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Public Statements

Leadership

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I am worried about the Senate as a body today. I came down here to the floor and I listened very intently to the Chaplain's prayer. He asked that we call on the higher wisdom; not man's wisdom, but God's wisdom. And I note with lots of consternation and worry that what is a very fine institution is being put at risk basically through failed leadership.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Having lived 64 years and running an organization and running a business, the quality that is most needed in leadership is a quality called reconciliation. And when that doesn't happen by our leaders--and I'm not singling out any one leader in particular--when that effort, that reconciliation, doesn't happen, it is not just directly related to the events surrounding that lack of reconciliation, it does damage to institutions. What we are about to see carried out today is the placing of partisan principles on both sides of the aisle ahead of the principle of advice and consent and the Senate's role.

Unfortunately, our leader didn't protect the Senate's rights under the Constitution with the last four nominations in terms of recess appointments, and we can debate that. But the fact is as an institution--whether it had been a Republican leader or Democratic leader--the No. 1 issue that needs to be protected is the rights of the Senate as related to the other branches of government. I think that is unfortunate, and I think that is part of our problem today as we fail to trust one another to do what is right.

Let me go back to leadership. The real qualities of great leaders are they bring people of disparate views together and they solve those problems; they never accept the fact that an impasse is the answer. What we have queued to set up today is going to be an impasse. Everybody knows it. It is going to be an impasse. All that does is reflect poorly on the Senate as a whole and on the leadership of the Senate as a whole on both sides. So my caution would be to return to what Chaplain Black said: There is greater wisdom than we have. That is the wisdom we ought to be drawing from as we reconcile differences in the Senate, rather than destroy the comity of the Senate and destroy the ability of us to work together in the Nation's best interest in the future.

I would also tell you that the other thing I am disappointed about is that we have the Senate focused on that small issue instead of the very great issues in front of our Nation--the very fact that we are going bankrupt; that we have not done one thing this year to actually trim the excesses of the Federal Government; that we have not addressed in any way, shape, or form the very problems that are going to create tremendous burdens not only to our children but those people who, through no fault of their own, will not have a safety net in the future because we failed to make the tough decisions today, and that is wrapped up in political expediency.

One of my favorite quotes--it is a summary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words. It is not his exact words, but he said the following: Cowardice asks the question, Is it safe? Expediency asks the question, Is it politic? Vanity asks the question, Is it popular? But conscience and character ask the question, Is it right?

What I put forward to the two leaders today is what we are about to let unfold today in the Senate: Is that the right thing for the Senate or does it have to do with expediency and popularity? And if it is to do with those two things--whether it is connected or not--that is called failed leadership. That is a failure to lead, to reconcile, to bring people together. We are better than that. Our leaders are better than that. We should not allow this to happen.

I yield the floor.

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