Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kent Conrad: another one of those Democratic "fiscal conservatives"

Reminiscent of Baron Hill...

From Neil King in the WSJ...

Kent Conrad vaulted from North Dakota tax commissioner to the U.S. Senate in 1986 on the strength of a startling pledge: He would quit and go home if the federal deficit wasn't "brought under control" during his first six-year term.

The deficit that year hit a record $221 billion. Six years later it topped $290 billion. This year, it's expected to hit $1.6 trillion.

Mr. Conrad, now the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, did resign in 1992, but he stayed on after the state's other senator died. Since then, he has become one of the Senate's most vociferous deficit hawks, warning that the nation faces insolvency if it doesn't boost revenues and trim obligations.

Like many in Congress, he is conflicted. He boasts a 23-year record of looking after North Dakota voters with ample farm subsidies, aid for drought-hit ranchers, defense spending and scores of pet projects. He has done little to help rein in Medicare and Social Security expenses—the U.S.'s biggest budget busters....

The problem, Mr. Conrad says, is that "everyone in Washington wants to be for every tax cut and every spending increase."

Know thyself, say the senator's colleagues. "Conrad says one thing, and then votes hundreds of times the other way—to spend money," says Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the Senate's strictest spending hawks and among only six senators who sought no funding for home-state projects through the "earmark" process last year.

David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office who now runs a private campaign to tame the debt, puts it differently: "Kent fights over what the size of the pie should be while also fighting to get as large a slice of that pie as he can for his state."...


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