Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn said Thursday that all Americans — including military retirees — must share in the sacrifice under his plan to reduce the federal deficit by $9 trillion over the next decade.
The Muskogee Republican, a longtime critic of federal spending, delivered brief opening remarks and then fielded about a dozen questions from a friendly crowd of more than 200 people at Oklahoma City Community College.
"The thing that made us great is that we decided we would serve somebody else other than ourselves to create a better opportunity," Coburn said.
Among the proposals in Coburn's "Back in Black" report on government spending is about $115 billion in cuts to TRICARE, the military's health care system for retirees and their families. Several of those in attendance expressed their displeasure with those proposed cuts, including Marshall Hugues, a retired Air Force officer from Oklahoma City.
"We made that sacrifice, and now we're being looked at to bear yet another sacrifice," Hugues said. "That TRICARE benefit is tremendous, but it should be because we bore the freedom of the country on the backs of the youth who are now old at an early age."
Coburn, who drew some criticism for comments he made at a town hall meeting in Langley on Wednesday about carrying a gun on the Senate floor, also told his critics to "get over it."
Describing his frustration with Congress, the Tulsa World reported Coburn said: "It's a good thing I can't pack a gun on the Senate floor."
His comments were condemned on Thursday by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. and a leading proponent of gun control, who described them as "outrageous and unconscionable."
"Political correctness is B.S.," Coburn said Thursday. "Tell 'em to get over it. It was a joke and everybody laughed. That's all I have to say about it."
Coburn, who was reelected in November to a second six-year term, reiterated his pledge to serve no more than two terms in office and said he had no interest in being a running mate for any of the GOP presidential candidates.
"The only thing I'm thinking about running for is dinner after this is over," Coburn joked when asked if he would consider running as a vice presidential candidate with Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
"This is my last term in office. If I feel like I'm supposed to do something else, I'll let you know. Right now I don't feel like it."
Coburn made a similar pledge when he served three terms in the House and then returned to his medical practice in Muskogee. He said he blamed career politicians more than Democrats for the nation's growing debt and the out-of-control government spending.
"It's not Republican-Democrat," Coburn said. "It's careerism versus non-careerism. If you keep sending the same people up there, it won't get any different. Quit sending the same people there."
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