For Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, Obamacare fight was a sideshow

Muskogee Republican has waged his share of seemingly unwinnable fights, but he couldn't hide his disdain for the effort to defund Obamacare.
by Chris Casteel Modified: September 28, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: September 28, 2013
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— Sen. Tom Coburn has waged many a lonely fight here, some of which alienated and even angered his fellow Republicans.

But he was unsympathetic — to put it mildly — with the uphill battle by a small group of his GOP colleagues to defund Obamacare through a must-pass spending bill; in fact, this time, he was among the alienated and angry.

From the beginning, Coburn, of Muskogee, dismissed the tactics of Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, as futile and ultimately dishonest.

And shortly after Cruz ended a 21-hour talkathon Wednesday, Coburn went to the Senate floor to say the “thousands and thousands” of people calling his offices in support of Cruz had been sold “a bill of goods.”

“When I have young interns and young staff in my office taking significant calls from people who have been misled, there is no way you are going to talk them out of a position that outside interest groups and a small number of people inside the Senate have planted,” he said.

Coburn has been vilified on his Facebook page in recent days, called a traitor, a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and many unprintable things. Callers to his offices also have been insulting. Once considered a hard-core conservative, a member of the far right, he might be a target of a challenge from the right if he hadn't term-limited himself.

And he's clearly disgusted with the tactics.

Friday, after he and a majority of Senate Republicans rejected entreaties by Cruz and Lee to block action on the spending bill, Coburn made a not-so-veiled dig at Cruz.

“When some senators were using flawed and pretend ‘filibuster' tactics to defund Obamacare that were destined to fail, they should have instead been focusing on how the (spending bill) wastes scarce taxpayer dollars by funding, for example, studies about how Americans view the filibuster,” he said.

Coburn's own unwinnable fights

Coburn's pointed disdain for colleagues is unusual, though not unprecedented: He has spoken so critically of Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that he once went to the Senate floor to apologize for the words he used.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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