Defending the Bridge to Nowhere (NOT Defending Ted Stevens)

A Response to Achance and Krempasky

By Leon H Wolf Posted in Comments (84) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Achance has a long and impassioned response to Krempasky's front-page post, which I thought merited a highlight. People who have never lived in Alaska have a hard time understanding the rather unique infrastructure demands that often come with price tags that look ludicrous on first glance; Alaska is, after all, more than twice as big as Texas, with about the population of Wyoming, much of which is permafrost and/or mountainous. In other words, just keeping the basic services in Alaska is inordinately expensive, and many places don't even have what would properly be called the "basic services."

Read on...

For instance, when I lived in Valdez, we were seven hours by car from the nearest city with a hospital (Anchorage) - that seven hours involved going by the one road which led out of town over the mountains, which went through Thompson Pass, which very frequently shut down due to excessive snow. We had a very small municipal airport, which was also more often than not closed during the winter months due to weather. The ferry would take you to Cordova, which was even smaller. If anyone in our family had needed anything more complicated than an appendectomy (we did have one family practitioner who could probably have managed that), we would have been screwed. And Valdez is actually better suited than many of the towns in Alaska by virtue of being at the terminus of the pipeline. And, Achance is right that the "lower 48" (as us Sourdoughs call it) have historically used Alaska as a raw resource reserve without investing diddly squat in infrastructure to service the people extracting those resources. So I'd be broadly sympathetic if Senators Stevens and Murkowksi made their case to the public about why money coming to Alaska should be left alone - I get irritated about ill-informed criticism myself sometimes.

What I don't support is Stevens' ridiculous move to try and keep it all a secret; no Senator should be able to direct appropriations into his State - however great the need - without the necessity of publicly defending it. Is it really so hard to point out that the bridge isn't for the 50 people who live on Gravina Island, it's for the 8,000 people (that's a lot, in Alaska terms) who live in Ketchikan who need to get to the freakin' airport* since there's no roads that lead out of town? I don't think so - and if Achance can do it, so can Ted Stevens. Unfortunately, much of the spending that Ted Stevens brings in is unnecessary, frivolous, and besides which pork, which denigrates money that comes in for legitimate Alaska purposes. Furthermore, because Stevens is lazy and dishonest, and would prefer to avoid the bother of justifying his actions (or indeed, even having them known), it all looks very shady, and causes people to view all federal spending on Alaska with suspicion.

Which is why there's no bigger fan of removing Stevens than I am - and I hope that soon the voters of Alaska realize the disservice he does to their great state, too.

*It may be protested that this is still a very steep price tag , but the government does (and always has) spent $200 million on projects of far less utility than allowing 8,000 people to have ready access to their only means of egress.

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Defending the Bridge to Nowhere (NOT Defending Ted Stevens) 84 Comments (0 topical, 84 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

I guess I have much the same attitude that Blacks have towards certain words; I can say it, you can't.

Back in the days when the Men's Rooms in the Captain Cook still had troughs, I wound up standing between two of the most prominent men in Alaska politics, one a former governor, the other a newspaper publisher. I was a long way from their circle, but they knew me well enough to talk freely around me.

We had just heard Stevens tell a meeting of just about everybody who was anybody in Alaska why we should accept Carter and the Democrat's deal on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Says the former governor, "If I could have one day of my political career back, it would be the day I appointed that little (posting rules prohibit direct quote) to the Senate. Stevens could only see the "get along, go along" piece and had his eye on Minority Leader in the next Congress. If it had been killed, as most Republicans and even Alaska's Democrat Senator Mike Gravel wanted, the odds are that Stevens would have been Majority Leader when the Rs took the Senate with Reagan in '81.

He has his foibles, we know that, but I can think of a whole bunch of true enemies of the Republic that we could better spend our time criticizing.

In Vino Veritas

While I don't like Stevens in any way, shape or form, I have been up there. My wife and I were lucky enough to be able to take an Alaskan cruise, part of which went through Ketchikan. To say that the town is locked in is to say that Ronald Reagan was an OK president. So I do understand that need. And my senator, Kit Bond, defined it during the debate on some of the more egrarious earmarks (which, I think, many of them didn't merit federal funding) that the senator of the state of [insert state here] is in a more qualified position to speak on what that state needs. Some of them are not needed, but I do think that the bridge is a worthwhile project. The worthless project in this equation is Stevens and Young.

Don't be afraid to see what you see.-Ronald Reagan

Can't say I'm all that sympathetic. I'd be pretty happy if I could park and take a 60-second ferry trip to most American airports.

One nation, in the courtrooms, with litigiousness and judicial activism for all.

Pardon the error.

One nation, in the courtrooms, with litigiousness and judicial activism for all.

when it was sideways snow on a 40 knot wind? Or waited in an ambulance while they tried to figure out if the conditions would allow the ferry to sail so they could get you to the medivac plane? Talk to me about it when you have.

In Vino Veritas

is hardly a reason for the rest of us to build you a fancy-schmancy $230 million bridge. And weather delays are a fact of life at every airport in this country. A nice shiny bridge isn't going to change that. But if the ferry really is that bad, go ahead and build your bridge. Just don't make me pay for it.

One nation, in the courtrooms, with litigiousness and judicial activism for all.

the taxpayers for all the federal highways in your town? And I'm willing to bet you don't even know what they are; you've deluded yourself into believing that your property/sales/gas taxes pay for all that concrete and steel. It's all so simple when you don't know enough.

In Vino Veritas

cost far less than $4.6 billion (the cost per capita of your bridge times the population of my area). Not to mention that my roads service more cars in a day than your bridge would in a month.

Maybe this bridge is a worthy project. But when budgeting, you have to set priorities. It would be really convenient for me to have an elevator in my house. But I've got to put food on the table, so I take the stairs. Similarly, I'd put Katrina relief ahead of a bridge to an uninhabited island that is, so far as I can tell, simply a matter of convenience for 8,000 people who by their own choosing live in a place unaccessible by road.

