Last night I read a piece on Real Clear Politics, which this morning I see over at Wapo also, telling how the Democrats from both houses huddled together behind closed doors to wheel and deal to try to hold our Veterans funding hostage to their pork filled appropriations bill filled with $1 billion in earmarks, by lumping them together, hoping this would force the president not to veto.
GOP Senators fixed the Democrats little red wagons, when they successfully split the Veterans funding bill from the Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS)bill, and Harry Reid had a temper tantrum when his failed ploy didn't work.
Better yet, the GOP used a new rule pressed by the Democrats this year to split the two bills without killing the whole bill.
Can we all say, hoisted by your own petard here?
The Veterans bill had already been approved by Congress, 409 to 2, on June 15, and a similar measure got Senate approval, 92 to 1, on Sept. 6 -- measures Bush would sign. But Democrats held off final passage so they could meld it with Labor-HHS, which they did in last week's Senate-House conference report.
At the same time, the pork content of Labor-HHS grew. Citizens Against Government Waste found 2,274 earmarks in the bill worth $1 billion. They include $1.5 million for the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute and $2.2 million for the AFL-CIO Appalachian Council. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, North Dakota's two professed budget balancers, got $1 million for Bismarck State College. Sen. Arlen Specter, the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittee's ranking Republican, procured $882,025 for "abstinence education" in his home state of Pennsylvania.
The conference report's "compromise" Labor-HHS bill at $151 billion was actually more expensive than either the House or Senate version. It contains a $1 million earmark for a Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy at South Dakota State University to honor the former Senate majority leader who was defeated for re-election in 2004. Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Robert Byrd and Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Daschle Center was one of nine earmarks "airdropped" into the final version by the Senate-House conference without being passed by either the Senate or House. Silently removed from the bill by the conference report was the prohibition, passed by the Senate in a rare defeat for earmarkers, against spending $1 million for the Woodstock "hippies" museum in Bethel, N.Y.
In the past, if a point of order against an appropriations bill was affirmed, the whole bill would die. But a new rule pressed by Democrats this year made it possible to split veterans spending away from Labor-HHS without killing the bill. All 46 Republican senators present voted to sustain the point of order, so that the Senate fell 13 votes short of the 60 votes needed to keep the two bills together.
Enter Harry Reid's temper tantrum.
Consequently, the Senate last Tuesday again had to pass the bloated Labor-HHS bill. It did, but by a 56 to 37 margin, short of a veto-proof majority, as 19 Republican senators changed their affirmative vote from the last time they considered this bill. In an extraordinary outburst against the 19 switchers, Majority Leader Reid called them "sheep and chickens" who had "chosen to defend a failed president." In truth, he had just lost an audacious ploy.
For year politicians have played games such as these, so the game itself is nothing new, but to hold our Veterans funding bill, a bill that has been approved by both the senate and congress already and that the President is prepared to sign, hostage to their pork fantasies, is simply despicable.
I hope no one wonders why we questions their patriotism anymore.
That should be obvious, with stunts like this latest one, they prove without a doubt they have none.