- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 2010

In his 2002 book “Oh, the Things I Know!” now-Sen. Al Franken said, “Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way.” Mr. Franken should give a copy of his book to his Democratic colleagues because it seems they have learned nothing from their mistakes.

With the federal deficit more than $1 trillion for the second year in a row, our national debt approaching $14 trillion and unemployment hovering near 10 percent, the American people sent a resounding message in November that the reckless spending of the past two years was a gigantic mistake and it needed to stop. Republicans heard and understood this message even before Election Day. We acted to ban earmarks and made a pledge to America to end the practice of producing omnibus bills and cut spending to pre-“stimulus,” pre-bailout levels. The American people saw that we had heard their message and gave us the keys to the House of Representatives and a stronger presence in the U.S. Senate. It is incumbent upon us to prove that the American people’s trust was not misplaced.

Republican leadership already has announced changes to the way the House of Representatives operates to save money, including a 5 percent cut to leadership, committee budgets and member allowances. The reality is this: American families are living with tighter budgets, and it is time for Congress to do the same.

In contrast, Democratic congressional leaders are either deaf to the shouts of the American people or arrogant and drunk with power because they clearly are not learning from their mistakes. Instead, they continue to recklessly spend taxpayers’ money. Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi jammed through the House a full-year spending resolution - known as a continuing resolution (CR) that does nothing to reverse the spending trend. On the contrary, the resolution continues the unsustainable high rate of spending passed by the Democratic majority last year and enshrines into law the higher federal agency budgets that have been bolstered by unnecessary, ineffective and allegedly temporary stimulus dollars.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not to be outdone by Mrs. Pelosi, upped the ante by trying to enact an omnibus spending bill that would have spent even more money than the Pelosi CR. The 1,924-page $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill - which equates to about $575.13 million of spending per page - included 6,714 earmarks totaling $8.3 billion. Among the projects contained:

c $3.5 million for termite research in Louisiana.

c $2 million for shrimp aquaculture in Arizona.

c $250,000 to build trails in Nevada.

c $750,000 for a theater in New York.

When the federal government must borrow 42 cents of every dollar to fund even the most basic of government operations, it is the height of arrogance to waste those funds on noncritical projects, and it demonstrates just how far removed the Democratic congressional leadership is from the stark fiscal realities facing the American people.

If a historic shellacking at the ballot box and a historic disapproval rating (according to the latest Gallup poll, a staggering 83 percent of Americans disapprove of the Democratic Congress, the worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance) aren’t enough to convince Democrats in Congress that they must stop the spending, then I suppose nothing else can. I applaud my Senate GOP colleagues for heeding the voters’ wishes and forcing Mr. Reid to withdraw his ill-conceived, budget-busting omnibus bill. They did what the American people told us they wanted done: Stop the reckless spending.

It will now be up to Republicans in the new 112th Congress to implement the promises in the Pledge to America: Cancel unspent stimulus funds; cut government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels; establish a hard cap on new discretionary spending; cut Congress‘ budget; and hold weekly votes on spending cuts. Our colleagues in the Senate have given us an opportunity - starting Jan. 5 - to fundamentally change the way Congress does business and how it spends your hard-earned U.S. taxpayer dollars. This is a promise Republicans in the 112th Congress intend to keep.

Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, is the senior member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.