He held up a healthcare bill to help 9/11 first responders because of wasteful spending provisions. Despite getting hammered by foes, Coburn cut $2 billion from the bill’s final cost—getting rid of loopholes and entitlements that would have been financially costly and not accomplished the bill’s goals.

There were times when Coburn voted the wrong way, but even then, he did it for the right reasons. The one time I met Coburn in person—invited as a low-ranking congressional staffer by his then-chief of staff to an intimate gathering of conservatives—I asked him why he violated his free-market principles to vote for the 2008 bank bailout. He explained that he was genuinely afraid for the country as the financial sector took down the world economy, and voting for TARP was, in his mind, necessary. Afterwards, I asked Coburn if I’d stepped over the line as a low-ranking staffer. He replied, “If I can’t answer that question, I don’t belong up here.” He later graciously granted an interview to discuss his work to reduce unnecessary spending, reform entitlements, and balance the federal budget.