TED CRUZ: Chuck Norris Wears Jim DeMint Pajamas.
LIKE YELP FOR POLITICS? Disruptive innovation from Heritage. Politicians about as thrilled as “if you are a restaurant owner and I can go on Yelp and complain about my meal.”
NIKKI HALEY TO PICK TIM SCOTT TO FILL DE MINT’S SEAT. So a black man will fill the same Senate seat once occupied by segregationists like Strom Thurmond.
THE COMEBACK KID: U.S. Senate hopeful Republican Todd Akin is mounting an impressive comeback campaign since his “legitimate rape” comment a couple weeks ago that caused some Republican leaders to plead him to drop out of the race. Yesterday, Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) endorsed Akin, saying “If Republicans are to win back the Senate and stop President Obama’s liberal agenda, we must defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri.”
THE HILL: Sen. DeMint taps brakes on UN treaty as home-school opposition grows. “Parts of this treaty deal with abortion and the rights of children, issues that should be addressed by states, local governments and American parents not international bureaucrats.”
TIM CARNEY: Obama’s subsidies: Private profit, public risk.
Obama plans to use the Export-Import Bank — a federal agency that gives taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign buyers who buy American goods — to subsidize U.S. manufacturers even when they are selling to other American companies.
This would be a significant step in the federal government’s transformation into a venture capital firm and investment bank involved in all corners of the economy. It’s private profit and public risk. Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint calls it “venture socialism.”
Fatcats will get rich, and most ventures will fail. That’s my prediction.
Big business and the Tea Party are at swords’ points once again, with GOP Senate primaries for the second straight election becoming proxy battles in the war over the soul of the Republican Party.
Conservative insurgents pose serious threats this year to establishment Republicans in at least three open-seat Senate races. In every case, political action committees and lobbyists have hugely favored the establishment pick with contributions. One reason: The GOP establishment rallies industry donors behind the Republican seen as stronger in November. A deeper reason: The revolving-door clique of K Street and Capitol Hill operatives needs Republicans elected to upper chamber who are likely to play ball.
“We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,” former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said last election cycle. “As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.” Lott is now a millionaire corporate lobbyist whose clients include bailout beneficiaries like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, subsidy sucklers like General Electric and for-profit colleges and government contractors like Raytheon. He likes Republicans who don’t take their limited-government talk so darn seriously — team players who won’t rock the boat, in part because they are eying K Street jobs after retirement.
I don’t suppose that Trent Lott is the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the GOP over the past decade, but it’s close. . . .
DAVID FREDDOSO: Downgrade Shows DeMint Was Right.
The bond-rating houses kept saying all along that they weren’t worried about the debt ceiling not being increased. Rather, they were worried about the long-term prospects of the U.S. government paying back $15-plus trillion, which is where our national debt (both publicly held and obligated to trust funds) will be shortly.
Because last weekend’s deal didn’t cut spending deeply enough, S&P has just downgraded us. We’ll see just how disastrous this becomes — some are arguing it’s not such a big deal — but consider this the market’s revenge for TARP and the stimulus package. You run up the debt, Mr. President, you lose your good credit.
DESPITE THE BILL’S OVERWHELMING POPULARITY WITH AMERICANS OF ALL STRIPES, the Senate has shot down Cut, Cap and Balance by a straight party-line 51-46 vote. “It will be interesting to see how Ben Nelson and Claire McCaskill defend their decision to deny a balanced-budget amendment vote when it comes time to run for re-election next year.” But Jim DeMint plans to bring it up again.
MARK TAPSCOTT ON JOURNALISTIC PREJUDICE: Why is Gang of Six plan “practical” but Cut, Cap and Balance will never pass?
There are two things to note here: First, at least 67 members of the Senate have at one time or another in recent years promised to vote for either a balanced budget or a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. That count, according to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, includes 22 Democrats.
So, to get to the second point, why is it a foregone conclusion that CCB can’t pass the Senate? By uncritically reporting that claim, journalists are in effect giving senators a pass on the balanced budget issue specifically and more generally of whether their previous declarations are worth anything at all.
And is it too much to ask our esteemed lions of the Fourth Estate toiling in the White House Press Corps to at least ask the president why he opposes a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and a supermajority in both chambers of Congress to raise taxes?
No doubt he has a logical case to support vetoing such a measure, but why not just ask him to state it for the record? Don’t our readers deserve to know at least that much?
This is an illustration of why so many journalists covering the White House, Congress and national politics so frequently end up functioning like “Homers.” No, I’m not referring to the ancient author, but rather the derisive term for sports reporters who never write anything critical of the home professional teams.
Whether they intend to or not, too many journalists are little more than Homers for the Big Government team. And then they wonder why their credibility is in tatters.
JOINING IN SUPPORT OF A BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT: Jim DeMint And Olympia Snowe. “After passing the House in 1995, balanced budget amendment votes in the Senate fell by one vote in 1995 and 1997. At the time, the national debt totaled less than $6 trillion, Snowe and DeMint noted. The current debt ceiling is set at $14.3 trillion.”
Also, check out Alexis Garcia’s interview with Jim DeMint.
JENNIFER RUBIN: Why would Jim DeMint risk his Tea Party standing for Mitt Romney?
ERIC CANTOR: No Bailout For The States. Echoing Jim DeMint.
Cantor flatly rejected any changes in the law that would allow state governments struggling with record budget deficits brought on by the economic recession and rising pension costs to restructure debt, including allowing them to declare bankruptcy.
“I don’t think that that is necessary, because state governments have at their disposal the requisite tools to address their fiscal ills,” the majority leader said, before going a step further.
“I think some … have mentioned this Chapter 9 equivalent for states is somehow going to stave off some kind of federal bailout — we don’t need that to stave off a federal bailout. There will be no bailout of the states,” Cantor said. “States can deal with this and have the ability to do so on their own.”
All they have to do is spend less.
JIM DEMINT: No bailouts for states.
ERICK ERICKSON: Why the Senate GOP went squishy. “Because the Senate GOP wants to cut deals with the Senate Democrats and they know that just Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint will be able to force deals much more conservative than the Senate GOP is. So Senate Republicans decided to roll over on big issues now knowing that next year they will be forced further right than they might be comfortable.”
CORNYN VS. DEMINT: I don’t think the GOP establishment needs to be pointing fingers. How about some constructive action instead?
CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD ALERT: “A coalition of conservative organizations and leaders pledged today to field primary opponents for Republican senators who ‘unfairly’ criticize Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who led an insurgent funding effort that helped elect several of the six GOP freshmen senators in the 112th Congress.”
Going after people over policy is fine. Going after people over criticism of politicians is thuggish. It’s even kinda . . . MoveOnish. Need I say more?
UPDATE: Dan Riehl says I’m wrong, but I have to say that — as someone who’s been quite supportive of DeMint’s efforts — I don’t find Dan’s tone particularly reassuring on the non-MoveOnish front . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails: “He’s the target of a leak campaign by the Senate Republican leadership. This is well known among movement conservatives. The moveon.org comparison seems better aimed at the leakers than his defenders. Just my opinion. But that’s probably what annoys Dan.”
I didn’t know that.
MORE: Relax, folks. Dan and I have kissed and made up.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: McConnell Fights GOP Earmark Ban.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is maneuvering behind the scenes to defeat a conservative plan aimed at restricting earmarks, setting up a high-stakes showdown that pits the GOP leader and his “Old Bull” allies against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a new breed of conservative senators.
In a series of one-on-one conversations with incoming and sitting senators, McConnell is encouraging his colleagues to keep an open mind and not to automatically side with DeMint, whose plan calls on Senate Republicans to unilaterally give up earmarks in the 112th Congress, according to several people familiar with the talks.
While McConnell is not demanding that rank-and-file Republican senators vote against the earmark ban, he’s laying out his concerns that eliminating earmarks would effectively cede Congress’ spending authority to the White House while not making a real dent in the $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. And McConnell is signaling his concern about the awkward politics of the situation: even if the DeMint moratorium passes, Republican senators could push for earmarks, given that the plan is nonbinding and non-enforceable.
PorkBusters kind of morphed into the Tea Party movements, and now the Tea Party Patriots are asking the following:
Call these 7 GOP Senators now, tell them to VOTE TO BAN EARMARKS – Mitch McConnell (KY) (202) 224-2541, Jim Inhofe (OK) (202) 224-4721, Lindsey Graham (SC) (202) 224-5972, Lamar Alexander (TN) (202) 224-4944, Jon Kyl (AZ) (202) 224-4521, John Barrasso (WY) (202) 224-6441, John Thune (SD) (202) 224-2321.
Seems to be getting some traction already . . . .
UPDATE: Maybe this reminder, courtesy of the Asheville Tea Party, will focus their attention.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Inhofe gives his side.
MORE: Roll Call picks up the story. I noticed before that there was more media interest in PorkBusters back when it was criticizing Republicans. I’m glad for the attention, but . . . .
STILL MORE: Reader Bill McConnell writes: “Here’s my proposal. Decide how much you want to spend on earmarks and divide it by population to calculate how much each state gets. Then it goes into a stand alone bill which each congressman must either vote yea or nay on. I think in the current environment there would end up being NO earmarks.”
IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Jim Demint offers advice to the newly elected. “Remember what the voters back home want—less government and more freedom.”
Read the whole thing. And the newly-elected might also want to peruse Taegan Goddard’s (of Political Wire) handbook, appropriately entitled You Won, Now What?
FIRST RUSH LIMBAUGH, THEN SARAH PALIN, NOW THIS: Senator Jim DeMint Threatens To Leave Current Republican Party. I’m not sure what the Republican leadership has been up to lately, but it looks very much as if they’re engaged in some idiocy that is likely to lead to disaster. What is wrong with you people?
UPDATE: Double Good Grief: South Carolina voter: I voted for Alvin Greene because … his name reminded me of Al Green.
JIM DEMINT: Leading The Charge for GOP Insurgents.
GIVEN HOW LITTLE THEY’VE DONE WITH THE REAL ETHICAL PROBLEMS OF CHRIS DODD AND CHARLIE RANGEL, THIS WILL PROBABLY BACKFIRE: Bogus Ethics Complaint Targets Coburn, DeMint, Brownback.
But I suppose GOP groups — seeing how this worked against Palin in Alaska — should be ginning up lame ethics complaints against Democratic targets, too. Turnabout is fair play.
DID JIM DEMINT kill the health care bill? I hope so, but . . . .
PALIN: I Told You So. “It didn’t take long for Jim DeMint’s outrage over highly unusual language protecting a care-rationing board to generate a response from Sarah Palin . . . When government rations commodities, it does so with the force of law. Considering the power it would have had in a completely government-run system to make the kind of decisions now left to insurers in a competitive market, people are correct to be worried about how exactly IMAB would bend the cost curve.”
It’s not a scary “Death Panel” that determines who’s denied medical treatment and dies. It’s a friendly “Life Panel” that determines who gets treatment and lives! Mostly friends of the regime, I’d guess, based on recent history.
JENNIFER RUBIN: “Sen. John Kerry’s attempt to block Sen. Jim DeMint from going to Honduras to get a bird’s-eye view of the results of Obama pro-Zelaya policy (and to bully DeMint into lifting his hold on two State Department nominees) shows just how defensive the Democrats have become. Kerry’s scheme didn’t work (DeMint is going anyway) and DeMint made his point: the Obama policy is in utter disarray.”
STEPHEN GREEN: The Week In Blogs.
JOE WURZELBACHER TALKS TO DEMINT, COBURN, BROWN ABOUT THE STIMULUS. Video, 5 minutes; free w/no registration. “Do you think it would be smart for the government to start cutting things instead of spending more?”
As the stock market plunged nearly 1,000 points in two days this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was preoccupied with protecting billions of dollars worth of earmarks contained in a separate, unpublished committee report that got a one-sentence reference in a giant $612 billion defense bill. Reid engineered the 61-to-32 vote to limit debate on the bill, thus barring consideration of an amendment offered by Sen. Jim DeMint. The South Carolina Republicanâ€™s amendment would have deleted the reference to the committee report so that it would have to be considered separately. By leaving the language in the bill, the lawmakers were able to carry out one of their favorite maneuvers: Incorporating committee reports into omnibus bills so they can give billions of tax dollars to their cronies without recorded votes on specific spending measures. This is the same Harry Reid who with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to â€œdrain the swampâ€ of Republican corruption if voters would return the Democrats to the majority.
