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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Senate OKs Coburn Measure to Shine Light on Pork; Now House, Bush Approvals Needed to Become Law


Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, was successful yesterday in securing Senate passage of an amendment that he believes "will lift the veil of secrecy that conceals the process of inserting special projects - or pork - into appropriations bills."

The Coburn amendment was successfully attached to the Agriculture Appropriations bill and was approved by the Senate on a 55-39 vote. The measure must be approved by the House and signed by President Bush in order for it to become law.

"At a time when our nation is at war, recovering from a terrible natural disaster, and facing rising budget deficits, business as usual in Congress simply cannot continue ... Taxpayers and members of Congress deserve to know what programs are being funded in appropriations bills," Coburn said in a statement following the vote.

The Coburn amendment requires that any limitation, directive, or earmarking be included in the bill's conference report. Previous Senate procedures allowed the Senate to automatically approve earmarks or special projects included in the House version of an appropriations bill.

Consequently, many earmarks that became law did not even come up for a vote in the Senate. This process was used to essentially hide millions of dollars of pork spending from public view.

"It is imperative that the House of Representatives also accept this amendment in order for it to become law. The American people should urge the House to follow the Senate's example and take this important step toward honest and responsible budgeting," Coburn said.

UPDATE:

The Katrina and Rita recovery spending could easily become the biggest government spending boondoggle in American history. But Bush can prevent that by applying the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in advance to all such spending measures. Check out my Knight-Ridder-Tribune FOI Series column on how Bush can do it here.

UPDATE II:

A recent Congressional Research Service report inspires California Conservative's interesting take on the political manipulation of the tax code in Congress that is being inspired by hurricane relief:

"As we illustrated earlier, of course tax breaks benefit 'wealthier taxpayers' more than low income people who “pay little” or no taxes. Thus, it’s true, they’re also less likely to save and invest (in the economy) towards accumulating personal retirement assets. But should wealthier families and individuals be held responsible for this? Christian charity is one thing. Government redistribution is another."

UPDATE III:

Mark in Mexico has the Senate Roll Call on Coburn's amendment. See how your state's senators voted. If they voted right, commend them. If they voted wrong, tell them you will remember that at the next election.

UPDATE: IV:

Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and five other conservative GOPers today announced a package of savings options to help pay for hurricane recovery efforts, including delaying the prescription drug benefit and rescinding $24 billion worth of pork in the recently approved transporation bill.

They also claim holding spending to 3.4 percent annually - the rate during the last five years of the Clinton administration - would save $381 billion over five years. Under Bush, the annual spending increase has average nearly 8 percent.