Coburn’s cancer. Sen. Tom Coburn has been battling prostate cancer for some time, but his fight may have taken an ominous turn. Several news outlets are reporting that more aggressive treatment may force him to cut short his term. Coburn has already confirmed that he would not run for reelection in 2016. The Washington Times reported that Coburn would have a better idea in February what his future might hold. Coburn told Newsmax, “I’m a straight shooter. When I get ready to make a decision on what I’m going to do, I’m going to put it out there.” Coburn has been aggressive in highlighting examples of government waste, fraud, and abuse. He is also a doctor who is outspoken in his Christian faith, which has led him to be a leader in pro-life causes. Before he was elected to the U.S. Senate, he was a member of the Family Research Council board. If Coburn resigns, it will be up to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to appoint a successor. Among those talked about for the post: Reps. James Lankford and Tom Cole.
Lankford dissents. Speaking of James Lankford: I interviewed him yesterday in his office on Capitol Hill, just after the vote on the Omnibus Spending Bill. Lankford is one of the top five Republican House leaders, and the only one of the five to vote against the bill, which he said did not go far enough in cutting government spending. He told me that voting against the other members of the GOP leadership team was awkward, but that getting the government’s fiscal house in order was what he had promised his constituents he would do. Despite his “no” vote, the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House. The $1.1 billion bill will fund government through September. (You’ll be able to catch my full interview with Lankford in an upcoming edition of our new radio program Listening In.)
We’re No. 12. The Heritage Foundation released its 20th annual Index of Economic Freedom, which contains some good news. The report says that worldwide, economic freedom is “once again on the rise. Much of the momentum lost during the past five years has been regained.” The world average score of 60.3 is seven-tenths of a point above the 2013 average. That’s the highest average score ever recorded. According to a Heritage release, “Among the 178 countries ranked, scores improved for 114 countries and declined for 59. Four recorded no score change.” The bad news is that the United States continues to decline. It is now in the 12th spot. This is the first time in the 20-year history of the report that America hasn’t been in the top 10. Other bad news: “The number of people living in economically ‘unfree’ countries remains high: 4.5 billion, or about 65 percent of the world’s population,” the Heritage statement announcing the report said. Hong Kong and Singapore finished first and second in the rankings for the 20th straight year.
Unemployment extensions stall. An extension of unemployment benefits from six months to nearly 10 months now likely will not happen. A bill to extend the benefits stalled in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and most observers say it is unlikely to come up again before Congress takes a week-long recess. It appears that both Republicans and Democrats were OK with the extension. The problem was how to pay for it. Republicans wanted cuts that offset the additional expenditures. Democrats balked at the offsets. Democrats finally proposed spending cuts not in the current fiscal year, but years in the future. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “The Senate should actually be paying for whatever it passes—and not with spending cuts 11 years from now that may never happen.”