While personally blocking more than 70 pieces of legislation, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has portrayed himself as a champion against “wasteful” government spending. In reality, Coburn’s obstructionism has delayed, deferred, or killed legislation that would have expanded medical research and improved the lives of millions of Americans.
Responding to Coburn’s obstructionism, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) crafted the Advancing America’s Priorities Act, a package of nearly 40 bills that Coburn and other conservatives prevented from coming to a vote.
The package included The Christopher Reeve and Dana Reeve Act, which would have “allocated $25 million for research on spinal cord injuries, rehabilitation and measures to improve the quality of life for paralyzed Americans.”
Because Coburn and his conservative allies successfully killed the deal, he has attracted a number of right-wing admirers:
- Two months ago, I made a rather vivid attack on a group of U.S. senators I called “the Coburn Seven,” who were blocking consideration of this measure. I was convinced that Tom Coburn — known in the Senate as “Dr. No” for objecting to nearly all spending increases — intended to kill the bill. Then I made the worst mistake of the commentator: actually meeting the object of your scorn….Coburn politely assured me that his motivation was not stinginess. His main goal was to increase the number of people receiving treatment. [WP, 7/30/2008]
- “Now that he is a member of the Senate and I am back in the private sector, paying taxes and worrying about the debt, my view of Coburn has changed. I love the guy.” [The Hill, 7/28/2008]
- “But this other Advancing America’s Priorities Act, that has to be shut down. And Senator Tom Coburn, we we love him. Dr. No , he is up there crusading, it’s a one man crusade if you ask me, against what’s going on on Capitol Hill.” [The Laura Ingraham Show, 7/28/2008]
- “Much like the late conservative hero “Senator No” (Jesse Helms), Coburn seems to be the only conservative willing to block legislation that would exacerbate the $9.3 trillion dollar debt this Congress is passing on to future generations.” [Human Events, 7/14/2008]
Coburn’s so-called ‘idealism’ has real and negative impacts on Americans. According to the Paralyzed Veterans for America, the bill, which would have cost just $0.82 cents per family, would have benefited the 240,000 Americans, including 44,000 veterans, “who suffer from spinal cord injuries or paralysis.”
Unfortunately, these Americans now have to bear the burden of Coburn’s “idealism.”