Taxpayers lost a valued advocate last week with the passing of Dr. Tom Coburn. The former Senator from Oklahoma began serving in the House of Representatives in 1995 with the "Republican Revolution" during the historic 104th Congress. He kept his term-limit pledge and did not seek re-election after the 106th Congress. He successfully ran for the Senate in 2004, was re-elected in 2010, and resigned on January 3, 2015 due to health issues. He succumbed to prostate cancer on March 28, 2020.
Coburn was a leading opponent of earmarks and federal waste. His annual “Waste Book” culled the most egregious examples of federal programs and projects that squander taxpayer dollars. The current Senator from Oklahoma, James Lankford, carries the torch on this project with his annual “Federal Fumbles” report.
In addition, Coburn was a strong proponent of entitlement and health care reform, and a tireless advocate for greater transparency. He was a leader on the Hill, pushing for a full audit of the Pentagon. He worked across the aisle with then-Senator Barack Obama to pass a law ordering the Office of Management and Budget to create www.USASpending.gov so that the general public could follow the flow of federal grant and contract disbursements. This website has become an indispensable tool in tracking how the government spends our tax dollars.
Coburn's work in Congress earned him a B in 1996 but otherwise all A grades in NTU's annual congressional ratings, the most comprehensive scorecard of members' voting records on fiscal and free market issues. He was frequently featured as a top spending cutter in NTUF's BillTally project that tracked the net spending in the legislation sponsored by each member of Congress. Several staff members fondly recall Coburn’s appearances at our National Taxpayers Conference, where he never failed to inspire citizen activists to make a difference in their own backyards as well as Washington, DC on behalf of effective and efficient government. His achievements and fiscal stewardship serve as a model for the current Congress in these trying times.
The NTU and NTUF teams offer condolences to the Coburn family.