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Coburn backs ‘Convention of States’

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn speaks in Bartlesville Friday morning. Kelcey King/Examiner-Enterprise
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn speaks in Bartlesville Friday morning. Kelcey King/Examiner-Enterprise

BARTLESVILLE — U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn told a gathering of local business leaders on Friday that he advocates the convening of a Convention of States to bypass an “incompetent” and “broken” federal government in Washington, D.C.

Oklahoma’s junior senator made his remarks Friday morning during a breakfast gathering of approximately 100 people hosted by the Bartlesville Regional Chamber of Commerce at Tri County Technology Center.

Coburn warned the audience that the federal government “consumes 25 percent of our entire gross domestic product. Our founders never envisioned a federal government with that much reach, that much taking, where we lose the ability to grow and enterprise and create opportunities for our children and our grandchildren.”

He also pointed to a Congressional Budget Office projection of $124 trillion in national debt by 2033.

“That’s an impossible situation for our children and grandchildren.”

Coburn said the nation had departed from its founding ideals.

“The thing that built America was self-reliance, personal responsibility and the rule of law,” said Coburn. “What we have to do is return to that.”

Coburn and other conservatives, as well as Libertarians, have charged the current federal administration with trampling on the Constitution and overextending its powers. The second-term senator favors a proposal promoted by author and Constitutional scholar Mark Levin in his recent No. 1-selling book, “The Liberty Amendments.”

In his book, Levin promotes the idea of convening a Convention of States as provided under Article V of the U.S. Constitution in which the states could collectively bypass Congress and the federal government to propose amendments. A super majority, 34 states, is required to convene. Potential issues for consideration could include a federal balanced budget amendment, tax limitations, spending limits, term limits, and limits on executive power.

Coburn said he likes the idea as a way to reign in an overreaching federal government and prevent what he sees as an abuse of its power.

“I used to fear that process,” said Coburn of the Convention of States proposal. “But now I’m afraid if we don’t use that process. I’ve experienced nine years of being in the Senate and I want to tell you it’s broken right now. There’s no common sense. It’s all political reaction — whatever your political situation of the day is — with no long-term thinking.”

Coburn reminded the audience that all other constitutional republics throughout history had failed, but he hoped the U.S. would prove to be the exception.

“The only way I see of doing that is to have a Convention of the States to offer amendments and force Washington to do what it was intended to do in the first place.”

Coburn said he would begin working with state legislators to start the process.

Audience questions also touched on a number of other topics including market-driven medical services and coverage versus the Affordable Care Act and whether a GOP-proposed government shutdown would have the intended effect of de-funding the controversial federal healthcare initiative promoted by President Barack Obama.

Here, Coburn differs with many on the right of the Republican Party. He pointed out that 85 percent of the Affordable Care Act is mandatory spending and that a majority of employees hired to implement the act are classified as “essential.”

“So, even if you shut the government down, everything is going to continue as it is for Obamacare,” he said.

The senator, a physician by trade, said he is all for getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, but because the GOP does not have the votes to overturn it, a more realistic strategy is to delay it.

Coburn, who serves on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, as well as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, defends the activities of the NSA program and trusts the integrity of the military oversight.

“It (NSA) has prevented significant damage to our country.”

The biggest response came when, in answer to a question, Coburn said he supported abolishing the IRS and instead institute a so-called “fair tax” or a national sales tax. Audience members enthusiastically cheered and applauded.

Coburn, from Muskogee, was first elected to the Senate in 2004, after serving three consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District. A staunch pro-life Republican, Coburn has personally delivered more than 4,000 babies during his medical career. He is also a three-time cancer survivor.

He has pledged to leave the Senate at the completion of his second term.

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