Sen. Coburn Wins a Big One for Pork-Busters in the Senate (updated)

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempted to bring up for a vote what was being referred to as the "Tomnibus" bill -- an omnibus spending bill comprised of 35 separate bills that were being blocked by Republican Senator Tom Coburn. "Blocked" is actually a poor word to use; Coburn was objecting to the quick voice-vote passage of these spending bills, largely filled with pork-barrel projects, without a debate -- and without containing within the legislation some sort of process to gauge the effectiveness of these new spending programs at a time of growing deficits.

In actuality, Coburn really opposed only about five of those bills outright, but feels that it's the Senate's job to look at all of these bills carefully on their merits, not pass them automatically because the spending would help politician's re-election efforts at home.

Senate Republicans sided with Coburn yesterday, and the "Tomnibus" was defeated. The actual vote was 52-40 for consideration, which fell 8 votes short of allowing to bill to go to the Senate floor for a vote. The Washington Post reports that while the Democrats are furious, Coburn really doesn't care (Sen. Reid Thwarted On Bundle Of Bills). And if the following message from the Republican Senator could find its way into a series of GOP campaign ads, along with details on the trick Reid tried to pull and the spending that the Democrats were trying to push through, it would probably resonate well with the voters:

Reid cobbled together the 35 bills -- each of which had passed the House by large margins -- into one legislative package in an attempt to overcome all of Coburn's parliamentary obstacles at once. Coburn is opposed to creating federal programs unless other programs he considers duplicative are eliminated or reduced in scope, and he demands that new programs also contain measures of their effectiveness.

"We don't do that in this city. We just conveniently charge it to our grandchildren," Coburn said in debate before the vote, noting the record $482 billion deficit projected yesterday for 2009.

The Democrats seem to be screaming to the high heavens about quite a few things these days (gas and oil prices, the Tomnibus bill, the deficit, etc.). They're probably going to incorporate these issues into campaign ads. The problem for the Dems is that once you start looking carefully at these issues, the GOP position looks more and more appealing to the average voter.

It would be a good idea for the Republicans to listen carefully to what the Dems are barking the most loudly about, then pre-emptively launch campaign ads pointing out precisely what the Democrats are complaining about, and what the GOP solution is. In other word, go out and stake an ownership position on these issues before the Democrats do. Remember, it's not the GOP against the Democrats this fall, it's the GOP against the Democrats and the media.


In the Politico's "The Huddle" this morning, Tim Grieve points out that the Associated Press has sided with Reid on the "Tomnibus" bill, and is helping the Senate Majority Leader with his messaging:

HARRY REID LOSES the Senate vote on the Tomnibus, but he wins the AP:

“Under a Democratic dare, Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a bill that would aid victims of torture, disability and disease, insisting the legislation would add to the deficit and demanding that Congress first act to lower soaring gas prices.”

Reid snarls at the Senate GOP: “Next time you see someone in a wheelchair at home, explain to them about how you voted against moving forward on something that may get them out of that wheelchair.”

After a bit of searching, I found the DNC talking points...err, the AP article in question at Senate Kills Bill for $10B in New Spending.

This is precisely why it's important to get out in front of these issues and own them. Unfortunately, while the Democrats have the media and the AP to distribute their message and spin, the Republicans only have political ads. But all that means is that the GOP has to work harder and faster than the Democrats to be effective. The Republicans should immediately take steps to redefine this issue and release a statement with a follow up ad which includes the following points:

1. We agree that this is an important bill;
2. We are curious to hear the explanation from Senator Reid why the Democrats insisted on bundling such a fine bill with so many bad ones; and
3. We look forward to Senator Reid offering this particular bill up separately, and scheduling a full floor debate and vote on it. We'll leave it up to the Democrats to decide if they want to do that before or after we consider the energy bill.

In other words, be proactive, not reactive. I know it can be expensive, but if the voters begin to see effective messaging and counter-messaging done in a manner in which it could make a real difference, they'll appreciate it - and donate to enable more of the same.