October 19, 2007

Batting .500 On Pork

Porkbusters had a rare day yesterday, winning a vote to strip pork from an upcoming bill while losing another. Normally members of Congress close ranks to protect each other's pork from amendments to defund them, but even collegiality couldn't save the brown acid of the Woodstock Museum earmark:

Community leaders in upstate New York are building a $100 million museum there and sought money from the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) attempted to defend the earmark Thursday, but he failed, surprising even some critics of the project.

The Senate first rejected a motion to table the amendment, 42-52, shifting the $1 million earmark into the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant program. Five Democrats — Evan Bayh of Indiana, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia — joined the entire Senate Republican Conference, including its reputed king of pork, Ted Stevens of Alaska, to oppose the Woodstock funding.

Senators then approved the amendment on a voice vote.

So what happened? Schumer tried to sell the earmark as a poverty-relief measure, arguing that the bill would benefit one of New York's "poorest counties". Jon Kyl noted that the county had a lower unemployment rate than the national average, and the museum's billionaire backer didn't exactly lend himself to an air of poverty, either. Other Senators noted that the argument for "hippie funding as an economic development tool" seemed somewhat incongruous to having government subsidies.

While the Woodstock museum earmark had a bad trip in the Senate, Charles Rangel's Monument to Me fared better. Arguably the more objectionable earmark of the two, the CCNY earmarks for Rangel's library and two schools that duplicate programs at the college managed to survive the amendment process in the Senate. Fifteen Republicans, including Ted Stevens, voted to affirm Rangel's $2 million earmark for his self-aggrandizement. Russ Feingold and Evan Bayh were the only two Democrats to oppose it -- which means that the Senate would have killed the pork had the Republicans acted like ... well, real Republicans.

On the other hand, it's hard to get too angry after batting .500 yesterday when porkbusters normally have to settle for goose eggs. A million here and a million there, and soon we'll be talking about real money.


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Comments (3)

Posted by Angry Dumbo | October 19, 2007 7:26 AM

Russ Feingold and Evan Bayh were the only two Democrats to oppose it -- which means that the Senate would have killed the pork had the Republicans acted like ... well, real Republicans.

Agreed. Hey Capt. what was the vote? Bayh and Feingold are pretty stand up liberals who sound like they can be supportive pork busters. OTOH, I would like to take note of the Republican pork supporters and send some figurative coal in their stockings.

Posted by howard lohmuller | October 19, 2007 8:00 AM

Earmarks have made the American House and Senate into thoroughly corrupt institutions. Each Congressman and Senator runs his or her own enterprise that seeks to give contracts and grants to cronies and relatives and the conduit (lobbyist) is usually a friend or relative too.
Earmarks must be eliminated and money, contracts or projects must be included in the Nation's budget and administered as revenue sharing with states and cities according to a preset formula. This will take the Congressmen and Senators out of the influence pedaling and corruption business and back to the business of legislating.

Posted by LarryD | October 19, 2007 8:51 AM

Since Congress makes laws, they cannot be constrained by ordinary legislation. Even if you got Congress to pass it, they can override or repeal such laws at any time.

It's going to take one or more Constitutional Amendments to pull the coke collar.

My candidates are: Term Limits for Congress, and makeing Impoundment an explicit Executive power. I also agree with Zell , the 17th Amendment should be repealed, which would mean that the Senators will again be selected by their State legislators, so the Senate will represent the States.

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