One nation, in the courtrooms, with litigiousness and judicial activism for all.

It seems as though this issue is quite important to you, and I respect that. I just think there are better things that could be done with the money. It's a moot point, though, because your lame duck governor is going to see that the bridge is built. So enjoy the drive.

One nation, in the courtrooms, with litigiousness and judicial activism for all.

I fought with people for a living for my whole career; this is just sport. If you want some fun, deal with the unions that represent the crew of those ferries.

We probably wouldn't disagree in some ideal world, I've just learned to take the world the way I find it and get the best deal I can.

In Vino Veritas

we'll leave being cold to the poor victims of a 6 inch snow in NY or SEA or a little rain in LA. It's about whether the ferry can sail.

In Vino Veritas

It's about whether the ferry can sail.

The question that nobody has addressed is: If the weather is so bad that the ferry can't sail, will the medvac plane still be able to lift off? If there is none stationed there, will it be able to land during a storm that disabled the ferry?

I somehow doubt that ferries are more affected by bad weather than airports.

about that, but why let facts get in the way; it's probably too complicated anyway.

In Vino Veritas

Take the 90 second ferry and pocket the 32 grand in cash (each man, woman, and child's share) if it were me.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

If you divided up the construction cost of the section of I-65 I drive to work today by the number of commuters I share it with every morning and offered me the cash value, I'd probably take it and take the back streets into town every day. But that's not how infrastructure works, and you know it. Just because it's for people you'll probably never meet or have to think about doesn't make it qualitatively different.

"Our concern for human life must not be confined to the guilty..." - Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 616 (U.S. 1977) (BURGER, C.J. dissenting)

Is an indication of just how bad of a deal it is. That is a pretty ridiculous cost for the number of people served. On most projects you would be lucky to end up with a couple hundred bucks using the same metric, not 32 grand.

Just because it's for people you'll probably never meet or have to think about...

What the porkfans don't seem to understand, is many people (myself included) don't care where it is. I wouldn't support a project next door to my house with that kind of benefit and per capita cost. Further, those people chose to live there, just as I chose to live where I live. I don't expect federal handouts to compensate me for any shortcomings in my decision-making process.

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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

if a 90 second ferry ride is too long or you don't like getting chilly from the wind, build the bridge from the 30+ BILLION $$ in the Alaska Permanent fund.

Worst case - move.
Stevens is a disgrace and the way he has tried to hide this flawed enterprise looks bad for all of Alaska and reflecks poorly on Republicans. You folks need to get that boy in line.

Si vis Pacem, Para Bellum

I'll worry about mine.

In Vino Veritas

If you're going to send any old rambling bum to Washington, we ought to strip out every penny going your way until you get in gear.
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

We'll tremble when Ted only wins 75-25 rather than 80-20.

There is room for rational debate on this issue and you obviously understand it as evidenced by your writings on what a miniscule portion of the federal budget goes to that which can be styled pork.

I will sign on to a national agenda to rein in federal spending, perhaps we can get elected with it. When, and if, we do, we have something to talk about; see my reply to zuiko above. Until then, we have the government we have, not the one we'd choose to have.

In Vino Veritas

If you can live with that, then that's you.

I tell you though, the attitude that you and Sen. Stevens have, is difficult to swallow. As you have noticed, I'm personally against this whole porkbusting thing these days. But when you guys rub it in our noses, it makes it SOOOO easy to sit back and join in the mob.
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

What's the excuse now then? You say that you'd sign on to a national agenda, but look what we have here: Sen. Coburn is looking to change the rules in order to trim this stuff across the board, but Sen. Stevens is secretly trying to prevent that.

Clearly there's more to this than looking out for Alaska's share from the trough.
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

about it in my opinion. Ted is a haughty, angry old man and Coburn p****d him off. There ain't no statemanship or ideological agenda at all, just Ted being mad. So?

In Vino Veritas

I don't get it. If you even admit he's getting personal ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE, then how can you stick up for him at all?
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

behind about him, and I don't think you will find me actually defending him, but rather the project itself. See my response to Robert Hahn's post on this subject regarding what he did in '80. He had an near-death electoral experience after that and had the Ds not been so caught up in smoking dope and killing babies, he'd be a former Senator.

He is an R incumbent and it would take something involving a live boy or a dead girl to get me to vote against any R incumbent. But the larger question is why should my state be the one chosen to assuage the conscience of self-styled fiscal conservatives?

In Vino Veritas

You come off as triumphant the way you keep assuring us that he's going to keep getting re-elected. Lousy medium, yes I know, but that's how I read you.
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

It takes me two hours to get to the airport... and that doesn't include parking.

Whether this project is worthy or not (seems like a NOT to me), it should be decided and paid for at the state level, not the federal level. The same goes for every other earmark. If they have to earmark it to get funding for it, that is a good indication that it isn't a project the feds should be funding. The feds shouldn't be in the business of redistribution of funds or short circuiting state and local priorities. Our state's biggest "win" from the same batch of earmarks is a road expansion that our state DOT said was unneeded and as a result, wasn't on the list to happen at any time in the future. But hey, it was in his district and he had some bogus rationale for it.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

It takes me two hours to get to the airport... and that doesn't include parking.

Yes, but your drive to the airport, I assume, is for business or pleasure, not for medical emergencies. And, if the weather conditions are not good, it can take up to a few days to get across to the airport, much less the time it takes to actually fly.

I understand your passion about pork. Trust me, I hold the same passion. But there are some worthwhile projects, and this, in my opinion, is one of them. Per capita or not, this is about more than just convenience.

