Politics & Policy

No Wonder Our Ratings Are So Low

The Sopranos on Capitol Hill?

Bridges to nowhere. The $100 hammer. A rainforest in Iowa. Billions of taxpayer dollars unaccounted for.

Its no wonder the American people are disgusted with the way Congress spends their money. In the latest incident certain to cement the public’s frustration, a powerful chairman threatened and attempted to intimidate me when I tried to stop wasteful, duplicative spending from what the U.S. News and World Report has called a taxpayer “boondoggle.” Even more troubling, this pork-barrel project takes precious intelligence resources from spies on the ground catching terrorists in places like Fallujah, Iraq, and sends it to bureaucrats in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Two weeks ago, I offered a proposal to the Fiscal Year 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act that would have taken funding away from an illegitimate, wasteful earmark that happened to be in the district of House Defense Appropriations chairman John Murtha (D., Pa.). Chairman Murtha’s earmark would authorize tens of millions for the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), a government office that the House Government Reform Committee has deemed “an expensive and duplicative use of scarce federal drug enforcement resources,” according to an article in the May 8 edition of The Hill.

Last week, on the House floor, Chairman Murtha violated House rules in an expletive-laced tirade, pointing his finger and threatening my priorities “now and forever.” Just last week, Chairman Murtha “exploded” and “unleashed a loud, finger-jabbing, spittle-spraying piece of his mind” at a colleague on his committee, according to The Hill. Chairman Murtha then “…threatened to withdraw support from a defense project…” vital to his colleague’s district, according to the article. This week he attempted to intimidate me and when I had the audacity to question the merits of the project, his reaction was more finger pointing and intimidation.

Today I will introduce a resolution outlining this egregious action which is not only beneath the dignity of Congress, it constitutes a violation of House rules, which preclude Members from conditioning spending in other districts on another member’s vote. The House should reprimand Chairman Murtha for his conduct.

This incident in the people’s house highlighted arrogance of power at its worse and both political parties are guilty. This is why the American people throw up their hands and are fed up with Washington politicians. If we are ever going to restore the trust of the American people, Congress can and must do better.

This reminds me how far some in Congress have gotten away from America’s founding. When General George Washington led a rag-tag group of Americans to defeat the most powerful military in the world, many in this new land wanted him to be king. Many feared without a strong, all-powerful leader our new nation would be vulnerable to attack. A beautiful painting hangs in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building highlighting Washington’s next action, which was perhaps unprecedented in all of history. George Washington voluntarily resigned his commission as head of the Revolutionary Army, giving up personal gain for the greater good of the new nation. Too many in Washington, D.C., of both parties have instead taken from the greater good for their own gain.

The House floor is not the place for an episode of The Sopranos and protecting the public’s tax dollars is a basic duty of all Members of Congress. The good news is this could be an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to change the way Congress does business and to change the way taxpayer money is spent. The country and our citizens’ pocketbooks would be better off for it.

– The Honorable Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan, is a former FBI special agent.

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