Political Hay

They Haven’t Changed

Given a chance to demonstrate fiscal responsibility, House Republicans failed miserably. Way to motivate the base to bother to vote this fall, guys.

By 7.31.06

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Over the 4th of July weekend I met a gent who had worked for the GOP on Capitol Hill. He was frustrated with the GOP for many reasons, most notably its sellout on spending. He had left Capitol Hill and was heading to California to join the Highway Patrol. As I recall, he was seriously thinking about sitting out this Fall's election. I wouldn't be surprised if his sentiment is running high among the Republican base right now. It isn't hard to see why.

From doing next-to-nothing on judges, to letting free-market based health care reforms languish, to going wobbly on the death tax, to passing a bad Voting Rights Act, what does the base really have to cheer about lately? When it comes to the election, the right is reduced to hoping that the Democrats' incompetence will help it win by default.

Surely adding to Mr. Future-Highway-Patrolman's urge to sit home and eat Cheetos on this November 7th is the House Republicans' recent performance on dealing with pork. The Club for Growth has compiled 19 anti-pork amendments brought to the floor of the House by Congressman Jeff Flake between late May and late June of this year. It included votes to remove all-important spending initiatives like $1 million for the Mystic Aquarium in New Haven, CT., $180,000 for hydroponic water tomato production in Ohio, and $1 million for the Juniata Locomotive Demonstration. My favorite was $229,000 for dairy education in Iowa. (Having lived in Iowa for nine years, I offer this hint for those who want to learn about dairies: Find a farm with a cow.) I suppose that last one counts as improvement since it's not $50 million for an indoor rainforest.

Here are the results: 111 GOP members -- almost half -- voted against all of the anti-pork amendments. That included Jerry Lewis, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and fearless leaders Majority Leader John Boehner and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. Over three-quarters of the members voted for less than half of the amendments, while only 19 voted for all of them. Indeed, just under twenty percent of GOP members voted for 13 or more of the amendments. (For a list of those taxpayer heroes, go here.) No amendment received more than 92 votes in favor, meaning that no single anti-pork amendment received even half of the votes of the GOP.

That, in a word, sucks.

One would think that in the wake of the Porkbusters project and the uproar over the Bridge to Nowhere that Republicans could do better than that. For the so-called party of fiscal responsibility, it's pathetic. Granted, the GOP began the process of forfeiting that mantra a few years ago. These votes show that they presently have little interest in regaining it.

Some other interesting results from the votes included the fact that Alaska's Don "Kiss My Ear" Young voted against all of the amendments (surprise!). There were some Democrat heroes who voted for all 19, including Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Melissa Bean of Illinois. Harold Ford, also a Democrat from Tennessee, voted for 13 of the amendments. Apparently running for a Senate seat in a red state can do wonders for focusing the mind on watching red ink. But not, it seems, running for governor. GOP Representative Ernest Istook, who is running for Governor of Oklahoma, voted for only six. And self-styled budget hawk Jim Nussle, running for Iowa Governor, voted in favor of zero.

I'm not a big fan of sitting out elections, although this year I find it mighty tempting. I prefer to vote for my choice and then keep the pressure on them in between elections. I still think a case can be made for that strategy. First, the Democrats won't do any better, and probably worse. Nancy Pelosi's votes against all 19 amendments give the lie to her recent claim that she'd "get rid of all" earmarks. Furthermore, one can argue that Flake's efforts show improvement. Would the House members have even considered his amendments last year, and if they had, would any of them have received even 92 votes? If these efforts continue, it may only be a matter of time before the GOP finally clamps down on spending.

Thus, I won't be sitting out this time. But I can hardly blame those who will be.

David Hogberg is a writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. He also hosts his own website, Hog Haven.

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David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.