The follwing are excerpts from an interview conducted by Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Examiner.
Now that Sen. Tom Coburn has retired from Congress, who will publicize government spending on things like Swedish massages for rabbits and "Sesame Street" remakes for Pakistan?
Battling prostate cancer, the Oklahoma physician vacated his seat in December, two years before his second term was up. He leaves behind a legacy marked by government transparency efforts and is perhaps best known for his annual "Wastebook," in which he listed federally funded projects he found to be frivolous.
In several ways, Coburn bucked the norm in the increasingly polarized Congress. An obstetrician by profession, he earned the nickname "Dr. No" for opposing bills even championed by his fellow Republicans if he believed they would spend federal dollars ineffectively.
He recently spoke with the Washington Examinerabout what he's up to and why he thinks more members of Congress should retire.
Washington Examiner: Now that you're out of Congress, what advice would you like to give your former colleagues?
Tom Coburn: My advice is come home. You're more likely to fix the problems at home than you are there. Until the American people see transparently what's going on, what we have is a charade going on in Washington.
Examiner: In your opinion, why doesn't Congress reform Medicare and enact other government reform measures?
Coburn: It's totally tied to people who are in Congress for a career. If they truly were patriots, they would have fixed Medicare already. Common sense would say, if you're up here and this is the biggest problem, why don't you fix the biggest problem? They're more interested in elections than they are in fixing the health of the country. That's the disgusting part of Washington, that's part of the reason I left.
Examiner: But at least Congress repealed the faulty Medicare sustainable growth rate [SGR] formula, right?
Coburn: I don't think it was faulty. What was faulty was for Congress not to institute the cuts mandated by SGR. [Doctors would] start controlling their expenses, but we sent them a signal that "we've got your back, boys." Had they instituted it instead of had their spines collapse, doctors would have started controlling the costs, but Congress, in its cowardly position, said "oh, no, we can't do that."