Republicans missing the message

Democrats might want to keep in mind the old rule inpolitics that you never stop an opponent while he’s committing suicide. They are about to have the distinct pleasure of watching a slew of Senate Republicans jump off a political cliff. These Republican stalwarts haven’t gotten the message — that the voters who dismissed the GOP majority in November 2006 aren’t going to put the party back in control as long as it keeps voting for more of the earmarks that fueled the “culture of corruption” in Congress. It’s also going to be vastly more difficult to get those same voters to pull the lever for the party’s presidential nominee so long as pork-addicted GOP senators keep sticking their snouts in the trough.

Take for example the roll call vote on Sen. Jim DeMint’s amendment to kill a provision in the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill directing $2 million to three construction projects for a college in New York’s Harlem. The South Carolina Republican’s amendment would have struck the provision first inserted in the legislation by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. All three projects are named for Rangel.

But when it came time to vote on this crude effort by Rangel to use tax dollars to promote himself, it was preserved on a 61-34 vote. Two Democrats — Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin — voted for the DeMint amendment, while 16 Republicans voted against it. The 16 were Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kit Bond of Missouri, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Larry Craig of Idaho, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dick Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens of Alaska, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, George Voinovich of Ohio and John Warner of Virginia.

Earlier in the day, only three of these GOPers — Hatch, Lugar and Lott — broke ranks to vote for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would have killed millions of new dollars to be added to the more than $500 million previously earmarked by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., for the National Drug Intelligence Center, which is in his district.

National Review Online’s David Freddoso notes that those millions have gone to Murtha’s baby “even though the Bush administration, the Justice Department and one of NDIC’s own former directors consider the center a total waste.”

These are merely two of the numerous votes in the 110th Congress in which many Senate GOPers voted with the Democratic majority to use earmarks to keep lining the pockets of favored contributors, former staff members and even themselves. Some are retiring, thank goodness. It would be better for the GOP if all of them headed home for good.

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