Don't be afraid to see what you see.-Ronald Reagan

I have relatives that live over 2 hours from a real hospital. Should the feds be building them a hospital in case there is an emergency? If I choose to move to a remote location somewhere, anywhere, is it the federal government's job to build me an airport, bridge, highways, power plant, cell phone towers, and everything else I need to live there with all of life's modern conveniences?

Living in a remote location, I take a chance that I won't be able to get to the hospital on time should something happen. That is part of the deal.

In this country we don't tell people where they have to live. If someone lives in an area that doesn't provide them what they want or need, it isn't the federal governments job to provide that.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

Accordining to Wikipedia, as of Sep 2005, the fund has topped 31 billion dollars. Couple hundred million for a bridge should be easy to get past Alaskan voters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Permanent_Fun

assets to build your next freeway overpass? Maybe your capital building or a couple of state trooper stations? When you stop building roads and bridges with federal money, we will.

I give you my word that I will open my checkbook and devote my time to a constitutional amendment that prohibits federal spending on "internal improvements" in the states. After all, my ancestors fought and died for a constitution that included that provision.

In Vino Veritas

As long as everyone keeps saying "I must get my share" the government keeps getting bigger and the problem only gets worse. Coburn is just trying to let the sun shine in and Steven's is taking it personally.

If my primary motivation was to support things that were good for my state at the expense of the rest of the country, I wouldn't be a critic of ethanol. My state is in the top 5 for ethanol production. Forcing the rest of the country to fill up with 10% or 20% ethanol at the pump would be a boon for our economy. Of course, all that money would be coming directly out of the pockets of consumers in other states. But I suppose I'm supposed to look past that (and the fact that Ethanol makes no economic sense) and support it because it is good for my state?
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

Coburn p****d on Stevens' parade, and Stevens is showing him what a senior Senator can do when someone does that. It is just the way it works. Dogma is fine, were I to choose a brain disease, that might be it, but governing is about power and anyone who says they don't like power has never had any.

In Vino Veritas

just did a good imitation of Jack Nicholson in front of the court in A Few Good Men.

Coburn is just returning the favor for Steven p***ing on a national party objective that will be necessary to win the next general election. You want to know why some people are asking whether the Republicans are better than Democrats? Stevens is exhibit #1.

So I suppose a $50 million bridge is worth losing the House, the Senate, and possibly the Iraq war when the Democrats take control. But don't worry, you'll get your $50 million then.

If killing a bridge in Alaska is truly a national party priority then it's easy to see that the party has pretty serious problems.

The serious issues are the ones surrounding entitlement reform. I'll happily go along with all sorts of public works projects in return for votes on reforming the real problem areas.

Stevens backing the native-Hawaian bill was a much more serious derliction of his duty to the country. But it is a sign of how Kossian the rights wing blogs have become that frivolous issues become litmus tests for acceptability.

But it is a sign of how Kossian the rights wing blogs have become that frivolous issues become litmus tests for acceptability.

If we made entitlement reform a litmus test for acceptability, nobody would pass the test. That would be a much more "Kossian" way to go about it. Earmarks and discretionary spending are low hanging fruit... we are willing to settle for progress there before moving on to entitlements... because entitlements are just about politically impossible to do anything with, and we know it.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

What's the point of all this infighting to get a MAX savings of 1% of the budget?
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

They would add up to almost 25% of the budget if you exclude defense from the equation.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

Lets suppose that the GOP Congress go's ahead and eliminates ALL discretionary spending.

How many GOP Congressmen do you think we would have two election cycles from now?

This kind of thinking is divorced from political reality. I'd like to see the government be about ten percent of its current size, but I have zero delusions that any significant number of people are with me on that.

If your goal is large-scale reductions in the size of government, eliminating pork doesn't do that. 1% of spending, that's all it is.

Sen. Stevens infuriates me, and if we're going to go after pork, I want to go after his first.

But I'd rather that we all joiend together and worked on improving the process of budgeting in the Congress, so that we could cut more than just 1%.
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

1%, 0.5%, 0.1%... it's all good. Nothing is going to happen to entitlement spending while we are wasting so much money on pork and discretionary spending anyway. Entitlement spending buys and locks up *a lot* of votes... The pork and discretionary side buys a whole lot less. People can deal with a bridge or road getting cut, but if you mess with their monthly check from the government, there will be h*ll to pay.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

Is to sit at the trough and try to get as much as we can. In that case, you aren't going to ever see government be only 100% of its current size at any point in the future, much less 10%.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

My answer is to engage political reality. If it costs 100 billion dollars in "pork" to keep voters happy enough to vote for people who are fiscally responsible in the larger sense, I consider that money very well spent.

That is not to say that Stevens or anyone else is a reliable vote for entitlement reform, but the principle holds all the same.

What cuts are we getting in exchange for the money wasted on pork? If we could get get 2:1 or 3:1 cuts over pork I wouldn't have a problem for it, that number is less than 0:1 right now... what a deal.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

I think you just took what he wrote and substituted your own vision.

Right now we're starving the beast rather well in the larger sense. Between tax cuts and the War on Terror (say all you want about 'non-defense discretionary spending' but until you can show me that Homeland Security doesn't count in that category, I'll continue to assume the war is the bulk of it), we've done well in blocking out new government.

As I read Jon, he's saying that what we've got is WAY better than the alternative, and so if paying 1% of the budget for pork is the cost of keeping government in check, then that's a worthy investment.
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If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

Hey, if I want the kind of fiscal responsbility that involves growing every part of the government year after year, I could just vote for the Democrats... I'm sure they will be happy to oblige. I'm not nearly as pleased with how the last half dozen years have gone in terms of federal spending as you are. But you're right about the Homeland Security component... I feel much safer knowing that we are spending 2.5x as much on the Dept of Ed now than we were when Bush took office. And that grandpa doesn't have to pay for his Viagra any more. Those are the kind of things that are really critical to have in place if we want to win the GWOT.

