Yesterday, the Senate approved an amendment to the economic stimulus package, put forth by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), that prohibits the use of stimulus funds for items including a “casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.” 33 Democrats joined all the Republicans in voting for the measure.
Noting that “Rhode Island was specifically targeted,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to reconsider, using the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI as an example:
It’s a municipal business, which is run for the benefit of the people of Providence. And it needs work. As long as it needs work, as long as cities are broke in this economy, I don’t understand why you’d single out a zoo as opposed to the Department of Motor Vehicles or some other structure that might need repair. Why take that job away? Is the senator who offered this so infallible — does he know so much about other states that he’s never even visited that he can impose his views?
Indeed, the picking apart of education, health care, and various other provisions in the stimulus reveals a rather short-sighted definition of “job” that the Senate is operating under. Work is work, whether it’s rebuilding a park or rebuilding a highway. It’s a shame that the former is considered pork while the latter is deemed vital stimulus.