Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sen. Stevens lectures Durbin...on pork?

How rich is that? Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), known for his proposed $250 million "Bridge to Nowhere" pork project in Alaska, recently henpecked Sen. Durbin The Turban (D-IL) over an earmark (i.e. pork) that Turban wanted for his home state of Illinois. From Novak:
Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Senate president pro tempore, thwarted Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois, who was seeking a $2 million earmark for the University of Chicago. Stevens, as a reigning king of pork, cracking down on earmarking is drenched in irony. Durbin's earmark was rejected on a party-line vote, after debate that got personal on Stevens's part.

Why this violation of senatorial politesse? Public mortification of an opposition leader reflects harshness on today's Capitol Hill. It also points up pitfalls of Durbin's pugnacious style that elevated him to No. 2 Democrat after eight years in the Senate. Tough, old Ted Stevens was mad and determined to get even after humiliation by Durbin last autumn.

...Durbin proposed his University of Chicago earmark to improve imaging of traumatic brain injuries. The hook connecting this with Defense was "adaptation of current technologies to treat brain injuries suffered in combat." Durbin had been turned down in Stevens's subcommittee, but he used his access as whip to try again on the floor. The co-sponsor -- Durbin's junior Senate colleague from Illinois, Barack Obama -- was nowhere to be seen for what ensued.

Stevens was prepared. "We have to stop using Defense money for contracts with universities and basic research at the suggestion of a single senator," he said. "Not one" official from the military community, he said, "came to us and said we needed more money for brain research." Similar lack of support in the executive branch breeds earmarks, which have reached epidemic proportions.
Stevens's Defense bill, awaiting final action when Congress reconvenes, included $5 million for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and $500,000 for a traveling exhibit on World War II. Rejecting Durbin's earmark did not signify the coming of reform in the Senate, but looked more like Stevens and other Republicans getting even with the senator they like least.
While I understand that Stevens' reaction to Durbin the Turban's earmark was more rooted in payback than in principled opposition, still...Ted Stevens, lecturing anybody on pork projects? And Stevens lambastes Durbin for attaching pork to defense bills...while he himself attaches pork to the same defense bill?

Sen. Pot, meet Sen. Kettle.