"Today’s announcement is one that we all knew might come but that we all hoped wouldn’t," McConnell said in a statement. "Fortunately, Tom has decided to stay with us throughout the year, so we will have the benefit of his wisdom and his counsel in the months ahead. But I know I speak for all my Senate colleagues when I say that we’ll need that long to get used to the idea of losing Tom Coburn’s singular voice in our conference."
The minority leader also lauded an "intelligent, principled" Coburn for his fight against government spending.
"He has made his mark on every debate he has ever waded into, from his years on the Senate Judiciary Committee to the ongoing national debate over Obamacare," McConnell said. "And when it comes to the transcendent debate over the size and cost of government, Tom Coburn is simply without peer. No one has done more to awaken Americans to the threat posed by a government that chronically spends more than it takes in, and no one has worked harder at finding a solution."
Coburn's decision to retire early came months after he was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer.