Caught Red-Handed: Stevens Blocked Creation of Federal Spending Database

stevenshand.jpgLast week, an “unidentified senator” placed a hold on legislation introduced by Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would create a easily-accessible Google-like database of all federal spending, which totaled $2.5 trillion last year.

The bill appeared to be headed for passage after being approved unanimously in committee. However, the anonymous senator’s hold on the bill prevented it from coming to a vote.

In response, liberals and conservatives worked together to ask every Senate office whether they had placed a hold on the bill. Of all 100 senators, only Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) would not deny placing the hold. In addition, one of the bill’s leading sponsors, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), said of Stevens, “he’s the only senator blocking it.” Stevens’s opposition to such a bill is not surprising; he is one of the most prolific earmarkers in the Senate:

— In 2005, Stevens helped slip in legislation to begin construction on the “Bridge to Nowhere,” earmarking over $200 million for a bridge to an island home to 50 people. When an amendment jeopardized funding for the project, Stevens threatened to resign.

— Later that year, Stevens tried to insert an amendment into the national defense bill allowing oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. When the Senate struck the provision, Stevens called it “the saddest day of my life” and has “written off” Senate friends who opposed drilling.

— This year, Stevens earmarked $450,000 to research baby food made from salmon and over $1 million for “alternative salmon product research.” This is the third year in a row he has appropriated money to research salmon products.

More at TPMmuckraker.

— Scott Keyes