As the Senate fretted over how to finance the expenses of the post-Katrina/Rita recovery, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) issued a clarion call for reason over pork. He pointed out that the government could save nearly half a billion dollars just by cutting funding for two bridges in Alaska. Specifically, what Coburn proposed was to redirect $75 million of this money to rebuilding the Twin Spans Bridge across Lake Pontchartrain (a bridge damaged by the hurricane that serves literally tens of thousands times more people and commerce than the proposed Alaskan bridge). This imminently reasonable proposal was shot down by a vote of 82-15, but at least the junior Senator from Oklahoma scored a moral victory by making the Senators from Alaska look like the asses that they are on this issue. When Senator Coburn pointed out that one bridge, slated for $223 million dollars, would serve an island with a population of 12 people already served by a regular ferry service, the junior Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski argued that the bridge was "essential" for "economonic development", and that even though only 12 people lived on the island, some 40 or 50 people worked on the island. Senator Coburn noted that for the cost of the bridge, we could just buy each of those 40 or 50 people their own private jet. Murkowski then pouted, saying "it is difficult to stand here as an Alaskan and not take this personally". Well guess what, Senator Murkowski? You're supporting an obscene waste of the American tax payers' money, and you should take it very personally. Meanwhile, the senior Senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, went into complete histrionic overdrive. "It is an offense, a threat to every person in my state," he exclaimed, and proceeded to flout his seniority in the chamber, bluster, and threaten dire retaliation. "If you want to see wounded bull raging on the Senate floor. . ." he waxed dramatic, "I don't kid people, if the Senate decides . . . to take money from this state, I will resign from this body." (Um, was that last bit supposed to be a threat? Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, Senator.) Newsflash to Senator Stevens: the Senate does not take any money from Alaska. On the contrary, the Senate gives a ton of money to Alaska. (Nearly two dollars in appropriations come back to Alaska for every dollar they send in federal tax revenues.)
The 15 senators who voted for reason over "business as usual": Allard (R-CO), Allen (R-VA), Bayh (D-IN), Burr (R-NC), Coburn (R-OK), Conrad (D-ND), DeMint (R-SC), DeWine (R-OH), Feingold (D-WI), Graham (R-SC), Kyl (R-AZ), Landrieu (D-LA), Sessions (R-AL), Sununu (R-NH), Vitter (R-LA). Sadly, neither of my Senators are on this list. They'll be hearing from me.