THE NEW PARTY OF BIG SPENDERS
Is the GOP about to become the party of pork and campaign sleaze? Are big spenders now Republican congressional legislators? Is the party of term-limiters now the party of status-quo fat cats? Good questions--and if the leadership of the Republican Party doesn't have good answers, they are seriously misreading the American public.
The gargantuan $217 billion highway bill is a throwback to the days before budget discipline. Using nearly 1,600 individual projects as bait, Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) masterminded a log-rolling jamboree and called it legislation (page 41). It exceeds the spending limitations on the current budget by $30 billion and provides such goodies as a 54 cents-a-gallon ethanol subsidy (totally nutty with gasoline prices so low). There was a time, not long ago, when Republicans stood for fiscal austerity.
There was also a time when they backed term limits and better government. But that was before they took power in Congress. The trashing of campaign-finance reform is bad enough. But the unabashed glee GOP leaders took in humiliating an honorable man, Republican reform leader Christopher Shays of Connecticut, risks a serious split within the party. Blasting Bill Clinton and the Democrats for campaign-finance violations while blocking efforts at reform reeks of hypocrisy. What on earth is House Speaker Newt Gingrich thinking?