Christmas is approaching, and many Americans are celebrating the holiday by decorating their homes with brightly decorated Christmas trees. Children throughout the country are casting excited glances toward those trees, eagerly envisioning the many presents Santa will leave for them under the branches.
With the early snows of winter falling on Washington this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had visions of Christmas trees too. Regrettably, Mr. Reid’s vision of a Christmas tree has little to do with the time-honored tradition American families are enjoying. In fact, the only “gifts” left under Mr. Reid’s tree would be courtesy not of Santa Claus, but of the American taxpayer.
That is because in Washington, “Christmas tree” is Beltway jargon for a monstrous end-of-session spending bill that is so loaded with pork-barrel projects it is as if each line item in the bill were an ornament added to it by a member of Congress. This year, Mr. Reid proposed what could only be referred to as the “mother of all Christmas trees” - a 2,000-page monster that sought to spend more than $1.27 trillion dollars.
To make matters worse, Mr. Reid wanted Congress to pass this bill without members having an opportunity to read it. Why? Because Mr. Reid’s Christmas tree was covered with more than 6,000 of the following types of unsightly “ornaments”:
c $10 million for the John P. Murtha Foundation to help build a John P. Murtha Center for Public Service, named after the late congressman from Pennsylvania.
c $8 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston.
c $3.5 million to research Formosan subterranean termites in New Orleans.
c $2 million for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin.
c $413,000 for peanut research in Alabama.
c $200,000 to install solar panels at a community food bank in Arizona.
c $100,000 for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Transportation Museum in Columbus, Miss.
But Christmas is, after all, a season of miracles and wonder, and this year is no exception. Instead of letting the bill sail to quick passage as Mr. Reid wanted, Republicans in the U.S. Senate stood up to the majority leader and said, “Enough is enough.” Emboldened by the message sent to them by voters in November to end backroom deals and cut spending, Republican senators forced Mr. Reid to pull his bill from consideration, ensuring its defeat.
How big a Christmas miracle was this? Sen. John McCain described the rejection of Mr. Reid’s Christmas tree as a “seminal moment” representing “the first time since I’ve been here [that] we stood up and said, ‘Enough.’ ” Clearly, preventing Mr. Reid from putting this $1.27 trillion Christmas tree in the stand is something that would not have happened in earlier years.
Because Mr. Reid’s omnibus spending legislation was defeated, America’s taxpayers received an unexpected Christmas gift this year. Hopefully, those of us in Congress who are determined to end wasteful spending will be able to carry this momentum forward into the new year. We will know that Congress is firmly on the right track when big spenders like Mr. Reid realize that wasteful end-of-year omnibus bills are about as welcome as a lump of coal. For now, though, the defeat of this 2,000-page spending bill has given us all even more reason to celebrate a very merry Christmas.