Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Principles Be Damned When It Is Something We Want

People say that they want politicians with principles: men and women who will stand by their word and who will honor prior agreements even if it isn't the most popular or expedient thing to do. People say that until such time as principle and honoring prior agreements get in the way of some goody that they want. Then it is those obstructionist politicians are impeding progress or whatever.

A case in point was the procedural vote on S. 3525, the Sportsmen's Act of 2012, that took place on Tuesday morning. The roll call vote on S. 3525 was 50 yea, 44 nay, and 6 not voting. It was a vote to "waive all applicable budgetary discipline" and accept Majority Leader Harry Reid's substitute amendment (S. Admt No. 2875). With the exceptions of Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), it was a straight party line vote for or against this procedural measure. Republicans were against it and Democrats for it. Because the amendment did not get a 3/5 majority, it failed. With its failure, time now becomes an issue.

Leading the fight against this motion was Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) - the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee. Sen. Sessions said the Sportman's Act is legislation is something he strongly supports. However, he went on to say, that the bill violates the Budget Control Act of 2011. From the Congressional Record:
The question is, if we lay out a plan to address our fiscal issues, will we adhere to it? Will we follow it? So I am a little bit taken aback that my colleagues seem oblivious to the idea and the concern that, plainly, the Sportsmen’s Act legislation violates the Budget Act. The staff of Senator KENT CONRAD—our Democratic chairman of the Budget Committee, who is retiring— has concluded and certified that it violates the budget because it spends more money than we agreed to spend on this item 15 months ago when the Budget Control Act was passed in order to raise the debt ceiling in America.
Sessions acknowledges that the amount of money in question is miniscule when compared to other budget items.
So at a time of unprecedented spending, unsustainable debt, and low public confidence in Congress, should we not adhere to even the smallest spending limits that have been enacted? Should we again violate the Budget Control Act for a mere $14 million a year—a mere $14 million a year—when this could easily be fixed? I say ‘‘a mere $14 million’’ because we deal with billions of dollars on a routine basis around here.
He notes that the Congress spends over $900 million on wetlands conservation programs. Yet no one has examined these projects to see if enough efficiencies could be found to fund the $14 million expenditure in question. We are only talking about finding a mere 1.55% of waste and overages in other projects that could be re-budgeted to provide the $14 million in question.

Ben Lamb writes the Open Country blog for Outdoor Life magazine and is quite put out that the GOP finally stood up for principle.
Ten bucks. That’s what killed the progressive, popular, good-government Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 yesterday.

Ten bucks, or the increase of the cost of a federal duck stamp from $15 to $25.

But that $10 created a partisan divide large enough to kill something that hunters and anglers have been asking for: congressional help to provide public access to public land, end the nonsense of lead-ammo restrictions, and allow a few polar bears to be liberated from their importation purgatory.

Here’s the fact: On Monday, November 26th, the United States Senate beat a well-worn path of partisanship and pettifoggery (look it up!) by voting down the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012. They did it in such a manner that they avoided being labeled anti-sportsman by the NRA, while ultimately catering to the whims of fringe environmental groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, and anti-hunting groups like the Humane Society of The United States.

On a procedural motion to waive the budget rules and allow for an increase in the cost of the federal duck stamp from $15 to $25, the United Sates Senate proved once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
He goes on to say that the Republicans are really doing this out of spite over Sen. Jon Tester getting reelected.

Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP gets into the act as well with her story on the vote. She entitled it "GOP blocks bill to give hunters more land access". While her article wasn't as inflammatory as Ben Lamb's Outdoor Life blog, the headline still puts the onus on the Republicans.

I want more public ranges funded by money I spend in excise taxes for ammo, I want Congress to remove lead ammo and lead fishing tackle from the purview of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. I want to see the leaders of the Center for Biological Diversity with frowns on their faces as if they had just sucked a lemon. I, too, want to see the Sportsmen's Act of 2011 passed.

I am glad Sen. Jeff Sessions and virtually all the Republicans finally drew a line in the sand over spending and violating the Budget Control Act. By ignoring the little things for so long, both Democrats and Republicans have put this country into the fiscal mess in which it resides today. If they can't stand up and do the right thing on a mere $14 million, then there is no hope that they'll do the right thing on bigger and more important issues.For once somebody stood for principle and honored their prior commitments and we should be glad that they did.

We all know that government agencies pad their budgets and that the $14 million in funding can easily be found. If the Ben Lambs of the world want to find a villain they need to look no further than Majority Leader Harry Reid. He could have easily brought a bill to the floor of the Senate that met the requirements of the Budget Control Act but decided he didn't want to be bothered.

Now the question is will Reid do the right thing, get the bill fixed, and schedule it for a vote with enough time so that the House of Representatives can vote on it. In an interview with Cam Edwards last night, the NSSF's General Counsel, Larry Keane, was hopeful that it can be worked out. He also noted that the budget issue would have been a sticking point for some in the House as well.


  1. I'll only be impressed if they stick to their principles when it's a lot of money for things that are a lot more popular.

  2. A long time ago a man much older than I told me, "Watch the pennies. The dollars will take care of themselves."

    He practiced what he preached and held to his principles. He didn't die rich, but then he didn't die in debt.


    1. You talked to Ben Franklin, eh? ;)