07.01.2008 0

The True Conscience of the Senate

  • On: 07/29/2008 17:30:52
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • “Conscience of the Senate” is a sobriquet that’s been bandied about for years to describe those who, for one reason or another, have earned (or frankly, in some cases, not earned) the highest esteem of their fellow salons.

    Decades ago, it was applied to the man many consider the last of the great southern senators: John Stennis of Mississippi, whose bipartisan leadership embodied the axiom, “Politics ends at the water’s edge.”

    More recently, it was affixed to Michigan’s Phil Hart, a likeable man whose gentle manner earned him plaudits on either side of the aisle.

    Yet, in recent years, the title seems to have fallen into disrepute. Wrote the Wall Street Journal in 2002: “Democrats knew all about his racist past when they elected him their majority whip in 1971 over Ted Kennedy. He moved up to majority leader in 1977, defeating Hubert Humphrey, and led his party in the Senate until 1989. Even now as senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee he is regularly hailed by fellow Democrats as the conscience of the Senate.”

    “He,” believe it or not, is former Klan Kleagle Robert Byrd (D-WV). And it is clearly time for the Senate to get a new conscience.

    Accordingly, Americans for Limited Government would like to nominate Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) as the new millennium’s “Conscience of the Senate.”

    As a House member from 1995-2001, he was a champion of fiscal conservatism. And since being elected to the Senate in 2004, he has stood – often alone in the gallery – to fight the excesses of abusive earmarks:

    • In 2006, he famously defeated the “Bridge to Nowhere.”
    • In 2006, he successfully eliminated a $15 million seafood promotion program.
    • In 2006 alone, he had held 43 hearings on Congressional earmarks.
    • In 2007, he and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sent a letter to the Department of Energy to expose an underground earmark program that was taking place wherein legislators would call up departments and agencies to encourage them to continue to fund projects that had previously been earmarked. Soon after, the Energy Department announced it would not cave into Congressional pressure and the programs were discontinued.
    • In 2007, he fought against a $500,000 earmark for a sculpture park in Washington state.
    • In 2007, he opposed a $500,000 earmark to build a baseball park in Montana, and $450,000 to repair buildings at the International Peace Garden in North Dakota.
    • In 2007, he also co-sponsored the Federal Funding Transparency and Accountability Act, which passed and was signed into law.

    Senator Coburn has also placed a useful earmark toolkit on his website to aid constituents in learning about Congress’ spending addiction.

    And most recently, Senator Coburn has focused his crusade against the so-called Secret Coconut Road earmark:

    “Anti-earmark crusader Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up passage of technical corrections to the 2005 highway bill until the Senate agrees to investigate how $10 million got dedicated to an interchange project at Coconut Road after the $286 billion bill had passed both chambers of Congress…

    “Coburn, R-OK, wants to create a bipartisan, bicameral committee with subpoena power to look into how the earmark, which was placed in the transportation bill by [Rep. Don] Young, was changed.

    “‘This legislation charges the special committee with determining ‘when, how, why, and by whom such improper revisions were made,’ Coburn said in a prepared statement.”

    These are but a few examples of Mr. Coburn’s enduring fight against the corrupt and wasteful spending that is shredding the Federal budget process and making a mockery of fiscal restraint. Often alone in the gallery, even spurned by those who should be on his side, Tom Coburn reminds us all of the words of Thomas Paine:

    “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

    ALG CTA: We urge journalists to encourage their audiences to give Senator Coburn a call today and tell him to keep up the good work at 202-224-5754.

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