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Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn begins farewell tour this week

As retirement from U.S. Senate approaches, Coburn talks about his plans for the next few months and the Republican race to replace him.
by Chris Casteel Modified: August 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: August 3, 2014

Sen. Tom Coburn laughed.

“No, no,” he said last week when asked whether he had any regrets about retiring after the current congressional session.

“I made this decision a year and a half ago.”

His exit is quickly approaching.

Congress will be in recess until early September and meet relatively few days this fall as elections approach. Coburn, R-Muskogee, still has some business to complete and that includes holding his final town hall meetings — in essence, a farewell tour of a state he has represented in the U.S. Senate for nearly 10 years.

That tour begins in Oklahoma City on Monday.

Hearing the concerns of his fellow Oklahomans “will kind of invigorate me for the last three or four months that I’m here,” Coburn said. “And that’s the purpose of it, to reconnect with the people of Oklahoma and to continue to carry their message up here.”

Coburn, who also spent six years in the U.S. House, has held dozens of town hall meetings. There were raucous ones, like those in the aftermath of the financial industry bailout in 2008 and others during consideration of the Affordable Care Act.

There have also been remarks that “exploded nationally,” he said, as when he called former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a “nice person” (and was booed) and the time last summer he said President Barack Obama appeared “perilously close” to the constitutional grounds for impeachment.

Still busy

Coburn hasn’t been slowing down as his political career nears its end.

Just last week:

He released a report on the Homeland Security Department’s failure to secure chemical facilities from terrorist attacks, and a committee approved legislation that he co-authored to improve the security of such facilities.

A Senate committee approved legislation by Coburn and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to give taxpayers more information about financial settlements reached between the federal government and private corporations. The details of many such settlements are frequently kept secret.

The Government Accountability Office released a report requested by Coburn on overlapping Agriculture Department programs for farmers.

He tried to block legislation reforming veterans health care services because of the increased funding.

And he prevented other bills from being passed on the Senate’s fast track that he said authorized more spending without offsets elsewhere in the budget.

In the next few months, he said, his staff will continue generating reports. Among those will be one about the proliferation of federal agency police forces.

“We don’t have a national police force — nor should we — but now all these agencies are trying to develop one,” Coburn said. “So we’re going to be real critical and investigate that and the costs associated with that.”

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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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At a glance

Sen. Tom Coburn has released the following schedule for his final town hall meetings in Oklahoma:

Aug. 4

6 p.m.: Oklahoma City Community College, Visual and Performing Arts Center Theater, 7777 S May Ave.

Aug. 5

10 a.m.: Western Oklahoma State College, Herschal H. Crow Fine Arts Auditorium, 2801 N Main St., Altus

1 p.m.: Cameron University, CETES Conference Center, Building 20, 2800 W Gore Blvd., Lawton

Aug. 11

3 p.m.: Enid Convention Hall, 301 S Independence, Enid

Aug. 13

6 p.m.: Tulsa Community College, Southeast Campus, VanTrease PACE, 10300 E 81st St., Tulsa

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