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Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Congress ignores Bush plea to cut pork spending

July 4, 2001

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— Lawmakers are ignoring President Bush's call to cut spending for home-state projects, stuffing the year's first spending bills with $500,000 for swine manure research in Iowa, $5 million for a Massachusetts parking garage, and millions of dollars for hundreds of other items.

If anything, Congress could well exceed the $16 billion price tag such projects totaled in 2001. Still formidable federal surpluses, legislators' desire to bring home federal bacon and the age-old executive-legislative rivalry over the power of the purse all fuel a bipartisan demand for home-district spending.

Compounding Bush's problem is that the Senate is now led by Democrats with little sympathy for the spending constraints he proposed to help finance his big tax cut.

They are eager to draw contrasts between his tax reduction and their own priorities.

"We'll make our judgments, and he'll have to make his when the bills get to him," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a barely veiled challenge.

Spotlighting the early trend, the White House complained that a $59 billion transportation bill for 2002 that the House approved on June 26 contained $1.6 billion for more than 900 projects for lawmakers' districts $300 million and 300 projects above this year's totals for that bill.

Daniels' office also said the $74 billion agriculture bill the House is considering has $150 million in research projects Bush did not request.

"I don't think we're having too much success so far" in cutting the projects, White House budget chief Mitchell Daniels conceded in an interview last week.

Facing this early deluge, the administration has begun to play down Bush's proposed cuts in the projects.

"As a matter of priority, it falls third or fourth on the list," Daniels said.

He said that keeping overall spending down, financing Bush priorities like education and defense, and eliminating bookkeeping gimmicks lawmakers use to squeeze in extra spending were all more important.

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