Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lee Terry & Adrian Smith Play 'CHICKEN' With Nebraska's Future

by Kyle Michaelis
After 12 years of politically-motivated budget chaos - as the Republican Congress literally went mad with earmarking thinking it could buy its way to a permanent majority with taxpayer dollars - the new Democratic Congress is keeping its word to the American people by taking on earmark reform. One of the chief provisions of these overdue reforms is a requirement that Congressional Representatives register their earmarks and certify whether they have any financial interest in their funding.

While clarification has been sought by both Democrats and Republicans on what this "financial interest" might entail, it's disturbing but not at all surprising that the Republicans should be using this momentary uncertainty to play partisan games. While the American public finally sees Democratic-led reforms for which its been clamoring for years, Republicans are doing everything they can to undermine these efforts and to justify their years of inexcusable inaction.

As a Nebraskan who believes in reform, it is particularly embarrassing and insulting that two of our Republican Congressmen are leading the way in their party's disingenuous assaults on common sense and fiscal discipline. Even worse, though, is the fact that 2nd District Rep. Lee Terry and 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith are both sacrificing their constituents' interests to further their partisan agenda.

The Hill reports:
Republican legislative directors frantically exchanged e-mails last week as they sought guidance over a rule stipulating what a “financial interest” in an earmark was. Earmarks requests had to be filed by last Friday.

At least three members have decided against filing their earmarks altogether because of lack of clarity on the rules, and they signed a letter to Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) articulating their position.

One of them, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), said yesterday that he has decided against filing any earmarks because of the “ethical uncertainty of any earmark defining personal financial interest.”

For example, said Terry, current language could define a provision for sewer improvement as an earmark if it was done on property near the member’s home. Current rules could classify that as personal gain on a lawmaker’s property if the values increase as a result of better sewer management.

“There is so much uncertainty no matter how pure and emeritus an earmark may be,” Terry said.

Freshman Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) also have opted not to file earmarks for fear of ethical pitfalls....

A Democratic aide countered, “Republicans are void of ideas, and they are nit-picking.”
This is much worse than nit-picking. This is bullshit - plain and simple. Terry and Smith should be ashamed of themselves for playing these sorts of games, and Nebraska voters should be outraged.

The Omaha World-Herald provides a little more perspective into Terry's and Smith's partisan publicity stunt:
Millions of federal dollars might be funneled to anti-drug programs, research facilities, military operations and other Nebraska projects under a wish list drawn up by Rep. Lee Terry - but those budget "earmarks" are in limbo.

Wrangling between Republicans and Democrats is threatening to keep the items out of spending bills as they pass through the House. Terry did not submit his list of earmark requests by a Friday deadline because of the dispute.

If that dispute is resolved, the Nebraska Republican again will seek money - $6 million this time - for ongoing efforts to separate Omaha's storm water and sanitation sewers. Combined sewers in older parts of the city, primarily north Omaha, mean that heavy rains can push sewage into people's basements.....

Terry said he would like to continue his annual requests for federal funding for Omaha's sewer projects, but that might be construed as affecting his city property tax bill. Does that constitute a financial interest?

Terry said he couldn't take the risk of submitting his request without clarification of the rules. Democrats are expected to issue additional guidelines this week and could extend the deadline to submit requests.....

Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., didn't submit any requests, either. A spokesman said Smith did not offer a list because the rules confusion cut short the process.
This is just another instance where it's become clear that Nebraska does not have representation in the House. What we have are Republican hatchetmen who - time and again - put their party's interests before their constituents'.

Does Terry really believe that people are stupid enough to fall for his false concern about having a personal interest in improvements to Omaha's sewers? That's a very fitting example because Terry's argument smells funny and is generally full of crap.

Somehow I bet Terry would be a lot less likely to play this sort of game if it were his basement filling up with raw sewage.

Even taking Terry's lie for what it's worth, there's a whole list of important projects for which Terry has also risked losing funding just to take a cheap shot at Democratic reforms. I would love to know what bad faith financial interest Terry would claim in $14 million that was supposed to be earmarked for the University of Nebraska Medical Center to study vaccines for respiratory infections, to study improvements to battlefield medical equipment, and to provide lung cancer screenings for low income populations.

