Saturday, November 19, 2005

Frist & Co.: Forget the Founders

Since the country's early years, the Congress has done a 180, separating itself as much as possible from the rest of the country. As a result, a separate culture has developed inside District of Columbia. It is a culture that ignores the Constitution because it might be inconvenient. It is a culture that takes action based on political expediency rather than good policy. It is a culture that takes from the rich, middle class, and poor and gives to pork barrel projects. It is a culture that considers all things are okay provided that they help someone get reelected. This cultural shift was completed during the days of the New Deal and has gotten progressively worse since then.

Enter Sen. Trainwreck. During his time in the House, Coburn earned the nickname Congressman Trainwreck by derailing pork barrel spending. In some cases, he opposed spending because it was unconstitutional. In others, he opposed the spending because he deemed it immoral to take money from hardworking families and turn it into what amounts to multi-million dollar campaign contributions. He also spoke out about other issues, such as abortion, when Party "leaders" wanted nothing more than to avoid such subjects altogether.

When Dr. Tom Coburn announced that he planned to run for Senate, he pledged to the people of Oklahoma that he would continue to practice medicine while serving as a Senator. He made the argument of the Founding Fathers that Congress was meant to be made up of citizen-legislators, people who are fully a part of society rather than separate from it. They argued that the closer the legislators were to the people, the better they would be able to understand the issues facing ordinary Americans. How right they were.

Senate ethics rules prohibit Senators from receiving compensation for work in certain fields, including medicine. They can, however, earn money by writing books and collecting farm subsidies (no conflict of interest there, right?). These rules themselves are a perfect example of the convoluted culture of Washington, in which not growing food is prized over saving lives. To reach a compromise, Dr. Coburn asked that the Senate permit him to continue to receive just enough compensation to cover his operating expenses. On Thursday, the Senate denied that request.

To their credit, 51 Senators voted in favor of allowing the good doctor to live up to the vision of the Founders. This included most Republicans, along with Democrats Tom Carper (DE), Mark Dayton (MN), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Barak Obama (IL). It pains me to say anything good about them, along with some of the RINOs who voted for the resolution, such as Collins (ME), Snowe (ME) and Chafee, but they should be applauded for casting principled votes on this issue. On the other hand, the rest of the Democrats, along with Republicans Jim Bunning (KY), Bill Frist (TN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Pat Roberts (KS), Richard Shelby (AL), Craig Thomas (WY), George Voinovich (OH), and John Warner (VA), ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is bad enough that the Congress as a whole has departed so much from the Founders' vision. This, however, is not a slow evolution. Instead, it is a direct contradiction of the wisdom of those who wrote the Constitution with a vision of the United States government being dramatically different from the British House of Lords. Please take a minute to thank your Senators if they did the right thing and, more importantly, to let those who have forgotten what makes American government unique know that you are paying attention.


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