Snowball Downhill

This "emergency" bill demonstrates how such measures can grow like a snowball rolling downhill — even in a Republican Congress. After Bush presented his $92.2-billion request, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R.-Tex.), a leading member of conservative House Republican Study Committee (RSC), prepared an amendment that would have offset all $92.2 billion by cutting unobligated funds from fiscal 2006 appropriations. But the House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. David Dreier (R.-Calif.), refused to allow Hensarling to offer that amendment on the floor. Twenty-nine members of the RSC, led by Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.), then voted on the floor against Dreier’s rule. It passed anyway, however, when 22 Democrats crossed party lines to join with most Republicans to ensure passage of a bill without offsets. The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Thad Cochran (R.-Miss.), voted 27 to 1 to add more than $14 billion to the bill, sending the full Senate a $106.5-billion version. (Sen. Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.) was the only committee member to dissent.) On the Senate floor, the bill grew by another $3.5 billion, despite efforts by Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) to force embarrassing rollcall votes on pork-barrel earmarks.