A Defeat For Reid -- But the Fight Is Far From Over on the Omnibus Bill

By Phil KerpenPolicy Director, Americans for Prosperity

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor tonight and admitted he lost. He admitted that he didn't have the 60 votes he needed to invoke cloture on the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill that was expected to pass tonight. He withdrew the cloture request instead of holding an embarrassing vote.

We don't know exactly who opposed it because the vote didn't take place, but we have a pretty good idea. Three Democrats--Evan Bayh, Russ Feingold, and Claire McCaskill--have looked at the bill's pork-barrel-earmarks-as-usual and said enough's enough. Based on the outcome tonight, there is a good chance that they backed up their public statements with a firm commitment to vote against the bill.

Assuming those three Democrats were "no" votes, Reid needed to pick up five Republicans for the magic number of 60.

The most likely three are Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine). Reid's other targets were rumored to be: Arlen Specter (Pa.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bob Bennett (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Kit Bond (Mo.).

These senators faced a choice between pork and principle. This time, in a sharp departure from the stimulus outcome, principle won.

In the stimulus, Congress just passed one of the largest borrow-and-spend bills in the history of this country and it authorized an unprecedented generational transfer of wealth. Right on its heels, the omnibus would lard onto the growth of government by another 8 percent.

Eight percent is probably unaffordable at a time like this anyway, but the combined spending increase between the stimulus and the omnibus is a shocking 80 percent over 2008 levels. That's 80 percent spending growth in a single year.

President Obama stands ready to sign the omnibus, even though it includes 8,570 earmarks totaling $7.7 billion, including countless blatantly wasteful pork-barrel projects. These earmarks were awarded based on seniority, not on merit, and were mostly the result of high-priced lobbying--a process that Obama and his Democratic allies promised to end.

These earmarks include such pressing national priorities as the Montana World Trade Center, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society. The great watchdog groups Taxpayers for Common Senseand Citizens Against Government Wastehave hundreds of other examples of waste.

The Senate passed a key test tonight, but this fight is far from over. The Senate will take up more amendments tomorrow and try to improve this pork-barrel disaster of a bill.

The key lesson here is that there is nothing inevitable about runaway government spending. Senators respond to constituents, and the backlash over the stimulus has clearly made some senators skittish enough to say that enough is enough. Now is the time for all citizens who believe in fiscal responsibility to redouble their efforts, lay this bill to rest, and fund government with a slimmer, pork-free alternative.

Mr. Kerpen is director of policy for Americans for Prosperity.