If we have to become Democrats to stay in power, none of this is worth it. In any case, I think the arguments to that effect are completely bogus. Pork is a lot less politically important than just about any other kind of spending. You can get reelected without pork. Is Coburn in danger of losing his seat? What about McCain? I don't like the guy, but he certainly talks the talk on pork. Last I checked he was untouchable in AZ.

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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

Which do you think voters in a district care more about, getting a Federal project in their district which they see as directly benifiting personally them right now, or entitlement reform which will affect everyone in a general sense somewhere down the line?

Voters expect their Senate and House leaders to do things for the benifit of their own district as well as looking out for the country. Thats the way the system works. We can learn to use it to our advantage or we can elect only people who pledge never to bring Federal projects to their districts, and then sit back smugly in our minority status, congratulating ourselves on our consistency and purity.

What you regrard as low-hanging fruit are what Congressional members, and their constituients, regard as important.

Earmarks and discretionary spending are low hanging fruit... we are willing to settle for progress there before moving on to entitlements

Once you've knocked off all the GOP Congressmen who have brought Federal projects to your district, the remaining dozen will have no discernable ability to move on to entitlements. If we're going to take political risks it ought to be for something worthwhile.

I'll take whatever I can get. Good luck eliminating or shrinking Medicare or SS.
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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

are worthwhile and attainable goals, though they would have to be accomplished incrementally. The beast became so over the better part of a century that included two world wars, a worldwide depression, and an existential battle with the Soviet Union for our very existence. Much even of the entitlement program stems from that existential battle as well; SS, NLRA, and other New Deal programs were in large measure to stem a burgeoning socialist/communist tide during the Great Depression. Much of the social welfare spending programs created in the Sixties stemmed from trying to blunt Soviet/Leftist criticism of economic and political inequality in the US.

If Republicans are to make an agenda of entitlement and budget reform, it must be a national agenda and we must be elected to majority status specifically on that agenda. I believe that could be done with more effective ideological leadership of the Party. Newt Gingrich? Fundamentally, almost nobody who is invested in the entitlements other than SS is ever likely to vote for a Republican no matter what agenda we might run on, so the agenda doesn't really cost R votes. SS reform is a third rail and becomes more and more problematic as the Boomers age and move into the system, but it is very much susceptible to chipping at the edges; benefits not related to participation in the system such as sweeping disability and survivorship entitlements come to mind.

The current majority did not run on such an agenda and relative few in the majority were elected on such an agenda. It is simply fratricide for those who adhere to that agenda to attack those who do not. Right now, we have the government we have; it may not be the one that many, probably most, of us would chose, but it is what we must work with.

In order to govern well, we must first govern. Since Gingrich's fall, Republican politics has pretty much been every man or woman for him/herself doing what was necessary in their state or district to get elected; that's 535 separate agendae. I and most I know, yes even us avaricious Alaskans, would be supportive of a consistent national agenda of reining in entitlements, eliminating earmarks, and zero based or prior year based budgeting. But asking any member to go it alone to be the singular anti-entitlement, anti-pork, tight budget vote is asking him or her to retire.

In Vino Veritas

You are already talking about 1/3 of the budget. There are plenty of Republican voters that are dependent on these entitlements. If you want a formula for never being in power again, go ahead and tamper with Medicare or Social Security benefits. There's no hope of even dealing with these incrementally... just look at the prescriptions drugs benefit that we added. That was done in response to political pressure. Imagine the political pressure if we were talking about cutting back Medicare benefits that people currently use?

Speaking of Newt, remember him being vilified for his out of context "wither on the vine" comment that the Dems claimed was made in reference to Medicare? That went on for years after the fact. It was also used to attack incumbent Republicans who were not named Newt.

Pork and discretionary spending is a walk in the park compared to entitlement spending. The entitlements will be the last thing to ever see any real cuts.

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"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

bureaucrats want to write regulations. Note I only recommended "chipping around the edges" on these programs. Having negotiated a health insurance plan or two, you can do dramatic things with minor changes. Mediscare sets the floor for UCR rates; there are great savings in fine tuning those rates, and not just for M/C recipients, since the insurance companies react to the M/C rates. And simple things like positive, proven enrollment for SS dependents offer huge potential savings. You could do most of this stuff without even attracting much notice, since you first go after the cheaters and they're hard to defend. The difference is in the details.

In Vino Veritas

I find it odd that the right-wing blogs which are exerting so much effort in the basically symbolic PorkBusters project were largely silent when Bush was pushing for SS reform. The thinking behind this escapes me, if the goal is to actually curb the size of government.

As things stand the government will take 40% of GDP by 2040, mostly to pay for SS and Medicare. Any small government/fiscal conservative movement which does not engage that fact is not worthy of its name.

"Which do you think voters in a district care more about, getting a Federal project in their district which they see as directly benifiting personally them right now, or entitlement reform which will affect everyone in a general sense somewhere down the line?"

I don't think it's reasonable to continue to assume that everyone wants to "get theirs" and will vote based on who gets the most federal projects. That kind of assumption is the basis for that garbage book "What's the Matter with Kansas?". He can't figure out why Kansans vote against their "interests" for people who won't bring in the government money.

Do you only vote for people bringing lucrative projects to your district? Or do you have some other, more reasonable criteria?

Then why assume no one else does?

absentee

The problem with that book is that the Republicans do "bring in the government money". Provided that they do so in conjuction with a more restrained view of the governments role compared to the Democrats, thats a good deal.

To the extent that the Republicans also support social conservatism, which is the only realistic prospect of shrinking government, it is a very good deal.

Yes, people do care about the quality of their neighborhoods, A Congressman who can claim to have improved the neighboorhood by improving the roads or getting some other facility built is more likely to get relected. Thats why they do it, after all.

