John Stossel

Their arrogance is stunning.

Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alas.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) are the acknowledged kings of pork-barrel spending. They bring billons of taxpayer dollars to their states to ensure their hold on power. But apparently, that's not enough. They also want to make certain that you and I don't see what they get away with. So secretly they tried to keep us in the dark.

Fiscal hawks in the Senate, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), are sponsoring a bill to create a database that would keep track of government spending. You could search that database from your home and find out who got all that special-interest taxpayer largess.

That seems like useful information for citizens who would like to keep their eyes on their spend-happy representatives.

But what's good for the taxpayers is not necessarily good for the politicians who ladle out our money, or the feeders at the government trough who get all those contracts and grants. The power brokers would rather the people not look over their shoulders.

The bill to create the database has sponsors from both parties, including Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid. It has support from 100 conservative and liberal government-watchdog organizations. It was approved unanimously by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The measure was headed for a vote in the full Senate when suddenly it was derailed by unidentified senators. The Senate, it turns out, has a rule that lets any member delay a bill -- without revealing his identity. It's called the "secret hold."

This mystery led to several days of speculation, but finally, Sen. Stevens came forward. The next day Sen. Byrd did, too.

Byrd has since lifted his hold, but Stevens hasn't. Byrd said he wanted time to read the bill and try to improve it. Stevens, who is a member of the committee that held hearings but didn't speak up at the time, now says he wants a cost-benefit analysis done before he makes up his mind. Sounds fishy to me. I think these guys just don't want us to see how they spend our money.

When the Democrats held power, I confronted Sen. Byrd about his "Honorable" Robert Byrd Highway-type projects in West Virginia. His answer was as arrogant as he was: "I would think that the national media could rise above the temptation of being clever, decrepitarian critics who twaddlize, just as what you're doing right here."

"Twaddlize?" I asked.

"Trivializing serious matters," he explained.

I persisted, "Is there no limit? Are you not at all embarrassed about how much you got?"

Byrd glared at me, "Are you embarrassed when you think you're working for the good of the country?!"

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate