Least Objectionable Legislator Awards: Bipartisan Edition

CEI’s Wayne Crews occasionally bestows “Least Objectionable Legislator” awards when Congress critters do good things. I have two nominations of my own, one Democratic and one Republican.

The Democrat is Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee. At a previous job I had the opportunity to occasionally work with him and his staff. I found him to be more open-minded than most partisans, and more willing to buck his party leadership when he thinks they are in the wrong.

He gets his award for his recent remarks about the stimulus. President Obama wants a “clean” bill, meaning free of earmarks and other trickery; the House version of the stimulus is decidedly unclean.

Rep. Cooper has publicly taken Obama’s side, and voted against the bill. Leadership is furious. He is sticking to his guns, possibly at great professional cost. Well done, Rep. Cooper.

The Republican nominee is Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. He has been a thorn in the side of both parties for years. Not only is he adamantly anti-pork, he is crafty enough to use Senate rules to make his point as irksomely as possible.

Sen. Coburn also co-sponsored the bi-partisan Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 with then-Sen. Obama. It created USAspending.gov, which attempts to make it easier for the public to track where federal taxpayer dollars are spent.

The stimulus contains the largest earmark ever: $2 billion for FutureGen Industrial Alliance, Inc, of Illinois. Recall that the “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark that led to the end of Sen. Ted Stevens’ career cost barely one tenth that.

Sen. Coburn has offered an amendment to eliminate this earmark from the bill. But that’s not all. Another Coburn amendment “would prohibit any funding provided by the stimulus bill to be spent on casinos, museums, golf courses, stadiums, parks, or highway beautification projects.” The stimulus is supposed to create jobs; such projects don’t.

Coburn’s amendments usually fail. I expect the same fate of these latest Coburn amendments. But at least he’s trying; most members couldn’t be bothered.

Congratulations, Rep. Cooper and Sen. Coburn. Keep up the good work.

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