Rep. Ron Paul cast the solo vote against Arnold Palmer's Congressional Gold Medal. According to his spokeswoman, Rachel Mills, Paul has nothing against Arnie. He votes against all Congressional Gold Medal awards to civilians on the principle that it is unconstitutional to use taxpayer dollars in this way. I am not sure if Rep. Paul's stance is correct, but a Congressman with principles is refreshing. According to Yahoo Sports:
Seems that Paul votes against any and all Congressional Gold Medals, no matter who's up for the award. He voted against Rosa Parks, for heaven's sake. And he's actually got a reasonable explanation for doing so. According to his spokeswoman, Rachel Mills:
"It is certainly nothing personal against Mr. Palmer. In fact, Congressman Paul admires him greatly. Dr. Paul opposes using public monies for any and all of these gold medals given to private citizens, just on principle. Not to mention, it is unconstitutional to use taxpayer dollars in this way. He even suggested on the House Floor before he voted against Rosa Parks's medal that if it meant so much to the Members of Congress, why not fund the award out of their own pockets? He pulled $100 out of his own wallet, but had no other takers. At a time like this when all budgets are stretched so thin, it seems especially inappropriate to lavish gifts like this on private citizens, as much as he may admire the individual."
Wow. A congressman standing on principle like that, and not for some underhanded back-door political gain? That's actually fairly impressive -- and fairly depressing that the bar for congressional honesty is set so low that a simple "no" vote is an act of freakin' political courage.
But here's what he was voting against. The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the nation's highest honors, along with the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Originally intended for war heroes, it's been broadened to include a wide range of individuals who have performed a notable public service to the country. Recent recipients include Jackie Robinson, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Dr. Michael DeBakey, who perfected the heart transplant. You could quibble over whether a golfer deserves to be in such august company, but if Charles Schulz and Frank Sinatra could get it -- and they have -- then surely Arnie belongs as well.
So, bravo to both gentlemen -- Arnie for receiving the award, and Paul for not compromising his principles. Still, when Arnie is making his list of congressmen he'll be inviting to join him on the course, I've got a feeling we can go ahead and slot Rep. Paul at No. 423.