Senator Harry Reid has done something that would have been stunning just a few decades ago: he has referred to a fellow U.S. Senator as a "dictator." He was speaking of Oklahoma's Tom Coburn who has been bottling up an important transportation bill in the Senate because he didn't like some of its provisions. Coburn's petty behavior threatened to partially shut down the Federal Aviation Administration leaving thousands jobless, placing air passengers at risk, and costing the government thousands of dollars in lost ticket taxes. The bill also would have also provided funding for our nation's highways, and the Oklahoma senator's obstinacy put thousands of potential new jobs in peril.
The Senate has a hoary old rule that says before the Senate can shift from discussing one topic to discussing another, all members must give their consent. The august body had been talking about a disaster aid bill, and one senator, Tom Coburn, refused to give his consent to switch to the subject of a stop-gap measure for the FAA and highway programs bill. The senator from Oklahoma assumed the powers of Caesar on a technicality.
And just what was in the FAA and highway bill that got Coburn's toga in such a twist? Some money going to the states for highway improvements was to be used for beautification projects and bike paths. Yup, ol' Tom had visions of hippies on bicycles peddling alongside the nation's interstate highways.
The Will Rogers Turnpike was built in Oklahoma in 1957. It is an eighty-mile stretch of potholes and detours running from Tulsa to the Missouri state line near Joplin. The turnpike keeps a host of tow trucks and auto parts stores in business. Bike trails along the Will Rogers Turnpike would undoubtedly speed traffic across northeastern Oklahoma - and I have never been on any roads in the Sooner State that couldn't stand some major beautification!
Senator Coburn, the cocky little bantam, has made his noise, abused his privilege, and has now withdrawn his objection and allowed the Senate of the United States to resume the nation's work. It is not the first time that he has interfered with the process of government on a technicality, and it undoubtedly won't be the last either. The Senate would do itself and the country a favor if it revised its rules in such a way that allowed rule by the majority without the interference of single members who are out trolling for cheap publicity.
It is time for Congress to end the obstructionism and get back to doing the people's business!