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Last year, Bill Orton co-sponsored the "A to Z" spending reduction bill. This bill would have given House members an unlimited opportunity to present specific spending cut proposals for a public roll-call vote. It included guarantees that any approved cuts would go directly to reduce the national debt. Now, in a revealing change of heart, Orton has killed this measure by refusing to sign the discharge petition to bring the bill to a vote.

Orton's office recently sent me a two-page letter listing his excuses for killing this bill. His main argument is that too much time has passed for A to Z to affect this year's budget. But whose fault is that? The bill has been languishing in committee for months, needing nothing more than for Orton and his buddies to show some integrity by signing the petition. Like an irresponsible schoolboy, Orton wants to be excused at the end of the year for not getting his homework done on time.In his letter, Orton admits - even boasts - that powerful House Democrats rewarded him for refusing to sign the petition. In exchange for his collaboration, Orton says "the House has had more than three weeks to debate and vote on 74 amendments to cut specific spending items." This carefully worded statement fails to tell us what any of these amendments were, how many of them passed, or whether even one of them will ever become law. Apparently, results matter to Bill Orton far less than public perception does.

If A to Z was a bad idea, why did Orton sponsor the bill in the first place? The answer seems to be that he didn't expect the discharge petition to be made public. In his classic style, Slick Billy is straddling both sides of the fence. He claims to be fiscally conservative but has killed the one proposal that could have achieved his stated objectives. He tells us he acts independently but is always there for House leaders when they need his support.

Chip Whitmer