Young Lets Venom Fly on Floor

Posted July 18, 2007 at 6:14pm

House conservatives making political hay over the earmarks included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill on Wednesday crossed swords with the irascible Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).

The 18-term House veteran lashed out at Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and other conservatives for violating what he called long-standing but unwritten rules of House decorum in their efforts to trim costs from the bill’s $151.7 billion in discretionary spending.

“If we continue this we’ll be called biting one another, very much like the mink in my state that kill their own. There’s always another day, when those who bite will be killed, too, and I’m very good at that,” Young declared on the House floor.

The eruption came during a day of debate in which members of the conservative Republican Study Committee took to the floor to offer dozens of amendments to strip pet projects and reduce funding allocations included in the appropriations bill. Garrett offered an amendment to strip $33.9 million in education funding that benefits Alaskan Natives — a move that offended Young not only because it was even under consideration, but also because he was not given a heads-up.

“I’m a little chagrined at the gentleman from New Jersey, this is supposed to be a House of honor, you didn’t tell me you were going to offer this amendment,” Young said. “We are a new state, I have poverties you don’t even think of and yet you say you want my money — my money — for my students that need to be educated to go to New Jersey. That’s a sad day for this House.”

Young and House conservatives have been at odds for the better part of the past two years, as members of the RSC were relentless in attacking the “Bridge to Nowhere” funds sought by Young in the transportation bill that became the battle cry for fiscal conservatives as the ultimate example of government largesse.

Young directed some of his venom toward the conservatives sitting in the House chamber.

“For the rest of you, that continue this constant harping on this floor about cutting money from other areas under the guise of balancing the budget, I say, ‘Shame on you, too.’ I say ‘Shame on you’ because we’re not doing the legislative process any good,” he said.

Young further displayed his unabashed zeal for bringing home federal funds. “My people have risen and become leaders because this Congress saw the wisdom of providing this money, and now we have an individual from a state that doesn’t have a degree of reputation in the world, trying to take money from one state to give to another state,” Young declared. “Now if that’s the case, then let’s all just have a big donnybrook right here. I’m ready. I’m really ready. Because what we’re doing is dead wrong.”

The veteran Alaska lawmaker refused to yield to Garrett on the floor and went so far as to suggest that he should be voted out of office. “If there is a guilt here, it’s because I’ve been able to better represent my state than New Jersey. I would suggest that New Jersey ought to elect some new Congressmen,” he said.

In a brief interview, Garrett said Young’s floor speech was “absurd” and “over the top” and noted that Young’s charge that his amendment would strip funds from Hawaii as well and redirect the money to New Jersey was false. “It has nothing to do with Hawaii whatsoever, it has to do with Alaska,” Garrett said. “We’re doing a number of amendments to try to raise the point about the excess of spending in the bill and that many of the programs are duplicative, and in this case it’s clearly duplicative.”

Young’s comments only served to embolden conservatives, and RSC Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) condemned what he called “ad hominem attacks” and took issue with Young’s pronouncement that it was “my money.”

“Well isn’t that a fascinating concept, ‘my money,’” Hensarling said. “I thought it was the taxpayers’ money, many of whom reside in the state of New Jersey.”

A conservative aide said the incident was a focal point at the weekly RSC meeting, where Garrett received a standing ovation. In the end, lawmakers overwhelmingly sided with Young nearly four-to-one, when the amendment was defeated in a 352-74 vote.