House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, acting last week behind closed doors, cobbled together a temporary spending bill to keep the federal government running past Oct. 1st. The continuing resolution was needed because Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid simply have not done their jobs.
The 2008 budget year ended yesterday, but Congress hasn't approved a single one of a dozen annual appropriations bills needed to keep the federal government functioning on a day-to-day basis. Hence the $630 billion stop-gap measure, nearly the size of the failed Wall Street bailout. It passed the House on a 370-68 vote even though, as Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., candidly admitted, "very few people have any idea what's in it." Cornered House members had less than 24 hours to review the 357-page bill and 752 pages of accompanying material before being forced to either pass it - or shut down most of the federal government today.
One thing the continuing resolution is full of is earmarks, none of which were debated or voted on in public. The House Budget Committee's final tally is 2,760 earmarks totaling $19.1 billion (including presidential requests). None were publicly vetted through the regular legislative process or even posted on the committee's web site prior to the vote. And, since this temporary spending bill expires in five months, the whole dysfunctional process will begin anew in March – unless there’s a major shakeup of Congress in November.
House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, D-WI, who helped Pelosi craft the earmark-stuffed bill, admitted that the Democratic leadership deliberately decided to "kick the can down the road" and wait for a new president who presumably won't veto future earmark-laden legislation. This may be a good partisan strategy to protect the special interest recipients of all that pork, but Pelosi & Co. were elected to protect the people who pay the bills.
Obey defended the Democrats' lack of transparency, saying "you're damn right it has [been secretive] because if it's done in public, it would never get done.” Ah, those pesky voters who expect to see what their representatives are doing! Obey thus abandoned any further pretense that he, Pelosi and their fellow Democrats meant it in 2006 when they promised to "drain the swamp" of political corruption. So in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Favor Factory is still working three shifts and earmarks are flying out the window as fast as ever, taxpayers be damned.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Posted by A. S. Haley at 8:26 AM