There's a pretty significant difference between saying "those who bring federal projects get elected, those who don't don't" and saying "congressmen who can claim to have made some infrastructure improvements have a better chance of being reelected" don't you think?

absentee

What is the significant difference?

With few exceptions, one persons needed infrastructure improvement is another person's pork.

... subject of my reply tells the difference. You're presenting bringing home the bacon as an on/off proposition. Bring home the projects or get the heck out of office. Then when I suggest perhaps people vote on other issues, you scale back to where you are merely saying fixing up a few roads might help the probability of being reelected.

If you honestly can't tell the difference ...

absentee

I still don't like the idea of paying for this bridge, but if you read the whole Stevens comment, he actually makes a good case that a new bridge is often what turns "nowhere" into "somewhere." It's happened before. Too bad he didn't dial back the theatrics.

From:
TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, THE JUDICIARY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (Senate - October 20, 2005)
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/C?r109:./temp/~r109TgaX80

excerpts:

Mr. STEVENS:

[...]

I have been here now almost 37 years. This is the first time I have seen any attempt by any Senator to treat my State in a way differently from any other State. It will not happen. It will not happen.

[...]

The request that has been made now to offset gulf coast spending using the highway bill money, only that allocated to the State of Alaska, is unacceptable to this Senator. I am now President pro tempore of the Senate, the second oldest Member of the Senate, the fourth in service in the Senate, and I again say to my friend from Oklahoma I have never seen it suggested to single out one State and say, You pay for a disaster that happened 5,000 miles away. We want to shoulder our fair share of the burden. We will do so. Those who want to look at this amendment as some sort of amendment that should be adopted because of misleading stories in the press, I warn you, it could happen to you, too. These bridges are necessary. Just take the one across the Knik Arm near our largest city of Anchorage. Anchorage is surrounded by water on two sides and by a military reservation on one side and a national forest on the other. There is no way to expand. Across this Knik Arm is land owned by the State and by private people that we could expand to. We have been trying to get a bridge across there for as long as I can remember. But because we are a small State, it is hard to do.

[...]

We can argue about the needs. That argument should have been made at the time the highway bill passed. The highway bill allocated money for those. It comes out, not from the Treasury, but out of funds paid by people who buy gasoline and people who buy parts for cars, people who buy various things that require them to contribute to the highway fund. I have come quite often to the floor and described my State to the Senate. I remind the Senate, we have half the coastline of the United States. We are one-fifth the size of the whole United States. We have more withdrawings for parks, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic areas, wilderness areas than all the rest of the States put together. We need bridges because we need to get from one private area to another private area. When I first came to the Senate, funds were allocated to a State based on the amount of land that was Federal land in a State that was withdrawn. That was dropped after Congress, in its wisdom, withdrew so much of Alaska. If we had the old formula, I can tell you, the Senator from Oklahoma wouldn't even understand the money we would get because more than half of the Federal land in Alaska is withdrawn, and the Federal Government will own, in any event, almost two-thirds of Alaska no matter what happens in the future. To have a representative of the Federal Government say Alaska doesn't need bridges, take them away from them and repair those bridges that went down in the disaster is absolutely wrong. Absolutely wrong.

[...]

I have a unique role in my State because I not only served in the Eisenhower administration, trying to urge the admission of Alaska to enter the Union, but it was my honor to come here after Alaska had only been a State for 10 years. In December I will have been here 37 years, as I said. I come to warn the Senate, if you want a wounded bull on the floor of the Senate, pass this amendment. I stood here and watched Senator Allen teach the Senate lesson after lesson after something was done to Alabama that he didn't like. I don't threaten people; I promise people. I came here and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I came here to represent a State that is an equal member of this Union. Notwithstanding how many people are there, we are to be treated the same as any other State. On the floor of the Senate we are equal to any other Senators, my colleague and I. This amendment is an offense to me. It is not only an offense to me, it is a threat to every person in my State. We came here to have the same rights, the same privileges that were made available to any other State and to the people who live in those States. While we are one-fifth the size of the United States, we only have 13,485 miles of road. That is less than King County, WA. Why? Because the Congress, in its wisdom, has withdrawn so much of our land, as I said, that you can't build roads. Oklahoma is one-eighth the size of Alaska. It has almost 10 times as many roads. If the concepts involved in this bill were applied to States as the Nation moved westward, we would still have wilderness beyond the Mississippi. I really cannot understand this. Roads are the lifeblood of this country. That is what made us free, having the ability to move, having the ability to use individual transportation, having the ability to drive from Oklahoma to Alaska if you want to. I urge the Senator from Oklahoma to try to do that. When I first came here I drove home when I went home every year because I couldn't afford to fly. In those days we got about seven trips, I think, annually. That didn't apply to our families at all. The problem I want to leave with you is this: 70 percent of our State is accessible only by air or by sea. Within our State we have to have different types of transportation. My colleague, Senator Murkowski, has pioneered now a concept of trying to build some rural roads to connect villages so we will reduce some of the Federal costs of supporting those individual villages. Each has an airport, each has a school, each has a clinic. These are redundant facilities. We can build better ones. One could have a good school, one could have a good airport, one could have a good fire department. We could do better for them and save money if we had more road money. But we do not get it.

[...]

In any event, we live under that system. We have needs. We are still a developing area. We are the last frontier of the United States. These bridges may go nowhere, as far as some people here are concerned, but they are very important to our future.

[...]

