Ben Nelson’s Latest Bad Idea

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This is the equally obnoxious, but less destructive, Nelson. Photo: Matt Groening/FOX

Ben Nelson is a Democratic senator from a very Republican state. That's a constant problem he needs to handle, but he doesn't seem to know how to handle it correctly. During the health care fight, Nelson made himself the decisive 60th vote, demanding insurance industry-friendly concessions and special breaks for his home state, which became known as "the Cornhusker Kickback," dynamiting both his own reputation and doing enormous harm to the entire bill and all its supporters. Now Nelson has another brainstorm to highlight his special Ben Nelson brand: crack down on the General Accounting Office.

What is the General Accounting Office? It's a small agency that issues reports explaining how government programs work, and especially rooting out waste. For that reason, it's probably the right-wing's favorite agency not tasked with blowing things up in foreign countries.

Nelson's plan is to cut the GAO's budget and subject it to onerous accounting requirements:


As Washington seeks ways to cut back, “the buck shrinks here,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch. He said his proposed cuts “are real and will force Congress and the agencies on Capitol Hill to live with less.”

His proposed budget also would require GAO to include detailed spending reports with each publication it releases that account for how many employees worked on the report, the total hours spent producing it and a tally of related travel expenses.

Does that sound like a smart way to save money? Cut the budget of the agency charged with rooting out waste, and make its employees' lives a living hell? No, it's not. In fact, Nelson's idea is actually angering right-wingers:


Nelson’s proposals are infuriating several of his Senate colleagues, particularly Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a frequent critic of government spending who often relies on GAO to help him root out cases of waste, fraud and abuse.

Brilliant. Come up with some crazy right-wing anti-government idea to shore up your anti-government credentials, and then watch as even Republicans denounce you. Can't Nelson just go throw rotten vegetables at the Occupy Wall Street crowd or something? It would be nice if he could address his vulnerabilities without harming the operations of the government and simultaneously exacerbating his own vulnerabilities.