Having skirted budget restraints and approved nearly $300 billion in new spending and tax breaks before leaving town, Republican lawmakers are now determined to claim full credit for the congressional spending. Far from shying away from their accomplishments, lawmakers are embracing the pork [...]When the GOP is in the minority, we get the Contract with America. When they're in the majority (and they control the White House as well), the principles of the Contract with America become as quaint and obsolete as the Constitution itself.
When the year started, President Bush made spending restraint a mantra, laying out an austere budget that would freeze non-security discretionary spending for five years and setting firm cost limits on transportation and energy bills. But now, as Congress fills in the details of the budget plan, there is little interest in making deep cuts and enormous pressure to spend.
Lawmakers have seen little to fear from a political backlash, some acknowledge, and Bush has yet to wield his veto pen. In fact, the White House has proved itself largely unable to overcome the institutional forces that have long driven lawmakers to ply their parochial interests with cash.
"If you look at fiscal conservatism these days, it's in a sorry state," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), one of only eight House members to vote against the $286.5 billion transportation bill that was passed the day before the recess. "Republicans don't even pretend anymore."
"You have to be courageous to not spend money," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), "and we don't have many people who have that courage."
"There's a rising level of frustration with the disconnect between where the vast majority of conservatives are in this country and how Congress is behaving," said former representative Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), whose Club for Growth political action committee finances the campaigns of conservative candidates. "There's going to be a wake-up call sooner or later."
I have no illusions about the GOP. When in power, they're as willing as the Dems to spend like drunken sailors (although the projects are usually different). The big difference is that the GOP pretends to be otherwise at election time, and not enough of the base cares enough about the spending issue to send Congress any kind of "wake-up call".
Although I tend to vote Republican, I don't consider myself to be a Republican—why endorse a party that truly believes very little of what it professes to believe? The GOP has never gotten any money from me, and I don't expect it ever will. They spend enough of my money as it is.