But Reidâ€™s move was not just a slap at DeMint. Under pressure from a bipartisan coalition of fiscal watchdog groups, including Porkbusters, Club for Growth, Citizens Against Government Waste, National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense, President George W. Bush signed an executive order last January that directed federal agencies to ignore earmarks that only appear in committee reports. If DeMintâ€™s proposal had passed, the earmarks in the defense billâ€™s committee report would have been merely suggestions â€“ not legally binding spending instructions. No wonder Reid made sure the South Carolinianâ€™s amendment never made it to the Senate floor.
Remember the change that the Democrats promised in 2006? It hasn’t materialized, has it?
LAST NIGHT I MENTIONED SENATE EFFORTS TO KILL DEMINT’S ANTI PORK AMENDMENT. Now Wesley Denton of DeMint’s office sends this on the effort to kill his amendment: “This is an attempt to make law without actually writing law. The â€˜incorporation languageâ€™ is a just gimmick to strong-arm taxpayers into paying for secret earmarks. Americans are fed up with wasteful spending rammed through in the dark of night. Senator DeMintâ€™s amendment will ensure that all of these projects are subjected to a competitive, merit-based review before any of them are funded. Americans expect their taxes to be spent wisely or not spent at all.â€
If people want appropriations for their pet projects, it seems to me they should have to ask for them publicly, have them reviewed through the usual channels, and have them voted for. Is that asking too much? Apparently. But efforts at putting secret earmarks through are likely to play badly right now, with the federal government already facing financial strain from bailing out corrupt, politically-connected entities like Fannie Mae.
I also notice that the press seemed a bit quicker to pick up on these earmark stories back when the GOP controlled Congress . . . .
The Senate will likely vote tomorrow on Sen. DeMint’s amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. The amendment strikes Section 1002 that incorporates all of the secret earmarks written in committee reports, giving them the force of law even though they are not in the bill, not debated, not voted on, and not signed into law.
This “incorporation language” must be stopped.
- It effectively reverses the President’s Executive Order that Porkbusters pushed him to issue, which aims to stop secret, non-legislative earmarks dead in their tracks.
- It forces agencies to make funding decisions based on the instructions they get from committee staff who author these reports rather than on merit.
- It prevents Congress from debating and voting on earmarks, which is the only true form of transparency and accountability.
- It sets a dangerous precedent that will be repeated if it is not challenged and stopped.
Please also note that the GOP earmark reform task force created by Sen. McConnell recommended that all earmarks be written into our bills. That’s what the Constitution requires. The vote tomorrow on DeMint’s amendment will test Republican support for this principle.
If the amendment is adopted, the earmarks in the reports will become what Sen. Durbin famously described as just a “note to your sister” and will not be legally binding. Instead, government agencies will be able to spend these taxpayer funds on true national priorities, not special interest politics.
Sounds like a bad idea to me. If you have feelings on the subject, you might want to let your Senators know.
I’M GUESSING THAT NONE WERE AMONG THE “SUBPRIME SIX:” Nine Senators Urge Reid to Delay Countrywide Bailout Vote. “Earlier today the following letter was sent by nine senators to Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to delay consideration of the housing bill in light of recent allegations related to Countrywide Financial, which stands to gain more than a $2.5 billion taxpayer bailout in the bill.” Follow the link for more.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Porkers of the Month:
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named all 71 senators who voted against a one-year earmark moratorium March Porkers of the Month. The amendment to the fiscal year 2009 Budget Resolution was offered by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and had fourteen bipartisan co-sponsors including the support of all three presidential candidates.
â€œKing of Porkâ€ Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) dismissed the earmark ban saying, â€œThe idea that an all-knowing, all-powerful executive bureaucracy is more trustworthy than the elected representatives of the people when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars challenges the most basic tenet of our political system.â€
In a similar vein, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opposed the ban as â€œunrealisticâ€ and even went so far as to erroneously claim that earmarking â€œhas been going in this country for 230-some-odd years,â€ and that â€œThe Founding Fathers would be cringing to hear people talking about eliminating earmarks.â€
There is a proper system for projects to be vetted by agencies (the â€œall-knowing, all-powerfulâ€ bureaucrats) thatâ€™s fallen by the wayside. Congress did not earmark extensively until the 1980s. Instead, Congress would fund general grant programs and let federal and state agencies select individual recipients through a competitive process or formula. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees named specific projects only when they had been vetted and approved by authorizing committees. Members of Congress with local concerns would lobby the president and federal agencies for consideration. The process was aimed at preventing abuse and allocating resources on the basis of merit and need.
Today, Appropriations Committee members arbitrarily pick winners and losers by earmarking funds for specific recipients.
It’s not only wasteful, but it contributes — significantly — to corruption.
GOOD FOR OBAMA! Sen. DeMint’s office emails: “Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) has agreed to cosponsor the DeMint-McCain earmark moratorium amendment. ” Excellent move. I wonder if Hillary will follow suit? Given her earmark history, it seems unlikely.
UPDATE: A reader emails: “It would be terrific now if he disclosed his â€™05 and â€™06 earmarks.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Another email. I’m sure this is all because of the power of InstaPundit! “Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) has agreed to cosponsor the DeMint-McCain earmark moratorium amendment.” Good for her.
MCCAIN SUPPORTS DEMINT’S pork moratorium amendment.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The earmark fight is heading to the Senate:
Hoping to bring the House fight over earmark reform to the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will propose a full one-year moratorium on considering bills with earmarks as part of the fiscal 2009 budget resolution, the lawmaker said Monday.
DeMint, who will discuss the moratorium during todayâ€™s weekly GOP luncheon, said he believes his proposal could create the political room needed to bring reform to the process. . . .
DeMint said he will offer the moratorium as an amendment to the budget resolution, which is expected to come up the week before Congress breaks for the Easter recess March 14. The language, which if passed would be binding on the Senate, would make any legislation including an earmark out of order for Senate floor consideration. DeMintâ€™s proposal will use the definition of an earmark included in S. 1, the Senate ethics bill, and would cover both appropriations measures and authorization bills.
Bring it on.
JIM DEMINT OFFERS THE CONSERVATIVE RESPONSE to the State of the Union. Which in itself is kind of bad for Bush . . . .
