Pinching the Power of Dan's Purse

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

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.

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