16 April 2007

Pork You, Mr. President (BR)
GOP Congress spent millions on non-military projects in past appropriations bills

As the debate rages on between Capitol Hill and the White House over the military appropriations bill currently being hammered out between the two Houses of Congress, President Bush has stuck to the narrative that he will veto anything but a "clean bill" that comes across his desk. "Clean" means in this case no timeline for withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, and no "pork" spending on projects unrelated to defense spending.

I decided to investigate the pork angle, as Bush and Republicans in Congress mention it in the same breath as the withdrawal deadline whenever asked. Much has been made over the allotment of a few million dollars of the $80 billion or so for things like economic relief to spinach farmers and the storage of peanuts.

The objection appears fishy off the bat, as the president and his party spent the people's money like drunken Democrat sailors during the last four years when the GOP controlled Congress. They passed a Medicare prescription drug bill to the tune of half a trillion dollars (and counting) in 2004, a bill that did not provide health insurance to a single American who wasn't already covered by federal programs, but did help old men get discount Viagra. This was no isolated event: From bridges to nowhere to tax giveaways for multinational corporations, the last two Congresses were not the tightwads they now claim to be.

But if it took last November's brutal ass-kicking by Democrats to get the GOP to find religion and start listening to their constituents again, I'd be all for it. Unfortunately, every military appropriations bill passed by the 108th and 109th Congresses and signed by President Pennypincher himself was riddled with what would certainly be classified as "pork" if proposed by Democrats today. And Bush has made clear that he will be using the unrelated spending in this year's bill as one of the main bases for a veto that will deny American troops on the ground the funding they need to fight and defend themselves while they're stuck in the crossfire of a bloody civil war.

Skeptics can examine the text of H.R. 1268 as agreed to by the House and Senate for FY 2005 in the section marked "TITLE VI--GENERAL PROVISIONS AND TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS." The purpose of this section is to increase funds made available in previously passed, unrelated legislation. Here are some highlights:
DESOTO COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI
SEC. 6006. Section 219(f)(30) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1992 (106 Stat. 4835; 106 Stat. 3757; 113 Stat. 334) is amended by striking `$20,000,000' and inserting `$55,000,000' in lieu thereof, and by striking `treatment' and inserting `infrastructure' in lieu thereof
For the ADD-afflicted, that means the government increased funding to the water board of Desoto County, Mississippi by $35 million, and changed the mandate for dispensation of those funds from the specific purpose of "treatment" (we assume that refers to water, and not weekend plastic surgery) to a more general "infrastructure."
FORT PECK FISH HATCHERY, MONTANA
SEC. 6007. Section 325(f)(1)(A) of Public Law 106-541 is modified by striking `$20,000,000' and inserting in lieu thereof `$25,000,000'.
That's a $5 million bump for those brave salmon and trout fighting the war on terror in the fish farms of Big Sky country. God bless 'em.
ENVIRONMENTAL INFRASTRUCTURE
SEC. 6010. In division C, title I of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (Public Law 108-447), the item relating to Corps of Engineers--Civil, Construction, General, is amended by inserting before the period at the end the following: `: Provided further, That of the funds made available herein for Ohio Environmental Infrastructure, $500,000 shall be used for the Liberty Little Squaw Creek sewer upgrade and $1,000,000 shall be used for the Lake County, Concord Township sanitary sewer line improvement[.]
I'd just like to take this moment to remind readers that this text is from a bill titled Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005
SILVERY MINNOW OFF-CHANNEL SANCTUARIES
SEC. 6014. ...
What is it with Republicans and spending defense money on fish?
WEST YELLOWSTONE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER
SEC. 6032. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the National Park Service is authorized to expend appropriated funds for the construction, operations and maintenance of an expansion to the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center to be constructed for visitors to, and administration of, Yellowstone National Park.
Perhaps part of a plan to give terrorists bad directions so they can't blow up our geysers and mountains.

Also, the government was nice enough to use our defense bill to let their buddies in industry wreck just a few more acres of what's left of our natural landscape:
GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE
SEC. 6034. (a) The Secretary of the Interior shall allow the State of Mississippi, its lessees, contractors, and permittees, to conduct, under reasonable regulation not inconsistent with extraction of the oil and gas minerals reserved by the State of Mississippi in the deed referenced in subsection (b):

(1) exploration, development and production operations on sites outside the boundaries of Gulf Islands National Seashore that use directional drilling techniques which result in the drill hole crossing into the Gulf Islands National Seashore and passing under any land or water the surface of which is owned by the United States, including terminating in bottom hole locations thereunder; and

(2) seismic and seismic-related exploration activities inside the boundaries of Gulf Islands National Seashore to identify the oil and gas minerals located within the boundaries of the Gulf Islands National Seashore under the surface estate conveyed by the State of Mississippi, all of which oil and gas minerals the State of Mississippi reserved the right to extract.
There's more in this and other bills. You may visit THOMAS, the Library of Congress' online database, to explore.

Unlike elected officials, I don't have any problem, real or pretend, with the concept of pork spending. Fish need to be hatched, water needs to be treated, tourists in Yellowstone need to be told not to poke their heads inside Old Faithful. I get it. I'm uncomfortable with the employment by House leaders of unrelated federal spending to whip Democrats in line to get it passed in the first place.

But Republicans fearful of losing votes because of growing discontent within their own ranks over the war need to be straight with their base. The cold truth is that the President's coming veto of this year's defense appropriations bill will be a denial of funds to our troops in Iraq because of a withdrawal timeline which he finds unacceptable. It has nothing to do with pork spending. Nothing. If it did, Bush would have vetoed every appropriations bill passed by Congress in the last five years.