A Monday front-page story by congressional reporter Carl Hulse focused on Democratic leader Henry Reid's battle against Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who is blocking $10 billion of popular-sounding spending measures with procedural objections, demanding closer scrutiny of the bills and countervailing spending cuts. The headline set the tone of the story: "Democrats Try to Break Grip Of the Senate's Flinty Dr. No."
Apparently the Times has crowned Coburn the successor to Sen. Jesse Helms as the Senate's new "Dr. No."
Congress has dealt for decades with catchall bills known as omnibus legislation. Now, for the first time, comes the Tomnibus.
A product of Democratic frustration with the tactics of Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and physician who has become the Dr. No of the Senate, the Tomnibus is a $10 billion collection of Coburn-blocked measures assembled by the Senate leadership in an effort to break his solitary grip on the legislative process.
Engineered by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, the bill includes 35 of the most irresistible-sounding measures stuck on the docket, including the Mothers Act and the Protect Our Children Act.
The obvious intent is to apply a little legislative Kryptonite and embarrass Mr. Coburn into dropping his procedural objections to the measures while highlighting his willingness to put roadblocks in front of bills that have support from all corners - a textbook case of what Democrats view as extreme Republican obstructionism.
Well, as they say, good luck with that.
"I am not a go-along, get-along guy if I think it is the wrong way to go," Mr. Coburn said, not stating anything his peers did not already know. "I am O.K. taking the consternation of my colleagues. I take my oath seriously."
Mr. Coburn, a 60-year-old family practitioner, blazed a career as a thorn in the side of both parties after arriving in the House as part of the Republican revolutionary class of 1994. He was a top anti-abortion crusader who conducted regular workshops for young staff members on sexually transmitted diseases, complete with graphic slideshows. He continued to deliver babies while he was in the House, but after moving to the Senate in 2004, he found himself in a long-running battle with ethics officials over whether he could moonlight.
Matthew Hoycaught one extremely slanted sentence in the original version of Hulse's story as it crossed the wires, a sentence thatwasn't included inthe Times' online version (nor did it make the New York Late Edition). The Santa Rosa Press Democratnewspaper ran the version of the Times story as sent. The text omitted from the NYT version is in bold:
Even some Democrats have a grudging admiration for Coburn's determination, and they distinguish him from other Senate archconservatives whom they see as more interested in gumming up the works. They point out that he has shown an occasional willingness to make concessions, as he did after months of effort with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., on a genetic nondiscrimination law. And he has worked with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a fact that the Democratic presidential candidate has proudly referred to when talking about his ability to reach across the aisle. The two even shared a hug when Obama returned to the floor recently.
While Sen. Tom Coburn is not only a conservative but an "archconservative," Sen. Ted Kennedy is simply identified as a "Democratof Massachusetts" in the Times (the Santa Rosa paper uses a different stylebook). That's standard labeling procedure by the Times and Hulse, which consistently labels conservative politicians as conservative while almost never labeling liberal politicians liberal.