Fighting the Really Big, Really Good Fight

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Apr 27, 2006 8:06 AM

Scroll down for live-blogging of the debate.

Sen. Coburn, God bless him, is on the warpath about earmarks, offering 19 amendments on the floor today in an effort to save $2.6 billion in taxpayer money.

N.Z. Bear is keeping track of the votes on all these amendments, here.

From Coburn's office:

Dr. Coburn exercised a rarely-used floor procedure this afternoon called the "clay pigeon" strategy. This strategy has been used only once before in Senate history. In short, a Senator tosses out one amendment that gets broken down or divided into many pieces.

Dr. Coburn used this strategy to help ensure that the American people could hear a full and open debate about a few of the items in the bill that may not be true emergencies related to either the War on Terror or hurricane recovery effort. Among the 100 plus questionable items in the bill, Dr. Coburn's clay pigeon amendment only targeted 19 items, which should allow the Senate to complete consideration of these items within a few days.

The questionable projects he's targeting are all attached to an emergency supplemental, meant to fund the war in Iraq and Katrina recovery. Among the emergencies Senators have found in their states:

  • Seafood promotion strategies

  • Driver's license facility in Macon, GA

  • Sacramento Riverbank Protection project in CA
  • Many will make the argument that some of these projects can be justified and truly will help with Katrina recovery. If so, no one should be afraid of defending them, and the taxpayers have a right to hear someone do it.

    As a result of these oinky shenanigans, Bush threatened to veto the bill (and in the distance, there was the faint cry, "Wolf! Wolf!") if the pork's not cut and 35 senators vowed to uphold the veto should he go through with it.

    Yesterday, the Senate voted down Coburn's amendment to kill funding for the Railroad to Nowhere-- a $700 million project meant to move an already functional section of CSX rail line farther away from the Mississippi coast so that the section of land it now occupies can become a beach resort/casino area.

    The good news is, the amendment only lost by one vote, 49-48. Most of the Republican presidential aspirants voted the pork-busting way on this, except for Frist.

    This is the project that got Trent Lott so vocally annoyed with the Porkbusters.

    It's a big day, folks. Glenn Reynolds says, "I think a GOP disaster is now officially looming."

    The Club for Growth recommends picking up the phone today.

    Who was it that said one of the keys to '06 success was, "control the spending?" I think now would be a good time to do just that.

    The Heritage Policy Blog is also following this closely today.

    UPDATE 3:55 p.m.: The debate on the Coburn amendments has begun.

    Coburn opens with an explanation of what "emergency" means. Only in the U.S. Senate...

    The first amendment deals with $15 million in the emergency supplemental for seafood inudstry promotion strategies. Here are the Coburn quotes I grabbed:

    "Seafood comdumption in this country is at an all-time high."

    "They (milk, beef, poultry industries) each pay individually to have a promotional package."

    He explains that what's going to happen is that the Congress will give $15 million to a private seafood promotion group that already exists, with very little oversight.

    "That may be something that we should do, but that's certainly not an emergency."

    "Why should we be subsidizing for one industry what we don't subsidize for any other industry?"

    "There's nothing in the bill to tell them what to do with it... They have no plans for how to spend it."

    Inhofe:

    "This is supposed to be an emergency supplemental."

    "We already have enough signatures on a letter saying we will sustain that veto, so we're gonna do this."

    "We should not be in a position where we're having to do this."

    Coburn:

    "We're at an all-time high in the consumption of seafood."

    "Should we do it for the beef producers? Should we do it for the chicken farmers?"

    Arrghh, don't give them any ideas! I can just see the rest of the senators bobbing their heads, clinking their Guinesses-- "Brilliant!"

    "I would contend that this is not something we should be doing...I wanna help them, but this is not the way to do it."

    UPDATE 4:04 p.m.:

    Now, looky here. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Lott now have to defend and justify the pork spending. Imagine that. Gee, maybe this is always how we should do things when dealing with $15 million dollar chunks of the public's money instead of sneaking the money in without ever telling anyone you're spending it and why.

    McCain:

    "This money isn't just for the coast...The Alaska Fisheries Marketing board expects to receive money from this appropriations bill... We've moved a long way from emergency supplemental."

    He points out the Flying Salmon pork travesty, which came from a similar bill.

    "Americans, eat seafood. It's good for you! There we go. The marketing plan is complete. C-SPAN has millions of viewers."

    "...strike the fishiest-smelling pork in this bill."

    "It's very clear that what we have here is a broken process. Any defense money that we're taking up should have been a part of the normal budgetary process...It bypasses the authorization process...We bring it to the floor and it's filled with items such as this ridiculous (seafood marketing plan)...and it grows, and grows, and grows."

    He cites the NBC/WSJ poll. Thank goodness. Maybe his Republican colleagues will listen. Perhaps they missed that news today.

    "When are we gonna respond to the American people? Everywhere I go, my constituents tell me they're sick of this."

    "Immigration reform ranks behind earmark reform."

    "Mr. President, we are at an all-time low in the favorability of the American people. This is a very small but compelling example (of what we're doing wrong)...If we vote to keep this funding in, we are sending the message to the American people that it is business as usual."

    UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: They're voting now on tabling the amendment. Coburn tried to make a few more comments before the vote, but Thad Cochran got an attitude with him and I was all, "fight, fight," but nothing happened. 'Cause you know Coburn would be all, droppin' 'bows and "the doctor is most certainly in." What, y'all don't think he would?

    UPDATE 4:51 p.m.: Motion to table the amendment fails, 51-44.

    The vote details should be up, here, shortly, so we can all see at whom we must yell before next time.

    And, the pork scoreboard is tied, Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 1 (or, that's how Andy put it). Nice win for the Porkbusters! Frankly, I'm kinda stunned. Apparently enough of those guys saw the poll today. I didn't think they had it in 'em.

    UPDATE 5:52p.m.: They're on to other amendments for now, but they may get to other Coburn ones tonight. I'll keep my eyes open and if I catch any of it, I'll be blogging.

    UPDATE 12:29a.m.: Here are the details on the vote.

    A NAY vote is what we were looking for, so congratulate the ones who did well. They need all the help they can get to keep this up.