Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Queen of Pork...in Charge of the Sty

Heretofore only known for being the stupidest member of the Senate, now Patty Murray is in a position to bring home even more bacon to her state:

Murray has just been named secretary of the Democratic caucus, a nebulous title that makes her part of the Senate Democrats' leadership quartet.

More important, Murray is poised to become chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee for transportation and other areas.

....U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a Bremerton Democrat, noted that Murray's ascension to the chairmanship of a powerful subcommittee will mean that "everybody has to talk to you. ... Every chairman has to come to you, and ask: 'Can you help me on my project?' "

"This chairmanship will give her a lot of leverage in the Senate. Patty is an activist. She will use that leverage."

....Murray is dismissive of criticism of her and other lawmakers' attitude about spending.
Particularly under fire is the use of so-called earmarks, narrowly tailored appropriations that allow senators to skip the normal budget process for some of their favorite projects.

The Appropriations Committee is where most of the budget pork is doled out, and the transportation subcommittee is one of the biggest smokehouses. That panel approved 2,820 earmarks, worth nearly $5 billion for fiscal year 2006 alone.

Earmarks are often quietly slipped into legislation as favors among politicians. Murray has been a player in the earmark process and was dubbed "the Queen of Pork" last year by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group sharply critical of congressional spending.

Asked if she favors reforming the earmark system, as some fellow senators have proposed, Murray paused before answering.

"I think all of us believe that earmarks have to be transparent," she said of the need to identify which senator is behind each funding request.

But she is unabashed about her willingness to use earmarks for her home state.

"Earmarks are how those of us who lives 2,500 miles from the nation's Capitol ensure projects critical to our state are funded," she said. Otherwise, she said, bureaucrats in D.C. would be making all the decisions "with their own friends."

"We would get lost in the process, and I'm not going to lose," she added. "Washington state will be feet first at the table."

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