Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

When sheep and chickens come home to roost

Last week Harry Reid tried a daring ploy in the Senate, only to fall flat on his face. I'd tell the tale if I weren't so busy laughing at it. So, I'll let Robert Novak recount the tale:

The ploy had been hatched behind closed doors by Democratic leaders of both houses. A pork-laden appropriations bill filled with $1 billion in earmarks would be combined with veto-proof spending for veterans. Instead, the two measures were decoupled in a party-line Senate vote last Tuesday.

The Democratic scheme to present President George W. Bush with a bill that he could not veto seemed a clever strategy, but it was based on presumption of Republican ignorance and cowardice. As late as last Monday, savvy GOP Senate staffers predicted that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's decoupling motion would fail. In fact, she did not lose a Republican senator as Democrats fell far short of the 60 votes needed to keep the two bills together.

During a confusing week on Capitol Hill, lawmakers engaged in games that were difficult for insiders to understand and incomprehensible to ordinary voters. As the first Congress controlled by Democrats since 1994 nears the end of its first year, the desire to bring home the bacon trumped concern over the falling dollar, the crisis in Pakistan and the continuing conflict in Iraq.

The reason not one of 13 appropriations bills had reached the president's desk was that Bush has threatened to veto at least 10 of them. Doubting their ability to override these vetoes, Democratic leaders conjured up combined packages that Bush would not dare veto. The earmark-heavy appropriations bill for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services would be joined with the defense bill, which funds Iraq, and with military construction, which contains money for veterans.

The defense component was quickly removed after protests by Rep. John Murtha, the influential chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. But plans for a Labor-HHS merger with the military construction legislation went forward. A stand-alone bill containing veterans money had passed the House, 409 to 2, on June 15, and a similar measure gained Senate approval, 92 to 1, on Sept. 6. These were measures Bush would sign. But Democrats held off final passage so they could meld it with the Labor-HHS measure, which they did in last week's Senate-House conference report.

At the same time, the pork content of Labor-HHS grew. Citizens Against Government Waste found 2,274 earmarks worth $1 billion in the bill. They include $1.5 million for the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute and $2.2 million for the AFL-CIO Appalachian Council. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, North Dakota's two professed budget balancers, got $1 million for Bismarck State College. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS subcommittee, procured $882,025 for "abstinence education" in his home state of Pennsylvania.

The conference report's "compromise" Labor-HHS bill, at $151 billion, was actually more expensive than either the House or Senate version. It contains a $1 million earmark for a Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy at South Dakota State University to honor the former Senate majority leader, who was defeated for reelection in 2004. Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Robert Byrd and Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Daschle Center funding was one of nine earmarks "airdropped" into the final version by the Senate-House conference without being passed by either the Senate or House. Silently removed from the bill by the conference report was the prohibition, passed by the Senate in a rare defeat for earmarkers, against spending $1 million for the Woodstock "hippies" museum in Bethel, N.Y.

In the past, if a point of order against an appropriations bill was affirmed, the whole bill would die. But a rule pressed by Democrats this year made it possible to split veterans spending away from Labor-HHS without killing the bill. All 46 Republican senators present voted to sustain the point of order, so the Senate fell 13 votes short of the 60 votes needed to keep the two bills together.

Consequently, the Senate had to pass the bloated Labor-HHS bill again last Tuesday. It did, but by a vote of 56 to 37, short of a veto-proof majority, as 19 Republican senators changed their affirmative vote from the last time they considered this bill. In an extraordinary outburst against the 19 switchers, Majority Leader Reid called them "sheep and chickens" who had "chosen to defend a failed president." In truth, he had just lost an audacious ploy.

This is what drives me nuts about the Democrats. When they don't get their way, they throw tantrums. Think about that, and Reid's response to losing the plot. It almost sounds like a child, who has been bested by another, calling those who bettered him "doody-heads" or some such crap. How in God's name can Democrats continue to support their own when they act like spoiled, rotten children. They've been acting this way since they regained power; as if we should bend down and kiss their feet. But that's not how DC works, and when you get out maneuvered you shouldn't act like a baby. OK, you didn't win today. Tomorrow's another day.

But the more these fools on the other side of the aisle keep acting like children, the more this nation gets turned off by it. They're already facing a monumental task next year in being able to hold onto Congress -- a fact that has a good majority of Democrat insiders concerned, given Congress's paltry approval ratings right now. If doddering old twerps like Harry Reid had any sense at all, he'd be trying to work with the other side. After all, is the old adage about catching more flies with honey than vinegar not true, especially in politics?

Publius II


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