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: John Fund says it’s time for Bush to step up:
Just before Christmas, Congress sent Mr. Bush a $516 billion omnibus spending bill stuffed with 8,993 special-interest earmarks. To make matters worse, most of the earmarks aren’t even in the language of the law itself. They were slipped into a 900-page “committee report” that represented the wish-lists of the Senate and House appropriations committees. Almost no one got a chance to read that report before the budget was passed late at night and with barely a day for members to review it.
Mr. Bush agreed to sign the budget but said he was disappointed at Congress’s failure to overcome its earmark addiction. He announced he was asking his budget director, Jim Nussle, “to review options for dealing with the wasteful spending in the omnibus bill.”
What Mr. Bush knows, and Congress doesn’t want the taxpayers to know, is that the vast majority of the offending earmarks–the ones that aren’t part of the actual budget law and were instead “air-dropped” into the committee report–aren’t legally binding. A Dec. 18 legal analysis by the Congressional Research Service found that most of the committee reports have not been formally passed by both houses and “presented” to the President for signing, and thus have not become law. “President Bush could ignore the 90% of earmarks that never make it to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote,” says Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who has read the CRS report. “He doesn’t need a line-item veto.”
Will he have the guts to do anything?
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Senate Republicans show some progress on pork:
Staffers for the Senate Republican Conference today launched the Pork Report, which is being billed as a website that will â€œhighlight questionable uses of taxpayer dollars included in this yearâ€™s appropriations bills.â€
The fact that Sen. Jon Kylâ˜¼ (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, has dispatched his staff to work on such an endeavor is pretty remarkable. Last year attacks on pork-barrel spending originated from conservative members such Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint â€” and certainly not leadership. But as Republicans have sought to return to their roots on fiscal restraint, earmarks have become an easy target. . . . ow that the GOP leadership is picking on pork, it would be nice to see all Republicans take a tough stand against wasteful spending like the water projects bill President Bush vetoed last week. Theyâ€™ll have their first test when a vote to override Bushâ€™s veto comes before them later this week.
Yeah, keep an eye on that. And note that the Club for Growth has released its latest 2007 RePork Card. Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper got a 98% rating, which is excellent. Not everyone did that well:
Rep. David Obey (D-WI) did not vote for his own amendment to strike all earmarks in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. Rep. Obey scored an embarrassing 0% overall.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The Examiner busts Congress for pretend earmark reform:
Young children with active imaginations often invent playtime scenarios in which they pretend to be somebody else, like an astronaut or a firefighter. Everybody, including the adults in the household, knows it is make-believe. Most members of Congress seem to have forgotten that adults know pretending when they see it. And for months, theyâ€™ve been seeing way too much pretending on the issue of earmarks and ethics reform.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., epitomized the pretenders when she declared it â€œhistoricâ€ that the House, on a 411-8 vote, approved the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (which, by the way, she negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid behind closed doors). The Senate is expected to approve the bill today or Friday. There are a few positive provisions in the bill, but the bottom line is that it is stuffed with cosmetic changes that fail to address the core issues of congressional corruption spawned by earmarks. . . .
Reid and Pelosi are not alone in pretending to advance genuine reforms. As Roll Call predicted last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is now undercutting Coburn and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and signaling the desire of many GOP establishmentarians to move on from earmarks and ethics issues. Next, McConnell will credit a â€œbipartisan consensusâ€ as key to victory for reform in the Senate, thereby enabling Democrats to claim theyâ€™ve kept their 2006 campaign promise. Then members on both sides of the aisle in Congress can go on pretending they are serious about honest leadership and open government in Washington.
Can’t we vote for “none of the above”? Plus, will Republicans’ appetite for pork keep the Democrats in the majority? “House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio talks a good case for more openness and transparency in government, but whatâ€™s he been doing to corral more support for Flake, Campbell and Hensarling among the GOP ranks he is supposedly leading?”
UPDATE: Indeed: “I understand why the Democrats, now in the majority, want to preserve their opportunities for paying off special interests. That’s largely why they want to be in the majority in the first place. But why on earth should Republicans join with them?”
ABANDONING TRANSPARENCY FOR EARMARKS:
Werenâ€™t Democrats supposed to bring honesty, ethics and openness to Congress? That was Speaker Nancy Pelosiâ€™s promise upon taking control. But after a little more than six months on the job, the new majority is going back on its word. Transparency on earmarks appears to be just a farce.
In each house of Congress, Democrats are showing signs of returning to business as usual. In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has been holding up the ethics reform package because he wants to strip it of a earmark transparency provision that he and 97 other senators voted for in January.
Despite facing pressure from his own leadership, conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) wonâ€™t relent, insisting the language be preserved. Itâ€™s causing all sorts of headaches for Reid, who is now facing criticism from liberal advocacy groups that donâ€™t like the fact he refuses to release the text of the legislation. . . . Trouble is that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) might just go along with it. According to Roll Call ($), conservatives fear that the consequences of Republican capitulation could be devastating. â€œFor our leadership to vote against earmark reform and be AWOL on this debate is no way to win back the majority,â€ one conservative staffer told the newspaper.
Read the whole thing.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The House is doing better than the Senate:
As Democrats attempt to curb criticism of the earmarking process, the House is leading in one area: reducing the cost of lawmakersâ€™ pet projects in the annual appropriations bills.
But the Houseâ€™s reduction in spending on earmarking by at least 50 percent from fiscal 2006 levels has some members worried. They are concerned that they will head into conference negotiations with the Senate at a disadvantage because that chamberâ€™s spending bills will contain many more earmarks from the start.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a House-Senate battle,â€ said House appropriator Sam Farr, D-Calif. . . .
House appropriators have long complained that the Senate tries to squeeze more earmarks into its spending bills.
â€œWhen we were in the majority, we used to say the Democrats are the opposition and the Senate is the enemy,â€ Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., recently said with a grin. Walsh is a veteran appropriator and ranking member of the Labor-HHS-Education panel.
This year the House and Senate earmark gap has grown. â€œWhat you are seeing this year is the discrepancy is enhanced,â€ said Jim Dyer, a former GOP staff director of the House Appropriations Committee.
The Senate GOP leadership remains lame, too:
Sen. Jim DeMintâ€™s (R-S.C.) speedy ascension to de facto leader of the Senateâ€™s conservatives may have won him a number of fans among fiscal hawks, reform-minded watchdogs and some fellow Republican Senators, who applaud the first-term Senator for his willingness to buck the chamberâ€™s â€œOld Boyâ€ traditions. But DeMintâ€™s tactics have started to chafe GOP leaders and prompted private warnings that their tolerance has worn thin. . . .
