In reference to yesterday's post "Compromise Gone Mad", and with a tip of the hat to Brian over at GOP3.com, there's an interesting development regarding the Coburn Amendment. In case you aren't sure what that is, S.Amdt 2165 to H.R. 3058 (the Transportation Bill) is simply an attempt to kill the "Bridge to Nowhere" project. This project would spend $453 million on the construction of two bridges in remote regions of Alaska.
One bridge, $223 million price tag, would connect Gravina Island (pop. 50 and an airport) to the bustling metropolis of Ketchikan (pop. 7423 as of 7/04). The other, estimated $1.5 billion price tag but only $230 million allotted in the bill, has been dubbed "Don Young's Way" in honor of the King of Pork himself, Don Young (R-AK), who uses his comfy position as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to "bring home as many federal dollars as possible for his home state," according to the Weekly Standard.
Back to the story at hand. At 6:03 PM on Thursday afternoon, the United States Senate voted 82-15 (3 not voting) AGAINST the Coburn Amendment. Of the 15 "YEA" votes, eleven were Republicans and four Democrats according to the roll call. The four included two presidential hopefuls, Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Evan Bayh (D-IN). As one would hope, both Louisiana senators (1 D, 1 R) voted for the amendment which would greatly benefit the rebuilding of the cripple I-10 bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans.
However, the big story is that 44 Republicans, the party of fiscal conservatism, voted "NAY"! Dutch must be turning in his grave at the thought of 80% of his own party voting against their principles. Nevertheless, what's done is done and it's time to move on to new business. With that we move to Senator Ted Stevens's response to the Coburn Amendment: a measure that would have prevented any bridge funded under the federal highway bill's formula from being built until money was found to build the I-10 bridge.
Now we'd expect this to be popular, I mean everyone is complaining that nobody rushed to help the poor hurricane victims so you'd think it would be obvious that the Senate would jump on the opportunity to help now. ANGH! WRONG! Instead, the Senate voted down the S.Amdt 2181 61-33. According to the roll call for this vote, no real surpirse that 30 of the 33 were Republicans and apart from Senator Conrad (D-ND) the other three Democrats voting for the Coburn Amendment stuck to their guns.
It's a sad thing that not only 39 of 45 Democrats voted against (3 not voting) the more reasonable of the proposals, but also that 22 of 55 Republicans voted against it. This really plays bad for both sides, but as a conservative Republican, I am ashamed to see my party shying away from the principles that made Reagan such a great leader. President Reagan understood the importance of fiscal responsibility in maintaining government efficiency when he said two minutes into his first Congressional Address in 1981, "Can we, who man the ship of state, deny it is somewhat out of control?"
As the old adage goes, we can only fix our mistakes when we acknowledge that something is wrong. Reagan understood this, but apparently very few leaders understand this today, and it's a troubling thing. We, as taxpayers, can only hope and pray that our leaders rediscover their fiscal responsibility before spending reaches the breaking point.