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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Sen. Shelby showing leadership in crisis

Sen. Richard Shelby broke his silence on runaway government spending last week at a time when someone in Congress with his stature needed to get Washington's attention.

To pay for the massive hurricane damage from Katrina and what is sure to be more from Rita, the Tuscaloosa Republican is calling for at least a one-year deferment in spending money from the massive transportation bill passed in August.

Congress spread spending in the $286 billion bill over six years. The senator says he is willing to delay some of those projects earmarked for Alabama to help stop the hemorrhaging budget. That, of course, is predicated on his peers agreeing to halt spending in their states, too.

The transportation act is a good place to delay spending. Its pet pork projects are worth more than $24 billion and go to Democrats as well as Republicans.

Why can't Congress delay the $2.3 billion for beautification of the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California?

And New York City can delay or eliminate its $6 million for graffiti removal without anyone hardly taking notice.

Doing that might get Congress to looking seriously at the prescription drug program, too. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is getting ready for mass enrollment of senior citizens in the controversial drug coverage program that will cost some $400 billion over 10 years.

Why not delay or scrap the program that is to begin in January because its costs far outweigh the benefits and it will help too few people?

The senator, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, may have finally broken through the political stalemate on where Congress is willing to cut. Because transportation spending is discretionary, it is about as bi-partisan as Congress can be expected to be.

"You could defer just about everything," he said, of projects in the transportation bill.

It's going to take bold leadership in Congress to overcome the deficit that is rising about $75 million an hour.

Americans are truly concerned about spending. They want the free-wheeling stopped.

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