His ongoing fight with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over earmarks reforms, has begun to irritate Republican Senate elders, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Minority Whip Trent Lott (Miss.).According to several Republicans, party leaders have made it clear to DeMint that while they may give him some running room over the next few appropriations-laden weeks, they will not tolerate what they see as repeated efforts to hijack the Senate floor and the public spotlight.
DeMint declined to comment directly on any warning leadership may have delivered to him regarding his increasingly high-profile crusades. But he did say it is up to McConnell and other GOP leaders to take up the mantle of reform if they do not want others to do so.
The entire GOP leadership should be doing this sort of thing, instead of being upstaged by a freshman Senator and then grousing about it.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Another editorial on pork:
Shedding light on how members of Congress spend taxpayer money is the common-sense aim of earmark reform. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is advancing that worthy cause again this week by shedding light on how some prominent members of the Senate are blocking the attainment of that goal.
Sen. DeMint has worked long and hard to end the inherently flawed practice of allowing the addition of “earmark” projects to appropriations bills during the conference-committee process. That tactic has long let legislators pile on the pork in virtual anonymity. Ending that shadow spending would reduce waste by increasing scrutiny. It also would reduce the temptation to feather the nests of special interests.
Sen. DeMint and bipartisan partners finally succeeded last month in the push for the Senate to make earmark spending far more transparent, with an ethics bill provision mandating disclosure of which senators back which earmarks â€” and certification that they have no financial interest in the appropriations.
Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., now insists that the Senate-House conference committee be given a chance to dilute, or even eliminate, that overdue earmark rule as the panel works out differences in the two chambers’ ethics bills. . . .
So why can’t the Democratic leadership, which promised both lobbying and earmark reform while winning control of Congress in last year’s elections, deliver both?
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Roll Call editorializes:
After much sturm und drang, the House has a full disclosure policy on earmarks, at least as far as appropriations are concerned. Now the Senate is heading for turmoil on the issue, with even the August recess in doubt.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is threatening to keep the chamber in session during August if leaders do not agree to adopt a Senate rule requiring full earmark disclosure.
Vacation plans aside, we think that on the merits Senate leaders should accede to DeMint so disclosure of spending requests is not delayed until President Bush signs an ethics reform measure that still has not even gone to a House-Senate conference.
The House, in one of its first actions in the 110th Congress, passed a rule requiring disclosure of the sponsorship of all special benefit requests by Members in appropriations, authorization and tax bills. The Senate lopsidedly passed similar requirements â€” though excluding tax bills â€” but as part of its ethics reform bill, not as a Senate rule.
House implementation of its rule surely has been rocky. Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) tried to delay disclosure until appropriations were at the House-Senate conference stage. A Republican-media uproar forced him to guarantee disclosure before a bill hits the House floor.
The House rule is still weak when it comes to taxes. Disclosure is required only when a tax provision affects 10 or fewer taxpayers. But at least the Houseâ€™s policy is set and working as the chamber processes appropriations.
In the Senate, Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) agreed to impose a disclosure rule voluntarily, but reports issued by the Congressional Research Service and Taxpayers for Common Sense show major omissions in the six bills processed by the committee so far. . . .
We donâ€™t oppose earmarks in principle. Members come to Washington, D.C., partly to see to it that their districts and states get federal help. But, as events last year amply demonstrated, earmarks can be a source of rotten corruption. Full disclosure is crucial, and the Senate ought to institute it forthwith.
Indeed. If you want to let your Senators know what you think, here’s the Senate contact list.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Continuing the battle:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) resumed his efforts to implement a series of new ethics and earmark reform rules Monday afternoon and warned his colleagues that he may force the chamber to remain in session through the August recess if Democratic leaders do not drop their objections to his demands.
DeMint proposed Monday to adopt the new Senate earmark rules – which, among other things, would require the Appropriations Committee to disclose all earmarks requested by individual lawmakers that have been included in spending bills – and then begin the long-stalled conference on a lobbying and ethics bill.
Pointing to a recent Congressional Research Service report stating Appropriations subcommittees have had varying degrees of success with implementing the new rules voluntarily, DeMint argued that “it’s clear we need a formal rule in place that applies to all committees” and warned that he could object to the start of the August recess if the rules are not adopted. “Maybe that would be a good thing,” he argued.
DeMint’s gambit – which Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was forced to object to – follows a similar showdown on the Senate floor just prior to the July Fourth recess.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were seconds away from agreeing to begin the ethics conference in late June when DeMint called the Republican cloakroom to remind McConnell of his long-standing hold on the bill. As a result, the agreement to name conferees collapsed and Democrats used the GOP mix-up as a chance to hammer Republicans on ethics.
DeMint has blocked the naming of conferees on the lobbying and ethics bill because Democrats included in the measure a set of Senate earmark reforms, despite the fact they apply to that chamber and do not need House approval to be put in place.
DeMint and a core group of GOP conservatives are expected to continue their tactical fight with Senate leaders as the chamber takes up appropriations bills later this year, many of which are packed with earmarks.
Bring it on.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: TOM COBURN TAKES ON THE EARMARXISTS:
Six months ago, the Democratic Party regained its majority in an election that was not just about Iraq. The new House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said the American people “called for greater integrity in Washington, and Democrats pledge to make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history.”
The history of the intervening months has only confirmed that promises in Washington have a very short shelf life. Any promise not fulfilled within 60 days after an election is apparently considered expired, to be replaced with new promises. I saw this behavior in my own party with regard to the reform of pork-barrel spending — aka “earmarks” — and no Republican fought more forcefully against the forked-tongue syndrome than I did. . . .
If earmark reform in the House is the story of “three steps forward, six steps back,” as Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) tartly observed, the situation in the Senate resembles sidesteps. When we considered ethics and earmark reform in January, Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S. C.) ingeniously forced our chamber to vote on a strong earmark-reform package — written by none other than House Speaker Pelosi herself. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid initially blocked the “DeMint/Pelosi” amendment, but after it was “modified” in a face-saving exercise it passed largely intact.
