Congress

Coburn to cut short his Senate term

Sen. Tom Coburn

Sen. Tom Coburn, a fierce critic of wasteful government spending, announced plans to retire when the Senate's current session ends in early 2015 -- two years before the end of his term.

As ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Oklahoma Republican fought to reduce spending on duplicative government programs, and in recent years worked on legislation to eliminate improper payments. He is perhaps best known for releasing his annual Waste Book, a list of programs and expenditures that he felt squandered taxpayer money.  Coburn targeted both outdated IT systems and agency conference and travel spending in recent years.

"No one has done more to awaken Americans to the threat posed by a government that chronically spends more than it takes in, and no one has worked harder at finding a solution," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

Coburn is not opposed to all spending, however. Though he has said he believes as much as half of the federal government's annual IT expenditure of $82 billion is wasted,in January he suggested that salaries for the federal IT procurement workforce could be raised to better compete with the private sector for talent.

An obstetrician by training, Coburn first came to Washington as part of the House Republican wave in 1994. He retired after three terms, then ran for the Senate in 2004. Coburn recently revealed he is in treatment for prostate cancer, but said that his illness is not behind his decision to leave the Senate.

"As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere. In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong," Coburn said in a statement on his website.

It's not clear who will succeed Coburn as ranking member on the Homeland Security panel. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is next in seniority, but he's rarely seen at hearings. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are more active in the government oversight activities of the committee, and one of them might be a more likely candidate.

Coburn joins a growing group of lawmakers announcing their departures. Reps. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Jim Moran (D-Va.), whose district is home to a concentration of federal workers, and George Miller (D-Calif.), who has served 20 terms, are among those who have announced retirements this week.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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