Government-Waste Watchdog Coburn Stepping Down at End of the Year

The Senate's watchdog of government waste announced he'll be leaving at the end of the year even though his term expires in 2016.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a 65-year-old physician, survived malignant melanoma long before arriving in Congress, then prostate cancer in 2011. This winter, he was diagnosed with a recurrence of the prostate cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy while keeping up his rigorous congressional schedule.

“Serving as Oklahoma’s senator has been, and continues to be, one of the great privileges and blessings of my life.  But, after much prayer and consideration, I have decided that I will leave my Senate seat at the end of this Congress," Coburn said today in a statement.

Coburn said he and his wife have been touched by" the encouragement we’ve received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer."

"But this decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires," he said. "My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms. Our founders saw public service and politics as a calling rather than a career. That’s how I saw it when I first ran for office in 1994, and that’s how I still see it today. I believe it’s important to live under the laws I helped write, and even those I fought hard to block."

"As dysfunctional as Washington is these days, change is still possible when ‘We the People’ get engaged, run for office themselves or make their voices heard. After all, how else could a country doctor from Muskogee with no political experience make it to Washington? 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."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) noted that Coburn has been "a fearless leader against wasteful spending in Washington."

"With dignity and purpose, he educates our nation on the fiscal threat in which we live and works tirelessly to correct it. For this and many more reasons, I will be eternally grateful for his service," Cornyn added, calling Coburn's determination to serve out the end of the 113th Congress "a testament to his strength and character."

"Speaking hard truths and serving as the Senate’s spending conscience, Tom has been a straightforward and honest voice of fiscal conservatism in Washington. I have been privileged to serve alongside him and to learn from him," said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.).

“I respect Tom Coburn's decision, but the Senate is losing one of its most valuable members," Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said. "We will miss his courage and I will miss him personally.”