Jerry Lewis' Hair Is on Fire

Congressional Republicans headed home today amid partisan charges that they can’t get anything done. It’s true to a certain extent. On immigration reform and the budget, the GOP failed miserably these past two weeks.

The immigration fiasco is so disappointing for many reasons. One has to ask, Why can’t the Senate just adopt the House bill and worry about a guest-worker program after the borders are secure?

The debate over the budget, however, is borderline absurd.

The National Taxpayers Union yesterday unearthed a revealing e-mail message from the staff director of the House Appropriations Committee that shed light on the reason why Republicans weren’t able to come to an agreement.

Here’s the long and short of it, as reported on NTU’s blog:

By now you may have heard that House Leadership had to postpone consideration of the budget resolution until after the upcoming recess. Why you ask? Because Jerry Lewis and the House Appropriations Committee blew talks up today because the budget actually budgets for emergencies, and Leadership is attempting to provide conservatives with an added way to ensure that the fund doesn’t become some sort of slush fund. But the Committee refuses to change the way they do business in spending money.

The author of the e-mail, according to NTU, is Frank Cushing, the committee’s staff director. Here’s the text of his note:


As you know, the Budget Resolution contains a so-called "Rainy Day Fund" that would REQUIRE the Budget Committee to approve non-defense related emergency spending in excess of the amount stated within the Budget Resolution. The threshold number plucked out of the sky by the Budget Committee for both mandatory and discretionary emergencies is $4.3 B, which, according to Dale’s calculations, is at least $3 B less than the ten year (median) average for just natural disaster spending. When we have discussed this with Leadership their only response is that "it can be adjusted in conference". They missed the point: we want it out.

What Leadership apparently wanted was to not cede control of this process to either us or the Budget Committee. So their response was to develop yet another procedural hurdle for us alone (even though the authorizers can dip into the emergency kitty, they are not subject to this particular procedural hurdle). This procedural loop for us (which is attached) was drafted no later than last Thursday but was not shared with us until just before Noon today. After much internal discussion and trips back and forth to the Parliamentarians, we have decided that what they are suggesting for us is at least as bad as what the Budget Committee did, and probably worse.

ACCORDINGLY, Chairman Lewis has instructed us to inform you that, unless the Rainy Day Fund and this new Point of Order are dropped/not included through action of the Rules Committee tonight, he will NOT SUPPORT passage of the RULE and/or the BUDGET RESOLUTION tomorrow. He also requested that you inform your Subcommittee Chairman of his position in this regard and asks that they likewise support the Committee. We will be notifying other Members of the Committee (both sides of the aisle) as well as Leadership that we are taking this action.

Please call if you have any questions.


Having trouble making sense of this? Well, me too. But basically what Cushing is trying to explain is that Lewis, the powerful Appropriations chairman, doesn’t want anyone telling him how to spend money. That attitude is absolutely appalling.

Mr. Lewis, let me remind you that it’s my money you’re spending. And putting in some controls so it doesn’t turn into a slush fund is a common-sense solution. But, then again, the words “common sense” and “Appropriations chairman” don’t fit together.

NTU summed it up this way:

My guess is that given that Congress just spent billions on emergency Katrina relief, most Americans probably think it perfectly reasonable to at least try and anticipate some of the spending likely to ensue from upcoming natural disasters. But nobody ever said the Appropriators were particularly reasonable.

That’s an excellent point.

These next couple weeks when you hear the term “Do-Nothing Congress” thrown around by Democrats and the liberal media, think about Jerry Lewis. He single-handedly thwarted a budget agreement that the House GOP leadership and conservatives could agree upon (which is somewhat surprising given recent spats.)

What can you do? Bombard Lewis’ offices with phone calls and e-mails. Send him a message that you want responsible government spending — something Lewis apparently doesn’t.