Sen. Coleman: lapdog or watchdog?

Last week, Sen. Norm Coleman lambasted Pentagon officials for fleecing millions of taxpayers’ dollars by purchasing first-class plane tickets. We loudly applaud Coleman’s efforts to protect the senseless waste of taxpayer dollars. Coleman’s remarks were slighted, however, as they came on the heels of his vote to give himself and other U.S. senators a pay raise at taxpayer expense.

We are left wondering whether Coleman is a watchdog or lapdog. When it comes to scratching his own back, Coleman has no qualms. But when Pentagon officials abuse the system, he barks loud and clear. Coleman had his chance to vote against the pay increase through Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold’s effort to stop it. Sadly, he voted against Feingold’s amendment.

So while many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with raises nowhere in sight, senators will make an extra $21,000 over the next five years. Overall, the pay increase will cost U.S. taxpayers $1.8 million. This is a small change in terms of government spending; however, this is about principle. How can political leaders call for a shared sacrifice and yet, when faced with their own sacrifice, choose to increase their own salaries? It is even worse that Coleman chose to increase his salary in the midst of the president’s record-setting deficit. The $1.8 million could have been put to better use. Instead, it will be used to line the pockets of already privileged politicians.

This is not to say Coleman’s chastising of Pentagon officials was merely grandstanding. Coleman should be credited for his work with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to prevent the milking of taxpayers. But Coleman’s shameless and amoral support of a self-benefiting pay increase is detestable.

We need leaders of conviction, not leaders of convenience. Being a part-time watchdog does not cut it.