Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The bi-partisan incumbent protection racquet

By Libby

Via Jeralyn, chalk another victory up for the 'punish the sons for the sins of their fathers' crowd. The Senate vote to advance the Dream Act failed today. The reasoning seems to be that young people who had no choice but to enter the country illegally with their parents as infants, should be punished for advancing their education and attempting to become productive members of American society. In fact, Tancredo wants them all to be immediately arrested and deported. Love that compassionate conservatism.

In other breaking news, the Senate today confirmed conservative Judge Leslie Southwick to a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. I'm not sure why this is being called a loss for the Democrats when Democrats helped pass it. The losers here are the American people and our system of justice.

Meanwhile, the incumbency protection program, otherwise known as earmarks, shifts into high gear. When Senator Coburn introduced an amendment to a major health spending bill, stripping all earmarks out of the bill, it was defeated on a 68-26 vote. Dispelling all notions that the Senate can't work together, I've got your bi-partisan outrage right here.

A spokesman for Sen. George Voinovich (R-First Ladies Library) protested that "this is a backdoor way of banning earmarks which he doesn't agree with." A spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Lake Champlain) called Coburn's activities "highly questionable and highly selective."

And just what vital projects were endangered by Coburn's highly questionable pork cutting?

$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.
$50,000 for an ice center in Utah.
$500,000 for "field experiences" on the Chesapeake Bay.
$100,000 to celebrate Lake Champlain's quadricentennial.

Hell, who needs health care when you can fund virtual herbariums? And in case you were wondering how all this vital spending will impact our compelling national interest in corporate welfare, not to worry. They have it covered.

[T]he last GOP Congress gave big business some $92 billion a year in subsidies, according to the Cato Institute. Cato's latest analysis indicates that if all the pending spending bills pass, corporate welfare will exceed $100 billion in direct outlays in 2008.

This includes $286 billion in 'farm' subsidies to megamonolith agricultural corporations. $1.4 billion for sugar subsidies. $100 billion in flood insurance for commercial properties, but not homeowners and $10.4 billion in terrorism insurance for Big Business. And let's not forget the corporate pork.

There are 13,000 earmarks in this year's appropriations bills, including hundreds that benefit narrow business groups. Such as: $500,000 to build a baseball stadium for the Cincinnati Reds minor league team in Billings, Montana; $150,000 for the Troy, Michigan Chamber of Commerce; $500,000 for the Arkansas World Trade Center; $4 million for a rail bridge for CSX railroad.

By now I suppose you're wondering, how do they find the time to pass all this important spending? Well, via Avedon, here's a clue.

In one recent week, the Senate passed 153 bills—without voting on a single one. Instead, the measures were “hotlined,” or approved by what’s called “unanimous consent.” How it works: Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, agree to pass a bill. Then each Senator is called on a special hotline and asked if he or she objects. They may have as little as 15 minutes to respond—and if their staff misses the call, the bill sails on. While some of the hotlined bills just named post offices, others authorized hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending—$294 million over five years in one piece of legislation.

Astounding what our selfless Congresslizards can do when they put their heads together on the issues that really matter.

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