Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 11:17am
ONE-MAN GRIDLOCK: MEET TOM COBURN, SENATE'S 'DR NO'
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: Sarah Lueck firstname.lastname@example.org]
The specialty of Sen Tom Coburn (R-OK) is stopping stuff. In a Congress that has had trouble passing even the simplest legislation, Sen. Coburn, who proudly wears the nickname "Dr. No,'' is a one-man gridlock machine. This year, the senator, who indeed is a medical doctor, single-handedly blocked or slowed more than 90 bills, driving lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to distraction. His kill list includes a bill that would require more data collection on the availability and quality of broadband service. Sometimes, Dr. Coburn, an obstetrician who sees patients one morning a week, disagrees with the proposals. As a fiscal conservative, he usually objects to what he sees as excess spending. Sometimes, he just wants to force a debate or improve on items that would otherwise fly through the Senate. In a crowded legislative calendar, not everything gets the scrutiny voters might imagine. Dr. Coburn's weapon of choice is the "hold," a procedural maneuver that allows a single senator to prevent a bill from being passed quickly without a roll-call vote or floor debate. Until a rule change this year, senators could keep their holds secret, and they usually did. Dr. Coburn notifies colleagues about his intentions. To keep track, Dr. Coburn has four manila cards in the pocket of his suit coat. He pulls out the list, printed in tiny type on both sides, whenever colleagues approach to discuss their bills. In his office's intranet, which staffers jokingly call the "Write-Wing Portal," there's a section for aides to look at bills that have incurred their boss's displeasure.
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