Currently, the bridge will serve military families who live in the Anchorage area and pay very high costs. Because of the cost of land, the rent is very high. That is because of the lack of land to expand. They will go across to the Matanuska Valley and have a better place to live. All I want to do is put the Senate on notice. I have been asked several times today if I will agree to this version or that version of the amendment of the Senator from Oklahoma. No. No, I will not, unless it treats all States the same way. We are here to ask you, those of us from Alaska, to believe that fairness is fairness; equality is equality. Being a member of the 50 States is being a State with the right to be treated equally to any other State. That is why the two of us are here, to assure that happens. Praise God I have the energy to do what I may have to do, to prove to the Senator from Oklahoma I mean what I say. This amendment is not going to pass. The Senate is warned. It is wrong to do this to any State. It is wrong to put colleagues in a position where we have to go home and explain why we couldn't prevent an amendment in which what is being done to our State has never been done to another State--never. This is not the time to start this process. I urge my friend from Oklahoma to reconsider this, reconsider what he is getting us into. The amendment may pass, but if it does the bill will never be passed. If it does, I will be taken out of here on a stretcher. I yield the floor.

but access is what turns nothing into something. Would Hawaii be as popular if you had to take a 1 to 2 week boat ride to get there?

And, let us say, just so that there is no argument on the future of this place, that there is no future growth in sight. This is a measure to bring some form of permanacy and stability in travel to an area that is severely hampered by the conditions of the land they are situated on. And please spare me with the "They chose to live there" spiel. Under that logic, since they chose to live there, they should get the full choice of ANWR, and the full benefits, resources, tax revenues, and selling rights, correct? All the resources we use from them should go straight back to them. It's theirs, after all, correct?

I hate pork. Let's get that straight. But earmarks and pork are separate. Earmarks can be pork, and pork can be earmarks, but they are not inseparable.

Don't be afraid to see what you see.-Ronald Reagan

Under that logic, since they chose to live there, they should get the full choice of ANWR, and the full benefits, resources, tax revenues, and selling rights, correct? All the resources we use from them should go straight back to them. It's theirs, after all, correct?

There's far too much federal land out there, but what does that have to do with deciding where to live?

I factored all sorts of things into the last property purchase I made. One of the biggest influencers of my decision was traffic. I could've bought more property for less money, had I wanted to deal with gridlock every day on the way to work and back. I suppose the "right" thing to do would've been to go ahead and buy the better property, then complain that the feds aren't paying for road upgrades to get me to my house in a reasonable time. I guess I'm just a sucker for taking any kind of personal responsibility for my decisions.

But earmarks and pork are separate. Earmarks can be pork, and pork can be earmarks, but they are not inseparable.

I have yet to see a single earmark that isn't pork. I don't believe they exist. If the money was going to support one of the federal governments constitutional obligations, it wouldn't need to be earmarked.

---
"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

constantly since statehood. The factual predicate of Alaska's statehood was its ability to develop its resources. It was self-evident that the state would not develop as others had by parceling out sections and quarter sections to individuals and evolving thru subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture to manufacturing and mercantilism. The rest of the country had almost a three hundred year head start on that before Alaska was purchased. Consequently, the state owns all subsurface rights and land was to be transferred directly to the state, which might then dispose of that land as it saw fit and use the proceeds from natural resource exploitation and land disposal to meet governmental needs. Those were the assumptions built into the statehood act and the Alaska Constitution at statehood.

That mass on the map labelled Alaska is 586,000 square miles or about 375,000,000 acres. At statehood a little over a third of that, 100MM and change, was to be transferred to the state, the remainder to stay in federal hands or Alaska Native hands under federal jurisdiction. The game changed almost immediately after statehood as a succession of Secretaries of the Interior withdrew area after area from eligibility for state selection and often barred any state selection at all for years at a time. I'm not even sure that today, almost 50 years after statehood, all state land selections have been transferred but I am sure that the map from which the state could select its statehood land entitlement has changed constantly since statehood culminating in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, which effectively turned almost all remaining land into statutory wilderness.

Anyone who came here or was born here in the Sixties or Seventies, when most of Alaska's population growth occurred, fully expected to be a part of developing the state's lands and resources as that development opportunity presented itself at the time. At that time Alaska was a challenging and stimulating place to live, but it was far from a pleasant place to live, isolated, hideously expensive, and almost wholly lacking in amenities even in the larger towns. People came here for the opportunity inherent in potential development.

Prudhoe Bay was discovered in 1968 and was on state land, but any development was predicated on a pipeline that had to traverse federal land. Alaska Natives almost immediately made aboriginal claims against the state and federal governments which resulted in 1972 in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which itself transferred 103 MM acres to Native hands and thus removed them from potential state selection. The TransAlaska Pipeline authorization act passed only on the vote of the vice-president and construction began in 1974. The assumption here was that TAPS would be immediately followed by developing Prudhoe Bay gas and the field was designed for that exploitation using gas reinjection to maintain field pressure so that when the oil was no longer economic, the pressurizing gas could be withdrawn and marketed. Likewise, what is now called ANWR was a known oil province on land then susceptible to state selection. The nearby federal Naval Petroleum Reserve Alaska was a known oil province and development was assumed at the time the revenue splits having been detemined already. The entire landscape changed in 1980 with ANILCA, which act effectively turned the remaining federal land in the Alaska landmass into statutory wilderness and made state selection and resource development essentially impossible. Even in the face of ANILCA's restrictions, Alaska insisted on and got provisions for exploration and extraction in what came to be known as the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), but the US has repeatedly refused to allow development of that province notwithstanding the underlying assumptions and express provisions of ANILCA. Subsequent to ANILCA, there has been almost no additional resource development in Alaska. A major international mining company tried to re-open the Alaska-Juneau mine, closed by federal labor allocation policy in 1944, and one of the richest gold mines in the world. After nearly a decade of wrangling with recalcitrant federal regulators and fighting off Greenie lawsuits, they threw in the towel and the already established mine will probably never re-open. The Pogo Mine near Fairbanks is only just beginning production after over a decade of legal wrangling. The Red Dog zinc mine in NW Alaska had an easier time since it is a Native development and the Greenies have more trouble opposing those projects but even it is under constant attack and threats of lawsuits and regulatory actions. The Kinsington Mine near Juneau has endured almost a decade of regulatory setbacks and Greenie lawsuits, the most recent resulting in a 9th Circuit injunction just last week. The Pebble Creek prospect on the Alaska Peninsula is a dazzlinly promising metals prospect but development, if any, is decades away due to regulatory hurtles and litigation. The once thriving timber industry in Southeast Alaska, centered on Ketchikan, has completely ceased to exist as the result of Clinton Era regulatory policy. I can go on and on.

