Tom Coburn and Pork: Doesn't Matter Which Party Is Majority


Diamond Member
Nov 22, 2003
Great article in GQ of all places:

But I do want you to know that the new Democratic leadership is just as corrupt and irresponsible as the Republicans, and together they’re trying to destroy our country

GQ, February 2007

Tom Coburn doesn’t care about the midterm elections. Sure, he’s a senator. Sure, he’s a Republican. And sure, that means his party lost control of both houses of Congress last fall and will be out of power until at least 2009. But what difference does that make to Coburn?

“I don’t think it matters,” he said on a warm day in December, sitting in his office on the first floor of the Russell Senate building as the annual session came to a close. “It will be my first time in the minority party, but I’ve been in the minority the whole time I’ve been here.”

For Coburn, it’s a minority of one. Since his arrival in Washington, D.C., two years ago, no other senator has paved a more solitary path, butting heads with nearly every member of his own party and most of the opposition. In fact, as the Republican majority has run aground on fiscal issues over the past few years—racking up unprecedented deficits and a soaring national debt while the Democrats mostly kept out of the way—Coburn has often seemed like an opposition party unto himself. In April, for example, he tackled nineteen highly questionable expenses that his colleagues had slipped into the budget at the last minute—money that no branch of government had requested, which would directly benefit Senate campaign supporters. In September, he teamed up with Barack Obama to expose federal waste by putting the national budget on a public Web site—a prospect so alarming to some senators that two of them tried to kill it anonymously. And in December, as his Republican colleagues began cleaning out their offices to make room for the new Democratic leadership, Coburn fired a parting shot: Using legislative procedures, he blocked the GOP from finishing its annual business and pushed many of the most important budgetary decisions for incoming Democrats to make in the New Year.

But Coburn makes no apology for challenging his own party. “The American people want change,” he said with a shrug. “I think they’re wise to want change. The Republicans didn’t do what they said they were going to do. They deserve the wrath of the voters.”

Needless to say, none of this has exactly endeared Coburn to his fellow Republicans. When I asked John McCain, one of Coburn’s few supporters in the Senate, how the GOP has received Coburn, he laughed. “I call him Miss Congeniality,” he said. “A lot of people think he’s a straight-arrow, humorless guy.” Other Republicans were even less charitable. As a senior staffer in the Senate Republican leadership put it, “You know he’s nuts, right?”

But for many of Coburn’s colleagues, what is most surprising is not that he has become a thorn in the party’s side; it’s the issue with which he has made his mark. Back in 2004, when Coburn was first running for Senate, fiscal prudence wasn’t supposed to be his issue. In fact, the last thing anybody expected him to become was a voice of restraint in a body of excess. If anything, Coburn was the one known for his excesses, for making pronouncements so outrageous, so far from the mainstream, that at times he seemed like a cartoon of the fanatical right—declaring his own Senate race “the battle of good versus evil,” calling for “the death penalty for abortionists,” and suggesting that the country was under attack by a secret gay conspiracy that had “infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country.” Back in 2004, Tom Coburn was the last man anybody expected to rise above politics and try to lead us back to common sense....

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