Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cheers to Senator Coburn

While Senator Stevens has been bringing shame to the GOP image in the Senate, Senator Coburn of Oklahoma has been demonstrating what one senator can do if he's not worried about popularity. Senator Coburn is dedicating to stop new spending if we don't cut spending elsewhere. You know, the sort of paygo approach that Democrats came into power advocating and then gave up on when they realized that they couldn't accomplish it. Coburn has been blocking lots of new spending provisions, not because he specifically opposes most of them, but because he wants spending or duplicative programs cut elsewhere.

So Harry Reid tried to embarrass Coburn by putting these provisions together in one big "Tomnibus" bill, but the Republicans were able to block passage of the bill. Jacob Sollum points out the desperation of Harry Reid that has led to some severe nastiness by the supposedly mild-mannered Majority Leader.
Unable to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome Coburn's opposition, Reid castigated the Republicans who had sided with the obstreperous obstetrician. "You go home and explain to...the next person you see in a wheelchair, 'I voted against you because Harry Reid was being a tyrannical guy in the Senate,'" the Nevada Democrat said. He also accused the Republicans of voting against victims of stroke, Lou Gehrig's disease, postpartum depression, and child pornography.

"I have never been a bully," Reid insisted while caricaturing his opponents as cripple kickers, mother haters, and molester lovers. Perhaps he really believes that, just as he really believes he is anything but "a tyrannical guy." Spending other people's money on good causes makes you automatically virtuous, which is part of its appeal. If nothing else, Coburn has shown it is possible to resist the tyranny of good intentions.

"Mr. Coburn's approach is problematic when it comes to the mechanics of the Senate," The New York Times explains, "because most of the chamber's work gets done by what is known as unanimous consent, an agreement among all parties to let a bill pass without a fight." In other words, Coburn has the bad manners to demand that the "world's greatest deliberative body" deliberate.

It's not hard to see why Reid wants to avoid that. Although he dubbed his spending package the Advancing America's Priorities Act, the one thing it emphatically does not do is set priorities.
So Reid found time to put together all these non-emergency provisions, but he can't manage to bring up any bill on opening up offshore drilling or open up debate for a comprehensive energy bill to address a crucial issue.

If Reid thought he'd deter Coburn, he was mistaken. Senator Coburn doesn't seem to be the type of man who backs down from what he really believes in no matter how he gets attacked by those who would prefer to use their time in Washington to guarantee their own reelection. Coburn has taken a two-term pledge and I bet that he'll keep it. And he hasn't let nitpicking Senate rules stopping him from practicing his first career as an obstetrician.
Coburn, a family physician in Oklahoma, has imposed a two-term limit on himself.

He also remains locked in a dispute with the Senate ethics committee over his medical practice in Muskogee. In an interview last week, he said he has delivered about 75 babies since becoming a senator in 2005.

He said he recently sent the ethics committee a letter telling them that his practice does not violate long-standing Senate rules that prohibit its members from holding partnerships in professional firms in the fields of medicine, law and engineering.

The committee and the Senate, in a 2005 vote, rejected his proposal to operate a medical practice that charges enough to cover his insurance and administrative costs, so Coburn now pays those costs out of his own pocket and does not otherwise charge his patients.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the ethics committee, said last week that the panel stood by its previous rulings but declined to comment about its consideration of Coburn's medical practice. "He knows what he's supposed to be doing," she said.
What type of rules prevent a doctor from delivering babies? Especially if he is only charging enough to cover his expenses. I like ethics rules as much as anyone, but this really seems to be motivated by a nasty small-mindedness. So, cheers to Coburn for standing up to Harry Reid.