Friday, September 12, 2008

Obama, Biden voted for Bridge to Nowhere, too.

Longtime readers with amazing memories may recall that around the time that the "Bridge to Nowhere" fight over the transportation bill going on, there Senator Tom Coburn put together an amendment that would have taken the funding away from Alaska and used it to rebuild New Orleans. Needless to say, it didn't pass. (Though in retrospect, it would have been AWESOME if it had. Not just because the bridges around New Orleans would have gotten rebuilt, but also the talking points against Palin it would have given us, which are already legion, but what the hell, you can never have too many.)

I was a big fan of the Coburn Amendment and even took the time to include a link where you could check and see how your senator voted on it. (It's in a footnote to that story.)

LA-Melani wrote me last night asking about this whole "Bridge to Nowhere" fuss as she didn't recall having heard about it a few years ago. In researching my explanation, I looked up what I'd written about it and followed my own old link.

Obama and Biden both voted to keep the Bridge to Nowhere rather than using the money to rebuild bridges in Louisiana. (McCain didn't vote, but then, he rarely does.*)

In fairness to the ticket I'm still planning to vote for, this amendment did fail 86-15. It was not a popular amendment at all. Also, neither of them has made cutting pork a centerpiece of their campaigns, so they are less accountable on the issue than the McCain-Palin ticket, that has.

But I still thought that needed to be said.


* If you're reading this, I'd like to request that you PLEASE do an attack ad talking about all the issues McCain talked about at the convention, but didn't bother to vote on when he had the chance. Start here, given that McCain made such a fuss about energy independence at the campaign and his vote would have been DECISIVE there. Basically, McCain killed an attempt at energy independence mearly by not showing up.

Of course Obama has missed a lot of votes, too. But McCain has missed more.


Joel Monka said...

"Also, neither of them has made cutting pork a centerpiece of their campaigns, so they are less accountable on the issue than the McCain-Palin ticket, that has."

Not since Senator Obama won the nomination, no, but during the primaries he did indeed make an issue of it with Senator Clinton. From the N.Y.Times : "Senator Barack Obama on Thursday released a list of $740 million in earmarked spending requests that he had made over the last three years, and his campaign challenged Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to do the same." Senator McCain does not request earmarks, though Gov. Palin certainly accepts them when offered.

It's hardly surprising that McCain would have missed more votes when he's been there seven times as long.

Chalicechick said...

I didn't phrase that properly. McCain is the Senate's Vote Missing Champion,, having missed more votes this year than any other Senator, including the guy who had the brain hemmorhage and didn't come to work for several months.


Joel Monka said...

True. A shame Obama didn't pick Senator Bayh, my favorite- he only missed 2.8% to Biden's 30.4%. They all did better in the 109th congress, when they weren't running for President- Obama 1.7%, Biden 9.9%, McCain 9.0%

PG said...

Obama has said that the earmark process is "broken," but part of his reason for releasing his requests was to emphasize that he considered his to have been for things that rate well on a cost-benefit analysis, like AIDScare, expanding service on the commuter rail for Chicago's suburbs, fighting gang warfare, equipping police cars with cameras to document their encounters with suspects, etc. So far as I know, he did not request an earmark for any entity that gave him campaign donations. (Probably because almost all of his requests were for 501(c)(3)s and entities run by state and local governments.)

I find the whole rage against earmarks rather silly; if Congress had no earmarks, it just would be giving total discretion to the executive. Voting to reduce the total amount of appropriations is a reform measure; getting rid of earmarks so the president of your party can decide how the money should be spent, not so much. Ditto allowing him to shift his Constitutional responsibility as Commander in Chief of our troops in Iraq to a committee where Iraqis will have veto power.

As for the vote against moving the funds, while it was unfortunate in its consequences and I wish that Obama and Biden had voted differently, if you look at the Congressional Record for that day, that amendment was one of several Coburn suggested as part of his general opposition to earmarks. Several senators on both sides of the aisle were offended by his statements that projects for things like urban revitalization were pointless. The 82 who voted against it were protesting Coburn's tactics of picking out particular states from which to remove funding. For FY 2005, the solidly Republican Oklahoma got a better return on its federal tax dollar than every state its senator was targeting, except Alaska.

Moreover, Coburn's amendment was to move money from the highway fund, for projects that already were covered by the emergency appropriations bill for Katrina relief, e.g. to rebuild the bridge between New Orleans and Slidell.

Ideally Congress would make up a ranked list of national priorities, have the CBO do an analysis on the most effective uses of each dollar for those priorities, and then would make earmarks entirely on that basis. That does not appear to be the process, however, and in its absence I'm dubious that Congress should turn over all authority on how to spend appropriated funds to the president.

Anonymous said...

Has McCain ever provided an explanation for why he's missed so many votes?

Anonymous said...

When a whole bunch of our reps or senators vote in a way that sounds coocoo to most of us, the chances are there is more to the story than we are getting and there really was some half-way decent reason they voted how they did. Sound bites and reality bear little resemblance to each other, methinks.