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Here's a great example of a story making it's way from the back pages of newspapers to blogs and then back to the mainstream media again - and hopefully it will keep going.
Ten days ago I noticed (and shared) an obscure AP story detailing some of the $20 billion in pork Democrats had added to the bill to fund the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
...House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., isn't waiting on the upcoming farm bill to extend income subsidies aimed at small dairy farms. Obey's 13-month extension would cost $283 million.Last week, while guest blogging at Michelle Malkin's site I referenced the story again - and you can bet a lot of folks noticed that one. (Note also from that link that the Washington Post editors were opposed to the bill on issues other than the pork layered within. But the paper tackled that topic later - and quite enthusiastically - as you'll soon see.)
Some critics say the Democrats are simply being opportunistic — using a must-pass measure for funding U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry items that can't advance as easily on their own.
Already, money in the bill not directly related to the war exceeds $20 billion.
Democrats insist they aren't being bought off.
"Absolutely not," said Rep. Jim Costa, a Democrat representing a farm district in California's Central Valley. The California delegation is demanding help for citrus, avocado and other farmers facing $1.2 billion in losses from a devastating January freeze.
"I would support this one way or another," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., a driving force behind the drought aid package.
There are a few lawmakers — such as Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. — whose support for war funding is contingent on add-ons. In DeFazio's case, it's $400 million to extend payments to rural counties hurt by cutbacks in federal logging.
The billions of dollars not requested by Bush include $1 billion to prevent or prepare for a possible avian flu epidemic and $400 million in additional heating subsidies for the poor.
The Victory Caucus has published the full text of the House Democrats emergency supplemental bill. This includes a downloadable PDF version and a browseable / linkable version online, here.This past weekend the Wall Street Journal picked up the story:
Check it out: this will enable bloggers to link directly to the page of the bill that they are commenting upon. I’m also collecting ‘bookmarks’ to the silliest provisions, such as the $120M for shrimp research, the $25M for spinach , and the most important measure to help our troops achieve victory in Iraq --- an increase in the minimum wage .
I’m working on a way to include links to blog commentary on particular sections of the bill as well… and I’ve got my sources out looking for the Senate resolutions as well so we can do the same treatment.
Thus has Mr. Bush's request for $100 billion to fund the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus $3 billion to replenish the disaster-relief fund, devolved into a $124.6 billion logrolling extravaganza. You can get the flavor from the bill's very first words on page two: "Title I--Supplemental Appropriations for the Global War on Terror Chapter 1 Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service." Forget the Marines; send in the meat inspectors.
This bill has everything the modern military doesn't need. There's $25 million for spinach, designed to attract the vote of Sam Farr, a California farm-region liberal. Perhaps spinach growers who lost business due to last year's E. coli scare need this taxpayer bailout, but it won't intimidate the Taliban unless Mr. Farr plans to draft Popeye.
Other lowlights include $20 million to restore farmland damaged by freezing temperatures, and $1.48 billion for livestock farmers. And don't forget the $74 million "to ensure proper storage for peanuts," an urgent national-security need. This happens to be about the same amount that House Democrats propose to increase spending for operations of the Army Reserve, so it's good to see Congress has its priorities in order.
Then there are the provisions to raise the minimum wage, at one pace for the continental U.S. but at a separate, slower pace for the Northern Mariana Islands. And $500 million for "urgent wildland fire suppression"--that's forest fires, not weapons fire. There's so much more, if only the press corps would take the time to look.
This pork-barrel blowout is grounds enough for a Presidential veto.
Today, the Washington Post joined in:
As the opposition heats up, the Democrats have had some successes in their furious search for support. Yesterday, MoveOn.org announced that with 85 percent of its members backing the bill, the liberal activist group will begin working for its passage. That could prove to be a major boost for Democratic leaders struggling to keep in line the most liberal wing of the party, which wants to cut off funds for the war by the end of this year.But three cheers for Boustany for not taking the bribe:
A few Republicans are at least considering a vote for the bill, including Reps. Wayne T. Gilchrest and Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland. Some conservative Democrats who had been expected to vote no on Thursday are wavering.
To get them off the fence and on the bill, Democrats have a key weapon at their disposal: cold, hard cash. The bill contains billions for agriculture and drought relief, children's health care and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.
For Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), there is $25 million for spinach growers hurt by last year's E. coli scare. For three conservative Democrats in Georgia, there is $75 million for peanut storage. For lawmakers from the bone-dry West, there is $500 million for wildfire suppression. An additional $120 million is earmarked for shrimp and Atlantic menhaden fishermen.
So far, at least in public pronouncements, the $21 billion in funding beyond President Bush's request has earned Democrats nothing but scorn.
For more than a year, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R) has tried unsuccessfully to secure federal funds to prevent salt water from intruding on rice fields in his lowland Louisiana district. So it came as a surprise last week when Boustany found $15 million in the House's huge war spending bill for his rice farmers. He hadn't even asked that the bill include it.
"It gives me no satisfaction to vote against measures that I have been working for since even before [Hurricane] Katrina, but I cannot in good conscience vote for a bill that does this to our troops," Boustany said yesterday, decrying what he called the "cheap politics" of using disaster aid to win votes on a measure this controversial....even though Dems are already attacking Republicans who won't cave in:
When Appropriations Committee member Rodney Alexander (R-La.) voted against the bill in committee last week, Democratic Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.) shot off a statement to the New Orleans Times-Picayune declaring, "When [Gulf Coast] assistance is on the fast track, Rep. Alexander chose to stand with his party rather than with the people of his region."So, what's next? Nancy Pelosi has invested heavily in this effort, and her declaration of failure of the new Iraq strategy will probably not be enough to appease the MoveOn crowd referenced above. But the bill hasn't got a snowball's chance in Baghdad of passing - without the steady flow of cash through the pipeline for the (ahem) "undecideds" and "moderates". (Revisit the original post and the WaPo piece above for even more details on that.) But even if this atrocity passes the House it will need to be reconciled with the Senate version (they've already rejected the withdrawal provision), and sent to the White House for final approval. Anything can happen along the way (though I wouldn't bet on "quick resolution") but hopefully a much brighter light will be shining on this in the days ahead.
And in these days of preparing for my own return to Iraq, all I can say is "glad I could help."