Tom Coburn has a good idea for challenging his Congressional colleagues to put their money where their mouths are on infrastructure problems. If you really think that we are underinvesting in the repair of our failing infrastructure; if you really think we should put a greater priority on the upkeep of bridges, then spend less on pork and more on critical repairs:
Tom Coburn, who in three years as a U.S. senator often has tried to force colleagues into politically difficult decisions, plans to offer this choice when the Senate reconvenes following the August break: Do you want Pork or Infrastructure?
Sen. Coburn is drafting amendments to kill earmarks to the Transportation appropriations bill, with the funds transferred to repairing rotting structures. That asks senators whether, in the wake of the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota, they insist on keeping pork for their districts.
Writing in Human Events Aug. 10, Coburn noted: "The Federal Highway Administration declared the [Minnesota] bridge 'structurally deficient' in 1990 and directly warned Minnesota officials. Yet, since 1990, Congress has shown more devotion to pork-barrel spending than repair work."
While Republicans and Democrats have talked about reforming earmarks, they have consistently rejected amendments by people like Coburn and Jeff Flake (in the House of Representatives) to cut the pork. Coburn's amendments will probably still lose, since the media almost never report the results of such votes. By framing it in this way however, Coburn raises the chance of success.
And of course, Coburn is right to point out that when Congress earmarks billions to non-priority projects, they take away the ability of state and local governments to dedicate that money to genuine needs. If Members really think that we need to dedicate more resources to our weakened infrastructure, they will have the opportunity to prove it.