective government as a tool for extracting partisan concessions.

Coburn, with his experience, his seniority, and his history of working with Obama on a bipartisan basis when they were both in the Senate, had the opportunity to be a bridge to lead a faction of Senate Republicans who would be interested in actual policy, rather than simply opposition to Obama and dedication to trying to sabotage his effectiveness in office. He squandered that. I do wonder if he has any regrets.

#2 Comment By Okie Exile On January 20, 2014 @ 10:55 am

Coburn was at least willing to point out some of the abuses his own party made with regarding to reckless spending, even though that didn’t usually stop him from falling in lock-step with the rest of the GOP when it came to blanket opposition to anything proposed by Democrats. Still, his “stick in the mud” budget hawk conservatism was at least one that could be rationally understood and worked with, unlike some of the more recent sorts that drop rationality in favor of vitriol.

I think Oklahoma will step a step down in quality when it comes to his replacement; most of the current GOP politicians don’t strike me as particularly notable or competent, and the odds of a Democrat (even a moderate one) getting elected in OK now are pretty low.