The Washington Times - September 17, 2009, 05:12PM

They may be out of power, but the GOP isn’t out of options when it comes to forcing Democrats to make difficult votes, such as the ones to defund the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) that occurred in both chambers this week.

Republicans in the House and Senate are using procedural floor votes to confront Democrats on various issues, ranging from ACORN’s funding to President Obama’s “czars” to a controversial airport in Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John Murtha’s home district supported generously with taxpayer dollars.

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Votes in the House and Senate to deprive ACORN, a group that usually supports the Democratic caucus, of federal funding are only ones that have been successful thus far, but Republican staffers say the annual fall budget-making process presents many opportunities to demand spending cuts and policy changes that will resonate with their base.

So far, so good. A Senate amendment to strip ACORN’s funding from a housing and transportation bill, sponsored by Nebraska GOP Sen. Mike Johanns, passed 83-7. The House adopted a procedural measure sponsored by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California to kill all of ACORN’s federal funds, 345-74. These GOP victories were spurred by shocking videos made by a pair of conservative filmmakers who exposed ACORN workers giving advice on how to obtain federal funds to run a brothel.

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, wasn’t so lucky, though. He forced a vote to kill federal subsidies for Mr. Murtha’s small airport that only served 6,700 people last year, but it didn’t pass. The so-called “air pork amendment” was voted down 53-43 Thursday afternoon, mostly on party lines.

Yet, he still was able to use the loss to talk about the need for fiscal responsibility and to blast the party in power. “I’m glad most Republicans and few brave Democrats stood against this abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Mr. DeMint said in a statement after the vote. “American people are speaking out against spending and debt, but sadly the majority in the Senate still isn’t listening. Senators who voted for Murtha’s boondoggle have little credibility calling for fiscal responsibility.”

Meanwhile, Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, has been drafting an amendment that will highlight concerns with Mr. Obama’s “czars,” who sometimes make policy from the White House.

Mr. Obama’s “climate change czar,” Carol Browner, has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for negotiating a fuel mandate deal between the government and the auto industry, rather than letting Energy Secretary Steven Chu assume that duty. Several senators have expressed concern that the White House is using czars to usurp authority from Cabinet officials and Congress. 

Mr. Vitter hopes to force a discussion about Ms. Browner’s actions by pushing a measure to prohibit the Department of Interior or the  Environmental Protection Agency from enacting any of her policies. His staff tells The Washington Times he plans to introduce this as an amendment to the Interior and EPA spending bills soon.