- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Democrats and Republicans in Congress don’t agree on much, but most of them are dissatisfied with the Bush administration’s use of “emergency” supplemental appropriations to pay for the war on terrorism. The White House early this year included detailed war supplemental spending requests for 2007 ($93 billion) and 2008 ($142 billion) with its fiscal 2008 budget.

House Democratic leaders have drafted a 171-page 2007 supplemental spending bill, which is scheduled to be marked up by appropriators tomorrow. Unfortunately, after successfully encouraging the administration to break its habit of providing too few details too late in the process, the Democrats have adopted a few bad habits of their own.

Democrats are loading up the must-pass war supplemental with pork and other unrelated items, which may or may not be worthy in their own right. Democrats added $4.3 billion for agricultural-disaster assistance, $2.9 billion in additional Gulf Coast recovery costs, $400 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program, $1 billion for pandemic flu preparation, $735 million for a children’s health-insurance program and several other matters. These belong in a separate bill, where their merits can be debated. Democrats wrongly seek to turn the war-fighting spending bill into the fabled legislative Christmas tree by adorning it with log-rolling ornaments.

Democrats are playing games by designating normal expenditures as emergencies. That means they don’t have to provide any offsets to pay for them. Finally, to attract more liberal votes for the supplemental, Democratic leaders are trying to attach to it the bill raising the minimum wage and reducing small-business taxes. This gambit would bypass a Senate-House conference committee, which would usually resolve the tax-cut differences.

The White House amended its 2007 war-fighting request last weekend by seeking an additional $3.1 billion to implement the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. It rightly wants to pay for these funds by reducing lower-priority domestic spending. Democrats agreed the base realignment money is necessary but want to treat it as an emergency without offsets. They’re wrong. The White House also wants to redirect $3.2 billion to help fund the Baghdad surge, to send another 3,500 soldiers to Afghanistan and to increase armor kits and transport vehicles in Iraq. It wants to pay for these expenditures by delaying funding for aircraft not necessary for the war on terror. Democrats have commendably increased war-related expenditures by adding $3.5 billion to more adequately address the crises in post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

The White House’s amended 2007 war supplemental request is roughly $100 billion. Democrats can justify adding several billion dollars for defense health care. But their supplemental is rapidly approaching $125 billion. Now that the administration has adopted the good practice of submitting timely supplementals, Democrats should break their bad habits and end the bipartisan addiction to “emergency” spending and Christmas tree legislation.

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