Government Spending

Obstreperous Obstetricians' Obstructionism

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The New York Times reports that the Democrats have a plan to roll over Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who continues to annoy his colleagues by placing "holds" on bills he doesn't like:

A product of Democratic frustration with the tactics of Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and physician who has become the Dr. No of the Senate, the Tomnibus is a $10 billion collection of Coburn-blocked measures assembled by the Senate leadership in an effort to break his solitary grip on the legislative process.

Engineered by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, the bill includes 35 of the most irresistible-sounding measures stuck on the docket, including the Mothers Act and the Protect Our Children Act.

There are items to commemorate "The Star-Spangled Banner" and to try to curb pornography, cut drug use and help victims of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Officially known as the Advancing America's Priorities Act, the catchall legislation includes a measure to improve life for victims of paralysis, which Mr. Reid calls the Superman bill in tribute to the late Christopher Reeve.

What, no subsidies for apple pie? Unlike Ron Paul (R-Texas), the House's Dr. No (who is also, weirdly, an obstetrician), Coburn objects mainly to unfunded spending, as opposed to the lack of constitutional authority for most of what Congress does. But even unprincipled obstructionism would be better than no obstructionism at all. A so-called hold is simply a refusal to proceed by unanimous consent—that is, an insistence that the Senate, the World's Greatest Deliberative Body, deliberate. Since this might mean senators would have to read the legislation they pass, which would cut down on the quantity of their output, they naturally resent Coburn's intransigence:

Mr. Coburn's approach is problematic when it comes to the mechanics of the Senate because most of the chamber's work gets done by what is known as unanimous consent, an agreement among all parties to let a bill pass without a fight since full debate and votes on even the simplest matter can consume days.

Democrats say that by thwarting unanimous consent with his aggressive application of holds, Mr. Coburn is practicing a procedural tyranny of one, blocking popular legislation that has bipartisan Senate support, has easily cleared the House and has received committee review. They say it is time for him to ease up.

So far he shows no sign of doing so:

I am not a go-along, get-along guy if I think it is the wrong way to go….I am OK taking the consternation of my colleagues. I take my oath seriously….It is easy to vote on something that sounds good. It is hard to stand against it and say there is a bigger principle.

Dave Weigel profiled Coburn in reason last year. In a 2005 column, I praised another tool of Senate obstructionists, the filibuster.

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  1. So, “the world’s greatest deliberative body” doesn’t want to… deliberate. Lazy bastards.

  2. “even unprincipled obstructionism would be better than no obstructionism at all.”

    I could not have said it any better. Maybe more of us should be become active obstructionists.

  3. I hate docctors but an Obstetricianocracy sounds like a better Government than we have now.

  4. also, weirdly, an obstetrician

    Perhaps obstetricians’ regular contact with *actual* children (and their parents) provides them with a better grasp of priorities than the average Legislator.

    Or it could just be a weird coincidence.

  5. Kind of weird that they call him “The Senate’s Dr. No” without mentioning the name of the congressman they’re comparing him to.

  6. Or it could just be a weird coincidence.

    Probably the explosion in OB medical insurance drives them out of the practice and provides them a much needed small government kick in the ass.

    Or they just got tired of toiling in the vagina mines. Seeing hundreds of them stretched, torn and vomiting afterbirth has got to give you negative associations with the whole area.

  7. I refuse to believe that Harry Reid is capable of overcoming Coburn’s objections. I have been assured on numerous occasions that Democratic Senators and Representatives have absolutely no power whatsoever to exploit procedural rules, hence continued war funding, the wiretap bill, etc.

    Given all of these assurances, it seems ridiculous to think that Democratic Senators would be able to work through the procedural hoops when something as trivial as pork is on the line. Am I right, people?

  8. What would we do without Coburn?

    He’s the lone voice of reason in the Senate — a lighthouse in the muck.

  9. …since full debate and votes on even the simplest matter can consume days.

    And the problem with this is…?

  10. Or they just got tired of toiling in the vagina mines. Seeing hundreds of them stretched, torn and vomiting afterbirth has got to give you negative associations with the whole area.

    Well, my lunch just got a little bit less tasty.

  11. “Kind of weird that they call him “The Senate’s Dr. No” without mentioning the name of the congressman they’re comparing him to.”

    Maybe they miss Paul supporters flooding their inboxes with thousands of angry emails.

  12. Or they just got tired of toiling in the vagina mines.

    They certainly know when something smells fishy.

  13. Obstreperous Obstetricians’ Obstructionism sounds like a Carcass song title.

  14. Waterhouse-

    I could be mistaken, but I think tons of nay-minded Congresscritters have been called “Dr. No” at some point. It’s just stuck with Paul strongest because a) he’s an actual doctor, and, probably more importantly, b) he says no a lot more than any one else.

  15. …it seems ridiculous to think that Democratic Senators would be able to work through the procedural hoops when something as trivial as pork is on the line. Am I right, people?

    No, you’re not. Sadly, unlike privacy concerns and ending an idiotic useless war, pork is seen by senators as decidedly non-trivial.

  16. Remember kids, when it comes to passing laws on child pornography and aiding the eliminate deadly illness – just say NO.

    http://atrophyannie.com/gallery_pgs/06_Justice01.html

  17. popular legislation that has bipartisan Senate support

    The worst kind of legislation, I might add.

  18. Or they just got tired of toiling in the vagina mines.

    I read once that attending their children’s births tends to put many fathers off of sex for a while. Besides the episiotomy thing, there’s the realization of just how inadequate your equipment is.

  19. there’s the realization of just how inadequate your equipment is.

    Or how brilliant in its simplicity.

  20. McCain just called Obama “the Dr. No of our energy security” for opposing offshore drilling. Methinks Ron Paul needs to start vigorously defending his trademark if he wants to keep it…

  21. Kind of weird that they call him “The Senate’s Dr. No” without mentioning the name of the congressman they’re comparing him to.

    How often do Ron Paul supporters cite the James Bond movie when they call him Dr No?

  22. It’s kind of sad: I don’t know a single person who would see something wrong with the NYT article.

    When folks start to complain that the Senate is too slow about “getting things done,” it’s time to start worrying.

  23. There is a lot about Coburn that I just can’t stomach – but this almost compensates for all of that.

  24. As an update, Sen. Reid’s plan failed.

    Amazingly enough, the Senate Republicans supported Sen. Coburn on this. The vote to bring up the massive combined bill only got 52 votes, and it needed sixty.

    Of course, once the filibuster-proof Democratic majority comes in this election, along with President Obama, it’ll be Katie bar the door.

  25. Katie Couric?

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