How Washington Works (Or Doesn’t)

They’re keeping us safe on Capitol Hill and they’ve got two homeland security committees to make sure. One of them on the House side has had no chairman since chair Cox, the California Republican (and spouse of a Continental Airlines lobbyist), was tapped by Bush to head trading watchdog the Securities and Exchange Commission._Since spring when Bush picked Cox for the post, House Republicans – who have the power to pick committee chairs – have argued over who would get Homeland Security and with it the perks of power such as the power to “suggest” which states, counties, cities, and towns, airports, and seaports get grants from the federal homeland security agency. _Prime contender was on Don Young, who already runs the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, sits on its aviation subcommittee and is noted if not notorious for taking care of friends, neighbours, and constituents. Young shaped a $286 billion (that’s billion, with a ‘B’ as in ‘big’) transportation bill, loading it up with bridges, tunnels, highway interchanges and the like for his sparsely populated home state of Alaska, with concrete goodies for Young’s many many friends and supporters. Foes and friends point to a $450 million (that’s million with an ‘M’ as in ‘massive’) “bridge to nowhere” linking an Alaska town to an island with about 50 inhabitants as typical Young “pork barrel” largesse. He’s also made sure every year that rural air service gets its subsidy.
Young didn’t get the homeland security chairmanship, though. Some said that’s because he had opposed making homeland security a permanent committee a few years back, while some said they feared Young would use the panel’s power to move many Coast Guard facilities in its jurisdiction to Alaska, where the guard’s vessels could berth in ports that Young had funded, perhaps next to highways that Young had the panel fund. Others say New York congressmen (and women) fought him over this fearing that their state, home to Ground Zero as well as two major airports would be deprived of grants, etc. The leaders ended up picking a Republican from the Long Island suburbs of New York City, Peter King. As the old saying goes, why buy the cow when you know you’ll get the milk for free. Perhaps the same is true of pigs and pork.

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