In summary and before this becomes a book, it isn't as if today's Alaskans made the choice to come to or remain in a place that would never have economic growth. We came or remained here for the economic opportunity that development offered.

We cannot survive as an economy or as a state without resource development. Our lifeblood is Prudhoe Bay which is nearing the end of its economic life as an oil province; production is today less than half that of the '80s. Without gas development from Prudhoe Bay and ANWR/NPRA development, Alaska begins an inexorable slide to dependency; we have already seen a marked decline in our economy since the '80s and even todays high prices offer little relief; 1MM/bbl./dy at $70, today's production, gives the same revenue in nominal dollars as 2 MM/bbl./dy. at $30/bbl., the production of the early '80s, and those nominal dollars only buy about half what they bought then.

We are not trying to enrich ourselves by attempting to develop our state, though hopefully we can maintain or even grow our economy. We are trying to survive and we must develope our resources in order to survive. When Prudoe Bay is no longer economically viable, the TAPS authorization requires that it be dismantled and the right of way "restored." Absent ANWR and a gas line, Alaska returns to its economic status in the early Sixties and becomes a federal dependency. Were Prudhoe Bay to cease production and there to be no further development of North Slope resources, the State can operate for perhaps five to seven years on the Permanent Fund, and then its turn off the lights time. So, yes, we do get a little adamant about it.

In Vino Veritas

I wish this had come out during the debate, rather than now, as Stevens now faces immense attacks from the blogosphere.

Perhaps the anti-pork and anti-earmark crusade has gone too far - and I, for one, must admit to now having serious reservations about S. 2590 at this time.

We have seen the C-130J labeled as pork, despite the fact the DOD has requested this airplane. Now, we find out that the "Bridge to Nowhere", which supposedly had no valid reason, had very legitimate reasons for being funded after all.

Perhaps the folks in Washington have a better idea of what's going on than some folks want to admit.

build the damn bridge but first use eminent domain to take all the commercially viable land where the bridge will immediately increase land values. Sell off the land or develop it and use that money to pay off the cost of the bridge. That's how you pay for it. Just like old times.

that there is no commercially viable land. There are a few private parcels that may, indeed, increase in value; that's what capital gains taxes are for. What escapes most in this debate is that there is almost no private land in Alaska. If the state attempts to dispose of it, the Greenies file suit, and, admittedly, there are private interests who don't want to see more land in competition. Most of the big chunk of land you see on the map is either native land or belongs to you, the American taxpayer. Anyone who's had a little geography understands that Southeast Alaska is comprised of mountains that go down to a shelf of land and then the sea and a whole bunch of islands. What isn't readily apparent is the fact that what makes most of SE Alaska "landlocked" is the fact that the towns and private, even Native, land is completely surrounded by the Tongass National Forest and several national parks and wilderness areas that are larger than most states.

Ketchikan, the object of everyone's affection, once had a thriving economy based on the timber industry. Thanks to Bill Clinton and his "save the rabid rat" Greenie friends, there is no longer a timber industry in SE Alaska. In a little over a decade, KTN went from one of the most affluent communities in the country, per capita, to a third world tourism economy. Come up and buy some tee shirts!

In Vino Veritas

I'm sorry Leon. You do acknowledge the way Sen. Stevens and other vocal Alaskans have burned their bridges with their crass attitude toward taxpayer money, and you do present your case much better than most Alaskans seem to. But if this party insists on doing the emotionally satisfying thing and fighting pork, instead of fixing something significant in Washington, then we might as well take on Alaska and West Virginia first to maximize that satisfaction.

--
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

to Zuiko above. I regret that you think that defending my state's interests is "crass." Nevertheless, I will continue to do so, since I really don't need your approval.

In Vino Veritas

But I can call Ted Stevens an ingrate and a scumbag, and question the wisdom of pouring tax dollars on a piece of wasteland when we have more useful things to do with it.
--
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

Ted Byrd -- I mean Steven's arrogant attitude that the public doesn't need to see how our tax dollars are spent/wasted bodes poorly for the Republican Party. Sunlight is a good disinfectant and the fact is this bridge project stinks when brought out in the light of day. Steven's attempt to block the legislation just makes him, Alaska and the Republican Party look worse. He needs to show some maturity and back down both on blocking the legislation and trying to jam this project on the taxpayers.

Si vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Didn't Teddy did save us $2M by killing some Durbin earmark because he was pissed off at Dickie?

And I do understand that there are no roads leading out of town.

However, it seems to me that if the weather was bad enough for the ferry not to be able to sail:

1) the emergency helicopter would not be able to take off; and

2) driving across a bridge would be pretty dangerous, if not infeasible, as well.

The Bridge constituted a massive allocation of federal funds down to state level to deal with a highly localized concern. The issue is not even whether the money was a waste, given the high price tag (which yes, I believe it was-- just like I believe that any equivalently priced project in the lower 48 to improve the lives of a few thousand only, living in one state alone, is a waste).

The issue is, in my opinion, that this was a local concern. So, if the bridge was a priority, it should have been funded first out of Alaska's budget, and not federal funds. To my knowledge, there was little effort to fund this way (or if there was, it failed swiftly, suggesting that Alaskans, not lower 48-ers, principally saw the project as a waste).

