Dr. Tom Coburn is known for being a royal pain in the ass… and for all the right reasons. Bob Novak has an article on how Sen. Coburn is getting on the nerves of the Senate leadership for his campaign against wasteful government spending:
During six years in the House, Coburn’s campaign against pork-barrel spending made him anathema to Republican leaders. He planned a lower profile in the Senate, but the ethics complaint made that impossible. He also had an agenda ensuring him more attention than ordinary freshmen: bringing free market principles to health care, oversight of federal programs (as chairman of the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee) and assaulting congressional pork. For the first time since Phil Gramm left the Senate, Sen. John McCain had an anti-pork partner.
In the April 20 debate on the supplemental appropriations bill, Coburn was the only senator to support McCain against Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who was mandating that a $40 million project go to a “Philadelphia-based company.” “I believe this is the wrong way we should be doing things,” Coburn told the Senate. “We need to stop. Our future depends on the integrity of a budgeting and appropriations process that is not based on politics but is based on having the future best will for our country.”
Of course, standing on principles in the Senate usually meets with punishment, as the Senate Ethics Committee is investigating Coburn for his principle of being a citizen-legislator. Coburn hasn’t quit his day job, and when he’s done in the halls of Congress he goes back to Oklahoma to deliver babies. Novak notes the hypocrisy of censuring Coburn for such actions:
It is hard to exaggerate how much Coburn’s rhetoric riles pork-loving colleagues, explaining the absurd ethics proceeding against him. In answering charges that he is a part-time senator, Coburn wrote constituents last week that he will continue to “devote at least 60-70 hours per week to my Senate duties.” Other senators spend as much time as Coburn back home but mainly for fund-raising. They are not stopped from padding their bankrolls with book royalties, farm income and investments.
I would rather have a Senator performing his normal job then out fundraising and shilling like most Senators do. Coburn is absolutely unwilling to bend on his principles of smaller government, fiscal discipline, and the concept of the citizen-legislator. He’s challenged the comfortable pork-barrel politics of the Senate, something which badly needs to be done. This country needs more Senators willing to put principles above pork, and Coburn’s bluntness is a breath of fresh air in the stodgy chambers of the US Senate. Rather than focusing on trumped-up and illegitimate ethics charges, both Senate Democrats and Republicans should be following his example and putting the needs of the country above petty porkbarrel politics.