Republican Hypocrisy On Pork Barrel Spending
The incoming House Republicans aren't making a good first impression.
While Republicans attempt to make an issue out of the $ 1 trillion omnibus spending bill that Democrats are trying to get through Congress before the recess, Dana Milbank notes that many of the same Republicans who campaign against earmarks and pork barrel spending are themselves taking advantage of earmarks and pork barrel spending:
When the good people of South Dakota voted last month to send Republican Kristi Noem to Congress, they probably believed that she would give no quarter to the lobbyists and special interest groups who enjoyed, as she put it, “throwing money at the feet of a member of Congress.”
But since she defeated Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (in part by making an issue of Herseth Sandlin’s marriage to a lobbyist), Noem has hired her new chief of staff from . . . a lobbying firm! And on Tuesday afternoon, she was the guest of honor at a “Meet & Greet” with Washington high-rollers at the powerhouse lobbying firm Barbour Griffiths Rogers. Once these boys start throwing money at Noem’s feet, she’ll soon be chin deep in lobbyist greenbacks.
It was probably inevitable that the Tea Party activists would be betrayed, but the speed with which congressional Republicans have reverted to business-as-usual has been impressive.
House Republican leaders rejected a Tea Party-backed candidate as the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, instead installing Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who is known as the “Prince of Pork” and who once said pork is a “bad word for making good things happen.”
And, as Milbank notes, Noem isn’t alone among Tea Party candidates who seem to have settled into politics as usual before even taking office:
Rep.-elect Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), for example, told supporters on his campaign Web site: “I intend to take our voice and shout it loudly to the Washington, D.C., bureaucrats and politicians to make sure they know that we want legislation reflective of true conservatism. I will make you proud.”
And how, exactly, is he making his constituents proud so far? On Tuesday night, he was scheduled to be the beneficiary of a dinner fundraiser at the Republican National Committee’s Capitol Hill Club. Checks – $500 for individuals and $1,000 for political action committees – are to be made payable to Steven Palazzo for Congress – and mailed to an address not in Mississippi but in Alexandria, Va.
Even Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a darling of the movement, is going wobbly. First, she dropped her bid for a leadership position in the House when it became clear she wouldn’t win. Then she raised questions about the House GOP’s plan to ban “earmark” spending on pet projects. The woman who once maintained that “all this pork is bad” told Politico recently that there must be a way to funnel infrastructure money to her district. “This isn’t trying to be too cute by half of what is an earmark and what isn’t,” she said, “but we have to address the issue of how are we going to fund transportation projects across the country?”
Simple, congresswoman: The way you did before. In Washington, it’s business as usual.
This isn’t entirely surprising, and it’s a lesson that supporters of Barack Obama could’ve told the Tea party crowd all about. After campaigning on promises to change the way Washington does business, Barack Obama entered office and promptly began adopting the same old Washington tactics. Partly, it’s just a question of inertia; changing something as massive as the Federal Government is simply beyond the ability of one man, or one group of newly-elected Congressman. For one thing, there’s always more incumbents than there are new people. For another, the amount of work that is done by an unelected bureaucracy and Congressional staff makes it difficult for one Congressman to have much of a chance to really change anything.
There will be more opportunities for the income House Republicans to prove themselves, of course. They could do so, for example, by putting forward an alternative to the President’s FY 2012 budget that includes real spending cuts and makes progress on reducing the budget deficit. They could insist that at least some of those cuts be included in the final budget. However, this is not a good start to say the very least.