The 109th Republican Congress, in one of its last acts before adjournment, responded to the demands of voters to end the pork-barrel spending madness -- at least for now.
A pack of conservative Republican warriors, led by Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, blocked a giant, fat-filled omnibus spending bill that was stuffed with more than 10,000 waste-ridden, earmarked pork projects that would have cost $17 billion.
It was a stunning political turnaround that showed this all-too-often imperial, arrogant and out-of-control Congress belatedly got the message from voters that they were fed up with the squandering of their money on pork projects (known as "earmarks"), which have pushed budget deficits to record levels.
Heading into its final days, Congress had already passed the defense and homeland security appropriations bills, leaving nine spending bills unfinished and in limbo. That was expected to result in an omnibus, catchall spending package that has been used to hide tens of billions of dollars in wasteful pork, mysteriously tucked into its opaque provisions.
But DeMint, Coburn and Sessions blocked its passage, substituting a so-called continuing resolution that will keep most of the government's agencies operating at fiscal 2006 spending levels until Feb. 15, 2007.
Then came another stunning development in the continuing spending wars that dominate much of Congress's deliberations: Incoming House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairmen David Obey, D-Wis., and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., promised to pass a continuing resolution (CR) for the rest of fiscal 2007 (which ends next September) to keep spending levels where they are now. What this means is that the incoming 110th Congress, if Obey and Byrd succeed in their pledge, will not pass the remaining appropriations bills but will keep non-defense departments and agencies on a CR spending hold through the entire fiscal year.