Republicans in Congress say they are serious about cutting spending, but they learned yesterday to keep their hands off the "Bridge to Nowhere."Glen Reynolds at Instapundit had this to say.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a staunch opponent of pork barrel spending, tried to block $453 million for two Alaska bridges that had been tucked into the recent highway bill. Coburn wanted to redirect the money to the Interstate 10 bridge across Lake Pontchartrain, a major thoroughfare that was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina.
Sen. Ted Stevens, the veteran Alaska Republican, was dramatic in his response. "I don't kid people," Stevens roared. "If the Senate decides to discriminate against our state . . . I will resign from this body."
Coburn's measure, offered as an amendment to the 2006 transportation appropriations bill, failed 82 to 15. The Senate also narrowly defeated spending an additional $3.1 billion on emergency heating-bill assistance for low-income people, a major priority for many Democrats, who said they would try to attach the increase to other bills this fall.
Although the Coburn amendment lost, it struck a chord among lawmakers as they face increasing belt-tightening pressure. Katrina and the war in Iraq have created billions in unexpected expenses, and Republicans as well Democrats would like to trim other programs to offset the cost. But yesterday's debate showed even an obscure budget item has its patrons.
If you needed any more proof that "pork" is about putting money in the hands of fatcat contributors, rather than helping constituents, this would seem to be it.