October 24, 2007

Earmarks Or Ear Infections?

Yesterday's vote to kill Senator Tom Coburn's amendment caught the notice of Dana Milbank. He details the efforts of Coburn's colleagues to drown out his speech yesterday in a torrent of babble -- the same kind of babble we hear when they promise to end pork-barrel spending and clean up government. The amendment, which would have used all of the earmark spending in the Labor/HHS/Education appopriation for children's health insurance, forced a difficult choice on the Senate, as Coburn remarked:

"It seems to me the American public might want to ask why are you earmarking special money for special projects when you have a chance to make sure it will go towards children and really solving the problem?" Coburn taunted. "So this is going to be a tough vote. Kids versus my political career. Kids versus my political power. Kids versus my political earmarks. We're going to see. We're going to get to see what the real priorities of the Senate are."

Naturally, these Senators didn't take that kind of language lying down:

"I assume this comes as no surprise that I oppose the amendment," declared Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Figge Art Museum). "I don't think this amendment is really serious about addressing the health of children."

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Berks County Music Education), author of 166 earmarks in the spending bill, agreed with the senator from the Figge Art Museum. "Senators know their states better than the bureaucrats," Specter argued.

Spector had 166 earmarks in the bill all by himself? No wonder he became so insistent about opposing Coburn and his amendment. Why, who would vote for Spector if he wasn't busily buying people off? And that's just one of 12 appropriations bills that Congress has to pass. I wonder how many more earmarks Spector will grab to protect his position in the Senate.

And let's look again at the kinds of projects that the Senators defended:

* $130,000 for the National First Ladies' Library in Ohio.

* $500,000 for a "Virtual Herbarium" in New York.

* $400,000 for the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

In the end, Milbank reports, the Senators simply had no answer for Coburn -- so they did their best to drown him out. When Coburn had the floor, they started talking loudly enough amongst themselves so that Coburn could not be heard. The members and their staffers committed this Gandhi-like act of civil disobedience, all to bring peace to the pork process and allow Senators their rightful gobs of tax money with which to protect their incumbency. Only after Coburn stopped reminding them of their greed and hypocrisy did they return order to the floor.

It's another proud moment in American self-government ... and self-indulgence.


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Comments (14)

Posted by burt | October 24, 2007 7:59 AM

Congratulations Captain. You wrote a good post which you frequently do. I much rarer thing you accomplished is to find a Washington Post article that has more substance than blather.

Posted by docjim505 | October 24, 2007 8:14 AM

At last, bipartisanship in the Senate! I'm so glad that senators from both parties were able to reach across the aisle and reach a consensus.

Um... Could we have a bit less of this sort of thing in the future, please?

I'm especially disgusted (though far from surprised) that there are plenty of Republicans involved in this foolishness. As you say, Cap'n, they are all busily buying off votes with our tax dollars.


Posted by Keemo | October 24, 2007 8:14 AM

Watching these people doing their business on C-SPAN, reminds me of the days when I tried my best to speak over 100 cubs scouts at pack meetings. We expect this behavior from 7-10 year olds; pretty damn disgusting watching the same adolescent behavior from spoiled brat adults.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 24, 2007 8:32 AM

If these earmark junkies would try something completely different, perhaps they could get the funding they seek, maybe, and also actually engage in a dialog on the relative merits of these "projects' they attach to so many unrelated bills.

How about offering an actual bill instead of the stealthy earmark? Provide facts and substantiation, have an up or down vote? You know, the old fashioned step by step bill to law thing?

If the money or project they seek has merit, let them defend it right up front. If it has no merit, let the House or Senate make that decision.

These earmarks have gone a long way from the old standard of simply attaching an amendment to a bill a member of Congress has a reasonable prospect of being passed. These earmarks take their "projects" completely out of any sort of reasonable discussion.

Let the member of Congress actually work for his or her pet project.

From one-time horse-trading on the floor of Congress to sealing up funds long before the bill actually comes to a vote...and some people are amazed that Congress today has such a low degree of public support?

In the meantime, we get more of this passive-aggressive garbage. And we actually elected these people? I'd expect more from Keemo's Cub Scouts. I'd also wish Congress would start acting like adults instead of a coddled separate class above the law, a coddled class that by and large has nothing but contempt for the electorate.

As for the mantra of "we have to do it for the children," I guess we know who the "children" actually are --- Congress.

