Thursday, March 29, 2007

The pork in the Iraq supplemental bill

Dana Milbank looks at all the goodies stuffed into the emergency Iraq supplemental bill.
Midway through the Senate debate yesterday over the "emergency" spending bill for Iraq, Barbara Boxer rose to speak in favor -- of strawberries.

"There's a song called 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' " the California Democrat declared on the Senate floor, as an aide displayed a poster of an icy berry patch. "This is a strawberry field," Boxer continued, seeking funds for frostbitten fruit farmers. "It looks like an ice rink. The strawberries are somewhere in there; they are destroyed. I also want to show you oranges. . . . Here you can see the icicles near the avocados."

The relationship between crops and troops was lost on Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who backed an amendment that would remove spending for sugar beets and other agricultural pursuits. "I don't see how the asparagus-spinach problem helps us win in Iraq," he argued at a news conference. "This is a bill designed to help people that are getting shot at."

Oh? Immediately after this righteous plea in the Senate television studio, Graham went downstairs to the Senate floor and voted in support of an amendment to the Iraq bill directing an additional $5 billion to rural schools and counties -- right here in the U.S. of A.

It's common for lawmakers to complain that a spending bill is "loaded up like a Christmas tree" with pet projects. But the Iraq Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act going through the Senate this week is unusual in that it is loaded up with Christmas trees.

Specifically, it includes $40 million for a Tree Assistance Program that provides help for Christmas trees and ornamental shrubs. Also in the Senate's version of the Iraq bill: $24 million for sugar beets, $3 million for Hawaiian sugar cane, $13 million for the Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Program, $100 million in compensation for dairy losses, $165.9 million for fisheries disaster relief, and money for numerous other "emergencies."
For shame. But they don't care. They see this as an opportunity to get some pork for their pet causes without having to go through the regular budget procedure. Worrying about the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan seems secondary. But worrying about their own security was clearly on their minds.
But the senators could not dwell on matters of war -- Vietnam or Iraq -- for long. They had to take up an amendment from Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who demanded to know why $100 million in security for the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions was included in the "emergency" Iraq legislation. "This isn't sudden," Coburn argued. "It's not unpredictable, and it wasn't unanticipated. There have been nominating conventions since 1832 in this country."

Coburn lost the vote. For the Senate, even an American political convention qualifies as an Iraq emergency.
Not only does this bill send the message to our enemies in Iraq that all they have to do is wait us out until the congressional deadline and then they can move in to wreak their terror on Iraq. But concerns about what would happen in Iraq or the rest of the Middle East after this pullout was secondary to posturing before the public and squeezing out more taxpayer money for their pet projects.