What bothers me about so many earmarks is that a lot of them represent a complete abandonment of the federalist idea that states are supposed to take responsibility for things that impact them, and them alone. The federal government is supposed to take responsibility for things that impact more than one state (probably more than two, actually) or the country as a whole.

While the bridge may be defended as a worthwhile project (and indeed it may be, but not, in my opinion, with the price tag attached) the issue is that it was not a project that merited the expenditure of federal funds. State funds, possibly (that's a problem for the state of Alaska to resolve). But federal funds, no. The idea that it should have been funded by the state of Alaska, if at all, is actually reinforced by Stevens' apparent view that if it impacts on Alaska, all that matters is Alaskans' opinion. Quite right-- and Alaskans control the government in Alaska, where they can dictate what their money is spent on. They do not control federal expenditures, and they should not be allowed to. Alaska is one state out of 50. Plus, I dread to think, if we all accepted that argument, how much money would be going to my home state (Washington) on senseless porky projects that Patty Murray would want funded and on which she could, with the full acceptance of her colleagues and the American public, claim she was the ultimate arbiter since she knows more about Washington state than anyone else in the Senate.

Think about it, folks. Just because something is worthwhile doesn't mean it's the federal government's responsibility to fund it. I think we all, implicitly, accept that argument. Making sure there were no uninsured Americans would be great, and highly worthwhile. However, it is not the federal government's responsibility to pay for everyone's insurance, or health care, to make sure that people can get medical treatment whenever they want, or need, it.

Liz Mair is the editor of WWW.GOPPROGRESS.COM, a RedState-style blog for libertarian, mainstream and moderate Republicans

Alaska has just as much entitlement to federal highway funds as any other state. At an ideological level, I think the federal highway spendy frenzy of the last decade has been very wastefully proportioned, but every state has participated in it to such a degree that probably only nurses are harder to recruit these days than civil engineers and heavy equiment operators.

Whether it should have or not, the federal government long ago decided that road building in the states was a federal purpose. The KTN bridge is no more, nor no less, pork than a federally funded overpass on I-405 or a bridge over Lake Washington, both only benefit people in one locality.

Alaska's vehemence on this issue stems from being singled out over something that every state has enthusiastically participated in for the better part of a century since the federal highway system was begun. And Alaska uses money the same way that every other state uses its money; to pay up the match to the federal funds and to fund operation and maintenance of federally funded roads.

In Vino Veritas

Alaska's being singled out because Alaska's senior senator made a fool of your state in front of everybody.
--
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

Stevens, but get the order right. Stevens' admittedly intemperate actions came after Coburn et al. singled out Alaska's appropriation.

I wouldn't have done it that way. I would very quietly have used another earmark to appropriate some money to go tear out some federally funded pavement in OK.

In Vino Veritas

You can't really defend Stevens, so you imply Coburn's just the same.

How nice.
--
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

about Coburn; I'm sure every project ever funded at his request in OK was wholly in the national interest and as pure as the driven snow. I'm just telling you what I'd have done to him if he'd crossed me and I had the power to do it.

In Vino Veritas

Bring it on. Write your Senator and ask him to do that. If members of Congress started playing a tit for tat game of pork elimination, we'd all be a tiny bit better off, wouldn't we?

--
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

You have a source to support this contention? I wouldn't be surprised if AK passed up a lot of other states in per capita infrastructure expenditures a long time ago.

Not that this "reparations" argument is worth much to me anyway. I feel about as sorry for AK as I do for CA with their "We only get 80% of our federal money back" argument, which is not at all.
---
"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

Dude, we're like in soooo much trouble, you know, because like we keep voting for these tooootally stupid members of Congress. I mean, Nancy Pelosi is like, really an empty pantsuit. And Babs Boxer? WhatEVER.

So anyway, we have all these Congresspersons. And they're all like "We need high taxes," and they keep voting for them. But all you Republican state people, you're all like "Dude, no way." And we're like "Way," and so the taxes stay up.

So it's TOTALLY you're fault that we're like paying so much money!
--
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

argument anywhere other than asserting that when one looks at per capita spending, one should separate out that which is for a purely federal purpose, e.g., military bases and other miliary related activities, federal Indian responsibility, etc. I haven't researched it, but I suspect that overall federal spending in AK is far and away the highest per capita in the country. That said, there is a huge and very expensive military establishment that figures into that equation, missile defense doesn't come cheap, and a significant percentage of the population is Eskimo, Indian, or Aleut and thus are to some degree a federal responsibility, although Alaska provides education rather than BIA and uses state funds, lots of them, to do so.

In Vino Veritas

Using eminent domain to take "commercially viable land" and then sell off the land, probably to developers?! Isn't that saying "yes" to Kelo v. London? No thank you!

Liz Mair is the editor of WWW.GOPPROGRESS.COM, a RedState-style blog for libertarian, mainstream and moderate Republicans

Not long ago everyone was debating the 'nuclear option' of dumping bizarre Senate rules under which 41 Senators can obstruct the majority will. This nonsense of putting 'holds' on things allows one Senator to frustrate the majority will.

Aside from the question of whether Stevens's use of it is especially egregious, the Senate would be a better place if the rule was dumped altogether.

Quentin Langley
Editor of http://www.quentinlangley.net

The Constitutional option was all about forcing the Senate to fulfill its advise and consent duty under that document.

That duty only applies to Presidential appointments, though, not to ordinary legislation. For that stuff, I think the standard conservative position would be in FAVOR of slowing down and preventing operations.
--
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

>>I think the standard conservative position would be in FAVOR of slowing down and preventing operations.

Recall, the 'hold' nonsense applies to judicial appointments and to the repeal of legislation as well as to enacting new legislation.

I am all for extra hoops for new laws to have to jump through, but unless they are also 'sunsetted' the notion that any action by the Senate is subject to this rubbish is deeply troubling.

Quentin Langley
Editor of http://www.quentinlangley.net

 
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