Sen. Pat Roberts: man of letters

WASHINGTON — Sen. Pat Roberts: man of letters.

How else to describe the Kansas Republican, who last week quoted Shakespeare and Homer as he pummeled the stimulus bill, and today employed the Berenstain Bears to devastating effect?

Roberts, it should be noted, is well known on Capitol Hill for his dry-as-a-parched-prairie sense of humor.

"I have here "The Berenstain Bears," a little book I read to first, second and third graders and should have been required reading prior to the stimulus in this conference report," he said on the Senate floor.

Faster, too, since it's highly unlikely that most senators or House members read through the entire 1,000-plus-page bill. They only got it Thursday night and planned to vote on the $787 billion economic recovery compromise package Friday.

"The Berenstain Bears Trouble with Money," which Roberts recommended, was only 32 pages. It certainly packed more drama.

In this installment of the popular children's series, always loaded with life lessons, Roberts said the cubs "spend every thick nickel and penny."

Then he gave a knowing look around the Senate chamber.

The stimulus bill "borrows money for programs that in many cases should be funded by local or state investments," he argued.

Roberts opposes the bill. Like all but three Republican lawmakers in Congress, he thinks it's bloated with spending that won't produce jobs and does not have enough tax relief.

The House passed the compromise earlier in the afternoon, 246-183, and like the first time it took up the bill, without a single Republican vote. The Senate is expected to vote later today.

"By investing in new jobs, in science and innovation, in energy, in education ... we are investing in the American people, which is the best guarantee of the success of our nation," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.