September 11, 2006

porkbustersnewsm.jpgPORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The (subscription-only) BNA Daily Report for Executives reports on the passage of S.2509:

The House is expected to tweak the Senate bill’s language to reflect the compromise language during consideration in the Sept. 11 week and then send the measure back to the Senate for final passage the next week, aides said.

If the measure makes it to President Bush’s desk, it would mark one of the few concrete results of efforts in 2006 to overhaul legislative earmarks and reform lobbying rules. Legislation to curb earmarks has been stalled after gaining momentum in the wake of revelations about lobbyist Jack Abramoff that lead to a scandal, including criminal prosecutions, early in the year (172 DER A-21, 09/6/06 a0b3f6t1q3). With Democratic criticism of budget deficits mounting, passing the database bill could also give Republicans a politically useful accomplishment on the fiscal front as well.

But the bill’s supporters on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8 gave much of the credit to outside groups and especially Internet bloggers instead of to their fellow lawmakers. After being hung up for weeks in the Senate under a procedural block known as a “hold,” the bill was dislodged and the holds removed after Web sites and bloggers from across the ideological spectrum sought to identify who was blocking the bill.

On Sept. 7, after Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had removed one hold, another one, from an undisclosed Democrat, remained. But the hold was lifted early in the evening, and its author never publicly identified. Hart said Coburn staffers did not know the hold had been lifted and the bill had been passed until they got home that evening.

“The group that deserves credit for passing this bill, however, is not Congress, but the army of bloggers and concerned citizens who told Congress that transparency is a just demand for all citizens, not a special privilege for political insiders. Their remarkable effort demonstrates that our system of government does work when the people take the reins of government and demand change,” Coburn said in a statement Sept. 8.

Adam Hughes, director of federal fiscal policy with OMB Watch, said the hunt for senators with holds against the bill–which are not currently required by Senate rules to be publicly identified–showed how veteran Washington advocacy groups and the new world of Web bloggers can coordinate their efforts. The site porkbusters.org asked its readers to ask each senator’s office if their senator had blocked the Coburn-Obama bill.

“I do think it says a lot about a new system for the way public advocacy will work,” Hughes said.

“The bloggers mobilized the Senate. No one in the Senate mobilized the bloggers,” Hart said.

Let’s hope we manage some more mobilizing along these lines.

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