Friday, May 06, 2005

House backs $82 billion "emergency" spending bill that's packed with Pentagon pork.

House backs $82 billion "emergency" spending bill that's packed with Pentagon pork.

John Nichols

Just when you thought it might be impossible for the Bush administration and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to stoop any lower, they have sunk to a new depth. They are now, in the well-chosen words of one member of the U.S. House, "using America's fighting men and women as human shields to pass pork-laden legislation."

The administration and its chief congressional ally hijacked the resolution for supplemental funding of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and added to the measure a laundry list of giveaways to special interests and bad policies. In addition to packing in all sorts of new immigration rules and expenditures, which should have been dealt with on their own merits rather than buried in an "emergency" spending bill, they also included money for a "wish-list" of Pentagon boondoggles that have nothing to do with helping the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan -- let alone getting them home alive.

Unfortunately, most Democrats went along with this abuse of the legislative process, making themselves partners in an ugly and unwarranted diversion of taxpayer dollars. The final House vote in favor of the $82 billion package was 368-58. Supporting the "emergency" bill were 225 Republicans and 143 Democrats; opposing it were 54 Democrats, three Republicans and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.

Why did so many Democrats and so many thinking Republicans back this "pork-laden legislation"?

"Republicans in Congress have stacked the deck on today's fiscally irresponsible supplemental spending bill: forcing members to either appear unpatriotic or support a cash-cow bill stuffed with pork projects that fail to either help our troops or meet any ‘emergency' need," explained U.S. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, D-Cal. "Rather than taking their Pentagon colleagues to task for not budgeting for the needs of the troops in the regular defense budget request, the Majority has endorsed a fiscally irresponsible ploy used since the start of the war in Iraq: Pass ‘emergency' supplemental after supplemental that Congress has limited or no ability to review."

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Pentagon has made annual requests for "emergency funding," and the latest request for $82 billion is unlikely to be the last. Why can't the Pentagon -- with an annual budget in excess of $400 billion -- budget properly? Because doing so would require Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his aides to justify expenses.

"(The) supplemental bill is chock full of projects that could easily be planned and budgeted within the Pentagon's annual request. To call them emergency, last-minute needs is misleading, fiscally irresponsible, and prevents Congress from exercising proper oversight over vital programs and efforts. And now, in order to placate members who see through this costly tactic, the supplemental bill has swelled with unnecessary spending," says Tauscher. "This additional $82 billion measure brings total ‘emergency' supplemental funding for the war to $272 billion. The Administration's policy of irresponsibly budgeting for the Iraq war as a temporary, incremental involvement demonstrates its lack of a comprehensive plan to stabilize the country, internationalize the ground forces, and begin to withdraw American forces. I believe that our troops deserve better than a piecemeal plan."

Tauscher read the bill right. Unfortunately, like most Democrats and almost all Republicans, she did not vote right. For all her fine words, and solid insights, Tauscher did not have the courage to cast a vote against the "pork-laden" bill.

This is the frustrating thing about Congressional Democrats. They are willing to point out the fundamental flaws in the Bush administration's agenda, but most of them still vote with the Republicans to implement that agenda.

Only three Republicans voted "no" -- Texan Ron Paul, North Carolina's Howard Coble and Tennessee's John Duncan. They were joined by the House's only independent, Sanders, and 54 Democrats.

The Democrats who had the wisdom and the courage to object were:

Neil Abercrombie (HA) Tammy Baldwin (WI) Xavier Becerra (CA) Earl Blumenauer (OR) Mike Capuano (MA) Julia Carson (IN) Bill Clay Jr. (MO) John Conyers (MI) Danny Davis (IL) Bill Delahunt (MA) Sam Farr (CA) Bob Filner (CA) Barney Frank (MA) Bart Gordon (TN) Raul Grijalva (AZ) Luis Gutierrez (IL) Maurice Hinchey (NY) Rush Holt (NJ) Mike Honda (CA) Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX) Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH) Dennis Kucinich (OH) Barbara Lee (CA) John Lewis (GA) Carolyn Maloney (NY) Ed Markey (MA) Betty McCollum (MN) Jim McDermott (WA) Jim McGovern (MA) Cynthia McKinney (GA) Marty Meehan (MA) Gregory Meeks (NY) George Miller (CA) Grace Napolitano (CA) Jim Oberstar (MN) John Olver (MA) Major Owens (NY) Frank Pallone (NJ) Ed Pastor (AZ) Donald Payne (NJ) Charles Rangel (NY) Sánchez, Linda T. (CA) Jan Schakowsky (IL) Jose Serrano (NY) Pete Stark (CA) Mike Thompson (CA) John Tierney (MA) Ed Towns (NY) Nydia Velázquez (NY) Maxine Waters (CA) Mel Watt (NC) Anthony Weiner (NY) Robert Wexler (VL) Lynn Woolsey (CA)