The Senate’s government run restaurants were so badly managed that they lost millions of dollars in the past few years, as much as $2 million so far this year alone, and their food was so horrible that senators routinely dined at the privately run House restaurants.
As a result, upon the recommendation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, last week the Senate finally voted, at night mind you, to privatize its restaurants.
The embarrassment of the Senate food service struggling like some neighborhood pizza joint has quietly sparked change previously unthinkable for Democrats. Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits for the outfit’s new hires.
The House is expected to agree — its food service operation has been in private hands since the 1980s — and President Bush’s signature on the bill would officially end a seven-month Democratic feud and more than four decades of taxpayer bailouts.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Rules and Administrations Committee, which oversees the operation of the Senate, said she had no choice.
“It’s cratering,” she said of the restaurant system. “Candidly, I don’t think the taxpayers should be subsidizing something that doesn’t need to be. There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses.”
“It’s so bad that the Senate hasn’t yet figured out that House ‘Taco Salad Wednesday’ trumps any type of entree they have to offer,” said Ron Bonjean, a former press secretary to both the House speaker and the Senate Republican leader.
“Those who think the House and Senate don’t talk enough clearly haven’t been in the Longworth cafeteria on the House side at lunchtime recently. Senate staffers have been flocking there for better food, more options, and you get some exercise to boot,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.),who frequently dines on the other side of the Capitol.
I know this is just food service, nothing earth shakingly important, but do I really have to point out the obvious here? If the US government can’t even run a food service organization without driving it into the ground, how in the hell is it going to run our entire health care system that comprises approximately 15% of our nation’s GDP and has much more at stake than a badly done New York Strip?