What’s this? Our Brave President is opposed to the latest special appropriation for Our Troops in Iraq? Wasn’t he for the war before he was against it?
The White House and Senate Republican leaders are gearing up to oppose a $106.5 billion spending bill for the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina this week because some lawmakers have added unrelated aid for farmers and fisheries, highways and ports.
The unusual battle pits President Bush and Republican leaders concerned about rising federal budget deficits against members of the Senate Appropriations Committee who have attached dozens of items sought by individual lawmakers. Even more new spending will be sought by senators during the weeklong debate. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., wants to add veterans health care; Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., wants to add border security.
“This is more evidence of the dysfunctional nature of the Republican majority in the Senate,” says Pat Toomey, president of the conservative Club for Growth.
The committee that approved the increases is headed by Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran, who has battled to ensure his state gets its fair share of Katrina relief funds. His spokeswoman, Jenny Manley, says the Bush administration “does not have the sole authority to say what needs remain in the Gulf Coast. Members of Congress have more direct accountability to their constituents and know well what needs remain.”
Senators have added projects large and small because they know money for wars and hurricane relief will run low and have to be replenished — which makes this a must-pass bill.
Senators also were generous to governors from Gulf Coast states that asked for more money. They increased a special Katrina housing fund by $1.2 billion, largely to give Mississippi money to move families out of temporary trailers and into special new houses called “Katrina cottages.”
They sought to reserve $4.2 billion in housing aid for exclusive use by Louisiana by adding another $1 billion for use by Louisiana’s neighbors.
The committee included nearly $900 million, much of it for Texas, as compensation for the costs of educating thousands of Katrina evacuees.
“They’re extorting extra funding under the theory that (Bush) will never veto it,” says Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Bush has yet to cast his first veto.