Friday, December 09, 2005

Mark Kennedy on elimination of wasteful spending -- Let George do it

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:35 AM |  

From Congressman Mark Kennedy’s office --

Kennedy Urges Support to Eliminate Wasteful Spending
Support the Line Item and Reduction Veto Amendment

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Mark Kennedy sent a Dear Colleague to Members of the House of Representatives today, to urge support for the Line Item and Reduction Veto Amendment that he introduced. Kennedy released the following statement:

"Increased spending has been a theme all too familiar with Congress in recent years. Take for instance, the rise in the number of appropriation earmarks from 958 in FY1996 to nearly 14,000 in FY2005. These earmarks have become a vehicle for wasteful spending and unnecessary federal pork projects.

"Particularly egregious examples of waste are easy to see: $2,000,000 to relocate a kitchen in Fairbanks, Alaska; $950,000 for the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia; and $150,000 for the Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program at the Lady B Ranch in California. With earmarks such as these becoming commonplace, it should not be surprising that projections for FY2006 spending will reach an all-time high of $23,638 per U.S. household, of which $3,800 will be borrowed.

"While there are priority programs and projects that should receive strong consideration, clearly this excessive rate of increased spending cannot be sustained. That's why I have introduced H.J. Res. 63, the Line Item and Reduction Veto Amendment. This Constitutional Amendment would provide the president with a proven mechanism to eliminate egregious spending in appropriations bills.

"In addition, H.J. Res. 63, unlike the 1996 Line Item Veto Act, allows the president to reduce objectionable spending items contained in the non-legislative text of conference reports. This mechanism, currently used by 11 states, reduces the lump-sum accounts that contain hundreds of individual items that are often hidden in legislation and committee reports.

"Americans shouldn't tolerate passing along burdensome government debts to future generations, just so that Congressmen can claim credit for their individual pet projects."
So, this is why I could never be a politician. Kennedy makes good points, and his proposal is better than the status quo, but if I strip away my “Kennedy’s my guy” blinders, this proposal is not exactly bold leadership. It’s passing the buck.

If a bill comes before the House with $2 million for a project as silly as moving a kitchen in Fairbanks, Alaska, a bold politician votes “no” -- even if the bill includes something as worthwile as, say, a $2 million subsidy for an ethanol plant in rural Minnesota.

In a conservative gathering recently, two representatives from the offices of Minnesotans in Congress (not Kennedy's) explained to naïve little me how the system really works. If the “Gentleman from Alaska” is seeking $2 million dollars to move a kitchen, he meets with “his esteemed colleague” and agrees to trade his vote for the $2 million ethanol subsidy for a vote to move the kitchen. Wink, wink, nod, nod and the deal is done. Sometimes bad legislation is required to achieve good legislation.

Kennedy’s plan does nothing to discourage that kind of horse trading. It simply dumps the problem into the President’s lap. Congress can continue cutting its deals hoping that the President has the "good sense" to veto the bad legislation they approve for the sake of their own pet projects. The President is expected to take responsibility for decisions that Congress should be making.

Kennedy's right, "Americans shouldn't tolerate passing along burdensome government debts to future generations, just so that Congressmen can claim credit for their individual pet projects." But it's Congress, not the President that is accountable to the American people for their actions.
Quite frankly, Kennedy’s proposal asks the President to do the job that Congress doesn‘t have the guts to do itself.

Category: NationalPolitics

Update: Via Kennedy vs. The Machine comes a post from the official blogsite of the National Taxpayer's Union that makes my point --

Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) did finally vote for the Deficit Reduction Act (H.R. 4241), but his vote certainly did not come cheap. Before agreeing to support the legislation, Kennedy forced House Leaders to pull drilling in ANWR, weaken the food stamp reforms, and promise an extension of the MILC program (payments to milk producers) and further increases to the LIHEAP (low-income energy assistance) program in conference.
To this argument, the merit of any of these particular measures is irrelevant. My point is, if Kennedy feels the Deficit Reduction Act is worth voting for, then he should vote for it without expecting something in return. If it’s a bad piece of legislation, he shouldn’t vote for it no matter what is offered.

I will grant that such idealism is not always pragmatic, but it is the ideal and not the pragmatic that we ought to honor even if we lack the character to observe it.

Update: Rregarding the Deficit Reduction Act, Kennedy vs. The Machine notes --

Mark Kennedy is a solid conservative who occassionally parts company with the party line when it best serves his constituents. This, in the Congressman’s estimation, is one of those times.
Isn't that the point? Can't the same be said of building a rainforest in Iowa? Isn't that something good for the constiuents of Sen. Grassley? How about the "bridge to nowhere"? Isn't that good for the constituents of Sen. Stevens? When "best for his constituents" means a government subsidy at the expense of the rest of the nation, what should be the priority?

Again, Kennedy's my guy -- the alternatives are so much worse -- but I still want him to be as good as he can be. I don't think Minnesotans are "best served" by pillaging the national treasury for their own benefit.