Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, said that 2013 may go down not only as the least productive ever in Washington but as "one of the worst for the republic."
"In both the executive branch and Congress, Americans witnessed an unwinding of the country's founding principles and of their government's most basic responsibilities," Mr. Coburn wrote in a Wall Street Journal piece posted Monday evening. "The rule of law gave way to the rule of rulers."
Mr. Coburn cited the disastrous rollout of President Obama's health care law and Mr. Obama's "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" promise, which the Tampa Bay Times' PolitiFact dubbed the "Lie of the Year."
"The president apologized in part for his statements, but his actions reveal the extent to which he has conformed to, rather than challenged, the political culture that as a presidential candidate he vowed to reform," Mr. Coburn wrote.
"Taking unilateral, extralegal action — like delaying the employer mandate for a year when Mr. Obama realized the trouble it would cause for businesses — is part of a pattern for this administration."
"Immigration and border-security laws that might displease certain constituencies if enforced? Ignore the laws," he wrote. "Unhappy that a deep-water drilling moratorium was struck down in court? Reimpose it anyway. Internal Revenue Service agents using the power of the state to harass political enemies? Deny and then stonewall.
"Unhappy with the pace of Senate confirmations for nominees? Ignore the Constitution and appoint people anyway and claim that the Senate is not in session."
Mr. Coburn also noted Congress's 6 percent approval rating, and wrote that its most significant action this year was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's move to change the chamber's filibuster rules so that most executive appointments now require only a simple majority for confirmation.
"On the budget, Democrats and Republicans alike are celebrating the avoidance of another nihilistic government shutdown as a great victory," Mr. Coburn wrote. "The choice to not commit mass political suicide may be a step toward sanity, but it isn't reform."
Mr. Coburn, Congress's chief waste-watcher, pointed to his annual Wastebook report, which showed the federal government funding the study of romance novels, providing military benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, and helping the State Department buy itself Facebook fans.
"The coming year presents an opportunity to Americans who hope for better," Mr. Coburn concluded. "Despite Washington's dysfunction, 'We the People' still call the shots and can demand a course correction. In 2014, here's a message worth considering: If you don't like the rulers you have, you don't have to keep them."
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