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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Senate Approves Spending Revenue Government Hasn't Received

Imagine if you could get money from your bank based on your belief that your boss is going to give you a big fat raise two years from now. That's just about exactly what a narrow majority of the U.S. Senate voted to do last week.

The vote came on an amendment offered by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, to authorize congressional appropriators to tap up to $500 million in revenues that may be collected by the federal government if drilling is allowed in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

Read that sentence again - Domenici asked the Senate to approve letting members of the Senate Appropriations Committee spend tax dollars today the government may receive at some time in the future.

It's not even clear that any of the tax dollars Domenici wanted to give the appropriators will ever actually be collected by the government because ANWR proposals have failed repeatedly in recent years, despite the fact both chambers of Congress and the White House are under Republican c control.

Here's how a Senate staffer who requested anonymity described the event:

"Every person in Leadership (Frist, McConnell, Santorum, Hutchison and Kyl) and every member of the Budget Committee except for Ensign voted for Domenici’s amendment to allow the appropriators to tap the ANWR revenue by $500M for the Approps committee ... Another interesting aspect of this is that ANWR revenue will not come into the Treasury for the first several years but Domenici will spend $150M this year. A true example of mortgaging the future."

The staffer noted some buyers remorse among aides to senators who supported the Domenici amendment:

"In speaking with other staff of Budget Committee members, they did not understand the amendment and when I explained it to them today. They now wish their bosses had voted against it. It passed 51-49. One vote would have saved One Half a Billion Dollars."

Yet more proof that there likely can never be too much transparency about what our elected politicians are doing in the nation's capital.

That is why the best investment possible by public advocacy groups on the Right and Left like the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste and OMB Watch is to hire bloggers to live-blog Congress every minute it is session.