Sen. Tom Coburn announced Thursday night that he will be resigning his seat at the end of the year as he battles a recurrence of cancer.
“Serving as Oklahoma’s senator has been, and continues to be, one of the great privileges and blessings of my life. But, after much prayer and consideration, I have decided that I will leave my Senate seat at the end of this Congress,” Coburn wrote in a statement.
“As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere. In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong. I intend to continue our fight for Oklahoma, and will do everything in my power to force the Senate to re-embrace its heritage of debate, deliberation, and consensus as we face our many challenges ahead.”
Coburn was first elected to Congress in 1994 as part of a wave of House conservative firebrands swept into office as part of that year’s GOP landslide. Like many of his freshman colleagues, he pledged to serve only three terms. Unlike most of his colleagues, he kept his word.
He returned to Washington as a senator in 2004, handily defeating two prominent Republicans for the nomination and a highly touted Democratic congressman who succeeded him in the House. During the campaign, he portrayed himself as a part-time lawmaker, saying he was willing to put his conservative principles ahead of his party.
In the Senate, he was a crusader against wasteful spending. Before opposition to earmarking became a cause celebre with conservatives, he vowed not to seek earmarks early on in his Senate career. He tried to remove $5.5 billion in what he deemed wasteful projects from the 2009 stimulus bill and was an outspoken critic against the president’s health care law.
Coburn, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, also assembles an annual government “Wastebook,” a compilation of government expenditures he views as wasteful. The 2013 edition identified $30 billion in program expenditures, including nearly $1 million to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and Internet fan fiction.”
But Coburn has been an unflinching advocate of his views, even in the face of conservative backlash.
Over the summer, when Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah advocated a strategy of defunding Obamacare even if that meant shuttering the government, Coburn criticized the approach as unrealistic and unlikely to succeed. During the early stages of the so-called defund Obamacare debate, Coburn sat, legs crossed, at his Senate desk listening intently to Cruz and Lee as they argued it would be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who would shut down the government, not them.
Coburn disagreed emphatically, calling the tactic disingenuous and saying it was doomed to fail. Politically, Coburn’s remarks turned out to be prescient, and the shutdown badly bruised Republicans in Congress. Even as the behind-the-scenes Republican squabbling spilled onto center stage, Coburn kept to his small-government principles. He still voted against the continuing resolution that reopened government, arguing against running the government in such a ham-fisted manner.
Last year, he also gained attention for his willingness to negotiate with Democrats on new gun-control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. But he was unable to reach an agreement with Democrats, and the legislation never passed.
This is not Coburn’s first battle with cancer. In 2011, he underwent surgery for prostate cancer and was treated for colon cancer earlier in his career. In his statement, he attributed his resignation to his commitment to serve only two terms.
“I believe it’s important to live under the laws I helped write, and even those I fought hard to block,” Coburn said.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Friday that the special election to fill out the remainder of Coburn’s term will be held this year, coinciding with the regularly-scheduled election dates on the 2014 calendar. The primary will be on June 24, any necessary runoff will be on August 26, and the general election on Nov. 4. The decision, backed by Coburn, will save the state money because they won’t have to hold the special election at a separate time. Republicans are heavily favored to hold onto his seat in a deeply conservative state.
Coburn missed Thursday’s vote on the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. His colleagues praised him for his incorruptible style and voting record.
“TomCoburn: without question one of the most intelligent, principled, and decent men in modern Senate history,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman in a tweet.
UPDATE (11:20 a.m): Story was updated to reflect the timing of the special election.
What We're Following See More »
"Republican megadonor Foster Friess has told party leaders in Wyoming that he plans to run for governor," and is expected to make an announcement this afternoon. Friess has donated "millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes over the last decade, according to federal campaign finance records," including over "$1.7 million to boost Santorum's [presidential] campaign" in 2016. Gov. Matt Mead (R) is term-limited, and "a handful of Republicans are running in an open primary to succeed him in one of the reddest states in the country."
Four Palestinian protestors have been killed by Israeli fire near the Gaza-Israel border, bringing the death toll to 38, in what marks the "fourth consecutive week of Gaza's March of Return mass protests." The marches are part of a "month-and-a-half-long protest organized by Hamas near the border fence," which organizers have said will not stop before May 15. The marches are intended to emulate anti-apartheid protests in South Africa, and to commemorate the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948, during the establishment of the State of Israel.
"Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is looking to sue for defamation, wrongful termination and other possible civil claims, his lawyer told reporters Friday." McCabe's attorney Michael Bromwich said that his team "hasn't managed to find any witnesses to corroborate McCabe's version of the story," although they have not had enough time to do so. "McCabe’s lawyers are also seeking ways to release the emails between McCabe and Comey, which would offer insight into their communication about the leaks to the Wall Street Journal."
"The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump. The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there." The DNC is seeking "millions of dollars in compensation to offset damage it claims the party suffered from the hacks," and is arguing the cyberattack" undermined its ability to communicate with voters, collect donations and operate effectively as its employees faced personal harassment and, in some cases, death threats."
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have fined Wells Fargo $1 billion dollars for convincing customers to buy insurance they did not need, and could not afford. "In October, the bank revealed that some mortgage borrowers were inappropriately charged for missing a deadline to lock in promised interest rates, even though the delays were Wells Fargo's fault." The bank has also apologized for . "charging as many as 570,000 clients for car insurance they didn't need," and found that about 20,000 of those customers "may have defaulted on their car loans and had their vehicles repossessed in part because of those unnecessary insurance costs."