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.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.
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.”
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.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'.
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.
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 operationsTerry 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.
• $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
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.