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. 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?

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