Pinching the Power of Dan's Purse
Hawaii political cartoonist John Pritchett captured well the sudden, and shocking, change of fortune for Daniel K. Inouye in the waning days of the lame-duck session in Congress.
In a Dec. 16 cartoon for the right-leaning Hawaii Reporter, Pritchett depicted Hawaii's senior senator hanging bacon on a Christmas tree labeled "Omnibus Spending Bill." Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is dressed as Santa Claus and singing, "Deck the bill with slabs of bacon, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la."
One day later, however, after Inouye's $1.3 trillion bill — with 6,700 earmarks totaling $8 billion — was blocked by Republicans, Pritchett showed Inouye shaking loose a lump of coal from a Christmas stocking. (Both cartoons can be viewed here.)
And, by Dec. 29, Pritchett had penned a third Inouye cartoon, this one running in the left-leaning Honolulu Weekly. It shows a restaurant called "Dan's Pork: Bar-B-Q Earmarks." The building has been padlocked shut, a sign hanging over the entrance that reads "Out of Business."
By that time, the U.S. Senate had approved a stop-gap measure to keep the government business until March. Gone were all the earmarks in Inouye's original bill — including $321 million for 141 Hawaii projects.
As a new Congress convenes Wednesday, with Tea Party victors hell-bent on drastically cutting government "waste," Inouye may find it even more difficult to wield the power of his purse. The outcome could reveal just how vulnerable Hawaii is.