Fresh off his exit from the ‘Gang of Six,’ Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) takes the Senate to task for “stalling on the debt debate.” In a fantastic new op-ed in the Washington Post, Coburn singles out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) for presiding over “the least deliberative ‘greatest deliberative body’ in the world” and “failing to direct attention to the central challenges of our time.” His overriding message is clear: Enough with the “gangs” and closed-door meetings, let’s have this debate on the Senate floor where the American people can see it:
We are facing what Democrat Erskine Bowles calls the most predictable economic crisis in history. There is no excuse for not having bills on the Senate floor with an open amendment process that allows the American people to fully comprehend not only the magnitude of our problems but the possible solutions. The people need to hear the Senate debate the central issues of our time. The limited progress that has been made to bring sobriety to Congress, such as the end of the earmark orgy, was made possible through a relentless floor campaign publicizing amendment after amendment and cut after cut. Change happens when the American people see real debate, not partisan political theater.
As the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid bears special responsibility for failing to direct attention to the central challenges of our time. His floor strategy seems to be focused on saving Democrats more than democracy. I would relish a debate on tax earmarks, spending cuts and competing budgets (if there were competing budgets), yet the votes he seems most interested in scheduling — such as tax breaks for big oil companies — are designed for short-term political gain rather than long-term deficit reduction.
It is not realistic to expect six members to pull the Senate out of its dysfunction and lethargy. Some will ask why we should have more hope in an open, deliberative process, in which all senators are engaged, when a dedicated few did not succeed. The America I know comes together when tough times call for us to do so. It’s time for the Senate to earn its reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body and help lead that effort. The constituency to help 60 senators agree on a balanced deficit-reduction plan already exists among the public. The public rightly prefers spending cuts over revenue increases, but numerous polls indicate the vast majority of Americans would support the only type of plan that would ever make it out of Congress and be signed into law: one that favors spending cuts over revenue increases but includes both.
But this one is perhaps the most noteworthy:
Getting there, however, will require the Senate to put forward specific solutions and win public support for serious entitlement reform and tax reform. In the coming weeks I’ll be putting forward my own proposal that puts everything on the table and cuts $9 trillion in spending over the next decade. I hope my colleagues present their ideas as well. I’m confident that in a free and open debate, the best solutions for America will prevail, but only if we have the debate.
Let the debate begin, indeed.
Read the whole thing here.