Sen. Coburn to Retire at Close of Current Congress

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Sen. Coburn will retire at end of year.
Sen. Coburn will retire at end of year.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), co-author of the Postal Reform Act (PRA) that still awaits markup in committee, announced yesterday that he will retire from the 113th Congress when it adjourns next January. He will leave two years shy of the completion of his current six-year term.

Coburn incurred the wrath of mailers during a September hearing on postal reform in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) when he came out squarely against the use of the CPI price cap in setting rate increases. "Like I've told everybody in the [business mail] industry, there's going to have to be more than the inflation rate [increases],” he said during the hearing, adding that he trusted the wisdom of postal authorities not to raise prices to such a level that would cause precipitous drops in volume

“If your business is that integral, would not cogent members of the [Postal] board be sensitive to not losing that volume?” Coburn posed.

Minus passage of postal reform legislation in time to address January rate hikes, the Postal Board filed for a 4.3% exigent increase one week after Coburn made the statement. It was subsequently approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission on Christmas Eve. As a result, mailers predict mail volume dropoffs in the coming two years ranging from 5% to 13%.

Coburn, a physician, has been troubled by a recurrence of prostate cancer for which he had been in remission, and he took time off from the Senate in November to undergo treatment. He insisted in a statement, however, that his decision to retire was not influenced by his health.

"This decision isn't about my health, my prognosis, or even my hopes and desires.  My commitment to the people of Oklahoma has always been that I would serve no more than two terms," said Coburn, the Ranking Member of the HSGAC. “As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere. In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong."

Coburn still figures to play a key role in fashioning postal reform legislation. Sen. Tom Carper, Chairman of HSGAC, has made its passage one of his priorities during the current Congress.

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