Want to know what’s wrong with Congress? Just read what Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W. Va., told The Examiner about the prospect of an earmark-free world: What’s the role of a member of Congress then? Should we just go home after we cast the vote for Speaker?
Rahall speaks as though he’s not in Congress at all, but instead on the set of a 1960s game show in which he has 60 seconds to stuff his shopping cart with as many items as possible from the federal Treasury.
Unfortunately, our Founding Fathers did not have “Supermarket Sweep” in mind when they wrote the Constitution. Nor did they expect to see “The Price is Right,” the game of selling earmarks for bribes that landed former Republican Rep. Duke Cunningham in federal prison. Nor could they have expected the House and Senate chambers to become the set of “Let’s Make a Deal,” in which multiple earmarks are traded for yes votes on Obamacare and other bad legislation.
The Framers entrusted Congress with several limited powers, including the power of the purse in order to promote the general welfare, not the particular welfare of powerful local interests and contractors. When members of Congress bring home the bacon at the expense of the general welfare, they violate at least the spirit of this constitutional requirement. Congressional Republicans’ new earmark ban will not solve the budget problem, nor will it end government waste overnight. But it is a step in the right direction, finally. It is also more than any of the last five Congresses accomplished in promoting fiscal responsibility.
Rahall himself recently admitted he used his office letterhead effectively exploiting his position to help his troubled son avoid jail time for a home-invasion robbery in Fairfax County. Lobbyist Tanya Rahall, his sister, has been sued for allegedly threatening her former lobbying firm that her congressman brother would blacklist its clients if she were fired. But Congress isn’t “Family Feud,” either, and Rahall seems to use his office for everything except the powers entrusted to him and other congressmen by our Constitution. Let’s hope that the 90-plus members of the congressional freshman class show more respect than Rahall for the Constitution. And let’s put an end to the game-show Congress by banning earmarks.