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Senator Tom Coburn Talks Porkbusting

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) joined bloggers Glenn Reynolds, Mark Tapscott, NZ Bear, Erick Erickson, Tim Chapman, and myself to to discuss spending, appropriations, and earmarks this afternoon in the wake of last weeks "Bridge To Nowhere" drama.

One of the key points discussed is how 'sunshine' is the enemy of pork barrel earmark spending. The process has been deliberately gamed by Congress to provide as little light on last minute changes, congressional earmarks, and other sundry spending tricks. As the "Bridge To Nowhere" episode showed, when pork filled projects attached onto large appropriation bills is spotlighted it becomes very uncomfortable for legislators to stand up and fight for boondoggles.

One of the the suggestions from the bloggers (Mark Tapscott) was that the Senator use the "porkbuster" term. It was noted that the word "earmark," while technically accurate, didn't have the same resonance. He agreed to use the term.

I asked the Senator about plans for reworking the Line Item Veto Act (invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1996) so that it would pass constitutional muster. He mentioned that he was working with former Congressman Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) on getting selective rescission back on the legislative agenda.

It was a new concept to me - one the Senator quickly explained - and a little research dug up the transcripts from a 1999 House Committee on Rules, Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, hearing that addressed legislative options to enact a rescission process that would meet the constitutionality issues laid out in the Clinton v. New York City (Line Item Veto) case. The Congressional Research Service's Louis Fisher highlights all of the major alternatives - all of which are still viable options 6 years later.

Sen. Coburn plans on maintaining contact with the group, and we'll bring you updates individually and collectively...


Other Attendee Reports

  • Tim Chapman notes this from the Senator, "What we need is a lot of pressure on Senators out there. The battle for pork is a good battle. It is immoral when we have $600 billion we added to the debt this last year...when your running a deficit it is just flat immoral."
  • Glenn Reynolds notes his impression of the call, "(1) the White House is beginning to feel the heat; and (2) this will be going on over the next year. It's a war of attrition, not a quick-hit."
  • Mark Tapscott notes, "It was very clear virtually from the outset of the conversation that Coburn is absolutely serious about continuing and expanding this effort, which he began in the Senate last week with a blizzard of amendments transferring funds from well-known pork barrel projects like "the Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska to paying for Hurricane Katrina recovery and reconstruction.
  • John Hawkins's impression of the message from Coburn is that those in the Senate who want to cut spending need the blogosphere's help to make it happen.
  • John Hawkins's impression of the message from Coburn is that those in the Senate who want to cut spending need the blogosphere's help to make it happen.
  • Erick Erickson reminds us that the Senator is a RedState fav, so much so they've affectionately nicknamed him Sentator Trainwreck.


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Comments (6)

I think that the federal bu... (Below threshold)

I think that the federal budget is so far out of control, and has been for at least the last 15 years, that all this focus on pork is not going to make much of a difference. So long as the budget is designed to grow at X% a year, it will grow at least X% a year. The current services benchmark practice of budgeting has to be confronted before any meaningful reduction will occur, IMHO.

What is going to be real in... (Below threshold)

What is going to be real interesting is how far Tom is going to get within his own state. He has just announced that Oklahoma should renounce a couple of its own highway projects to set an example to the rest of the country.

The Cross-town (I-40) reroute is a pet project of Ernest Istook, the wonderful representative from Utah (oops) Oklahoma, who managed to kill a light-rail initiative for the OKC metro.

A lot of folks blew off Coburn as some kind of nut when he was running. It looks like it's true, but it's the right kind of nuttiness.

The problem is that this ma... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

The problem is that this may backfire on some.

People are going to realize how much pork gets tossed around. Many might like the idea of a Congressman or Senator helping to bring money into the state.

After people get numb to the initial shame of being caught for pork, it might actually become a source of pride or selling point in a campaign for many Congressmen & Senators.

What ever happened to line ... (Below threshold)
JAT:

What ever happened to line item vetos?

The Line Item Veto was stru... (Below threshold)

The Line Item Veto was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1996.

Well good for Sen. Coburn,... (Below threshold)

Well good for Sen. Coburn, but remember, former Congressman Hastings Keith has been fighting to reform the Congressional pension scam since he retired in the 1970's, and he hasn't made ANY progress. And THAT "system" is the most outrageous example of pork you can think of. It benefits ONLY members of Congress. The PORKBUSTER thing appeals to the public in the same way as the "throw the bums out" mantra -- everyone thinks "pork" is what gets spent in SOMEONE ELSE'S district or state. The "project" that is earmarked for their hometown is not pork. No member of Congress imperils his future by bringing home federal money, even if it's for a damn brothel (well ok, maybe not, but the point is made).

This will be a lonely battle for Sen. Coburn. Ask Hasty.




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