The DeMint/Pelosi language would disclose backdoor earmarks, often called report language earmarks, that are tucked away in non-binding, staff-written appropriations committee reports. Ninety-five percent of all earmarks are written as “coercive suggestions” to agencies in these explanatory reports that accompany bills. DeMint/Pelosi would make public the sponsors of earmarks, requiring members to file a public disclosure statement stating that neither they nor their spouse will benefit financially from a pork project. Finally, it would give members new procedural tools to block bills that violate these rules.
However, the underlying legislation, S.1, a central Democratic campaign promise, has gone nowhere since it passed five months ago. House and Senate conferees have not even begun meeting to iron out a final bill. Each day, it looks more like another expired promise.
Sen. Reid and top Senate Democrats have had two other opportunities to enact Ms. Pelosi’s earmark reform language. They blocked both attempts, arguing that ethics reform must be done comprehensively, not in a piecemeal fashion — conveniently making the perfect the enemy of the good and doable. Some members of Congress seem to be hoping the public will lose interest in earmark reform. That isn’t likely. Voters and taxpayers continue to be enraged — Congress’s approval rating is an abysmal 27%, in part because reform hasn’t happened. Presidential politics will keep the issue front and center, and the army of bloggers who have long led on this issue are ratcheting up their criticism of the status quo.
And we’ll be ratcheting some more! Meanwhile, here’s video of the Wall Street Journal’s Brendan Miniter on how the Democratic Congress is hiding the pork in ways that their GOP predecessors never dreamed of.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Meet the new boss, yada yada yada:
Such is life in Washington, where members of Congress still donâ€™t get it.
Voters sent a clear message last November when they flipped 30 seats in the House and another six in the Senate, handing control to Democrats. Congressâ€™s love affair with pork-barrel projects — and the secrecy associated with them — was viewed as a defining factor in the election.
Yet today, six months after the elections, the Senate still has not enacted rules making earmarks transparent. Democrats have repeatedly rebuffed efforts by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) despite promises to govern more openly.
In the House, Democrats have had difficulty following a new set of earmark rules adopted earlier this year. When an intelligence spending bill came up last week, Democrats hadnâ€™t even told the ranking committee Republican, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), about pork projects in the bill, let alone other members or the public.
But the Democratsâ€™ shenanigans arenâ€™t nearly as surprising as some Republican failures on the issue. Shortly after the White House vowed to veto the pork-filled agriculture supplemental spending bill last Thursday, three Republicans — Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.), Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Denny Rehberg (Mont.) — not only spoke in favor of the bill, they condemned President Bush for opposing it.
Term limits, which I used to view with skepticism, are looking much more appealing.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Members of Congress want to keep their earmarks:
The Senate’s Democratic leaders have a political problem with earmarks. Ever since the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska captured the public’s imagination last year, they have been on record against legislators stealthily slipping in their favorite spending projects. But most senators, from both parties, really want to keep earmarks. An ingenious effort to reconcile those conflicting political desires created a remarkable tableau in the U.S. Senate Tuesday.
First-term Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina rose on the Senate floor shortly before noon to request unanimous consent for immediate enactment of a rule requiring full disclosure of earmarks. But the Democratic leadership was forewarned. Just before DeMint took the floor, the Appropriations Committee — led by Sen. Robert Byrd, the Senate’s king of pork — issued its own flawed anti-earmark regulation. Then, Majority Whip Dick Durbin objected to passage of the DeMint rule on grounds that ethics should not be considered on a piecemeal basis.
This Democratic scenario got rave reviews from most Republicans. Senators like to be on record against earmarks while still enjoying them. The problem is that DeMint and his fellow Republican first-termer, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, just won’t let the issue rest. Amid thundering silence from the GOP leadership after Durbin’s objection, Coburn declared on the Senate floor: “I would remind my colleagues that we don’t have a higher favorable rating than the president at this time . . . and the reason we don’t is the very reason we just saw. . . . It’s a sad day in the Senate because we’re playing games with the American public.” . . . This is no Democrat-vs.-Republican partisan struggle. The word in the Republican cloakroom was that a GOP senator would derail the DeMint rule if the Democrats did not. The Republican leadership is not enthralled with DeMint and Coburn, and would like them to go away. They won’t. They are determined to bring into the open who sponsors and who benefits from earmarks.
Read the whole thing. It’s not like the Republicans were good on this when they had the majority. But the Democrats did promise to end the “culture of corruption” and all. . . .
The federal agency that tracked pork-barrel spending during the 12 years of the Republican congressional majority has discontinued the practice since Democrats took power, riling lawmakers suspicious of the timing and concerned about the pace of fat being added to bills.
“To me, something doesn’t smell right,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. “I just hope no one is pressuring” the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
While not blaming the Democratic leadership, Mr. DeMint added: “I guess if you’re looking for a motive, you’d have to look in that direction.”
CRS, a nonpartisan agency of the Library of Congress created to conduct research for members of Congress on legislative issues, changed its policy in February — a month after Democrats took control of the Congress and vowed to curb the number of special-interest projects inserted into spending bills or even reports that don’t require a vote.
Seems pretty fishy to me, and I wonder why it’s not getting more attention.
N.Z. BEAR LAUNCHES THE VICTORY CAUCUS. Jim DeMint is guestblogging.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: From the Wall Street Journal, a report on an earmark victory:
If Republicans are wondering how best to shorten their time in the minority, they could do worse than to build on this week’s Senate earmark victory. That reform success proves how good policy translates into good politics.
The Senate on Tuesday passed significant earmark reform, 98-0. But that unanimous tally masks the bitter battle that preceded the vote. When Republican freshmen Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint first launched an effort last summer to make earmarks more transparent, they struggled. Republicans had to be dragged into even minimal reform, and among their first acts after losing the election was to attempt to slip thousands more earmarks into their lame-duck spending bills.
Still, minority status has a way of focusing the mind, and combined with continued DeMint-Coburn shaming, Senate Republicans appear to have re-embraced some principles. When Majority Leader Harry Reid last week attempted to water down House Democrats’ earmark reform, Messrs. Coburn and DeMint rallied enough fellow Republicans (and a few Democrats) to outmaneuver the spenders. Red-faced at getting caught trying to submarine their own party’s plan for reform, Senate Democrats did an about-face and jumped on the earmark-reform bandwagon.
