Oklahoma Sen. Coburn announces early retirement

BY newsdesk  January 17, 2014 at 3:40 PM EDT

Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., announced he will retire from office at the end of the 113th Congress. Screen grab by NewsHour

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., announced late Thursday that he will retire from the Senate at the end of 113th Congress in January 2015.

The 65-year-old junior senator was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November and has had two previous bouts with the disease, but said his decision to retire was not due to his health. “This decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires,” the senator said in a statement. “My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms.”

However, Coburn is retiring nearly two years before his second term is set to expire. Unlike most states where the governor is allowed to appoint an interim senator in the event of a vacant seat, the governor of Oklahoma is required to call a special election “as soon as practicable.” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Friday the election to replace Coburn will be held on the same day as the regularly scheduled election on Nov. 4.

In August, Coburn made headlines when he said that President Barack Obama was getting “perilously close” to impeachment during a town hall meeting in Oklahoma. Although Coburn did not specify the impeachable offenses, he said he and the president were personal friends but “that does not mean that I agree in any way with what he’s doing or how he’s doing it. I quite frankly think he’s in a difficult position he’s put himself in, and if it continues, I think we’re going to have another constitutional crisis in our country in terms of the presidency.”

Sean Murphy of the Associated Press reported that Coburn often clashed with Senate Democrats as well, earning the physician the nickname “Dr. No.” The senator vociferously opposed earmarks and was extremely critical of government spending.

Coburn was elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving three terms in the House of Representatives. He was elected to the House in the 1994 “Republican Revolution” and left office in 2001 since he promised to limit his tenure to three terms. Coburn currently serves as the ranking member of the committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement regarding Coburn’s retirement saying, “Tom is a legend in his own time … and a deeply serious lawmaker who has made an immense difference to his country and to this body. ”

In May 2012, Sen. Coburn joined the NewsHour to discuss his book, “The Debt Bomb.” View that conversation below.

H/T Bridget Bowman