Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bringing Sanity to the Senate

Fire of Liberty

If you're a long reader of this blog then you know that I've been saying that if the Republicans in Congress are serious about ending the bleeding at the polls and holding onto their current seats in effort to regain the majority in the future, then they've got to get serious about issues that concern the American people, most importantly holding down excessive(silly in some instances) spending. One shining gem who seems to be living up to his word and reputation as a budget hawk, who is concerned about the financial burdens being placed on future generations of Americans, is Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Now while the media will surely paint Senator Coburn as an obstructionist and most assuredly the Democrats are salivating about drawing up commercials using the Senate failing to enact cloture on Senator Reid's "Tomnibus" bill (Which combined some 50 plus bills together without going through their proper committees) to hurt the Republicans this fall, I believe that Senator Coburn has a lot of Americans cheering for this principled Oklahoman sticking to guns and keeping the Republicans together in defending the pocketbooks of their fellow Americans. I have to say that Jacob Sullum, syndicated columnist and senior editor at Reason, seems to sum up Senator Coburn current efforts to hold down such excessive spending in his most recent column when he noted the following:

It's not hard to see why Reid wants to avoid that. Although he dubbed his spending package the Advancing America's Priorities Act, the one thing it emphatically does not do is set priorities.

Is postpartum depression a bad thing? Sure it is. Then let's pass a law that "aims to eradicate the devastating effects of postpartum depression on American families." And let's call it the MOTHERS Act, even though MOTHERS is not, strictly speaking, the correct acronym for Mom's Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression.

Are flowers nice? Of course they are. So let's pay for a new greenhouse at the Smithsonian to house its orchid collection.

Are museums edifying? You bet. So let's sponsor a traveling exhibit commemorating the War of 1812 and "The Star Spangled Banner." While we're at it, let's make a donation to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Speaking of edification and other countries, why not create a foundation to encourage study abroad?

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Reid's wish list will cost about $10 billion over five years, at a time when the federal budget deficit has ballooned to a record $490 billion. Yet Reid marvels that "the rogue far right...has perfected the art of stopping good bills that help good people." Good bills that help good people: Could there possibly be a better governing philosophy?

I myself am partial to the notion, promoted by such rogue right-wingers as James Madison, that the federal government may exercise only those powers explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, which do not include subsidizing medical research, museums, or foreign travel for college students. As Madison pointed out, if Article I's General Welfare Clause is interpreted as blanket permission to spend money on good things, much of the rest of the Constitution is superfluous.

Coburn, known as the Dr. No of the Senate, does not go that far. Unlike Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the Dr. No of the House, Coburn generally does not oppose spending on constitutional grounds. But he does ask his colleagues to pay for new programs by cutting old ones instead of spending money they do not have. In a letter to Reid, he identified $45 billion in cuts that could be used to offset the cost of Advancing America's Priorities.

Now while folks might not be tuned into C-SPAN 2 as much as political junkies do, one hopes their paper carries Sullum's column. Even without Sullum's piece, I believe the Americans would be thankful of Senator Coburn and his fellow Republicans in the Senate to continue to stick to their guns and the rules of the Senate and allow this body of 100 to properly debate these bills and add amendments. It's time these Senators get back to principled politicians like the Founders, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and various others who were looking out for the American people's purse strings. So carry on Senator Coburn, the folks in heartland are cheering for your success.

*Here's a good piece by David Keane, chairman of the American Conservative Union, in the Hill on Senator Coburn and his principled stands.

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