August 27, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Ed Feulner writes:

The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to build an easy-to-use Web database containing detailed information about all the grants and contracts the federal government hands out. This database would allow virtually anyone to see how much money a federal program received and how it spent that money. And, to ensure that public oversight is timely, information about spending would, by law, have to be posted within 30 days of when Congress authorized the money.

“It shouldn’t matter if you think government ought to spend more money or less money,” Obama says. “We can all agree that government ought to spend money efficiently. If government money can’t withstand public scrutiny, then it shouldn’t be spent.”

That makes perfect sense to most people. That’s why the bill has 29 co-sponsors, including staunch liberals, determined conservatives and self-professed moderates. Small wonder it’s moved through the legislative process at what amounts to lightning speed.

The bill was introduced in early April and has already been passed by a committee (the step in the process where senators usually bottle up controversial bills) and placed on the Senate’s legislative calendar.

But one senator doesn’t like it. And that may be enough to derail it, because he (or she) has put a hold on it. A secret hold. How’s that for irony — a secret hold on an open-government bill?

It may not stay that way for long, though. The watchdog group Porkbusters (www.porkbusters.org) is trying to smoke out the offender. It’s urging constituents to call their senators and push them to disavow the hold. Senators who go on record against the hold are “removed from the suspect list.”

Sen. Obama and I disagree on many things. But he’s right about this. The U.S. needs more openness in government, so anyone and everyone can review how Uncle Sam spends our tax money. Good government shouldn’t be held hostage by secret holds.

Lawmakers have the right — indeed, the responsibility — to block legislation they consider bad. But they should always do so publicly, identifying themselves and explaining their actions.

Indeed.