A Capital View: Sen. Tom Coburn, Resolute And Right

Sen. Tom Coburn, a resolute conservative Republican from Oklahoma, is winning my respect. Please don't faint, liberal readers, before reading on.

Coburn, a physician by trade, and I would not agree on anything from an ideological basis. However, he has followed his principles to the letter and that accounts for something in today's Congress.

Coburn's latest splash in the news was a critical report of the waste of taxpayer money at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Coburn, who praised much of the work done at the CDC, wrote that the agency had wasted millions. He was especially upset over a massive construction project at the CDC headquarters that has exceeded $1 billion.

That seems a bit excessive to Coburn and should be to the rest of us mere mortals.

Other conservatives make speeches about waste, fraud, and abuse. But Coburn tried to do something about it.

Another attention-grabbing move by Coburn came when he offered a surprise amendment to an appropriations bill. He wanted to take money earmarked for the so-called "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska and transfer it to repairing the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans, which was heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was then chair of the appropriations panel, said he would resign if the amendment passed. We should have known. The amendment got a scant 11 votes because so few were willing to take on the irascible Stevens.

Coburn also stands tall compared with his Republican colleague from the Sooner state, James Inhofe. He is a reactionary whose record in the Senate is largely as an obstructionist. Oklahoma is a bright red state, so you expect Republicans to win. I'll take Coburn over Inhofe.

So while some may think I have taken leave of my senses, there should be a few more Republicans like Coburn in the Senate. He stands tall on principles.

By John W. Mashek