Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a staunch opponent of pork barrel spending, tried to block $453 million for two Alaska bridges that had been tucked into the recent highway bill. Coburn wanted to redirect the money to the Interstate 10 bridge across Lake Pontchartrain, a major thoroughfare that was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina.You may want to read that again. Sen. Coburn is from Oklahoma, not Louisiana. His amendment would not have helped his state. And if you think Katrina hasn't started the tectonic plates shifting:
Sen. Ted Stevens, the veteran Alaska Republican, was dramatic in his response. "I don't kid people," Stevens roared. "If the Senate decides to discriminate against our state . . . I will resign from this body."
The amendment [which was defeated] became a cause celebre on the left and the right, with watchdog and conservative groups reporting updates on their Web sites throughout the day. The Club for Growth alerted readers early yesterday on its Web log, or blog: "As of last night, the opposition is putting up a big fight. They sense this amendment, if successful, as establishing a precedent. A precedent where all pork is vulnerable and no lawmaker is safe."And that saying about politics and strange bedfellows, is also true:
Later in the day, the Heritage Foundation circulated a paper, "The Bridge to Nowhere: A National Embarrassment," and noted, "fiscally responsible members of Congress should be eager to zero out its funding." Even the Sierra Club backed the amendment, noting, "We must fix the nation's existing infrastructure first."There may even be a real question as to how much support pork barrel spending will buy a politician, at the moment:
...there is a curious twist to the story: Many residents of Alaska appear to support forfeiting the bridge money for hurricane relief. "This money, a gift from the people of Alaska, will represent more than just material aid; it will be a symbol for our beleaguered democracy," reads a typical letter to the Anchorage Daily News.Beleaguered indeed. But strangely, looking a bit more like it might rally, regardless.