When I worked in the House Republican leadership and Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnDemocrats step up hardball tactics in Supreme Court fight COVID response shows a way forward on private gun sale checks Inspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 MORE (R-Okla.) was a member of the House, I didn’t like his style of politics. He seemed unreasonable. He held up legislation. He made us work weekends. He led revolts against the leadership time and time again. He was inconvenient.

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.

Coburn takes his job seriously. He makes his staff actually read the bills. He has a simple rule: If a politician proposes a new law, he demands that the politician also examine what went wrong with the old law. No new laws until we get rid of the old law that hasn’t worked. Makes sense to me. Since most laws and programs coming from Washington are wasteful and duplicative, it seems like a reasonable position to take. But not inside the Beltway.

But as everybody knows, it is much easier to start a government program than it is to end a government program. Coburn estimates that the federal government wastes $300 billion a year on programs that don’t work.

Over 10 years, that 3 trillion bucks could be spent on something that actually produces something or — better yet — returned to the taxpayers.

Predictably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has grown very frustrated with Mr. Coburn. He is taking the extraordinary step of packaging every bill that Coburn has put a hold on, and asking the Senate to pass it over to the House, where it then be passed on to the president, for his signature (or veto, hopefully). This pork-barrel special is a mish-mash of great-sounding programs — including an anti-child pornography measure — but with no spending accountability included.

When Coburn was in the House, he didn’t have the power, as a back-bench member, to make much of a difference, especially with the Senate, which is usually the place where the serious pork is made. But now that Coburn is in the Senate, he is making a real difference bringing some spending discipline to the upper chamber.

Coburn’s jihad against wasteful spending should become one of the top causes for Republicans this fall. Nobody believes that government efficiently spends money. Stopping wasteful Washington spending, making the government more efficient, ending duplicative programs and rebalancing the unbalanced federal budget are all powerful messages, especially in the face of bigger deficit and a weak dollar.

John McCain can be expected to bring Coburn’s anti-waste attitude to the White House when he becomes president. They would make a pretty powerful team. Coburn identifies the pork and McCain vetoes it.

For taxpayers who are worried that their tax dollars are being wasted on stupid spending programs that do nothing except give government bureaucrats jobs, Tom Coburn should be seen as a hero.



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