Tag Archives: Earmarks

CEI Podcast for March 1, 2012: A Highway Bill Everyone Can Hate


Have a listen here.

Land-Use and Transportation Policy Analyst Marc Scribner explains why almost nobody is happy with how this year’s highway bill is turning out. Fiscal conservatives are leery of the price tag. Earmarkers are disappointed at efforts to make the bill pork-free. Transit activists are upset that the current version of the House bill would end the practice of using 20 percent of gas tax revenue to subsidize mass transit.

Sen. Shelby Lifts Holds

Sen. Richard Shelby, who placed holds on over 70 of President Obama’s nominees, has lifted all but three of them. Politico reports:

A spokesman for the senator said Monday that with attention brought to these two concerns, the political maneuver had “accomplished” its goal and was no longer necessary.

Translation: “We were getting too much bad publicity.”

The three holds that Sen. Shelby is keeping in place have directly to do with the Alabama-based pork projects that he believes will make him look good to the Alabama voters he will be facing in November. So, in a way, nothing has changed.

This brings up a legitimate question: can earmarking abuse sometimes be an agent for smaller government?

Few, if any, of President Obama’s appointees will work to decrease the size and scope of government. Now that their path is cleared, they will probably do net harm to taxpayers. This is the nature of government workers, whether Republican or Democratic.

Sen. Shelby’s motive for blocking them is despicable: stealing from taxpayers to improve his re-election prospects. But one wonders if those same taxpayers would have been better off if Sen. Shelby had stuck to his guns.

Sen. Richard Shelby, Thief

One reason Democrats were so upset about losing their 60th Senate seat was that it would make it easier for Republicans to obstruct legislation.

Fair enough. But the revived possibility of a filibuster may turn out to be the least of their worries.

Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, has placed a hold on more than 70 of President Obama’s nominees.

His motivations are not partisan. He wants money. A lot of it. If Democrats simply throw a few billion federal dollars at his home state, he promises to release his holds.

Basically, Sen. Shelby is requesting a wealth transfer from federal taxpayers – that’s you and me – to politically favored groups in Alabama. Presumably the earmarks would make him look good to Alabama voters. Sen. Shelby is up for re-election this November. Who doesn’t like free goodies? Vote for Shelby!

But they aren’t free. The money to pay for them has to come from somewhere – us. Let us mince no words, then. Sen. Shelby is a thief. What a shame that such stealing is perfectly legal.

Legislative Inertia

Senator Tom Coburn offered several amendments to an appropriations bill yesterday. The most notable of these would have saved $454 million by cutting two dubious pork projects in Alaska. The fury Coburn aroused in his colleagues bordered on the absurd. Senator Patty Murray of Washington made threats to Coburn and anyone who voted with him. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska actually threatened to resign on the Senate floor.

Keep in mind that, from the current $2.5 trillion federal budget, you need four decimal places before that $454 million even shows up.

The amendment failed by 15-82, a margin of 67 votes. The Senate can’t even bear to cut 0.02% of the federal budget without someone threatening to resign. Is it really that hard?

Grow up, children.

Excellent coverage of the whole fiasco is at The Club for Growth, The Daily Kos, and at National Journal.