Much of the ineffectiveness and unpopularity of Congress stems from the “laziness” and selfishness of career politicians, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)  said this morning during a CPAC discussion on what ails the legislative branch.

Statesmanship and strong leadership require sacrifice, Coburn said. No wonder President Obama is emboldened to go around Congress and overstep his executive powers, he suggested.

“The conflict on both sides of the aisle is, ‘My political career trumps the best interests and thoughts of our founders,’ ” Coburn said in an onstage conversation about the relevance of Congress with columnist and author George F. Will.

CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that attracts thousands of activists and politicians from across the nation, runs through Saturday at the Gaylord convention center complex along the Potomac River just outside Washington, D.C., in suburban Maryland.

Playing moderator in the Coburn-Will chat was former American Conservative Union chairman David Keene, now opinion editor of The Washington Times.

Coburn, a physician who is retiring from the Senate at the end of the year, won applause by making the case for term limits to reinvigorate what some conservatives refer to as a “perpetual lame duck” Congress.

Will argued that the growth of the federal government is to blame for congressional ineffectiveness. Conservatives need to “re-acquire suspicion of executive power,” he said, noting: “Try and think of something that is not considered a federal responsibility; you can’t.”

Coburn said Congress does have a role in encouraging prosperity. “You hardly ever hear us talk about being effective champions for those who need our help.” he said, adding:

“We have a great moral ground to fight from if we would verbalize it and explain what we mean … When we help, we ought to be helping not hindering.”

Ultimately, Will said, the courts must referee the separation of powers created by the Constitution:

“Conservatives have to turn to the courts and find friends … It’s time for Congress to make its case.”

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.