Pork Alert: The Railroad to Nowhere

Tim Chapman at’s Capitol Report has the scoop on this morning’s press conference with a coalition of conservative groups about the latest pork project to sneak into an appropriations bill: the so-called “Railroad to Nowhere.”

The “Railroad to Nowhere” project is part of the Senate version of the $106.5 billion emergency supplemental bill, which is $15 billion more than the $92 billion the President requested and the House approved.

Here are some details of why conservatives are in a tizzy, courtesy of Jonathan Rick at the American Conservative Union:

Congress has repeatedly abused the supplemental appropriations process to ram through pet spending projects that cannot stand on their own merits. Today, the congressional definition of an “emergency” encompasses such dire needs as subsidizing profitable agribusinesses, to the tune of an additional $4 billion, on top of an annual $25 billion; rerouting a recently repaired and completely functional railroad in Mississippi, at a cost of $700 million, to benefit coastal developers and the casino industry; and a $1.5 million grant to the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies.

And here’s a brief synopsis of today’s event from Tim’s blog:

David Keene, President of ACU, referring to this Congress’s proclivity to spend with abandon, said that "In all the years I have been here I have never seen people with such tin ears."

Congressman Tom Feeney seemed to agree. Lamenting the spending habits of the current Congress, Feeney seemed to suggest that a divided Congress may be better than the current situation, saying a "stalemate would be better than eating ourselves to death."

Congressman Jeff Flake, referring to the infamous Railroad to Nowhere contained in the bill, said "once again the American taxpayer is getting railroaded."

I wasn’t able to make it to the event, so I’m relying on Tim and ACU for the details. (Click here for the official press release.) Six members of Congress spoke at the press conference. Here’s the whole lineup:

  1. David A. Keene, Chairman, The American Conservative Union
  2. Alison Acosta Fraser, Director, Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation
  3. John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union
  4. Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform
  5. Tom Schatz, President, Citizens against Government Waste
  6. David Keating, Executive Director, The Club for Growth
  7. Congressman Jeff Flake (AZ-6)
  8. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-5)
  9. Congressman Tom Feeney (FL-24)
  10. Congressman John Campbell (CA-48)
  11. Congressman Randy Neugebauer (TX-19)
  12. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7)

What will it take to convince these Republican lawmakers it’s fiscally irresponsible to go hog wild with taxpayers’ money?

UPDATE — 6:29 p.m.: Kudos to my favorite congressman, Mike Pence of Indiana, who today told President Bush he should veto the emergency supplemental bill and send the Senate a message. Here is Pence’s statement:

With a record deficit and national debt, now is the time for Congress to practice fiscal discipline, even where funding the war on terror is concerned.

While I’ve supported our troops and funding the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts along the Gulf Coast, I could not bring myself to support recent emergency funding legislation that left this House of Representatives at some $92 billion, including many elements that the President of the United States thought were unnecessary.

Well, if things were bad before, they just got worse. The Senate is working on the emergency supplemental bill, and it is now at $106.5 billion and rising, including such unrelated measures as $3 million for southern and eastern Kentucky tourism and $900,000 for Dartmouth College, to name a few.

Let’s support funding the war on terror and support the families and communities affected by the Gulf Coast, but let’s do it in a fiscally responsible way.

This legislation has become a fruit basket of spending unrelated to our war effort and Katrina, and I say plainly, ‘Mr. President, veto this bill.’