As a congressional candidate, Republican Bill Sali railed against runaway federal spending. He won, in no small measure, thanks to the support of the tax hawks at the Club for Growth political action committee.
As a member of Congress, Sali seems a little more conflicted about federal spending — sometimes on the day, sometimes over the same bill.
Last week, Sali issued a press release to trumpet a pair of budget earmarks in a federal spending bill: $500,000 for a widening project on U.S. 95 and $500,000 for highway work from Banks to Lowman. In a textbook case of burying the news, the press release's last paragraph contains some oh-by-the-way fine print: "Sali voted against the overall measure because it contains a series of other unnecessary, bloated spending proposals and would hike overall spending by $7.1 billion more than current funding and $5.3 billion more than the President has requested."
So he liked the bill enough to put out a press release about it. Just not enough to vote for it.
I'm reminded of the scene in which a flummoxed Homer Simpson is heard to complain, "Who ever thought a nuclear reactor could be so complicated?" Same goes for federal budgets, evidently. It's easy to riff from afar about federal spending — even persuasive, since federal budget deficits may well prove to be the great bipartisan failing of our federal government. But it's tougher when, as a member of Congress, you have a little skin in the spending game.
So spokesman Wayne Hoffman draws the thankless job of explaining Sali's vote. Members of Congress should advocate for earmarks in their state or congressional district, but they ultimately should vote on bills based on their merits. "We've got to put principle over politics," said Hoffman, who asserts that it takes "an awful lot of courage" to vote against a spending bill containing local projects.
Courageous? I suspect Sali's critics would suggest a different adjective.