Tag: Lisa Murkowski

Do Anti-REAL-ID Senators Support REAL ID Spending?

Each year, the homeland security appropriations bill provides for funding that supports REAL ID, the national ID law that Congress passed in haste in 2005.

States across the country originally refused to implement the national ID law, but as we showed in the recently released report, “REAL ID: A State-by-State Update,” some states are reversing course and beginning to implement, and in other states bureaucrats are moving forward with REAL ID contrary to state policy.

Part of the reason this continues is because the federal government continues to funnel money into REAL ID compliance. Year over year, federal grant money keeps state bureaucrats and state bureaucrat interest groups like the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators sniffing around for grant dollars and contracts.

Interestingly, four members of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds REAL ID through the Department of Homeland Security are from states that have rejected REAL ID. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) could move to cut off funding for REAL ID if they chose, but, to my knowledge, have not done so in the past.

Senators Tester and Begich are cosponsors of a bill by Senator John Walsh (D-MT) to repeal REAL ID, and Senator Tester came to Cato in 2008 to call out REAL ID’s demerits (his presentation starts at 21:00 in the mp3).

If the senators from anti-REAL-ID states could tap one more member of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee, they would have a majority to amend the bill to withdraw funds from the national ID project. Will they stand by and let REAL ID funding go through again this year?

GOP Sore-Loser Syndrome

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Does the Republican Party have a sore-loser problem?

My response:

Lisa Murkowski is Exhibit A of the GOP sore-loser syndrome. Poor little thing: She thought she was entitled to the seat. After all, Daddy gave it to her.

But she’s not alone: Charlie Crist, Bill McCollum, Bob Bennett, Bob Inglis, Mike Castle, Dede Scozzafava – all sitting on the sidelines, running against the primary opponents who beat them, or even endorsing the Democrat in the race. They confirm the Tea Party contention: They have no clue about the changes taking place beneath their feet. Lisa Murkowski talks about the bacon she’s brought back to Alaska. But unlike the people marching in Paris to protest moving the retirement age from 60 to 62, the growing Tea Party movement is marching across America with signs that say “We Want Less!” In other words, get out of the way so we can be free to plan and live our own lives.

Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, co-author with Dick Armey of the new book Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto, has it exactly right when he says: “What you’re seeing in the Republican primaries amounts to a hostile takeover of the Republican Party – and I mean that in the technical sense of replacing a failed management and tired ideas.” It began, one could say, with slowly growing opposition to the two Bushes, who squandered the Reagan Revolution. It continued with the rejection, ultimately, of the Republican Congress that came to office in 1995, which in time forgot why it was elected as members grew far too comfortable in office. Today, the opposition to “business as usual” – to Republicans as “Democrat Lite” – has a full head of steam. A two-party system works only if the parties are distinct, standing on different principles. It’s taken a long time – since the New Deal – but that’s what we’re moving toward, and that’s good, because it gives voters a real choice.

Republicans and Earmarks

This week, a handful of fiscally conservative Republican senators have been trying to cut earmarks out of the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the legislation contains 8,570 earmarks worth $7.7 billion.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has sought to strike specific items, like the $200,000 earmark for Tattoo Removal Violence Prevention Outreach Program in Burbank, California and the $1.9 million earmark to the Pleasure Beach Water Taxi Service in Connecticut.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has taken a broader approach by introducing an amendment to strike all earmarks from the bill and revert to last year’s spending levels.

Not surprisingly, they have been unsuccessful. And given recent events, one must wonder if these efforts by fiscal conservatives are even welcomed by members of their own party.

The amendments introduced by Coburn and McCain were defeated by opposition from not only by the majority of Democratic senators, but also many Republican appropriators, like Senators Thad Cochrane (R-MS) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

And despite his occasional anti-earmark rhetoric and support for the Coburn and McCain amendments, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is one of the chief beneficiaries of the earmark-laden omnibus bill. Reports suggest he requested either $75 or $51 million for his home state of Kentucky. Either way, he will obtain far more than his Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), whose earmark requests total $26 million.

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has been fairly consistent in her criticism of the earmarking process and, for the most part, has voted accordingly. Proving that Republican affection for earmarking is a bicameral phenomenon, her stance attracted ire from Representative Roy Blunt (R-MO), formerly one of the highest-ranking Republicans in House, who said he “would hope that Claire would change her mind on this,” as he praised Senator Kit Bond’s (R-MO) prowess at earmarking.

Now, earmarks make up a relatively small slice of the overall budget, but as Coburn has noted, the problem with earmarks is ‘‘the hidden cost of perpetuating a culture of fiscal irresponsibility. When politicians fund pork projects they sacrifice the authority to seek cuts in any other program.”

For more on earmarks, check out the “Corporate Welfare and Earmarks” chapter of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers.