Clarity: It’s A Good Thing

Senator Tom Coburn’s effort to de-fund the Bridge to Nowhere, along with several other indefensible pork barrel projects, failed today by an 82-15 vote. Which is discouraging, of course, in that it shows how far both parties are from either fiscal sanity, or an appreciation of the proper role of the federal government.

On the other hand, it was a clarifying moment. The Associated Press says:

[I]n the tradition-bound Senate, Coburn was taking on an unwritten rule that one senator does not attack the projects sought by another.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I was aware of that rule. I guess I always assumed that both the Senate and the House made some pretense of trying to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely, for the benefit of the nation as a whole. So at least we now know where we stand.

This comment by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was also illuminating in its absurdity:

I’ve been here now almost 37 years. This is the first time I have seen any attempt of any senator to treat my state in a way different from any other state.

I don’t kid people. If the Senate decides … to take money from our state, I will resign from this body.

When Stevens talks about treating Alaska differently from any other state, he isn’t referring to the astonishing amount of federal money that is spent there. No, his definition of “treating differently” is subjecting his own pork requests to any rational scrutiny.

And when Stevens talks about “taking money from” Alaska, he means deciding not to spend $220 million to build a bridge for the benefit of 50 people. This statement, by a Republican Senator, is analogous to claims by liberals that when taxes are cut, the federal government is giving money to the rich.

So now we know: there are only fifteen members of the Senate who are unwilling to waste the taxpayers’ money on even the most frivolous of projects. Let’s see what we can do about the other 85.

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