Posted by unclesmrgol | October 24, 2007 8:42 AM

As I commented in the Captain's earlier post on the Coburn amendment, SCHIP and any other entitlement for kids is dead.

Coburn has shown us that the Democrats wear the emperor's new clothes. They no longer have the high ground in the debate on entitlements. This vote will come back to haunt them over and over.

I'm a little bit disgusted with the Republicans, but for them the choice was Sisyphean -- vote against something they want for something they certainly don't want far more than the thing they want. Personally, I think they should have voted present and left the Dems to fall on the sword alone, but diplomacy is an action reserved to the executive branch of the government and therefore sadly missing in the legislative branch.

In a warped sort of way, I can see the Republican justification for their vote -- but not that of the Democrats, whose party pushed hard for children's healthcare.

Posted by Labamigo | October 24, 2007 8:53 AM

The most liberal senator and the most conservative senator have more in common with each other than any of them have in common with you or me.

Posted by PD Quig | October 24, 2007 9:21 AM

The last Tom Clancy book that I was able to suffer through (Executive Orders) contained what may be the only solution left to the national disgrace that Congress has become. If only the conspirators can get the word to Tom Coburn and the handful of others who haven't become completely corrupted before the 747 makes its unscheduled landing. Hell, there's times like these when I'd pilot the damned plane.

I'm kidding, of course, but "throw the bums out" seems like a vain hope when every other November the same crew gets a new mandate to destroy the country from their uninformed constituents.

Posted by docjim505 | October 24, 2007 10:12 AM

unclesmrgol: Coburn has shown us that the Democrats wear the emperor's new clothes. They no longer have the high ground in the debate on entitlements. This vote will come back to haunt them over and over.

I wish that were so, but I doubt that it will. Who will hold the dems accountable? The MSM? Don't make me laugh! The GOP? Hell, they are co-conspirators.

Unless and until John Q. Public starts demanding that his members of Congress STOP trying to get all the goodies they can for his state / district (like THAT will ever happen), we're going to continue down the path of increasing corruption.

Posted by MikeD | October 24, 2007 10:36 AM

I have a friend who believes that every citizen should have the right to shoot, without fear of retribution, three fools/idiots/despicable persons during one's lifetime. I would posit that politicians (and maybe lawyers in general)should not count against the total.

Posted by mojo | October 24, 2007 11:47 AM

Davenport, Ioway?

Half-way between Des Moines and Chicago? Home of the Rock Island Arsenal?

Yeah, sure, they need a museum.

Posted by kimsch | October 24, 2007 12:39 PM

A virtual herbarium? what do you do, look at pictures of the herbs? You can't smell, touch or taste the herbs?

What is the difference between that and a book about herbs?

Posted by Ken Oglesby | October 24, 2007 1:49 PM

If the Founders had had any idea what their foray into Democracy would look like after 200+ years,they must be rolling in their graves.
When they see the people(or sheeple as they are rightly called in the rodham camp)continually electing idiots like Stark,Durbin,Hargan,Reid and 531 others,including on occasion,a President,they must be rolling in their graves.
When they see how their judiciary,which was set up to resolve constitutional disputes,has now become the final,and sometimes the only,arbiter,in so many cases,they must be rolling in their graves.
Only the sheeple,er,people,can change this and they have shown absolutely no inclination to do so.
They must be rolling in their graves.

Posted by dhunter | October 24, 2007 3:10 PM

Take away their lifetime pension and put them on social security. Take away their health plan and let them buy one like we do. Impose 2 term limits. A candidate for pres that pushes this has my dollars and vote. With congress approval at 11% and dropping like a rock the candidate that proposes this might just get elected and with 89% of the country agreeing might actually get it done.

Don't give me the line that no one qualified will run, how much worse or less qualified can one get than the current crop? Batch of Asshat clowns about 90%.

Posted by RD | October 24, 2007 6:03 PM

Whatever happened to old fashioned ways?
Whatever happened to honest crime where the criminal simply pointed a gun at the victim's head and said your money or your life-now they become politicians with no threat of prison.
What ever happened to old fashioned hypocrisy where the hypocrite sowed wild oats on Saturday night and sang in the church choir on Sunday morning-now they become "environmentalists and sell CO2 credits while traveling the world in private jets.
Whatever happened to old fashioned reporting-now they are opinion makers who use fake but accurate documents or spin the facts.
Whatever happened to old fashioned entertainers-now they are foreign policy experts.
Whatever happened to truth, ethics, morality, common sense,statemanship and science?

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