- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

Although the 106th Congress has tried to provide Americans tax relief, notably by eliminating the marriage-penalty and death taxes, it seems to have lost all fiscal discipline as it wraps up the annual appropriations process. According to a recent issue of Congressional Quarterly, "Lawmakers are on track to break all records as they wrap up work on the fiscal 2001 spending bills by allocating perhaps $20 billion more than the president originally requested." Because President Clinton has strung out budget negotiations in an effort to keep Republican members from getting home to campaign, federal spending may rise still more.

Sen. John McCain has found $21 billion of pork in appropriations bills already signed by the president, and using his criteria, or practically any other criteria for that matter, it appears that Congress has unleashed a flood of spending of almost biblical proportions.

One of the most egregious examples is the mini-omnibus appropriations bill which funds the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), NASA, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation (HR 4635) and also included the energy and water appropriations measure. The bill contained 1,183 earmarks, with a combined cost of $1.1 billion. Congressional Quarterly noted, "About three-quarters of the spending in the VA-HUD bill is discretionary," and HUD itself will receive a $4.7 billion dollar increase in funding, leading Secretary Andrew Cuomo to crow, "With this budget, we have the most resources we've had in 20 years to meet the needs of America's families."

Within the $23.6 billion allocated for energy and water, Mr. McCain found $1.2 billion of pork including including $400,000 for aquatic weed control in Lake Champlain, Vt., and $2 million for the demonstration of an underground mining locomotive and hydrogen-powered earth loader in Nevada. Other examples include $2.6 million to revamp an opera house in Mississippi, $1.5 million for a soul music museum in Memphis, Tenn., $500,000 to restore a carousel in Cleveland and $200,000 to complete an initiative on soy smoke.

The final Interior Department appropriations bill of $18.8 billion included $1.5 million to refurbish a statue of Vulcan in Birmingham, Ala.,(even though Citizens Against Government Waste noted that, the city of Birmingham decided earlier that the monument did not require overhaul) and $500,000 for the National First Ladies Library in Ohio, which Citizens Against Government Waste pointed out, "frequently has a drag queen dress up as Helen Taft and give tours to senior citizens."

The $78.5 billion Agriculture Department appropriations bill included $1.05 million for sunflower research, $500,000 for peanut-allergy research, and $500,000 for swine-waste management.

There are still more appropriations bills to go, but don't thank lawmakers for being so generous. It's your money.

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