Inside the Beltway: Pork-barrel police root around the earmarks

Mammoth legislation with a stupefying price always draws close scrutiny. Such is the case with the 1,532-page, $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, as the lumbering bill that will fund federal agencies and assorted programs through September 30 has been christened. Though it has not yet begun to smell, the big bill is already offending those of a more frugal mindset. Citizens Against Government Waste deems the legislation objectionable because it breaks the sequester budget caps. And there are earmarks which meet the watchdog group’s “longstanding, seven-point criteria for pork-barrel spending.” Among them:

$112.9 million for the Rural Utilities Service; $90 million for continued upgrade of M1 Abrams; $60 million for alternative energy research; $341 million for the Army Corps of Engineers; $4 million for aquatic plant control; $45.1 million for high-intensity drug trafficking areas programs; $98 million for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium; $25 million for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund; $9.3 million for Heritage Partnership Programs through the National Park Service; and $14.4 million for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants.

The group acknowledges that there are a few provisions that would increase transparency and eliminate wasteful spending — a reduction of $49 million for the federal biofuels program, for instance — but earmarks and other wasteful spending “far outweigh any positive aspects.”

APPROPRIATIONS OFFENSE CONTINUES

Fiscal conservatives and grassroots folk are already holding their noses over the aforementioned legislation, however.

“We have seen this infuriating shell game of increased spending now, and promised cuts later — a game of deception. And it’s why people are so fed up with Washington,” declares Brent Bozell, chairman ForAmerica, who is especially critical of “go-along Republicans” for creating a divide between GOP leadership and the party rank-and-file.

“All the programs the GOP leadership has repeatedly promised to end — Obamacare, taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, public broadcasting and others — are still being funded. So what’s the difference between John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid? Answer: The Democratic leadership honors its promises. Republican leaders have abandoned theirs,” Mr. Bozell says.

“In sum, House leaders have written a sequester-scrapping spending bill in secret, given members and the public barely a day to read it, and shut down all amendments. These are Pelosi tactics, not the ‘transparent’ government and ‘regular order’ Republicans promised,” observes Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, who is asking the 6 million members of the group to contact their local lawmakers and protest.

“This proposal essentially kicks the can down the road. Where is the leadership in Washington? Until long-term entitlements are reformed, taxpayers will be an economic hiccup away from being burdened with massively higher taxes,” notes John Nothdurft, director of government relations at the Heartland Institute, a free market think tank.

HUCKABEE’S RINO RANT

“What’s the Republican Party’s biggest obstacle in this year’s elections? Republicans! With Benghazi, Obamacare, NSA spying, al Qaeda and the still-staggering economy, 2014 should be a record year for the GOP. But they risk disaster if they let the primaries be hijacked by ad campaigns by groups that don’t target Democrats, but fellow Republicans who aren’t ‘pure’ enough. And one term that I’d like to see outlawed from the vernacular of the party is ‘RINO.’ It stands for ‘Republicans in name only,’ and it’s a pejorative term that questions the authenticity and orthodoxy of someone’s party purity. I’ve been called that myself, even though I fought in the trenches of Republican politics for over two decades. Even so, I would never pretend that I’m lord over determining who the real Republicans are.”

— Mike Huckabee, in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

SANTORUM FINDS A NEW DEMOGRAPHIC

“Blue Collar Conservatives”

— New book by Rick Santorum from Regnery Publishing, due out in April

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