Last night I received a press release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee entitled "Lincoln Votes to Protect Millions in Taxpayer Funds for Little-Used Pennsylvania Airport." Lincoln would be Arkansas Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln. According to the NRSC press release:
In a remarkable vote on the Senate floor this afternoon, U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) made clear that despite rising federal deficits and a record national debt, she still stands firmly on the side of more wasteful Washington spending. Lincoln today helped defeat an amendment, offered by U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), to the annual transportation appropriations bill that would end taxpayer subsidies for the John Murtha Airport, a little used 650-acre facility in Johnstown, Pennsylvania that has received at least $200 million in taxpayer funding. U.S. Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), who the airport was named after and who has been the subject of a number of ethics-related stories in recent months, has personally directed $150 million in federal funds to the facility even though it only has 3 flights daily to one destination: Washington, D.C.
When I went to the NRSC's website I noticed similar press releases for other Democrat senators who I'm assuming are on the outfit's election hit-list. Having never received an NRSC press release before, I'm assuming I received this one because I ripped Senator Lincoln in a blog post last week. If that's the case, I'm impressed with the NRSC's resourcefulness. Regardless, it made me curious to find out if any Republican senators voted with Lincoln and the other Democrats.
In fact, yes, two Republicans did vote to keep the federal money flowing to Murtha's airport: George Voinovich of Ohio and Christopher "Kit" Bond of Missouri. Both are members of the third party in Congress: Appropriators. Given that he is the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, it's not a surprise that Bond voted against an amendment unfriendly to a larded-up transportation appropriations bill. Both are retiring at the end of their terms in 2010, so the NRSC apparently wasn't too worried about charges of hypocrisy.
With the exception of the aforementioned, all Republican senators voted for the amendment, including appropriators like Murkowski, Collins, Cochran, and Bennett. None of those folks are exactly known as fiscal tightwads. So what gives? Will these senators be headlining tea parties in the near future?
The truth is it's just politics. The Republicans are in the minority and got kicked out of the majority by voters due in part to years of fiscal profligacy. I'm sure more than a few believed this was the type of vote that will help them curry favor with the growing swarms of voters upset with Washington's out-of-control spending. It probably helps a smidgen (sarcasm intended) that the airport in question is located in Pennsylvania, home to two Democrat senators, one of which is recent Republican defector Arlen Specter. Oh, and it's Democrat John Murtha's airport.
I'm wondering where these Republican votes to eliminate pork were when I was working with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) several years ago to kill funding for the Bridge to Nowhere and other assorted congressional slop. At the time, Republicans were in the Senate majority. For example, on the Bridge to Nowhere vote, our amendment went down 15-82. Only 11 Republicans supported the amendment.
Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased to see almost all Republicans (and five Democrats) vote to stop funding Murtha's airport. But their votes were driven by political considerations and not a new-found zeal for reigning in federal spending. And let's face it, defunding the Murtha airport is merely symbolic given that it would save peanuts. So let's see what happens on a vote to strip funding for the entire transportation program that subsidizes the other small airports in this country, many of which probably wouldn't exist were it not for the federal cheese. Of course, someone would have to actually introduce such an amendment first. Senator Coburn or DeMint?