Opinion

Tom Coburn Backs Constitutional Convention, To Fight Federal Overreach Even In Retirement

Mark Meckler President, Citizens for Self-Governance
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Sen. Tom Coburn recently announced he would launch an effort to call a Convention of States after he retires from the Senate in a few months. The article in The Hill – called “Let’s Change the Constitution” — described the process:

Article V of the Constitution stipulates that two-thirds of the states may call a convention to propose amendments to the nation’s founding document. It has never been successfully invoked. All 17 times the nation has amended the Constitution since the adopting of the Bill of Rights in 1791, it has done so by proposing changes that won two-thirds support in the Senate and House and were then ratified by three-fourths of the states. But with Congress these days hard-pressed to cobble together the consensus necessary to perform even the most basic functions of government — such as keeping it funded — a convention of the states is looking more attractive to Coburn.

“That’s one of the things I’m going to be working on,” Coburn said of his post-congressional plans.

As the founder and President of Citizens for Self-Governance, which began the Convention of States Project, I’m thrilled that someone of Coburn’s stature is joining the fight.

As you might recall, Coburn came to the Senate during the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” when the GOP took control of the House and Senate for the first time in four decades.

Politico described how the conservative from Oklahoma has tweaked President Obama over the years: “The Oklahoma Republican panned the president’s State of the Union address, accused Obama of exaggerating sequester impacts, and dealt a major blow to his gun-control effort by dropping out of bipartisan talks.”

But he didn’t just call out Democrats with whom he disagreed. He was non-partisan in his desire to cut waste. When he served on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, he became a champion against government waste and incompetence instigated by both parties. He published an annual, lengthy account of federal spending – appropriately titled Wastebook. This publication never failed to make headlines, as journalists pounced on the juicy items of fraudulent spending. Over the years, he highlighted how 170 million pounds of useable U.S. military equipment was being destroyed as the American military pulled out of Afghanistan — $7 billion worth, to be precise. He also revealed how it cost taxpayers $1.5 billion to keep the lights on in unused federal buildings.

Some of it was aimed specifically at wasteful Democrats. For example, the hundreds of millions of dollars it took to create the destined-to-fail Healthcare.gov.

Some of it targeted Republicans. For example, he pointed out that $65 million was used by New York and New Jersey for tourism ads while only one person had received housing assistance with the money. Gov. Chris Christie also spent money appearing with the Snooki of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” in an effort to drive up tourism.

But most of it was aimed at the enemies of common sense. For example, did you realize we spent almost $1 million on something called the “Popular Romance Project,” an effort to celebrate romantic films, song and novels? (Coburn pointed out that it helpfully provided analysis on the pop hit “Call Me Maybe” and the raging debate over teenage heart throbs in “Twilight.” I didn’t read their conclusion on whether it was better for Americans to be on Team Edward or Team Jacob.)

When asked if his annual publication ever made a difference in Congress, he responded frankly.

“No,” Coburn said. “They don’t pay attention to it. It’s hard work to get rid of junk, it’s hard work to do oversight, it’s hard work to hold the agencies accountable. And so what they would rather do is look good at home, get re-elected, and continue to spend money, and that’s Republican and Democrat alike.”

In other words, Coburn has always been a serious man, dedicated to conservative principles, and unafraid to call out either party. His endorsement of the Convention of States Project is an enormous step toward making all Americans understand that it’s time to restrain the overreaching, corrupt federal government.

Coburn’s not on Team Republican or Team Democrat.

He’s on Team America.

Mark Meckler is the President of Citizens for Self-Governance, which created the Convention of States Project.