Budget Hawks Fret over Pork in War Budget

July 7, 2008 - 8:29 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Between budget appropriations and a major transportation bill coming up this year, Congress will have two big chances to spend tax dollars on pork barrel projects. But the first chance may come in the form of President Bush's $74.7 billion supplemental spending request to cover costs directly related to the war in Iraq.

The president this week implored Congress to keep the supplemental pork-free, but budget hawks fear wartime patriotism won't stand in the way of pork.

The airlines, snubbed in the administration's request, are already pressuring congressional Republicans for money to bail them out of hard times, perhaps by adding as much as $4 billion in aid to the supplemental. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has indicated some sort of relief will be forthcoming.

Then there are the nation's mayors clamoring for more money for homeland security expenses.

And Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin has reportedly said he wants money included for a farm "Conservation Security Fund" that was cut from February's omnibus spending bill.

Nor is the administration's own request pork-free, some charge.

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, says the $4.25 billion request for homeland security costs - and even some of the war costs - were foreseeable and should have been completely taken care of in the 2003 appropriations bills passed in February.

The administration has also thrown in a request for money to fund the drug war in Colombia, notes Harry Zeeve of the Concord Coalition. A senior administration official earlier described that $5 billion request as "bilateral assistance to supportive countries or countries which may suffer consequences as a result of the war," including Colombia, "where terror and the drug trade intersect."

And "already, there's money for embassy construction and things in the supplemental that you could make the...legitimate argument that the money may not be needed right now" as part of an emergency spending measure, added Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

"They'll wrap an American flag around their provisions and say it's our patriotic duty to get this passed," Ashdown predicted. "They'll use some rationale [that] this is being passed for security reasons.

"Lawmakers will go to the ends of the earth to pack pork in must-have spending bills," said Ashdown.

"We're already in a deficit situation, and every little billion you borrow here and every little billion you borrow there is another burden on our children and grandchildren," said Zeeve. "It really does add up."

But Schatz, for one, doesn't see any political resolve in Congress to hold the line on pork.

"The speaker of the House and the [Senate] majority leader should be out there talking about the fact that we have people sacrificing their lives, and we're going to have to sacrifice a few programs," said Schatz.

But no one on Capitol Hill is talking about cutting spending, Schatz lamented.

E-mail a news tip to Christine Hall.

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