Caution: Porkers at Work | Citizens Against Government Waste

Caution: Porkers at Work

The WasteWatcher

While summer has almost come to an end, the only appropriations bill that has come to a full vote in either chamber of Congress this year is the Military Construction-VA spending bill (H.R. 6599).  The action taken on this bill, however, offers a preview of what taxpayers can expect with the eleven remaining spending bills.

According to Congressional Quarterly, the bill contains $72.7 billion in discretionary spending, which includes 103 congressional earmarks for a total of $429.3 million.  The bill spends 13 percent more in fiscal year 2009 than it did in FY 2008, and contains $3.4 billion more than the President’s request.

Yet members of the subcommittee are intransigent in their defense of the bill.  In the same article, the bill’s sponsor, Chet Edwards (D-Texas), insists that he will, “fight for a clean VA military construction bill.” 

However, even a cursory review of the bill shows that it is anything but “clean.”  Among the earmarks in the bill are $11.6 million for a fitness center in Kingsville, Texas, added by Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas).  There is a private gym four miles away that costs $30 per month, with a $35 initiation fee.  That $11.6 million could pay for the gym memberships of 29,300 service men and women for one year.  Also included in the bill is a $6.8 million add-on courtesy of Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.) for a chapel center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, which already has two separate chapels on its campus.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who was named a CCAGW Taxpayer Superhero in 2006, once again lived up to his title by proposing an amendment along with fellow waste warrior Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) to strike all of the earmarks sponsored by members of Congress from the bill.  The bill was voted down 63-350.   To add insult to injury, the House agreed on a voice vote to an amendment by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) to allocate an additional $7 million for alternative fueling stations at Veteran’s Administration hospitals.  H.R. 6599 ultimately passed by a wide margin; the only members voting against the pork-laden bill were Reps. Campbell, Flake, John Duncan (R-Tenn.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas).  As if this weren’t enough, the bill has yet to make its way through the Senate, where senators will no doubt add earmarks of their own.

President Bush has threatened to veto the bill unless it offsets the $2.9 billion in spending that goes beyond the White House’s request.  Unfortunately, the margin of victory in the House almost certainly ensures that a presidential veto will be overridden, a sign that pork-barrel spending is still with us. 

- Evan Lisull

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