As the Prospect's Jamelle Bouie also notes, earlier this week Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn abandoned the Gang of Six, the bipartisan group of senators negotiating a deal for deficit reduction. Any compromise reached by the five remaining senators will likely go nowhere without Coburn's conservative cred.
Coburn turned to The Washington Post's editorial pages to explain his decision, though he devotes the bulk of the piece to lamenting gridlock in the Senate.
The lack of leadership and initiative in the Senate is appalling. As of this week, the Senate has held just 72 roll call votes this year, about one per legislative day on mostly noncontroversial and inconsequential matters. By this time last year, we had taken more than twice that number of votes (152). By this time in 2009, we had taken 192 votes. If we continue to avoid tough choices, we will lose control of our economic destiny and go down in history as the Senate that lost America. Our epitaph will read: Never before in the field of legislating was so much ignored by so many for so long.
I'm not going to disagree with Coburn on that point. We should be concerned about the paucity of bills considered by the Senate. Since President Obama took office, Republicans routinely filibuster almost any measure presented in the Senate, adding an unintended supermajority requirement for each piece of legislation. It has become so commonplace that Democrats no longer bother bringing bills or executive branch nominees to the floor.
It's especially ridiculous for Coburn to complain about the lack of Senate action. The Oklahoma senator is known around the chamber as "Dr. No" for the absurd number of secret holds on executive-branch nominees he places and the number of times he calls for a fillibuster. In 2009, Harry Reid was forced to create an omnibus bill of uncontroversial measures that Corburn had single-handedly blocked. When it came time for the 50th filibuster in the last session, Coburn was the sole Republican to take the floor and defend Republicans' opposition to providing assistance to the unemployed. Last year, Coburn even tried to derail a bill that provides health benefits to the firefighters and cops who were first responders on 9/11.
Coburn writes that "[i]t is not realistic to expect six members to pull the Senate out of its dysfunction and lethargy." That's true, but change starts at home.