Weekly Opinion Editorial
RE-ELECTION TOKENS ARE BACK!
by Steve Fair
On December 22nd, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a $1.7 trillion-dollar 4,155-page omnibus package. It funds the federal government through September 2023 and provides the Ukraine with $45 billion in military and economic aid. The omnibus also included reforms to the Electoral Count Act (ECA). The original ECA was passed in 1887 after three disputed presidential elections. It set forth a formal procedure for Congress in how Electoral votes were counted. The 2022 revision diminishes the role of the Vice President in the counting process and makes their function ceremonial. Many believe it will not pass constitutional muster.
The Senate passed the bill 68-29, with 18 Republicans joining all Democrats to vote yay. Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R-OK) was one of the 18, citing the increase in defense spending as his main motivator. Sen. James Lankford, (R-OK) voted no.
The U.S. House voted on Friday 225-201, along Party lines to pass the omnibus. All five Oklahoma U.S. House members voted against the omnibus. Three observations:
First, Sen. Inhofe, who is retiring this month after 28 years in the Senate, has never been a fiscal conservative. Inhofe fought the elimination of Senate earmarks when the late U.S. Senator Tom Coburn championed voiding them in 2010. Coburn clashed with Inhofe on earmarks and other fiscal issues the entire time they served together in the Senate. Inhofe argued for earmarks to be reinstated last year. The Senate recognized the general public opposed earmarks, so they cleverly rebranded them, ‘congressionally directed spending.’ A more appropriate label would be ‘reelection tokens.’
During the 2010 debate on earmarks, Inhofe stated Congress is given, ‘the power of the purse,’ therefore making earmarks for individual members not just acceptable, but necessary. Opposing views contend the 535 members have the ‘power of the purse,’ collectively, not individually.
The omnibus, which became law on Friday, contained 3,100 earmarks totaling almost $7.8 billion dollars. 44% of the total earmarks came from Republicans. Senator Inhofe did his part to ‘bring home the bacon.’ On Inhofe’s official Senate website, there is an extensive listing of Oklahoma projects included in the omnibus. Most, if not all of the projects, are worthy of funding. Worthiness is not the issue. No single Senator (no matter their Party affiliation, worldview, values) should wield the power to sovereignly decide what to fund or not to fund.
Second, this was passed without anybody reading it. The bill was given to the Senators on Tuesday, with a vote scheduled on Thursday. To read it in that period of time would be like reading the entire Bible twice in two days. Nobody read it all! The chance of errors, unintended consequences, and just plain fraud is high. That is no way to run a government. Government requires publicly traded companies to provide accurate financial information to the public or face stiff penalties. When errors or misstatements happen in legislation government proclaims, ‘my bad,’ and moves on. Elected representative should be required to read the legislation they are voting on and leadership should be required to provide sufficient time for that to be done.
Third, America’s fiscal house is falling apart with Republicans helping it happen. The national debt is $31.3 trillion and rising. Elected officials- in both Parties- spend tax dollars like drunken sailors. Government waste is never addressed. Government continues to grow at an alarming rate. Republicans campaign on stopping the cycle of repetitiveness, but once elected, they spend money America doesn’t have on programs America doesn’t need. We need more Tom Coburns.
Senator James Lankford, (R-OK) replaced Coburn when he resigned from the Senate. Lankford has continued Coburn’s fiscal conservatism fight. He voted against the omnibus, citing the record high deficit spending it included.
Dr. Coburn once said, “We need real leadership, Democrat, Republican and independent to stand up and say, we have to live within our means.” That is a concept 18 Republican Senators failed to grasp this week.