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December 10, 2007

War Funding Showdown Update

Over the weekend, President Bush told the Democrats that the mega-sized spending bill, intended as a compromise so Democrats can fund some extra projects while Republicans get war funding, would be vetoed if it is overbudget. It is nice to see congressional Republicans working with the president:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was the first to suggest the outlines of the spending deal, also objected yesterday to its price tag, saying that the $11 billion in extra funds being sought by Democrats is "too much to ask of the American taxpayer."

This is going to be in the news this week because the continuing resolution which has funded the government since the new fiscal year expires on Friday.

Jack, you have any insight into the process?

UPDATE [Jack M.]- As a matter of fact, yes. But rather than type it all out, I'm going to cut and paste a "hot of the press", um, press release that I just got from House Minority Leader Boehner's office.

Pay attention to the use of the phrase "ping-pong." This might be the only example where you can use it and not conjure up images of extremely talented Thai hookers.

Oh wait..it's a dem Congress. Never mind. Press release below the fold.


MAJORITY SETS STAGE FOR MASSIVE EARMARK COVER-UP WITH BUDGET-BUSTING, HALF-TRILLION DOLLAR “OMNIBUS” SPENDING PACKAGE

WASHINGTON POST: BLOATED SPENDING BILL COULD INCLUDE HOYER EARMARKS DOLED OUT TO CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS

December 10, 2007 | Permalink

Today’s Washington Post details a handful of earmarks House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is asking American taxpayers to pay for – just a few of some tens of millions in projects that will be included in the huge, “omnibus” spending bill the House will consider as soon as tomorrow:

“Even as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has joined in steps to clean up pork-barrel spending, the Maryland congressman has tucked $96 million worth of pet projects into next year’s federal budget, including $450,000 for a campaign donor’s foundation.”

According to the story, the Majority Leader has secured earmarks for non-profit music education group headed-up by a campaign donor who admits he hasn’t “decided exactly how to spend the 2008 earmark,” as well as earmarks for “studies on turf grass, coffee and cocoa, and potato diseases.” And thanks to Democratic leaders’ efforts to set the stage for a massive earmark cover-up just as the House prepares to consider the giant spending bill, hundreds or thousands more earmarks from the Majority Leader and any other Member of Congress could be slipped into the legislation – and no one would ever know about it. Here’s why:

House Democrats are expected to include in the omnibus spending bill thousands of pork-barrel earmarks – just like those requested by Majority Leader Hoyer – bankrolled by American taxpayers. But because the legislation has been crafted in secret and outside of regular legislative order, none of these earmarks – including an untold number of completely new earmarks – will ever see the light of day. This amounts to a massive earmark cover-up from a Majority that promised more disclosure in how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. Republicans on the House Rules Committee explain exactly how this earmark cover-up will work:

“Under a ‘martial law’ rule approved by the Rules Committee [last Thursday], the as yet unseen omnibus will fall squarely into a loophole that exempts bills ‘ping-ponged’ between the House and Senate from the earmark disclosure rules in the House…

“For the fifth time this year, the House Majority is employing a ‘ping-pong’ strategy of legislating, avoiding conference committees by forcing the Senate to amend House bills and the House to amend Senate bills. Conveniently, this process does not require amendments between the houses to be covered by the earmark disclosure rule in the House. That means no list of earmarks and their sponsors is required. That means no disclosure.”

For months now, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has been warning taxpayers to brace themselves for this onslaught of pork. And yesterday on CNN Late Edition, he reaffirmed his strident opposition, telling host Wolf Blitzer, “No deal,” when asked if he would go along with the Majority’s budget scheme:

“This money is not necessary. And I believe that we ought to hold the line on spending. I’ve worked with the Administration. When it is all said and done this government needs to be more lean and efficient because that’s what the American taxpayers deserve and expect.”

The Bush Administration also has indicated strong opposition to the Democrats’ spending spree as well, with White House Budget Director Jim Nussle saying the President would veto this budget-busting bill. In a statement released on Saturday regarding the plan, Nussle noted, “Instead of trying to leverage troop-funding for more pork-barrel spending, Congress ought to pass responsible appropriations bills and the funding for the troops our commanders say they need to build on their battlefield successes.”

With House Republicans lining up in opposition to this cynical, pork-filled plan and with the Bush Administration pledging a veto of the measure, will the Majority finally begin to keep its promises of fiscal responsibility it made to voters last year? Or will it press on with its plans to ask men and women in harm’s way to carry billions in pork as part of this year-end, budget-busting bill?

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 12:09 PM

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