Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has a nickname that he’s apparently always liked. The right-wing physician-turned-politician is often referred to as “Dr. No” because of his willingness to oppose popular measures with broad support. In fact, Coburn almost seems to revel in his role as a one-man obstruction machine.
And as the Oklahoma Republican wraps up his final week on Capitol Hill – Coburn is retiring before his term is up due to health reasons – he’s ending his career in the most disheartening way possible.
An energy-efficiency bill written by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) already passed the House, but it’s stuck this week because of Coburn’s objections. The Senate is trying to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, but Coburn is blocking that, too.
And as Rachel noted on the show last night, the Senate is eager to approve the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, which cleared the House last week with unanimous support, but Coburn is literally the only member standing in the way.
Veterans groups blasted Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn Monday for blocking a bill intended to reduce a suicide epidemic that claims the lives of 22 military veterans every day.“This is why people hate Washington,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group. Rieckhoff accused Coburn of single-handedly blocking a bill that could save the lives of thousands of veterans.
Coburn delivered remarks on the Senate floor yesterday, attempting to explain himself. See for yourself whether or not the senator’s defense made any sense:
“My grandfather was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the highest honor the French give for his work during World War I. I also would state that as a physician, I know suicide all too well. I have failed patients in the past doing everything I knew to do. […]“I’ve treated patients in the past with the demons that these young men and women have…. When every veteran, regardless of how long his hair is, or how unshaven, or how scraggly he looks, or how nice he looks, is greeted with a ‘yes, sir’ or ‘yes, ma’am,’ is greeted with a smile at every veteran facility, is treated with the respect that they deserve because they served and some of us didn’t…. My heartbreaks for the people who commit suicide. You know what it is? They find no relief anywhere else except death. There’s no answer for them. We don’t give it to ‘em. We have failed ‘em. I personally have failed them. […]“Events, catastrophic events, depression and situations lead people to suicide. Not any one individual. They are searching for an answer that we have failed to give them. They are searching for the support and the nurturing and the love that needs to be there.”
I’ve watched Coburn’s speech a few times, trying to understand what this has to do with his decision to block the bipartisan suicide-prevention bill, but I’m afraid I haven’t the foggiest idea what he’s talking about.
By all appearances, the effort to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act has been exhausted and the bill is finished for now. It’s likely, however, Congress will take up the bill again next year, when Coburn will no longer be able to ensure its defeat.