According to the World-Herald, here are some other funding requests Terry may have just sacrificed:
• $413,500 for Nebraska State Patrol equipment and training for anti-methamphetamine operations

• $800,000 for Heartland Family Nebraska to help establish a methamphetamine treatment program in Nebraska modeled after a successful one started in Los Angeles

• $4 million for the University of Nebraska-Omaha to fund a joint project with the Peter Kiewit Institute for research into improving and accelerating military decision-making

• $2.5 million for Creighton University's Center for Bioterrorism Response for clinical research into biological agents

• $16.952 million for a 97th Intelligence Squadron facility at Offutt Air Force Base

• $23 million for a 338th Combat Training Squadron facility at Offutt Air Force Base
Terry has just tied Omaha's health and safety to the railroad tracks - jeopardizing tens of millions of dollars, not to mention soldiers' well-being, the struggle against meth, and even the war on terror - to make a cheap political point that will only cost Nebraska in the long run.

With Terry willing to play this sort of game with almost $50 million worth of funding targeted for military and counter-terrorism purposes, it's also a very real possibility that he's singled out Omaha for immense budget cuts and loss of its traditional role in national security.

After all, if Omaha's own Congressman doesn't see fit to prioritize these programs - not to mention the thousands of jobs they bring into the community - then that sounds like a pretty damn good place to start making cuts.

As for Adrian Smith, I assume he's just following Terry's lead on this one - straight into political oblivion if the Third District's voters have any sense in the next election.

Both Terry and Smith have made nonsense arguments to justify their own shameless partisanship and outright ineptitude. They have AGAIN shown their true colors - not only by making a mockery of Democratic attempts at reform but also by risking projects and funding that their home districts desperately need in the process.

Making foolish and short-sighted political calculations like that, is it any wonder that Nebraska is the 52nd State in terms of Congressional influence? With two of Nebraska's three Congressman two of the three Congressman nationwide who were stupid enough to make this partisan gambit, you have to assume that, if we can get any lower, we'll be there shortly.

Nebraska - prepare for the worst. With Lee Terry and Adrian Smith in Congress, we've probably earned it.

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Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Thanks again to SmithWatch for sounding the alarm in the 3rd District and calling in statewide reinforcements.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

March 20, 2007

Dear Colleague:

As you are aware, new rules were passed in the 110th Congress to provide greater transparency in the earmark process. Although our committee has established an online procedure to accept requests for earmarks and to attach the certification of "no financial interest" to each request, many Members have expressed concern about the lack of clear guidance on the definition of "financial interest."

The requirement for Members to certify they have no financial interest in the earmarks they request is part of the Code of Official Conduct in the House rules so the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct would be responsible for the issuance of such guidance. Unfortunately, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct was not able to make their guidelines known to the House until yesterday. I expect that even after these guidelines are reviewed, Members will have additional questions that will need to be addressed.

In light of this, Members who wish to make any changes to their requests will be allowed to do so until Friday, April 27th. In addition, the subcommittee limitations on the number of requests allowed to be made per Member will be removed. Individual Members will still need to enter their earmark request in the Committee's database and file disclosures for each earmark request, whether it is an individual or group request. Programmatic requests do not require a disclosure and will not need to be entered into the Committee's database.

Please contact Jay Sivulich at 5-2718 if you have any technical questions concerning the submission of earmark requests or if you wish to amend any request already submitted. Please note that any changes to requests already submitted may necessitate re-entering all of a Member's requests for that subcommittee. Please contact Lesley Turner at 5-2771, or the relevant subcommittee, if you have any questions about the Committee's policy on earmarks.

David R. Obey
Chairman Committee on Appropriations

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Thanks for passing that along from Chairman Obey. It's good to see that Lee Terry and Adrian Smith haven't hurt Nebraska's interests as much as they otherwise might have with this politically-motivated stunt.

But - rest assured - they've made no friends on the Appropriations Committee and have only further marginalized themselves as partisan extremists.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Real good company they put themselves in, too - Vern Buchanan got his seat in the U.S. House after 18,000 votes mysteriously disappeared from Florida's e-voting machines.

Anonymous Husker fan said...

Anonymous- the Obey letter actually proves terry and Smith's incompetence. They were too dumb to figure out they could ask for the sewer seperation and other requests and then amend them when the guidelines were issued.
Even that dim bulb Fortenberry figured it out. And its hard ot make him look smart.

Kyle is right - this was a lee terry stunt to embarass the Democratic Leadership and cover up his lack of any juice in congress. When his project dont get funded he will blame the Democrats and thus fend off the argument that he's worthless.

Also, dont put it past those lapdogs that they might have been trying to put Senator Nelson in a tough spot. he just got o nthe appropriations committee and Lee and adrian might have been trying to shift their workload to him.

no matter what they are an embarassment.


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