- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002


Federal spending in Republican congressional districts increased 50 percent faster than in Democratic districts following the 1994 GOP takeover of the House, an Associated Press analysis shows.

After six years of GOP control, the average Republican district in 2000 was getting $612 million more in federal money than the average Democratic district, the computer analysis found. In 1995, the last year Democrats controlled the budget process in the House, the average Democratic district got $35 million more.

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For Virginia, the takeover translated into a 47 percent increase in combined federal appropriations and spending, from nearly $58 billion in 1995 to $85.4 billion by the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30. Republicans lead its delegation to Washington.

Meanwhile, Maryland where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 wasn't substantially affected by a general shift in federal spending.

Rather than pork-barrel projects for new GOP districts, however, the change was driven mostly by Republican policies that moved spending from poor rural and urban areas to the more affluent suburbs and GOP-leaning farm country, the computer analysis showed.

In terms of services, that translates into more business loans and farm subsidies, and fewer public-housing grants and food stamps.

"There is an old adage," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, "To the victor goes the spoils."

House Democratic Conference Chairman Martin Frost said the analysis shows that "who's in the majority does make a difference."

The findings highlight the huge stakes for voters in the November midterm elections, when Republicans will try to hold onto their narrow six-seat majority in the House. The Senate, which the Republicans also won in 1994, switched to Democratic control last year when Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party and became an independent.

Average spending in GOP House districts jumped nearly $2 billion from 1995 to 2001, from $3.86 billion to $5.84 billion, while the average federal outlay in Democratic districts increased $1.3 billion, from $3.89 billion in 1995 to $5.23 billion in 2001. The result was a shift of billions of federal dollars from Democratic to Republican districts.

Mr. Armey and other GOP leaders say the shift wasn't part of a premeditated strategy, although they acknowledge directing federal spending toward districts where Republican representatives are politically vulnerable.

"Clearly that happens, whether you're Republican or Democrat," said former Rep. Bob Livingston, Louisiana Republican, who oversaw the House Appropriations Committee for three years after the GOP takeover.

The biggest spending increases during the six years came in districts that stayed Republican through the 1990s. Those that switched from Democratic to Republican in the 1994 election also benefited more than Democratic districts.

Maryland's mimimal take is attributed to the fact that none of its Republican incumbents was perceived as particularly vulnerable in the 1996, 1998 or 2000 elections, nor did any of its districts have a change in the party holding the seat.

During the period, spending increases in Maryland's four Republican-led districts ranged from 28 percent in the 8th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, to 50 percent in the 6th District, represented by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.

GOP leaders say the spending shift mainly was a byproduct of their efforts to change the direction of government and to ensure GOP areas received fairer treatment after four decades of being in the minority.

Between 1995 and 2001, AP's analysis found that 20 of the 30 fastest-growing federal programs had disproportionately benefited constituents in GOP districts in 1995. Similarly, 20 of the 30 programs that were cut the most had disproportionately benefited Democratic districts before the takeover.

For instance, spending on child care food programs was slashed 80 percent; public and Indian housing grants were virtually eliminated; rental housing loans for rural areas and special benefits for disabled coal miners were cut by two-thirds; and the food stamp program was cut by a third.

But Congress under GOP rule also directed more money to programs that disproportionately benefited GOP districts. Direct payments to farmers increased sevenfold during the six years of GOP rule; business and industrial loans quadrupled; home mortgage insurance went up 150 percent; and crop insurance assistance jumped by two-thirds.

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