“I have a flat forehead because I hit my head against the wall,” he told voters during a town hall meeting in July 2010.
Coburn, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1994 during the so-called Republican Revolution, violently criticized the use of federal funds for special government projects and was one of the few members of Congress who refused to seek such projects for their home states. He represented northeastern Oklahoma for three terms, but did not seek re-election in 2000 to keep a promise to limit terms.
He returned to his doctor’s office in Muskogee before asking voters to send him back to Washington, this time to the Senate, so he could fight big donors and make sure that “our children and grandchildren have a future.” He won an open seat in the US Senate in 2004 and easily won reelection in 2010. He left the Senate in 2016 after promising not to seek a third term.
As a senator, Coburn published a number of reports of what he called wasteful government spending.
A 2011 37-page report entitled “Subsidies for the Rich and Famous” listed nearly $ 30 billion annually in government subsidies, tax breaks, and federal grant programs for millionaires.
“From tax write-offs on game losses, vacation rentals, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government subsidizes the lifestyle of the rich and famous,” Coburn wrote in the report.
A joint report by Coburn and Arizona Senator John McCain, who died in 2018, in August 2010 criticized economic spending, including $ 1.9 million for international ant research and $ 39.7 million for modernizing the Statehouse and political offices in Topeka, Kansas.
Coburn’s stubbornness and the prevention of laws that were considered worthy by Democrats frustrated Senate majority leader Harry Reid at the time.
“You can’t negotiate with Coburn,” said Democrat Reid in 2008. “It’s only a waste of time if you learn over the years.”
During the summer 2011 debt ceiling debate, Coburn was part of a bipartisan gang of six senators who supported an alternative plan to cut the deficit by nearly $ 4 trillion in the next decade through budget cuts and revenue through change to increase the tax code.
Coburn also published a 614-page plan outlining how the government could pull $ 9 trillion out of the federal deficit over the next ten years. Coburn’s proposal later this year resulted in the abolition of a federal tax subsidy for ethanol.
In 2009, Coburn shook off some complaints after the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, posted a photo on the front page hugging President Barack Obama after Obama spoke at a congressional meeting.
“I’m not politically connected to him. I don’t know what people in Oklahoma would be worried about,” Coburn told the newspaper. “But you have to separate the difference between political philosophy and friendship. How can you influence someone better as love? “
Coburn said he and Obama became friends during the orientation as newbies in 2004.
Coburn was born on March 14, 1948 in Casper, Wyoming and grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma. After graduating from Oklahoma State University, he worked for his family’s company in Virginia, Ophthalmic Division of Coburn Opticals, from 1970 to 1978. He later attended the medical school at the University of Oklahoma.
When he got into politics – a decision that he believed was based on out of control government spending and his aversion to career politicians – he was married to his wife Carolyn, had three children, and had a successful medical practice.
During his tenure in the Senate, Coburn gave birth to babies free of charge after being threatened with criticism for violating Senate Conflict of Interest rules that prevented him from receiving compensation for professional services.
Coburn had several health problems during his tenure. He was treated for melanoma in 1975 and operated on for prostate cancer in 2011.
But health problems didn’t seem to affect his controversial attitude. For example, after finding out in 2003 that he had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and had surgery and chemotherapy, he told a Tulsa World reporter: “You should write about Medicaid and Medicare instead of my health.”