Majority of Senators Rebuke Ethics Committee's Position on Dr. Coburn's Medical Practice
The Senate tonight rebuked the Ethics Committee's handling of U.S. Senator Tom Coburn's, M.D. (R-OK) request to continue his not-for-profit medical practice by a margin of 51 to 47.
"I'm deeply grateful that a majority of my colleagues concluded that my desire to maintain my connection to the real world and serve my patients is an asset to the U.S. Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Oklahoma as the citizen legislator I pledged to be," said Dr. Coburn, who has pledged to serve no more than two terms in the U.S. Senate.
As a member of the House of Representatives from 1995-2001, Dr. Coburn was allowed to practice medicine on a not-for-profit basis. Dr. Coburn could earn enough to cover his costs but not receive any profit. During this period he delivered more than 400 babies and none of the parents of the babies he delivered chose him hoping to sway his vote.
Prior to being sworn in as a member of the Senate, Dr. Coburn received an unsolicited letter from the Senate Ethics Committee advising him that such an arrangement would be a violation of Senate Rules and a conflict of interest. The amendment offered tonight by Senator Trent Lott (R-MI), Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, asked the Senate to reject the Senate Ethics Committee's narrow interpretation of Senate rules and adopt the House of Representative's common sense position.
Lacking majority support of Senators for its interpretation of Senate Rules, Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, used a procedural maneuver to frustrate the will of the Senate and block formal acceptance of the Lott amendment.
"I am saddened by the mindless partisanship reflected in tonight's vote," Dr. Coburn said after learning that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had lobbied Democrats to vote against the Lott amendment. "I appreciate the courage of the four Democrats, Thomas Carper (D-DE), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Barack Obama (D-IL) who put common sense ahead of partisan loyalty. Few Americans can comprehend the notion that it is a conflict of interest for me to deliver babies on a not-for-profit basis, but it is not a conflict of interest for other Senators to make unlimited royalties from books deals or have special interest groups cover their travel and lodging costs for political speeches."