Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Emergency spending on the Iraq War bought through funding of Special Interest

Congress loads up $20 billion in pork

by Charles Hurt , The Examiner

WASHINGTON - Congress has loaded up President Bush's request for "emergency" spending on the Iraq war with more than $20 billion in "pork" for members' districts.

Money for peanut storage in Georgia, spinach growers in California, menhaden in the Atlantic Ocean and even more office space for the lawmakers themselves is included in what has ballooned into a $124 billion war bill.

"This emergency supplemental bill has more ornaments hanging over our many branches of government than the White House Christmas tree," Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said.

Originally, Bush asked for $105 billion in emergency funding. Democratic leaders say they want to grant the request to continue funding the war despite their desire to end it.

"We have provided all of the money the president requested- and more," boasted House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

That includes $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers and $100 million for citrus growers.

It also includes $16 million to convert the old Food and Drug Administration building in southwest D.C. into more office space for the Capitol. That "emergency" expenditure comes at a time when taxpayers already shell out $600 million "more than double the original estimate" for a mammoth expansion of the Capitol, which includes 160,000 feet of new office space.

Lewis accused House leaders of trying to "paper over Democrat divisions on the war in Iraq by delivering billions of dollars in unrelated and unauthorized spending that is somehow given an emergency designation."

Hoyer denied the charge from Lewis, who himself was famous for his own pork spending when he served as Appropriations Committee chairman under Republican control.

"They are a strange group to talk about buying votes," Hoyer chuckled. "This is the crowd that took pork barrel spending to new levels of irresponsibility."

The 172-page spending bill will get its first public airing today at an Appropriations Committee meeting, where panel members expect to approve it.

Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican who sits on the committee, said he will try amending the bill today. First, he wants to strip out the non-emergency, member-requested spending and force it to go through the normal appropriations process. Under newly approved Democratic rules, that would require offsets to pay for the new spending.

Kirk also wants to entirely eliminate money for spinach farmers.

"Spinach farmers in California should not be getting emergency war spending money," he said.

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