Robert Bluey

But the Democrats’ shenanigans aren’t nearly as surprising as some Republican failures on the issue. Shortly after the White House vowed to veto the pork-filled agriculture supplemental spending bill last Thursday, three Republicans -- Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.), Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Denny Rehberg (Mont.) -- not only spoke in favor of the bill, they condemned President Bush for opposing it.

Some of the most egregious items in the bill, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Brian Riedl, are $3.5 billion in crop and livestock disaster assistance; $31 million to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract program for one month; $500 million for wildlife suppression; $425 million for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act; and $60 million in fisheries aid.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) even had the gall to stick the word “emergency” in the title of the bill.

Just last month, Obey surprised fiscal conservatives when he indicated he might keep earmarks out of this year’s regular appropriations bills -- a significant victory were it actually to happen. You’d think Republicans would jump for joy. But not Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia.

Embracing Murtha’s tactic of trading votes for pork, Kingston told the National Journal, “The problem is you need Republicans to pass the bill and Republicans need their pork-barrel projects the same way Democrats always did on [the] Labor-HHS [spending bill].”

It was this attitude that cost Republicans control of Congress by discouraging the conservative base and keeping them home on Election Day. But that’s not the way Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) sees it.

Cole is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the man responsible for recruiting candidates and raising money for House Republicans in 2008. Last week he told the Washington Post: “Oh, I don’t think the problem was spending. People who argue that we lost because we weren’t true to our base, that’s just wrong.”

Cole, who is recruiting moderates over tried-and-true conservatives, subsequently “clarified” his remarks. But why would he say such a thing in the first place?

Americans who voted for a different direction in Washington surely must be disappointed with the results so far. Democrats have failed to live up to their promises of more transparency. Ultimately, their appetite for pork may outstrip that of their Republican predecessors.

It’s no wonder Congress’s approval rating dropped to 35% last week. The American people want open, responsible government, not “same old, same old” politics and pork.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at