The total amount spent by candidates during the 2008 elections exceeded $1.4 billion. The operating budget for Congress is about $4.7 billion, which included a hefty 6% increase last year. And for this, we get a legislature that tries to pass trillion-dollar tax and spending bills, major changes to our military culture, and nuclear arms treaties in a blind panic during a few weeks in December.
Of course, much of this is deliberate. It’s easier to shovel those big spending bills down America’s throat when people are thinking about Christmas, in between terrifying stories about how the government will be “shut down” if we don’t do something right this instant.
Today, one man stands athwart history, yelling “Stop!” That man is Jim DeMint, Republican senator from South Carolina. He had a look at the 1,924-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill Democrats cooked up, shook his head, and insisted they read it to him. Out loud.
If DeMint carries out his threat – and his eyes have a certain Rooster Cogburn fire in them – it will take fifty hours to read the bill out loud. That would reduce the speed of Congress to twenty-two billion dollars per hour. Democrats who spent the last couple of years doing everything but their Constitutional duty of setting budget and tax law are suddenly sobbing at the prospect of their urgent business being delayed until Saturday. Nervous Senate clerks can already feel razor blades forming in their throats.
DeMint is frank about his purpose. He told Fox News, “If they bring [the omnibus bill] up, they’re going to read it. It’ll take them a day or two to read it… we’re trying to run out the clock. They should not be able to pass this kind of legislation in a lame-duck Congress.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has a one-page continuing budget resolution that would fund the government at current levels until February, which even Ben Stein could read in a lot less than fifty hours, even factoring in the time needed for the mandatory “Bueller? Bueller?” joke. This would keep things running until the new, less irresponsible Republican House can prepare a sane budget.
The Hill quotes an irate John Kerry (D-MA) complaining that this tactic could delay the START nuclear arms treaty until February, something that has never happened before. No, wait, that’s always happened before. Treaties like this have never been passed by lame-duck sessions of Congress. The Russians have openly said February would be fine with them, but Kerry insists no one will ever be better prepared to vote on START than the same Congress that couldn’t even pass a budget.
The Hill quotes Kerry whining to reporters: “If you have new senators coming in, you can hear the cries right now: ‘We haven’t had time to do this, we don’t know the treaty backwards and forwards, we have to take hearings, we have to have more briefings… The really appropriate question is not ‘Why not wait?’ It’s ‘Why delay?’”
Kerry also trotted out the bizarre Democrat talking point that his party has been helpless, despite controlling the House, Senate, and White House: “The irony, the hypocrisy of us sitting here with [Republicans] standing up and saying ‘Oh my Gosh, it’s the last minute’… It’s the last minute because they haven’t let us do anything. The game plan is usually to keep preventing things from happening.”
That sounds like an excellent argument for getting rid of the useless Democrat Party. The bill Jim DeMint wants read out loud is another. If the “game plan to keep preventing things from happening” saves us from a trillion dollars in madcap government spending, it sounds like a winning plan to me.