Senator Ensign a Fiscal Conservative

Washoe County grass roots Republicans have been getting ready for their biannual convention scheduled for tomorrow. This event is preceded by precinct and committee meetings to formulate a proposed platform stating where locals think the GOP should stand on major issues.

It is clear that Republican volunteers are angry at the spending habits of the GOP controlled White House and Capitol Hill gang. No one really begrudges national defense spending in view of the terrorist attack nor humanitarian spending for disasters like the Pacific tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake or hurricane Katrina. But pork-laden spending such as the Federal Highway Bill just makes GOP volunteers bristle. Why should American taxpayers have to pay for an over water bridge to connect Ketchikan, Alaska (population 5000) with a neighboring village (population 50)? How much more waste, fraud and abuse is buried in that bill? How much in other bills?

But wait, maybe there’s hope. According to a report by Nevada’s junior senator, John Ensign, has quietly been swinging the hammer for principled conservatism and is not above breaking with GOP leadership by voting his conscience in favor of limiting government spending. He voted against the Medicare Prescription Drug program, the Senate Budget Act (which called for spending of $10 billion above the congressional limit) and a bill to raise the federal debt limit. In each case he went against the GOP leadership thus putting at risk his own prospects for a powerful committee chairmanship as well as other support from the “good ol’ boys” club.

Not content to be a small flame in a vast black ocean of deficit spending Ensign was instrumental recently in recruiting allies to form the Senate Fiscal Watch Team consisting of himself, Senators Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and John Sununu. Together this group came up with a plan to tie spending for Katrina relief to a 4% cut in other federal spending programs (except national defense), a two year delay in the Medicare prescription drug program, a freeze on cost of living raises for Congress and other federal employees and elimination of some of the pork spending in the federal Highway Bill.

The National Taxpayers Union wrote every senator in support of Ensign’s group saying: “Although critics of this spending cut approach will undoubtedly argue that hurricane offsets and budget deficits should be addressed by increasing taxes, this is economic folly. In the past year alone federal tax revenues have risen by nearly 15%. Clearly the problem in Washington is that spending growth has outstripped revenue collection during recent years.”

FreedomWorks saluted the Senate Fiscal Watch Team saying: “Hurricane Katrina has been a disaster for many families, the Gulf Region and the nation, but it need not be a disaster for the federal budget or the US economy. Recovery from Katrina will be least painful if the federal government offsets the cost of relief spending by redirecting funds from lower priority programs and continues pro-growth economic policies.”

The American Conservative Union has given Ensign a lifetime voting rating of 93 (contrasted with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [D NV] whose rating is 21). While Reid has been out embarrassing the Silver State with inappropriate comments and criticisms of President Bush Ensign has quietly but effectively been working to put the brakes on spending.

Next time an out-of-stater chides you about Senator Reid’s public indiscretions remind your friend that Nevada is a land of contrasts . . . we have the worst senator and possibly the best.

Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates of Incline Village/Crystal Bay and a vice chair of the Washoe County Republican Party