Editorial: Stop the games, vote for sunlight

Desperate senators — most notably old bulls Ted Stevens of Alaska and Robert Byrd of West Virginia — are fighting a shameful rear-guard action against S. 2590, the Federal Financial Accountability and Transparency Act co-sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., and 34 of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle in the U.S. Senate.

Coburn-Obama requires the establishment of a Google-like Internet database making most federal spending accessible within a few mouse clicks for every citizen.

The goal is to use sunlight to disinfect the worst abuses from the federal budget by giving citizens easy access to see how their tax dollars are being spent. Besides the bipartisan support in the Senate, Coburn-Obama is enthusiastically backed by more than 100 citizen groups from Greenpeace and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force on the left to Citizens against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union on the right.

All that is needed to get Coburn-Obama through the Senate is an up-or-down vote. After that happens, Senate and House conferees can meet to resolve conflicts between their somewhat differing versions and recommend one bill to be passed for President Bush to sign. There is little doubt that Bush would sign such a bill, but it has to get to him first. That’s the problem — only a couple of weeks are left on the legislative calendar before members go home to campaign for the Nov. 7 election.

And it is that limited time which Stevens, Byrd and at least one other still-anonymous Democratic senator are counting on to prevent the people from being enabled to see clearly how their money is spent by government. Last week Stevens, then Byrd, used the Senate’s rule allowing a single unnamed senator to put a legislative hold on a bill. An explosion of protests from the blogosphere forced the unmasking of Stevens and Byrd, but then the third still anonymous Democrat put on yet another hold.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has wisely promised to do everything in his power to get Coburn-Obama to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote, saying, “let me be clear, hold or no hold, I will bring this legislation to the floor for a vote in September.”

Blogospherians left and right are gathering petition signatures demanding a vote. You can sign the petition at: http://porkbusters.org/pass-s2590.php

Think about it. We’re talking about taxpayersbeing able to see how their elected representatives are spending their tax dollars. That’s what Stevens, Byrd and the anonymous third senator are against. They want to go on spending tax dollars from behind the closed doors of red tape and bureaucracy without being held accountable. As Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said: “A Google-like Web site to find out where your tax dollars go — seems like a no-brainer, right?”

Indeed it is. Your porking time is up, senators. Sen. Feinstein? Sen. Boxer? What can you do to expedite this vote?

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