Coburn criticizes Senate filibuster rule change
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Saturday, January 26, 2013
1/26/13 at 5:17 AM
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn said changes in Senate rules that passed Thursday will hinder his efforts to obstruct what he called misguided policy and profligate spending in Washington.
"They handicapped a lot of the tools I've learned to stop bills from coming to the floor," Coburn told an overflow Republican Club of Tulsa crowd Friday. "So it'll be much more difficult, for the next two years anyway, for me to stop a bunch of junk from coming to the floor that is not, No. 1, a priority for a nation that has $93 trillion in unfunded liabilities and debt and, No. 2, won't do the hard work of oversighting what we're doing before we do something else."
The rule changes allow a Senate majority to bypass a filibuster on initial consideration of legislation if either a bipartisan group of senators consents or the minority is guaranteed the chance to offer amendments.
The rule changes also limit debate on some appointments and reduce the time delay on votes after filibusters are cut off.
Coburn said the changes misunderstand the history and purpose of the Senate.
"The purpose of the filibuster in the Senate ... was to make sure a majority could never dominate a minority," he said.
Although the founding fathers designed the U.S. House to be responsive to the public, the Senate's role was to be above shifting sentiments, he said.
"It was designed to protect minority rights so that, even in times of massive swings in one direction, a minority opinion would be considered," he said.
Knowing he wouldn't win, Coburn said he skipped Thursday night's vote so he could return to Oklahoma sooner and reconnect with the people he represents.
Filibusters and other Senate practices that may seem to slow the progress of proposals are a protection for states such as Oklahoma, he said.
"This is unique to America. There isn't any place like that anywhere else in the world, and it's worked well for 225 years - very well," Coburn said.
Elsewhere in his presentation, Coburn said he has become an "expert on losing in the Senate," but that doesn't deter him.
"I'd rather lose standing on principle than win a short victory that leads to our demise," he said.
On other topics:
"I think what we're lacking is character-centered, moral-based leadership in our country, and I think the reason we're experiencing difficulties ... is because we lack that deep rudder," he said.
- Coburn criticized President Barack Obama's inaugural address as "exactly the opposite of what we should be talking about." The speech rationalized giving up liberty for security and personal responsibility for collective comfort, he said.
Obama delayed the projects for political reasons, but since he has been re-elected, he will stop his obstruction, Coburn predicted.
- Coburn said he thinks the Keystone Pipeline, which would bring Canadian petroleum through the United States, will relatively quickly be approved for construction.
Voters should insist that candidates agree to limit themselves and while pushing for legal limits for all members of Congress, he said. He said he will continue his struggle while he is in the Senate but won't be running for re-election.
- Coburn emphasized the importance of term limits for federal lawmakers.
"I won't be here four years from now. I promise you," he said.
Original Print Headline: Coburn blasts Senate rule change
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Sen. Tom Coburn speaks to the Tulsa Republican Club as Mayor Dewey Bartlett looks on during a luncheon Friday at the Summit Club. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World