- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In response to legitimate, bipartisan demands from Congress, President Bush provided exhaustive details in February documenting his emergency-spending request for funding to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the balance of fiscal 2007. When some of those wartime priorities changed, the president submitted fiscally responsible revisions. Those changes either re-allocated some war expenses among different military accounts or offset upwardly revised military costs by reducing domestic spending in areas that, almost by definition, had lower wartime priority. The result was a straightforward wartime emergency supplemental request for $103 billion.

Democratic leaders and appropriators responded by adding $21 billion to the bill. The vast majority of the additions comprised pork projects or spending utterly unrelated to the wars. The extra spending was designed for a single purpose: to purchase support from Democrats who otherwise would have voted against the bill. Moderate Democrats opposed the legislation because of its war-fighting micromanagement features and ultimatums. Liberal Democrats opposed it because it did not stop funding the Iraq war.

There are two huge problems with this Democratic strategy. First, if this is any indication of how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey intend to conduct fiscal policy, they are getting off to a terrible start by violating the promises Democrats made during the 2006 election campaign. We heard a lot of talk about pursuing responsible budget policies. We heard nothing about turning the first wartime emergency-spending bill into a porker.

Apart from the fiscal ramifications, there is a second, more profound problem. Gary Andres, columnist for The Washington Times, said it best last week. “No one believes crafting congressional policy toward the war in Iraq is a game. It is deadly serious business with life-and-death consequences,” Mr. Andres wrote. “In the short run, however, House Democrats’ current decision to mix war strategy with funding for farmers, children’s health and even raising the minimum wage dangerously merges a serious vote of conscience with the perception of porkbarrel spending and vote trading.” As this legislative sausage-making plays out in public, Mr. Andres warned that “the public’s perceptions of vote-trading and special-interest politics are only fanned into flames of cynicism by this kind of procedure.”

In providing Congress with more timely wartime spending requests, Mr. Bush seemed to get the voters’ message. For their part, Democratic leaders seemed to conduct a huge bait-and-switch campaign.

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