Thursday, February 1, 2007

Deserved, but misplaced rage

Yesterday, the House voted to approve the massive appropriations bill HR 20, the Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2007. The was a merger of all the spending bill's the 109th didn't pass before they left to campaign or once they returned during the lame duck session. I'm not sure why the Republicans couldn't pass the spending bill, but they left it to the Democrats. This inaction is going to cost our District roughly $16 million in earmarked grants that had been included in the bills the Republicans didn't pass.

Rep. Scott Garrett released the following statement regarding the bill, probably because he knows he's going to need to be on record explaining why he voted against certain programs, included in this bill, come election time (I could write a half dozen radio ads right now).

Reform means nothing if it only applies to everybody else. For all the political grandstanding by the Democrats over the last few months, their actions today show that they have no plans to make good-governance, reform, or transparency priorities during their tenure in the majority. I voted against this bill today because I believe that allowing an elite few from one party to unilaterally decide how to spend $463 billion of hard-earned taxpayer dollars is a betrayal of the principles of accountability, transparency, and bipartisanship that the Democrats themselves called for just three short months ago.
Now, on the one hand I don't think it's right that they limited debate and amendments on a spending bill. Garrett's right, it's our money and Representatives should be able to debate certain things. On the other hand, this is the grave the Republicans who didn't get voted out of office last November dug for themselves when they failed at delivering the appropriations bills in December. This is one of the most basic of responsibilities for members of the House, and the Republicans didn't get it done.

Instead, the Republicans spent hours debating or speaking about resizing park borders, congratulating social service organizations for their service, renaming buildings, and increasing swimming pool safety. A good bit of time was spent on the India Nuclear deal. To varying degrees, these were important issues, but passing the appropriations bills should have taken precedent. Now, you have protest statements from the Republicans about how things were handled, when they are the ones to blame for being in the situation in the first place.

The good news is, this omnibus bill freezes almost all spending levels from the previous budget, so there isn't a huge increase in government spending. The bad news is the loss of funds to those projects here in our district and throughout the state. Several, like the West Milford Streetscape project, had the big check presentation with Garrett already. The money's not gone, but Congressmen will now have to deal with the agencies under which the money had been earmarked. It will be a fight to get it, and we'll see how Garrett does.

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