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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Frist Uses His Blog to Express Anger over FFATA Hold; But Why Wait Till September to Take Action, Senator?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, is upset that one or more of his colleagues placed the anonymous hold on S. 2590, the Coburn-Obama Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act to put most federal spending on a searchable public Internet database.

Frist noted a post earlier this week by Andrew Stuttaford on National Review Online asking if the Senate Majority Leader was aware of the widespread anger in the Blogosphere about the anonymous hold and observed that he was very much in favor of Coburn-Obama:

"S. 2590 would create a single, easily searchable database capable of tracking approximately $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans. Pork thrives in Washington when it can hide from the bright light of public scrutiny - when it can be quickly slipped into massive appropriations bills with little transparency and no public debate. That's why the database proposed by this legislation would provide an invaluable tool for Americans frustrated with wasteful, unnecessary federal spending.

"Many in the blogosphere - left and right - have rallied to support this crucial legislation, which is fitting, for no group better knows the power of technologically empowered grassroots activism. And, for reasons of policy and politics, many bloggers are rightly outraged that S. 2590 was shot down when I attempted to bring it up for a vote prior to the August recess."

Frist then pledged that "as soon as the Senate returns in September, I will continue to fight to pass S. 2590 and other fiscal responsibility priorities."

That's fine, but here are two further questions for Frist:

First, Frist surely must know the identity of the senator or senators behind the anonymous hold. Why not call the holder or holders and tell them to withdraw it or the anonymity will end just as soon as the Majority Leader can get a post up on his blog exposing the senator or senators involved?

Second, why wait till September when Congress returns from its August recess? Here's a clear-cut opportunity to demonstrate leadership and make a concrete difference in advancing genuine, much-needed reform in Washington. What are you waiting for, Mr. Senate Majority Leader?

Go here for the full Frist post. Note that Stuttaford was reacting to this editorial in The Washington Examiner, which noted:

"Odds are slim that the real senator or senators behind the anonymous hold will ever come forward voluntarily, even though for years it has been customary in these arcane matters beyond the Senate cloakroom for the identity of such holders to be kept private only so long as necessary to force some sort of compromise on the legislation in question. Compromise is probably not the spirit behind the present anonymous hold."

But the Blogosphere - led by N.Z. Bear of Porkbusters.org - has made progress in identifying which senators are not behind the anonymous hold. Get the latest update here.

UPDATE: Unreasonable to Ask Frist to Move Now?

At least one commenter seems to think it is unreasonable to ask the Senate Majority Leader to move now on forcing the anonymous holder out into the open, rather than waiting till September.

It's my view that waiting till September is simply a way for Frist to appear to be aggressively in favor of the Coburn-Obama proposal while in fact not doing what is clearly within his perogative and ability to make passage of the bill possible.

Put another way, moving now rather than waiting is how Frist can demonstrate that he is not a typical Washington politician who uses procedural dodges to appear to be one thing while in fact functioning as another.

Politics as usual is the problem here, not the solution.

UPDATE II: Coburn Keeps Running Tab on Colleagues Earmarks

Human Events' Ivy Sellers was in Chicago this past weekend to hear Sen. Tom Coburn address the Americans for Limited Government Action Conference. Among much else, Sellers reports that Coburn disclosed that he keeps a running tab of how much each of his 99 Senate colleagues is spending via earmarks:

"The biggest spender in the Senate is Debbie Stabenow, D-MI. Coburn said that while she may look like a sweet, innocent grandmother, she sure doesn’t mind throwing her grandchildren's money - and future - down the drain.

How does he know? Coburn said he keeps a running total of each of his colleagues spending habits tucked away in his desk down near the Senate floor. That way when Sen. Dick Durbin , D-IL, tries to pass himself off as a fiscal conservative, he can ask him how that is possible when the record shows Durbin is the eighth highest spender in Congress."

You think Stabenow talks like a sweet old granny when she sees Coburn now?

UPDATE III: Human Events Tells Frist "We'll Hold you to that, Senator"

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may be wishing he never posted anything about Coburn-Obama because now he's got Human Events promising to hold him to his promise. HE's associate editor Rob Bluey explains on Capital Briefs blog:

"I tend to agree with Mark's critique. August may be a month devoted to senators' spending time on the campaign trail, but that doesn't mean Frist can take a break from the job.

"That being said, I'm glad Senator Frist chose to respond to Stuttaford's question. But he needs to realize that bloggers will hold him to his promise - just like we won't forget about his commitment to confirming John Bolton and conservative judges."

Go here for Rob's full post.