Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the crusader against government waste, announced he will retire at the end of the 113th Congress, two years earlier than the end of his term.
Coburn, 65, has been battling prostate cancer and is a three-time cancer survivor, though he says his retirement has little to do with 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," Coburn said in a statement late Thursday. "As dysfunctional as Washington is these days, change is still possible when 'We the People' get engaged, run for office themselves or make their voices heard."
Coburn was elected to the Senate in 2004 and exhibited the modern values of the tea party before it existed in name. Coburn is well known for his annual "wastebook," a catalogue of some of the country's most questionable spending. His most recent collection revealed the U.S. was spending taxpayer money on tax breaks for brothels, 3-D pizza printers and pillownauts, people paid to lay in bed for months in order to study what happens to the body of astronauts in space. He has often been called "Dr. No." for his hard-line fiscal conservatism.
Before coming to Congress, Coburn served in the House of Representatives and as a doctor. According to his biography, he has delivered more than 4,000 babies. He has always said that it was his intention to return to his previous life in Oklahoma, not make a career out of his political life in Washington. He announced in his statement that he looks forward to going back home and spending time with his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.
"Our founders saw public service and politics as a calling rather than a career. That's how I saw it when I first ran for office in 1994, and that's how I still see it today," Coburn said.
Coburn's announcement opens up a Senate seat in a state with a strong Republican showing. A special election will have to be held to replace Coburn.
"I intend to continue our fight for Oklahoma, and will do everything in my power to force the Senate to re-embrace its heritage of debate, deliberation and consensus as we face our many challenges ahead," Coburn said.