25 October 2005

That, Sens. Reid and Pelosi, is the boat, and this is you missing it.

I don't agree with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on too many things. He's dismissed global warming as "just a lot of crap," and condemned NBC's decision to air the unedited Schindler's List as taking television "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity." Seemingly, Mr. Coburn feels the cruelty and indignities of the Nazi death camps might appeal to Americans' prurient interests (a ghoulish assertion which I find to be far more telling about whoever suggests it). Most recently, during John Roberts' confirmation hearings, the esteemed senator tore himself away from his crossword puzzle long enough to issue the teary-eyed declaration that "(His) heart aches for less divisiveness, less polarization, less finger-pointing, less bitterness, less partisanship"...less than a year after branding the so-called gay agenda, "the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today."
On the whole, one might go so far as to say that I find Tom Coburn to be a truly loathsome human being. But, to paraphrase a saying, the sun even shines on a horse's ass some days, and last week was one of them.
Alaska's so-called "Bridge to Nowhere" and the Don Young Way vanity highway were the pork poster projects of the latest transportation bill. While only two of the almost 14,000 pork barrel projects in current federal spending bills, they were widely ridiculed as the most egregious, especially in light of the current need to control spending. Coburn, showing the sort of boldness only seen in freshmen senators (and then only very occasionally), did the unthinkable and called "bullshit" on a sacred cow: shamelessly gorging your state at the federal trough.
"The Coburn amendment would have blocked funding for a $223 million bridge to a town in Alaska with a population of 50 people (that's currently serviced by a ferry). At $4.46 million per person, the cost of the bridge alone would be enough to buy every island resident their own personal Lear jet. The Coburn amendment also would have blocked funding for a $229 million bridge that would connect Anchorage, Alaska to hundreds of square miles of unpopulated wetlands.

The Coburn amendment would have then diverted $125 million in savings from those projects to repair the Interstate 10 Twin Spans Bridge in Louisiana, a 5.4 mile stretch of I-10 over Lake Pontchartrain which connects New Orleans with the city of Slidell. The Twin Spans serve as a major route into New Orleans for interstate commerce and working commuters."
Alaska's resident bacon baron, Ted Stevens, indignantly threatened to resign if the amendment passed. Admittedly, it's easy to point out what the other guy is trying to get away with. But, this measure would have opened every legislator (including Coburn) to scrutiny on the pork they're bringing home, which is exactly what needs to happen, anyway. Not surprisingly, it was soundly defeated, 15-82. These are the fifteen senators who still have any shred of credibility when talking about responsible spending:

Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Mike DeWine (R-OH)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
George Allen (R-VA)

I'm deeply disappointed in the democratic leadership for not jumping on this full-force. With the 10 republican votes Coburn mustered, this would have been a strong message about what direction the government is trying to move in.

Another embarrassing day in the U.S. Senate.

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