ARLINGTON, Va. -- There are laws - even ethics rules - against buying votes in Congress. Lobbyists (Jack Abramoff and others) went to prison for attempting to buy votes, and congressmen (Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Bob Ney) went to prison for selling them.
As with so many things Congress does, the rules it makes for others do not always apply to some of its members.
In the scandalous, shortsighted sellout of American troops in Iraq, a slim Democratic House majority passed a measure that Speaker and top vote-buyer Nancy Pelosi claimed would "end the war in Iraq." The claim is preposterous because even if the Senate were to pass such a measure, there are insufficient votes to override a presidential veto. One can hear the cheering in the enemy camps as they exhort their young suicide bombers to kill themselves, and just a few more infidels, for Allah, because the worldwide Islamic empire is drawing nearer.
While the Democratic "leadership" and certain of its media acolytes crow about the "historic day" when the measure was passed, the real historic note is how so many were willing to sell their votes for blatant self-interest. Perhaps, knowing the measure would never become law, these "public servants" figured they might as well grab all the pork they could get.
Attached to this bill of surrender, as chronicled by Citizens Against Government Waste, is $21 billion in pork to buy the votes of some members. Among items offered in exchange for votes was $283 million for the Milk Income Loss Contract Program; $74 million for peanut storage costs; $60.4 million for salmon fisheries; $50 million for asbestos mitigation at the U.S. Capitol Plant; and $25 million for spinach growers. I'm surprised no aid was provided to pet food manufacturers to help them recoup the losses incurred after rat poison was found in their products. Oh, well, maybe next year.
The Senate is waiting to lard on to the emergency war supplemental bill multiple pounds of its own pork. Citizens Against Government Waste reports that among the outrages in the Senate measure are $24 million for sugar beet producers; $20 million for reimbursements to Nevada for "insect damage"; $3.5 million for guided tours of the Capitol (don't most people expect to buy tickets for such things?); and $3 million for sugar cane and the transfer of funds from holiday ornament sales in the Senate gift shop.
Seeking to justify the unjustifiable, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said nonmilitary items in the spending bill were necessary because those stingy Republicans who held the majority for 12 years neglected important needs. If that's true, rather than attach these items to an appropriations bill, why not introduce a measure that would fund such projects and then debate whether the federal government should spend our money on them?
This is the kind of politics many people, regardless of party, have grown to hate. Democrats promised to "clean up" the way Congress operated when they became the majority in January. They are rapidly becoming much like those they replaced.
President Bush correctly noted the "political theater" indulged in by the Democrats who know he will veto the bill if it arrives with timetables for a troop pullout from Iraq. The president should publicly name every member who slipped pork into the supplemental spending bill, charge the Democratic leadership with vote buying and shame them before their constituents. Why should a Congress that can't resist pork be expected to resist an enemy that never talks about timetables for withdrawal?
The Islamofascists wish to use Iraq (along with Iran) as a base to destroy Israel and from there subjugate Europe before going after their ultimate objective: the United States.
That isn't propaganda or politics; it's fact. They say it, and prove they mean it, every day. Meanwhile, disgraceful members of Congress buy and sell votes for self-serving purposes and in doing so fail to serve the nation and the freedom they have promised to preserve, protect and defend.
Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.