Senator Tom Coburn Talks Porkbusting

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) joined bloggers Glenn Reynolds, Mark Tapscott, NZ Bear, Erick Erickson, Tim Chapman, and myself to to discuss spending, appropriations, and earmarks this afternoon in the wake of last weeks “Bridge To Nowhere” drama.

One of the key points discussed is how ‘sunshine’ is the enemy of pork barrel earmark spending. The process has been deliberately gamed by Congress to provide as little light on last minute changes, congressional earmarks, and other sundry spending tricks. As the “Bridge To Nowhere” episode showed, when pork filled projects attached onto large appropriation bills is spotlighted it becomes very uncomfortable for legislators to stand up and fight for boondoggles.

One of the the suggestions from the bloggers (Mark Tapscott) was that the Senator use the “porkbuster” term. It was noted that the word “earmark,” while technically accurate, didn’t have the same resonance. He agreed to use the term.

I asked the Senator about plans for reworking the Line Item Veto Act (invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1996) so that it would pass constitutional muster. He mentioned that he was working with former Congressman Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) on getting selective rescission back on the legislative agenda.

It was a new concept to me – one the Senator quickly explained – and a little research dug up the transcripts from a 1999 House Committee on Rules, Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, hearing that addressed legislative options to enact a rescission process that would meet the constitutionality issues laid out in the Clinton v. New York City (Line Item Veto) case. The Congressional Research Service’s Louis Fisher highlights all of the major alternatives – all of which are still viable options 6 years later.

Sen. Coburn plans on maintaining contact with the group, and we’ll bring you updates individually and collectively…

Other Attendee Reports

  • Tim Chapman notes this from the Senator, “What we need is a lot of pressure on Senators out there. The battle for pork is a good battle. It is immoral when we have $600 billion we added to the debt this last year…when your running a deficit it is just flat immoral.
  • Glenn Reynolds notes his impression of the call, “(1) the White House is beginning to feel the heat; and (2) this will be going on over the next year. It’s a war of attrition, not a quick-hit.
  • Mark Tapscott notes, “It was very clear virtually from the outset of the conversation that Coburn is absolutely serious about continuing and expanding this effort, which he began in the Senate last week with a blizzard of amendments transferring funds from well-known pork barrel projects like “the Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska to paying for Hurricane Katrina recovery and reconstruction.
  • John Hawkins‘s impression of the message from Coburn is that those in the Senate who want to cut spending need the blogosphere’s help to make it happen.
  • John Hawkins‘s impression of the message from Coburn is that those in the Senate who want to cut spending need the blogosphere’s help to make it happen.
  • Erick Erickson reminds us that the Senator is a RedState fav, so much so they’ve affectionately nicknamed him Sentator Trainwreck.
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