Greased pig races used to be quite common. Little piglets were selected for these events and they were next to impossible to catch. Just when you thought you had one in your grasp, it would slip through your fingers and run into the bushes. Instead of a race, it became a game of hide-and-seek.
That’s what has been going on in Washington. During the month of August, there was a search for a couple of pigs in bushes – the two-legged kind, who line up at the public trough and gobble large amounts of tax dollars faster than you can say “government waste.” Last week, they were captured (identified), and now a couple of others are on the loose. This is hide-and-seek coupled with musical chairs.
The two red-faced senators, Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Robert Byrd, D-W.V., had used a sneaky, underhanded maneuver called a “hold” to keep a popular bill that would actually allow taxpayers to keep track of their money and who is spending it, from coming to the floor for a vote.
The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S.2590), was offered by two freshman, Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill. It creates a Google-like search engine that would allow us to ferret out waste, quid pro quo deals for campaign contributors and spending on projects that benefit legislators themselves.
Not surprising, the senators who had placed the holds on that bill were the two biggest porkers in Washington.
Pork is the term used for inexcusable fat added to th federal budget each year, usually in the form of “earmarks” that are sneaked into a bill at the last possible moment behind the closed doors of th.e Appropriations Committee. Both men are former chairmen of that committee.
Byrd was dubbed the “King of Pork” until he had to relinquish his crown to Stevens after the Republicans takeover of Congress. Stevens was kind enough to share the pork with his old friend Byrd. It made what Stevens was doing seem somehow less egregious. Both have their places on the front row firmly established and aren’t about to be uprooted. In fact, Byrd bragged, “They call me ‘The Pork King.’ They don’t know how much I enjoy it.”
Most of our elected representatives aren’t that bold. They say they hate pork, but they are addicted to it. It allows them to brag about all the wonderful projects they bring back to their districts that are paid for by the federal government. They try to convince us that it’s free money and they are Santa Claus.
It took a lot of sleuthing by Internet bloggers to oust Byrd and Stevens, and it took a lot of public pressure to get these men to relinquish those holds.
So who are the new senators now hiding in the bushes behind their “holds”?
One is said to be Stevens. Yes, he lifted his hold then put in another one. One wonders what flimsy excuse he can come up with this time. The other is said to be a Democrat. My money is on Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, presently the No. 2porker behind Stevens. Calls to his office went unreturned. The bill is bipartisan; the holds are bipartisan. Isn’t that cute?
The leadership of both parties has endorsed the bill. It’s time they get off their duff and pressure these guys to release those holds.
A hold is nothing more than a gentleman’s filibuster. In the old days, if you wanted to hold up a bill, you had to expend some energy. You had to go to the floor and hold the floor, hour after hour and day after day.
Majority Leader Bill Frist has the power to get beyond this. All he has to do is file a cloture motion and, within 48 hours, we will know exactly who or how many senators are objecting to an up-or-down vote.
If there are enough senators who are determined to keep this bill from coming to a vote, the procedure can take as long as six days, but time’s a wasting. There are less than 15 legislative days before the November election.
A vote on this bill before the election likely means it will pass because the electorate wants it. A vote after the election means it will fail because legislators will be empowered for another two to six years, and – deep down in their heart of hearts – they don’t want it.
If Frist doesn’t act and act soon, he will lose what credibility he has left with voters, and he can kiss any hope of becoming president goodbye.
Here piggy, piggy, piggy. Come out wherever you are.