Senate Republicans are attempting to hold the feet of Harry Reid and his crew to the fire on meaningful reform to curtail earmarks (special provisions inserted into legislation to direct money to a member’s pet project). They did so last week by forcing Reid to give up his resistance to the very earmark disclosure legislation Nancy Pelosi had guided through the House. And this week, they tried to give the executive branch a role in limiting earmarks by enabling the president to send back to Congress for another vote those spending items that he finds objectionable.
As always, though, Republicans face not only the opposition of Democrats, but of the liberal MSM as well. Consider this piece in the Washington Post. The byline belongs to Jonathan Weisman, but the story might as well have been written by Harry Reid’s staff. The bias and deception starts with the title: “Republicans Halt Ethics Legislation — Senators Sought Virtual Line-Item Veto.” Democratic talking points also dominate the first paragraph, which states:
Senate Republicans scuttled broad legislation last night to curtail lobbyists’ influence and tighten congressional ethics rules, refusing to let the bill pass without a vote on an unrelated measure that would give President Bush virtual line-item veto-power.
What’s wrong with this report? First, by calling the amendment “unrelated,” the Post refuses to acknowledge the link between the Republican proposal and reform. Allowing the president to rescind spending bills is a weapon in the battle against earmarks — a battle that should be a core component of ethics reform (more so, I would argue, than limiting corporate sponsored parties at political conventions, as the pending ethics legislations does). By identifying spending items that he considers pork, the president holds them up to scrutiny. Congress may nonetheless decide vote for the appropriations, but it must do so under a spotlight; it will lose the ability to sneak them through. And members who understand that the appropriations in question constitute pork but felt pressure to vote for them in the first instance will have more cover should they decide to vote against them the second time around.
If the Senate Democrats were serious about attacking earmarks, they would at least consider this legislation. But, as they proved last week, they are not serious about earmark reform.
Given the reformist purpose of the Republican amendment, it was unfair of the Post, in effect, to denounce Republicans for “scuttling” the effort of the Democrats to “break from the scandals” of the past. To attempt to amend reformist legislation by adding an additional reform provision is not to “scuttle.” One can argue that the amendment is unwise or that, though meritorious, it makes “the perfect the enemy of the good.” But Democrats should have to make that argument, and the Senate should then vote. If the amendment is defeated, the bill isn’t scuttled, only the amendment is. If the amendment passes, the bill presumably is improved. In any case, the Post should not be running interference for the Dems by pretending that the other side has no arguments.
The Post also dispays its bias by characterizing the amendment as another attempt “to give Bush power to strike individual items from spending bills. . .” The legislation, of course, gives the power to the executive, not to Bush personally. But for partisan Democrats, it’s always about Bush.