Thursday, January 8, 2015

How Sen. Tom Coburn Made a Difference

Members of Congress come and go, and many leave Washington no better or worse than they found it. A few make a mark, and Congress is losing one of them: Tom Coburn.
The senator doesn’t leave behind him a stack of legislation with his name, or grand bipartisan deals. He doesn’t leave stunts, public tantrums, an adoring press corps, or, for that matter, many adoring GOP colleagues. Mr. Coburn didn’t really “do” legacy. Which is why this rather humble Oklahoman will have one.
What Mr. Coburn does leave is a more informed electorate and a better Republican Party—two groups that benefited enormously from his focus on first principles: adhering to the Constitution, limiting federal government, and protecting individual liberties. In his three terms in the House and 10 years in the Senate, he became most known for forcing Congress (in particular his own caucus) to reconcile its actions against those principles. His long-term efforts to decode the federal government—voluminous reports on waste and fraud, demands for more transparency—were likewise aimed at giving voters the tools they need to hold members true to those principles.
The real key to Mr. Coburn’s success was a skill too little valued in Washington today: hard work. He was an accountant and then an obstetrician before coming to D.C., and never lost that belief that he needed to earn his paycheck. He was in the office every morning by 7:30. He’d read every word of every report his staff gave him—and send it back with typos circled. He read every bill and objected if he wasn’t given the time to do so before a vote. He’d dive into monstrous sections of the federal government—the budget, veteran affairs, disability payments, the tax code—and not re-emerge until he knew it front to back. He was a policy innovator, in particular on health care.
Many was the time this reporter would stumble across some government outrage, and call Mr. Coburn’s office for his take—only to discover he’d written a bill to fix the problem a year earlier. That knowledge was power; he was a formidable opponent because he knew more than the appropriators, the negotiators, the bills’ authors. An all-time favorite line came from one of his staffers who, in the middle of a Coburn budget fight with Congress, wryly commented: “I don’t know why they bother. Fighting with Coburn over the budget is like waging a land war in Asia. You can’t win.”
Read the rest of the story HERE and view 2 related videos below:

Paul Gigot on Tom Coburn:

Sen Tom Coburn's Farewell Address:

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