10.01.2008 0

More Talk, Less Spending

  • On: 10/16/2008 16:47:06
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility

  • Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) apparently is not satisfied with having the majority in the Senate; he also wants to have exclusive rights to amendments and cannot be troubled with silly things like the opinions held by members of the minority. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even want to have to talk about the bills now on the floor. Mr. Reid would much rather pile all the bills together and force an up or down vote before the August break. So much for the time-honored protocols at “the world’s greatest deliberative body”.

    Harry Reid’s Omnibus Spending Bill, as it is being termed, is an accumulation of bills which have had holds put on them during the session. According to an executive summary of the bill obtained by ALG News from a Capitol Hill insider, the 36 bills in the Omnibus catch-all total $11.3 billion in excessive spending. It includes spending for such “essentials” as $1.5 billion for the D.C. Metro—the largest earmark in Congressional history—and also $12 million for a greenhouse in Maryland, and $17 million for captive primate safety.

    This entire no-bills-barred, free-for-all is a result of the Senate not taking a hint that spending must cease. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been the lone ranger leading the crusade against earmark and pork barrel spending—to the point that he is often the first to see bills, even before the committees! This is because in the Senate, bills are brought to the floor for unanimous consent, meaning that if one senator opposes, it cannot be brought to the floor. Senator Coburn is that one senator—most of the others haven’t even bothered to take a look.

    During this session, Sen. Coburn has put a hold on at least 95 bills. Funny, because the Omnibus Spending Bill being brought to the floor by Sen. Reid will have approximately 36 bills, some of which were not even brought to the floor before the close of session! Understandably, Dr. Coburn is asking that those not ever voted on not be included in the monstrous omnibus bill.

    Says Sen. Coburn: “We’re holding a bill because we either want to amend it or we want to debate it. They don’t want to debate these issues because they know if they debate them they’re vulnerable. I’m happy if they want to debate them. There’s tons of waste — tons of new programs — [that] we don’t have the money for…” And that’s exactly what Harry Reid doesn’t want: more talk, and less spending.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Reid told reporters “you cannot negotiate with Coburn…it’s a waste of time.” The very next day, however, Dr. Coburn sent Sen. Reid an official letter extending potential agreements on the omnibus bill, including parameters to allow limited debate on the additional spending, which is to the tune of upwards of $25 billion. He also urged that the Majority Leader remember the plight of the American people regarding the energy crisis by not limiting any exploration which would alleviate the pressure on the pocketbook. And Sen. Reid found that to be unreasonable.

    To further give legitimacy to the idea that ram-rodding this legislation through the Senate is a boondoggle, there is talk that other Republican Senators are scrambling to have their bills added into the package. This further emphasizes that this omnibus scheme is an effort to shanghai the traditional process that the Senate is bound to by the Senate rules. Unfortunately at this point, Sen. Coburn seems to only be one of twenty members interested in abiding by the rules, not enough to maintain a filibuster.

    To make matters even worse, repeatedly throughout the session, Mr. Reid has been guilty of using a tactic called “filling the tree”, hereby preventing any amendments from the minority party! This tactic is such that, by being the Majority Leader and having the first chance at amendments, he makes first and second amendments which prevent any further amendments from being offered. Sen. Coburn sent a letter to the Minority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) which details the exact violations of procedure that Sen. Reid is engaging in. And while Mr. Reid’s spokesman attacks Sen. Coburn, saying that Coburn is acting “contrary to the traditions of collegiality and bipartisan compromise in the Senate.” Sen. Reid is apparently upholding the age old tradition of gagging the opposition.

    It appears that Sen. Reid under the impression that he is the only one whose opinion carries any real weight. So, on an issue as important as the energy crisis, he is willing to ignore the opinions of the other 49 members of the Senate, refusing amendments and cutting out debate. Clearly, he understands that if the minority is allowed to voice its opinion—and a vote—his Omnibus plans may face an ominous threat. And “the world’s greatest deliberative body” might recapture its debilitated soul.


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