The result was a mini-competition as to which side of the aisle was tougher on earmarks, and a final bill that goes beyond even the House reform. Senator DeMint passed (98-0) an amendment that broadens the definition of an earmark; even those slipped into last-minute conference reports will have to be disclosed. Under the original Senate legislation, 95% of earmarks would have escaped scrutiny.
More amazing was Democrats’ new enthusiasm for oversight. Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin — who started off trying to tank Mr. DeMint’s reform — finished by passing an amendment (also 98-0) that requires lawmakers to post their earmark requests on the Internet 48 hours before a vote. (The House version of the bill simply requires a public disclosure form.) California Democrat Dianne Feinstein also joined in, passing by voice vote a provision that would bar lawmakers from including earmarks in the classified parts of a bill or a conference report unless they also included language in unclassified terms describing the project, funding levels and sponsor. Classified reports were among the ways that former Rep. Duke Cunningham — now in federal prison — hid his earmark payoffs.
Read the whole thing (it’s subscription-only, but the link should work for a few days). It’s progress, but there’s lots more to be done. Last year, pork and earmarks polled higher than Iraq as voter priorities for Congress. Maybe Congress is noticing?
UPDATE: Robert Bluey writes that it was the bloggers:
In ways both big and small, bloggers are changing how business is done on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., learned firsthand last week the effect bloggers can have on public policy when he was handed the first defeat of his short tenure as majority leader.
It all started last Thursday when conservative Sen. Jim DeMint,
R-S.C., sought to strengthen the Senateâ€™s ethics reform bill by amending it to include the same earmark reform language in the House-passed version. Reidâ€™s deputy, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tried to kill the amendment, but nine Democrats broke ranks and backed DeMint. Instead of accepting defeat, Reid tried to twist arms and reverse the vote.
Thatâ€™s when bloggers took notice. Rallying to DeMintâ€™s defense, a coalition of bloggers, led by Andy Roth at the Club for Growth, documented Reidâ€™s strong-arm tactics. The Examinerâ€™s own Mark Tapscott and Ed Frank at Americans for Prosperity jumped on the story. I posted video on YouTube of Reid and DeMintâ€™s clash on the Senate floor.
In the meantime, bloggers sent e-mails to Jon Henke, the newly hired new-media director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Itâ€™s Henkeâ€™s job to deal with bloggers, and if there was ever an occasion, this was it.
Read the whole thing.
VIDEO: Jim DeMint talks about Earmark Reform.
UPDATE: Via email from DeMint’s office:
Senate Republicans this evening defeated a motion offered by Democrats to cut off debate on the lobby and ethics reform bill. The debate got hung up on an amendment offered by Senators Gregg and DeMint to give the President line item veto/rescission authority. Majority Leader Reid was reportedly working with Senator Gregg to achieve a compromise but West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd intervened making it clear to Reid that he would object to voting on the Gregg-DeMint amendment now or anytime in the future. As such, Reid acquiesced to Byrd’s demands and continued to disallow a vote on the measure.
Gregg’s LIV provision is nearly identical to a provision that Byrd hinself offered himself in 1995 under President Clinton.
Not very smart politics, it seems to me.
DEMINT THANKS DEMOCRATS FOR AGREEING TO PELOSI PLAN: No, really, that’s the news.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: A look at this week’s Earmark Entertainment:
To Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s credit, House Democrats recently passed ethics legislation that included provisions making earmarks more transparent. The House bill included a broad definition of earmarks, thereby making it harder to hide them in, say, last-minute conference reports. It also requires Members to file a public disclosure form when they request an earmark, and to state that neither they nor their spouses will financially benefit. It’s hard to argue that this is anything but elementary good government.
Unless you are Harry Reid. The ethics reform offered by Senate Democrats contained none of these tougher earmark provisions. So Senate Republicans, led by South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, cheekily took the identical language of the House earmark bill and offered it as an amendment to the Senate version. Numerous Democrats instantly denounced it, apparently unaware (or unconcerned) that the language had been sponsored by Ms. Pelosi.
Democrat Dick Durbin then moved to table the amendment, though he lost by 51 to 46. Of the 46 Senators who voted to banish Ms. Pelosi’s reform, 38 of them were her fellow Democrats. The seven Republicans who went along with Mr. Reid included some of the GOP’s biggest spenders (Trent Lott) and Members of the Appropriations Committee, aka Earmark Central Station. When Senator DeMint then moved to have his amendment accepted by voice vote — which is customary — Mr. Durbin objected. The effect of these procedural run-arounds was to give Mr. Reid more time to twist a few more Democratic arms into killing earmark reform.
By our deadline last night, he still hadn’t succeeded, though Senate sources told us that Mr. Reid was considering filing for cloture on the entire ethics bill, thereby foreclosing a vote on the current DeMint amendment. If he prevails, voters will know just much “fiscal discipline” to expect from the new majority.
Reid is a poor frontman for a campaign against the “culture of corruption.”
MORE ON PORK: Here’s video of Harry Reid criticizing Nancy Pelosi’s earmark reform plan along with the DeMint earmark reform plan. According to Reid, the House moves too quickly, and doesn’t think enough.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The “100 Hours” is looking pretty lame, as Senate Democrats try to shoot down the Pelosi pork reform proposal. Andy Roth reports:
The Senate is boiling with excitement right now. For background, the Senate is proposing very weak earmark reform rules. In contrast, Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats implemented some very strong earmark rules in the lower chamber last week.
In response, Senator Jim DeMint, who is a very strong advocate for more transparency, figured, â€œLetâ€™s just offer Pelosiâ€™s reforms as an amendment to the Senate bill.â€
It was a very clever strategy. Dick Durbin, the Majority Whip, threw a fit on the Senate floor and offered a motion to table it (kill it).
Let’s be clear about the rich irony here. Senate Leadership tried to kill a bill that House Leadership supported and passed. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are basically saying that they want their pork no matter what, even if it embarrasses their own party.
So when the motion to kill the bill came to a vote, Durbin and the Democrats lost!
It should be noted that a majority should never offer a motion to table if they arenâ€™t sure they can win. It was very embarrassing. Especially since Durbin was trying to kill a proposal that his Leadership colleagues in the House offered!
Anyways, after the motion failed, DeMint asked for a voice vote, which is common. It’s basically used to save time since de facto support of the bill was decided when the motion failed. However, Big Ted Kennedy objected, which is all that it needed to skip a voice vote.
The Dems are now off the floor whipping the hell out of their members for when they take a real roll call vote later this afternoon.
