Sixty years ago, U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall prayed that God would "give us clear vision, that we may know where to stand and what to stand for - because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything."
Those words are moving in their simplicity and honesty. Only with the grace of God, with strong values, deep conviction of principle and ongoing willingness to listen and learn can leaders gain "clear vision" of their responsibilities to citizens. When we believe in something - and stand firm in our principles and values - we gain a clear compass and a clear conscience to do the right thing for our country.
Unfortunately, Congress has a history of doing otherwise. Sadly, votes are not always black and white, choices between obvious good and transparent evil. Too often legislation is a confusing cocktail of essential items laced with pure political pork. When there are 10 things in a bill that you support and five things you don't, pork politics compels your vote according to your stake in the political smorgasbord.
A prime example is the vote held recently in Congress on the measure to set a strict timetable for pulling troops out of Iraq. The House of Representatives voted 218-212 in favor of the Democrat-led legislation. I voted against the proposal, because I believe that a publicly-declared timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq will hurt our troops and damage national security.
How disheartening that Speaker Pelosi and her House lieutenants included in the bill the worst, rawest form of political bribery - spending on the parochial pet projects of wavering Members of Congress. By including everything from funding for Gulf Coast levees and shrimp subsidies to peanut storage money and a spinach program, Speaker Pelosi bought the votes of reluctant Congressmen - some who want an immediate pullout and some who don't really support a timeline at all.
Mrs. Pelosi's bill even included badly needed money for rural Northwestern schools, counties and highway districts. For Idaho alone, the bill provided more than $23 million for schools and counties - an extension of the "Craig-Wyden" funds. This item was included specifically so my Pacific Northwest colleagues and I would have to choose between a vote for the Democrat troop pull-out plan or a difficult vote against schools and roads.
If House Democrat leadership truly agrees with me that relief is needed for our rural schools and counties, they should be willing to permit a straight up-or-down vote. I have introduced legislation in the House to accomplish this, and Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo have introduced identical legislation on the Senate.