I've liked Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma for a while and I'm enthused to see that he and John McCain have decided to take a strong stance against earmarks. Senator Coburn even appreciates that the real problem in Washington isn't with lobbyists.

I am convinced that forcing hundreds or, if necessary, thousands of votes to strike individual earmarks is the only way to produce meaningful results for American taxpayers. Bringing the Senate to a standstill for as long as it takes would be a small price to pay for shutting down what Jack Abramoff described as Congress's "earmark favor factory." The battle against pork is crucial. Pork is the root cause of the unholy relationship between some members of Congress, lobbyists and donors. Inside Congress, the pork process is effectively a black market economy: Thousands of instances exist where appropriations are leveraged for fundraising dollars or political capital. It is delusional to claim Congress can redeem its relationship with K Street without eliminating earmarks. The problem is not lobbyists. The problem is us. ...

The most vocal opponents to a zero-tolerance approach toward pork are, sadly, the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, to his credit, has issued only a mild defense of earmarking by stating we should "mend, not end" the practice. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Denny Hastert, on the other hand, have been enthusiastic in their defense of pork. Sen. Reid offered a fictional account of American history when he said the pork process "has been going on since we were a country." He and other pork apologists ignore the reality that pork as we know it today didn't exist 20 years ago. In 1987, President Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it contained 121 earmarks. The number of earmarks has skyrocketed over the past decade, from 4,126 in 1994 to 15,268 in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Good on you for trying, Senator. I'll be even more impressed if you can pull it off.



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