Coburn objects to earmarks irrespective of partisanship

Your Oct. 24 article “GOP senators hunt for Democratic earmarks” implied, mainly through your sources, that my criticism of earmarks is more partisan than my long record indicates.

First, I understand that many senators don’t appreciate my efforts to curtail earmarks. However, if senators don’t like my mix of amendments I would invite them to offer their own amendments targeting pork sponsored by Republicans and Democrats alike. I would welcome their help.

Anyone who has followed my service in Congress knows that no one has criticized my own party for losing its way on spending and pork more forcefully and consistently than I have. I twice worked to remove then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) from his post while the GOP was expanding the earmark favor factory. In 1998, I criticized the then-Republican chairman of the Transportation Committee, Rep. Bud Shuster (Pa.), for trading highway pork for votes.

In the Senate, anyone who has concerns about my partisan motivations should spend a few minutes with my Republican friends Ted Stevens (Alaska), Trent Lott (Miss.) and Thad Cochran (Miss.), all of whom have sponsored earmarks I forcefully opposed on the floor.

The real issue, I would contend, that matters to taxpayers is not the balance of my amendments but the fact that so few senators are offering them. Congress has approved tens of thousands of earmarks in the past 20 years worth billions of dollars but only a tiny fraction of all earmarks (less than one-tenth of one-percent) are ever challenged directly or indirectly on the floor of the House or Senate. Both parties should be embarrassed by this record and held accountable for rubberstamping billions of dollars worth of special interest earmarks with virtually no accountability and oversight.

Will the new majority be held to a higher standard that may sometimes feel unfair? Yes. It’s called the burden of leadership. The party in charge always receives a disproportionate share of the blame.

I will continue to single out wasteful spending without regard to party affiliation and would invite other senators to do the same. Yet, if sponsors of questionable earmarks continue to attack my integrity rather than defend their requests I may be compelled to take the most equitable approach possible, which is to force a vote on every single earmark request from Democrats and Republicans alike. The impending omnibus would provide such an occasion. I can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays than to invite taxpayers to study each and every special-interest ornament politicians will hang on this year’s congressional Christmas tree.

Washington


Nonsense on fires
From Gregory Bachelis

This concerns the quote from Harry Reid in the article, “Wildfires get personal for lawmakers” on Oct. 24:

“‘One reason why we have the fires in California is global warming,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday, stressing the need to pass the Democrats’ comprehensive energy package.’”

It is total nonsense to try to blame a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina or the wildfires in Southern California, on a matter as complex as global warming or climate change (the neutral term). In Southern California, the Santa Ana winds and the dry brush are among the causes, along with the fact that a lot of subdivisions literally abut forested areas.

I remember reading that condominium development in the outlying areas of New Orleans diminished the effectiveness of the flood control system there.

As far as I am concerned, a better culprit to blame for these disasters is the housing developers. Their response would be the same as Detroit’s Big Three when criticized for building gas-guzzlers: That they are merely responding to demand from consumers.

So the fault, dear Harry, lies not in our greenhouse gasses, but in ourselves, to paraphrase The Bard.

West Bloomfield, Mich.