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Monday, November 07, 2005

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Coburn to "Challenge Every Earmark," Including "Bridge to Nowhere," Again

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, told a conference call with Porkbusting think tankers, bloggers, legislative aides and non-profit activists from around the country today that he will "challenge every earmark" in Congress in his campaign "to change the culture" on Capitol Hill.

"The problem is we are on an unsustainable course and the politics of Washington have to be challenged," Coburn said. He plans to take another shot at eliminating Rep. Don Young's $220 million "bridge to nowhere" pork barrel project that helped focus public outrage over irresponsible spending in Congress.

Young is the Alaska Republican who bragged earlier this year that he "stuffed it like a turkey" when Congress passed and President Bush signed the $286 billion transportation appropriation bill. That bill contained more than 6,000 pork barrel projects, including the infamous proposal to build a bridge comparable in size to the Golden Gate in San Francisco from Ketchikan, Alaska, a city of about 9,000 residents, to an island with only about 50 residents.

"That will come up every time I get a chance," Coburn said of Young's bridge project. "If not later this year, then early next year."

The Senate decisively rejected Coburn's amendment last week to transfer funding for the bridge and other pork barrel projects to help pay for Hurricane Katrina recovery costs in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Coburn said Members of Congress will have to take sides on the issue: "You can't straddle this thing. Either you are with the Old Bulls or you are against them."

Coburn sounded undaunted by the Senate defeat during today's conference call, saying "I promise you this thing is going to be moving down the road, even if it's only me pushing it."

There are "three parties in Washington these days, the Democrats, the Republicans and the Appropriators, that's the culture we have to change," Coburn said, referring to Young and other powerful Members of congressional appropriations committees in the Senate and House who have encouraged the explosion of earmarking spending projects in the past four years.

Coburn said he has received 200-300 copies of letters from residents of other states to their senators encouraging them to support the Oklahoma Republican's efforts to eliminate pork barrel projects and other wasteful or unneeded spending from the federal budget.

Among the educational projects Coburn suggested would be helpful in properly focusing congressional attention on the spending issue was identifying Republicans who signed the Contract with America in 1994 but who have since supported the surge in federal spending and pork barrel projects during the Bush administration.

Several participants in the conference call volunteered to begin work on the Coburn suggestion regarding the Contract with America signers.

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.

Speaking of the Bridge to Nowhere, Parade Magazine's cover story yesterday is all about it. If you missed it or don't receive Parade in your Sunday newspapers, check out this post from Americans for Prosperity.