By Philip Maddocks
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In a rare show of bipartisan decisiveness, the Senate gave overwhelming approval to a plan to fund the U.S. fight against the Islamic State by winning the Powerball jackpot.
“This is one of my proudest moments in office,” said a teary-eyed Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “What better way to show our enemies that we are in it for the long haul and in it to win.”
The Powerball funding measure was pushed hard by President Obama, who has been under pressure to come up with a comprehensive plan to confront the militant Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The president, who will now sign the Powerball funding measure into law, hailed the vote as a watershed in the fight against terrorism and vowed to put congressional and federal boots on the ground in any place where Powerball tickets are sold.
Pinning the nation’s military and foreign policy success on the government’s long odds of picking a winning Powerball number shows just how determined the U.S. is in taking this fight to the enemy, Mr. Obama said.
“We must do everything we can to protect the American people and the civilized world from this threat, and if that means playing Powerball in every state that sells a ticket, then that’s what we will do,” he promised.
The Senate’s 78-to-22 vote, a day after the House passed the measure, indicated that any reservations senators harbored about expanding a new military campaign in the Middle East - and of the chances of winning the Powerball jackpot - had all but vanished by the time the new measure came to the floor.
The broader debate over Congress’s role in blessing or expanding a new military campaign in the Middle East was one that few on Capitol Hill wanted six weeks before the midterm elections and with an estimated $225 million jackpot in the offing. With members of Congress still haunted by memories of the 2002 vote to authorize force in Iraq and a 2013 prize of more than $590 million that could of have been theirs if only they had started playing Powerball a year earlier, lawmakers from both parties, especially those with their eyes on the White House, tried to find a position – and a lucky Powerball number – that they would not regret.
“I’m not sending your son, your daughter, over to the middle of that chaos,” said Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, whose libertarian views have propelled him into contention for his party’s 2016 nomination. “I am sending him or her out to buy a Powerball ticket in my home state, because we need all hands on deck for this one.”
After days of collegial debate and frequent meetings with a numerical psychic, lawmakers approved the ultimate gamble for a Congress that has avoided difficult tasks for years.
In a statement from the White House after the Senate vote, Mr. Obama praised members of both parties. “We are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together and play Powerball together,” he said, calling it a “hallmark of American foreign policy at its best.”
“These terrorists thought they could frighten us or intimidate us,” Mr. Obama said. “Americans, we do not give in to fear. Just looks at the odds of winning Powerball.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers that the fight to get a winning Powerball ticket would not be brief or easy.
“But if we stick with it and get everybody to – quite literally – buy in, then I like our chances,” he said.
“This is a big war and an even bigger gamble,” said Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has already bought hundreds of Powerball tickets. “Any time you have tens of millions of tickets sold twice a week for a prize that can grow to hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of months, just project that forward. It’s a big deal.”
Mr. Inhofe, whose gaze was fixed on a screen showing Wednesday’s Powerball drawing, said he had also purchased some tickets for his personal use, as a hedge in case he was wrong about global warming.
“You can never be too safe these days,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a fiscal hawk who has always voted against short-term spending bills because he says they are the wrong way to fund the government, found himself squeezed into a line waiting to buy a $2 Powerball ticket in the nation’s capital yesterday.
“We are asked to decide things in this chamber that are in the best interest of our country,” he said as he scanned a series of numbers on a message from a fortune cookie. “Who knows? Maybe this will be our lucky day.”
Philip Maddocks writes a weekly satirical column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Philip Maddocks: Congress gives final approval to plan to fund fight with ISIS by winning lottery
By Philip Maddocks