By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Yesterday, the House approved an omnibus spending package—nine different spending measures bundled together for a total of $410 billion—and the Senate is expected to vote on it today. Democrats are hoping to get it to the White House for the president's signature by Friday, because otherwise the government won't have enough money to make it to the end of its fiscal year.
This bill is quickly becoming a credibility problem for the Democrats. A big one.
Politico reports that the 1,132-page behemoth contains over 9,000 earmarks covering more than a dozen cabinet agencies. But because it was first negotiated last fall by the House and Senate (under far different economic circumstances, I'd point out), the Obama administration has called it "unfinished business"—just a little $400 billion sideshow we should all ignore. A top White House aide said that Obama would change the "rules" for future spending bills, but only after this bill clears the Senate. We thought the administration believed in cutting back on congressional earmarks, but as Peggy Noonan would say, it's time to suspend our belief.
After the bill went to the Senate floor on Monday, Senator McCain hit the roof and quoted Candidate Obama's words from a debate last fall: "We need earmark reform and when I'm president, I will go line by line to make sure we're not spending money unwisely." McCain then added, "That's the quote, the promise the president of the United States made to the American people in a debate with me in Oxford, Mississippi. So what is brought to the floor today—9,000 earmarks.... So much for change."
Senator McCain, after not knowing how to send an E-mail last fall, is angry enough that he actually learned how to Twitter, and sent a "twizzard" of tweets about the wasteful spending to supporters, quoted by Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times. (My favorite: $200,000 for tattoo removal for former gang members. "Really?" asked McCain.)
It's one thing for Senator McCain to vote no, it's another for Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh to call for the Senate to reject the bill, or failing that, for the president to veto it, in this morning's Wall Street Journal. Now that's news:
The omnibus debate is not merely a battle over last year's unfinished business, but the first indication of how we will shape our fiscal future. Spending should be held in check before taxes are raised, even on the wealthy. Most people are willing to do their duty by paying taxes, but they want to know that their money is going toward important priorities and won't be wasted.
Last week I was pleased to attend the president's White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit. It's about time we had a leader committed to addressing the deficit, and Mr. Obama deserves great credit for doing so. But what ultimately matters are not meetings or words, but actions. Those who vote for the omnibus this week—after standing with the president and pledging to slice our deficit in half last week—jeopardize their credibility.
...The bloated omnibus requires sacrifice from no one, least of all the government. It only exacerbates the problem and hastens the day of reckoning. Voters rightly demanded change in November's election, but this approach to spending represents business as usual in Washington, not the voters' mandate.
Senator Bayh is right. You can't stand up for fiscal responsibility one week and vote for this bill the next week. And you can't order a "crackdown" on government waste this morning—as Reuters is reporting the president will do today—and sign this big pork-barrel of a bill into law tomorrow morning. Actions speak louder than words.
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