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September 20, 2007

Time Profiles DeMint And Coburn, Calling Them "Bomb-Throwers"

The actual article is more gracious, but they cannot refrain from suggesting they're extremists in the headline.

Their extremism? They want their fellow Senators to stop spending like drunken sailors and to seal the borders.

Senator Tom Coburn spent a good part of last Wednesday trying to stop the federal government from building bike paths. He wanted to redirect the $12 million allotted for them to shoring up U.S. bridges following the collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people. The amendment failed 80-18. Undeterred, Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, immediately introduced his second amendment of the day: a motion to suspend all earmarks — or pet projects often attached in secret to funding bills — until structural integrity of all U.S. bridges can be verified. There were $2 billion in earmarks in the bill, which, if passed, will fund the Transportation Department next year; the amendment failed 82-14. That same day Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, added his own amendment to suspend a rule that requires the government use unionized workers to make emergency repairs to bridges, which DeMint says raises the cost by as much as 35%. That amendment also failed 56-37.

The fact that DeMint and Coburn's amendments were defeated is nothing new in the Senate, and it does little to temper their enthusiasm as Congress rushes to finish all of the funding bills for next year. At a time when the conservative base is lamenting its choice of presidential candidates as well as the priorities of the Oval Office's current occupant, the two are the leaders of a small group of Republican hardliners working overtime against Democrats and Republicans alike to make a firm stand against what they view as out-of-control spending.

The Republican base is "frustrated with us for not carrying through on the spending issue and over-spending. It's the reason we're not in the majority and it's going to take us a while to earn that trust back," DeMint told TIME in an interview in his offices last week.


[Their frequent objections to unanimous consent motions] do not usually kill the bills, but they invariably launch negotiations with the bills' authors or the leadership on what can be done to appease DeMint's or Coburn's concerns; usually all they are asking for is a chance to debate and amend the bill — even if their amendments fail they still serve as a symbolic line in the sand. Increasingly, though, the group has started winning votes. Although the group's signature concern has been spending, their biggest victory was killing the immigration bill. They also held up the lobbying reform bill until much more stringent controls on earmark spending were included. Last December, just days after he was elected head of the Steering Committee, DeMint brought down his own party's attempt to pass the remaining 2007 appropriations bills, saving the government $17 billion by forcing it to resort to 2006 levels. And in 2005, Coburn led the campaign against what he called the "Bridge to Nowhere," one of Senator Ted Stevens's earmarks that sought $200 million to build an Alaska bridge to an island with a full-time population of 50.

Stevens, an Alaska Republican, was outraged that the attack came from his own party, and he is not alone. Along the way DeMint and Coburn have angered the leadership of both parties and a lot of senators. Senator Trent Lott, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, was so incensed at the role they played in killing the immigration bill that he revoked the $7,500 in funds they get from the leadership to help maintain their offices (the bulk of their funding, however, comes from fees that senators pay to be members). While he recognizes what they're trying to do, Lott notes that their talents need to be "channeled in a more constructive way," in a way where their own party isn't taking embarrassing votes. "A lot of their amendments when they're offered don't make a lot of senators happy," Lott said. "I mean senators voting for bicycle paths instead of bridge repairs? That's not the smart vote substantively or politically."

But you do it anyway, don't you?

The GOP will lose more seats in Congress and they deserve to, and no one will mourn this. They're cutting their own throats and spurning the people trying to keep the razors from them.

For every DeMint or Coburn or Vitter we have a dozen McConnell's, Lott's, and Stevens'. I will support the Republican Presidential candidate wholeheartedly, but I can't support Republicans for Congress generally. They somehow think we sent them to Washington to take payoffs and waste taxpayer money, and no matter how loud we scream that's precisely the opposite of what we want, they refuse to listen.

There are good candidates out there deserving of support, but there is no hope of cleaning this Augean Stables of pigshit out in time to win back Congress. Only by turning our backs on them do we have any chance to at least get some real conservatives elected by say 2012.

Oh... I like Time's claim that conservatives are "lamenting" their choices for presidential candidate, despite the fact we've actually got one of the strongest fields in a long time.

Lamenting? What, that my first two choices don't win and I have to settle for Mitt Romney, who I rather like? Or that my fourth pick John McCain wins? Even on that one I'd be supportive (if skittish).

The Democrats, in Time's estimation, are in no way "lamenting" their pathetic choices, but are indeed elated, despite the fact that the front-runner is Hillary!, whom the leftist base despises as "too right wing."

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posted by Ace at 12:14 PM

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