Who Let the Hogs Out?

America may be on the eve of war. We may have a rotten economy. We may have to worry about terrorism and our homeland security. And we may have big, beefy, and economically debilitating budget deficits again.

But if you think that any of this has caused Democrats or Republicans in Congress to rise like Churchillian statesmen above petty politics, forget it. Congress recently passed one of the ugliest spending bills in a decade-a $400-billion “omnibus spending bill” that busts the budget and sets Olympic records for the levels of pork barrel spending. This 2,100-page monstrosity is so crammed with special interest parochial projects that many of the costly gems hidden away in this bill probably won’t be found for weeks to come.

Yet only 31 Republicans in the House voted no on this grotesque measure.

It has taken my research assistant more than a week to uncover all the manure. This bill was never meant to be read by anyone. That’s why it was drafted after midnight, and voted on later that same day. Not a single one of the 435 House members or the 100 senators who voted for the bill actually read what they were voting for. So much for upholding the Constitution.

Giddy Lobbyists Exult

The day the bill was drafted, lobbyists were rushing through the halls of the House office buildings like giddy children on Christmas morning gleefully reporting to their clients news like this: “Jim we got the parking garage. Yep, fully funded-all $290,000 of it. And we got the skating rink funded too.” Or, “Good news, sir. Our new marble courthouse building got snuck in the bill late last night. Congratulations.”

This bill is exactly the kind of pork-larded monstrosity that the Democrats used to shamelessly pass and that Republican conservatives used to rail against. These kinds of abuses of the public treasury would never happen when we’re in charge, the Republicans used to say.

With the help of the conscientious staff of the House Republican Study Committee, here is a list of just some of the noxious items in the omnibus bill:

  • $1 million for the Iowa Historical Society for exhibits related to the world food prize;
  • $750,000 for the Baseball Hall of Fame;
  • $725,000 for the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia;
  • $500,000 for the Boat House Museum in St. Charles, Mo.;
  • $500,000 for Tongass Coast Aquarium in Alaska;
  • $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame;
  • $210,000 for swine hoop barn research in Iowa;
  • $200,000 for the Maxine Waters [D.-Calif.] Employment Preparation Center; and
  • $150,000 for office renovations for Sen. Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va.).

There’s also money for a cowgirl museum, dozens of university “research grants” with price tags in the millions of dollars, and expanded eligibility for farm aid (on top of the $170-billion farm bill we just passed last Congress!). The Citizens Against Government Waste says the measure is the “porkiest bill ever.” And those waste-watchers can smell bacon from a mile away.

Powerful House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R.-Fla.) calls this bill a “victory for national defense.” That’s true only if you think spending $250,000 to promote soccer or $300,000 for sweet potato research makes our country safer from foreign enemies or if you think crickets and grasshoppers are a primary threat to our security (there is nearly $1 million in the bill to control these critters).

The bill isn’t just objectionable because of the thick slabs of pork. It’s a grade-A budget-buster. Its price tag came in $2.2 billion above the funding level that the President agreed to in negotiations with Congress. It is easily $10 to $20 billion higher than is fiscally responsible at a time of war and $200-billion budget deficits.

The $54 billion allocated for the Education Department is nearly a 10% increase in spending over last year, and further extends the meddling tentacles of Uncle Sam into local school operations. Republicans are now proving themselves to be bigger spenders on Jimmy Carter’s Department of Education than Democrats ever were.

This bill will also increase Medicare payments to doctors-a move that could cost taxpayers an estimated $50 billion over the next ten years. With rampaging health care costs swallowing up the federal budget, this provision will only accelerate Medicare’s impending date of bankruptcy.

Where were the indignant howls of protest? Virtually the only ones that could be heard were from spendthrift Democrats who objected-incredibly-that the bill did not spend enough money.

The few brave Republicans who bucked their own leadership-people such as Representatives Pat Toomey (Pa.), Ron Paul (Tex.), Marilyn Musgrave, and John Shadegg (Ariz.)-couldn’t in good conscience bring themselves to vote “aye” for a bill that is so damaging to our nation’s finances. I have listed below the House Republicans who commendably voted no on the bill. Not a single Senate Republican voted no.

Back when the Farm Bill was being debated last year, Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.) rose on the House floor and delivered a two-minute lecture to his colleagues in opposition to the bill. One member on the Democratic side of the aisle challenged Flake, questioning what a congressman from Phoenix could possibly know about farming. Wrong question. Flake grew up on a farm. And he responded to the counterattack by saying, “I may not be in agriculture anymore, but after a childhood of living on a farm, I assure you congressman that I know manure when I see it.”

Too bad more of the distinguished gentlemen and ladies on Capitol Hill don’t know manure when they see it.