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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I thank the Senator. I stand here in two capacities: speaking as a Senator trying to find a compromise that would be good for the institution and as a friend of Tom Coburn.
If I had any doubt about the effect this would have on the institution, I would not rise in support of my friend, because we all know why we are here. We are here to make the country stronger and the Senate better. Having Tom Coburn here as a physician I think makes the country stronger and better.
It is not about him making money. All of us know Senator Coburn and what he does in Oklahoma. He is not practicing medicine to make money. He is practicing medicine to stay in touch with his constituents, to provide a vital service to rural Oklahoma, and to try to pay the bills. He is doing it for all the right reasons.
You can, as Senator Lott said, have outside income. This is not about outside income. This is about trying to maintain the skills that are very much in demand in Oklahoma and a relationship that I think will be beneficial to the people he serves and the Senate as a whole.
The bottom line is, it worked in the House. They had the same debate in the House. They had a compromise where Senator Coburn could practice medicine not for a profit but for the privilege of serving his constituents in two ways: as a Representative and a doctor. It worked very well. It was a win-win. It can be a win-win for the Senate. Physicians who served in the Senate in the past have been allowed to practice.
Perception is important. We don't want to do anything in the Senate on our watch that would give a perception that the body is not at its highest level. And reality is important too. I think the reality of allowing Dr. Coburn to continue to practice in the Senate, such as he did in the House, is extremely beneficial to real people who need a good doctor who is competent at delivering medical care and who has a great heart for serving people. Those individuals need the Senate to understand they are affected, and whatever perception problems anybody is worried about, it did not hurt the House at all, and it is not going to hurt the Senate.
The reality is there are people counting on Dr. Coburn, and it would be a shame for them to be denied medical care from a very good man.
From the Senate's point of view, I think it would be good for us to have a commonsense view of what our role in society is, that we are not a body that should be totally disconnected from everyday life. If you can have a Member of the body serving in a very vital capacity that improves everyday life, then we ought to let that happen. It would be a win-win for the Senate, and it would be a win-win for the people of Oklahoma.
I am here to say that Tom Coburn is not only a great Senator, he is a great doctor, and he practices medicine for all the right reasons. Any perception problem should not stand between him and the ability to deliver a vital service. We are not reduced as a body by him taking care of people in Oklahoma. I think we are enhanced.
I yield the floor.
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