And now they’re back. Roth is updating, and this looks like a real embarrassment. The Democratic reforms in the House don’t mean a lot if the Senate is going to vote for business as usual. Harry Reid, apparently, is much less committed to ending the “culture of corruption” than Nancy Pelosi.
UPDATE: More here: “Reid and Durbin are determined to feed at the trough no matter how embarrassing it is to the party.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: TPM Muckraker is pretty hard on Harry Reid: “Showing he can be every bit as bullying to advance a bad idea, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) held open a vote on his watered down earmark reform legislation today in order to round up enough votes to push it through. . . . According to Craig Holman of Public Citizen, Reid’s version, if it had been applied to earmarks as part of legislation passed last year, would have disclosed the sponsor of only approximately 500 earmarks. DeMint’s amendment would have forced sponsors to be known of roughly 12,000.”
News came in yesterday that Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint had successfully negotiated a clean continuing resolution for the remaining appropriations bills in the Senate. There were talks with GOP Leadership and the big-spending appropriators to attach a clean Military Quality approps bill to the CR, but the appropriators balked, refusing to let a couple of freshman senators push them around. In the end, ironically and deliciously, a couple of freshman senators pushed them around.
The result, Roth reports, is that 10,000 pork projects have been blocked.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: This seems like good news:
Had the appropriators challenged Coburn and DeMint, their only weapon would have been to threaten to shut the government down (if the spending bills aren’t allowed to pass and a CR is not issued, the government is forced to shut down). And that was something they weren’t willing to commit to.
So…if Congress does pass the CR as is currently expected in December, and the Democrats subsequently extend it for a full year, then Coburn and DeMint will have unilaterally saved taxpayers a whopping $17 billion!
$17 billion here, $17 billion there, pretty soon you’re talking big money.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: John Fund looks at earmarks and corruption:
If Republicans lose big in November, one reason will be their tardy response to public outrage over profligate spending. The guilty pleas of former GOP Rep. Duke Cunningham and lobbyist Jack Abramoff prompted demands for reform of the earmarks–pork projects members often secure in secret–that were prominent in both scandals.
On Thursday, the House did finally pass a rules change that will force sponsors to attach their names to projects. The Senate isn’t expected to follow suit, meaning earmark reform there must wait until next year. On the plus side, both houses this month did pass the Federal Transparency Act. It creates a public Internet database that will allow Google-like searches of the $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts and loans. The “shame factor” the bill will heighten is needed, given that earmarks grew tenfold between 1990 and 2005.
As modest as it is, the transparency bill spent much of August in limbo after Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska, chief defender of the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” put a hold on it, using the tradition allowing any senator to secretly block a bill. These games feed the perception of an out-of-touch Congress and demoralize many GOP voters. “Every event I go to, someone complains about overspending and pork,” says Rep. Chris Chocola of Indiana, one of the most embattled GOP incumbents. “They still don’t think we get it.”
Many members simply don’t believe the political costs of pork can ever exceed the benefits. Democrats have been largely silent. After all, they get about 45% of them even as a minority. “One man’s pork is another man’s steak,” is how many members dismiss reform.
The reforms passed this year were modest, but helpful. (The lame criticism that they don’t go far enough is true, but lame, especially when offered — as it usually is — by members of Congress who didn’t actually work for any reform.) It’s important to keep the pressure up, though.
Fund has this to say, too, which should be required reading in the White House:
President Bush could also do more. Republican Sen. Jim DeMint notes that the Congressional Research Service has found that 95% of recent earmarks were slipped into committee reports and not written into law. “These non-legislated earmarks are not legally binding,” he says. “President Bush could ignore them. He doesn’t need a line-item veto.”
The federal government is now an astounding 185 times as big in real terms as it was a century ago. A general sense that Republicans have forgotten why they were sent to Washington is a big reason why only 43% of Republicans approve of Congress in this month’s Fox News poll. If Republicans can’t better explain how they plan to get a grip on spending, many voters will conclude they both deserve and need a time-out from power.
Agencies won’t stand up to Congress on that committee report language, unless the President makes them, as they fear budgetary retribution. Bush needs to show some backbone on this, or Republicans will lose. And deserve to.
UPDATE: Here’s more from The Examiner:
Now with Coburn-Obama, every citizen with access to the Internet will be within a few mouse clicks of knowing where their tax dollars are going and who is benefitting from them. Such access moves our democracy beyond Government 1.0 web sites that mainly just provide passive information and encourages more active and informed citizenry. Call it the dawn of Government 2.0. It is especially fitting that a database of federal spending — the blood flow of governance — marks the opening of the new era. . . .
The experts will do well to study the campaign for Coburn-Obama closely for several reasons, not the least of which are that from the beginning it included people and groups from across the political spectrum and the fact that the Internet gave them unprecedented power to assess the situation at any given moment, distribute key information throughout the ranks of supporters and media and generate highly focused action wherever it was most needed. Old media was mostly on the sidelines throughout.
Indeed, though CNN and the Wall Street Journal provided some excellent ongoing coverage, as did the National Journal blogs — though I guess those are more new media than old.
A NEW SPENDING CUTS PACKAGE:
Last month conservative backbenchers changed the direction of House GOP fiscal policy by introducing “Operation Offset” — a package of potential savings in government spending that would offset the tens of billions of dollars needed to recover from Hurricane Katrina.
At first, the package was met with disapproval by House Leadership. But weeks later, Hastert and others have embraced parts of the package and are scheduling a vote on the House floor this Thursday that would increase savings by $15 billion. That vote is a direct result of the actions of the House conservatives led by Mike Pence.
Now, a band of fiscal conservatives in the Senate plan to offer a similar proposal. Tomorrow, at 12:30 Senators Ensign, McCain, DeMint, Graham, Sununu, Coburn and Brownback will hold a press conference in which they will unveil the details of their own savings package.
CNN HAS JUST CALLED SOUTH CAROLINA FOR JIM DEMINT Go free trade! Less surprisingly, Harry Reid (D-NV) is going back to the senate. The Kentucky race is still too close to call.
CNN HAS JIM DEMINT LEADING IN SOUTH CAROLINA with 44% of the vote in, which is terrific news for free trade. If a highly protectionist state like South Carolina can put a staunch free-trader like DeMint into the Senate, there’s hope for us all.