2008 Dems: Feingold and Bayh Vote For Fiscal Responsibility
by Scott Shields
Kos and the Club For Growth teamed up earlier (a phrase I never thought I'd write) to monitor the progress of an amendment offered by Republican Senator Tom Coburn which would have stripped $125 million of pork out of the federal highways bill. The money would have been used to pay for repairs to the Katrina damaged Twin Spans Bridge crossing Lake Pontchartrain. When all was said and done (two versions of the amendment were voted on), it failed by a margin of 15 to 82.
Kos chided our side, saying that "there's no reason for any Democrat to vote against this amendment." On the surface of things, that sounds about right. Apparently, the concern was that passage of this amendment would put every earmarked project in the highway bill (and there were quite a few of them) in jeopardy. Personally, I take the view that one Senator's pork is another Senator's economic development. However, the earmarks specifically targeted by Coburn -- two bridges to nowhere in Alaska -- were pretty indefensible.
However, only four Democratic Senators voted in favor of the amendment -- Evan Bayh, Kent Conrad, Russ Feingold, and Mary Landrieu. Landrieu, representing Louisiana, has an obvious interest in seeing the repairs to infrastructure damaged by Katrina funded. Bayh and Feingold are the interesting votes, as they were both clearly looking to 2008. Being willing to put their state's pet projects on the line gives each some hard proof of his commitment to fiscal responsibility and willingness to reject the Beltway status quo.
The other Senate Democrats who are considered probable candidates for 2008 all voted against the amendment. This group includes Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry. But Republicans, who still like pretending that they are the party of fiscal responsibility, also voted overwhelmingly to reject the Coburn amendment. The 2008 likelies voting to save Alaskan pork were Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, and Rick Santorum. Virginia Republican Senator George Allen, also considered a safe bet to run in 2008, voted in favor, which I'm sure he'll be reminding GOP primary voters.
Interestingly, John McCain, another likely 2008 contender who's built a career in the Senate slamming pork barrel spending, did not vote on the amendment, depriving him of an obvious chance to bolster his fiscal responsibility bona fides. It's even more interesting to note that McCain had been present for earlier votes. Two Democrats -- Jon Corzine, who's campaigning for the Governor's race in New Jersey, and Chuck Schumer -- also did not vote on the amendment.