Fish Wrapper Ignores Dems Pork Overflow in Emergency Spending Bill For Troops

The Dead Fish Wrapper editorial board never ceases to amaze me with their ability to filter out relevant information in order to show only the liberal side of an issue, and today they give a classic example. The issue in the editorial is HR 1592, the cowardly pork-laden funding resolution from the U.S. House that provides $103 billion in funding for the military in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also calls for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by August of 2008, and is also laden down with an additional $21 billion in pork spending by Democrats.

Let's take a brief tour through the editors' willful ignorance.

B y now you have probably concluded, correctly, that Friday's anti-war vote in the U.S. House of Representatives is neither the great panacea its sponsors wanted nor the great betrayal its opponents claim.

The narrow 218-212 win for the measure to cut funding for the war in Iraq by Aug. 31, 2008, means it doesn't have enough support to survive President Bush's promised veto. It didn't have it to begin with. But the vote does mark an important change in the shape of the war debate in this country. It is an early step on a path that we believe, and hope, will lead the United States out of a war that our military cannot win.

The thing that liberals fail to consider is that our military could win the war if we would quit tying the military's hands behind their back. Instead, Congressional Democrats, in their typical cowardice and arrogance, thinks it knows more about the war than those actually over there fighting. Here's a question; when was the last time the U.S. lost a war where it just turned the troops loose and let them do what they are trained to do? Answer: never!!

If you were just counting the ballots Friday, the House vote would seem to lag behind the broader public sentiment about the war and Bush's conduct of it. Some of the "no" votes, though, didn't come from supporters of the war but from those who believed this measure was far too weak and that quitting the war ought to start as soon as possible.

We've never liked the approach offered in the measure passed Friday, even though we agree that we must stop fighting in Iraq at the earliest practical moment. It is just that the important practicalities involve trying to stabilize matters on the diplomatic and political levels. The United States must continue to push for progress on a political accommodation among the warring forces in Iraq and it must enlist the aid of Iraq's neighbors and the international community in helping stabilize the country and the region.

Ah, yes, the continuing drumbeat of talking with Syria and Iran. Yes, talking to two neighbors who use terrorism as a threat, who are trying to obtain nuclear weapons, and who are acutaully training and funding insurgents (aka terrorists) in Iraq would do a lot for stability in Iraq, wouldn't it? But nobody ever said that logic was a strong suit at the DFW.

Setting some kind of arbitrary public deadline is no way to meet the obligations we created for ourselves in the region. But neither is an open-ended commitment to stay engaged militarily until we achieve "victory," whatever that would be.

Yes, we all know that the terms "military victory" and "Democrats" don't belong on the same sentence. They wouldn't know victory if it slapped them upside the head (reminds me of the French).

Friday's vote was -- or should have been -- the clearest single message since the election about how the boundaries of the Iraq debate have changed. The question for most Americans is no longer whether to stay in Iraq or leave. It is what is the best way to leave.

Americans generally have listened carefully and patiently to all of the administration's justifications for the war and tolerated its inept execution of the effort to occupy Iraq. They have made up their minds about all of this for the most part, and they do not want this war to continue a moment longer than necessary.

Fortunately, we have a President who - unlike Slick Willy - doesn't govern by opinin polls. Here's a poll to take sometime; poll all the troops who are in Iraq and have first hand knowledge of the situation. Every time I've heard troop opinions, whether on Fox News or the liberal alphabet networks, it has always been that we can win if we are given enough time, and we are making a difference.

What liberals seem to forget is that the Constitution specifically names the President as Commander in Chief, not the American people or even Congress (although Congress is certainly trying to violate the Constitution and take over the CIC powers).

And now, for the rest of the story - the part that the Fish Wrapper chooses to ignore.

In addition to the funding, the House Democrats loaded up the bill with an additional $21 billion of pork that is totally unrelated to the emergency funding that is the purpose of the measure.

As Rep. Mike Pence puts it:

Here are some examples of what the Democrats consider 'urgent' needs that require 'prompt action: '

-- $25 million for payments to spinach producers
-- $120 million to the shrimp industry
-- $74 million for peanut storage
-- $5 million for shellfish, oyster and clam producers

Spinach, shrimp, peanuts and shellfish? That's not a war funding bill, that's the salad bar at Denny's.

Here is a more detailed list of the "emergency" items in the appropriations bill:

  • Hurricane Citrus Program: Provides $100 million to provide assistance to citrus producers (such as orange producers) in the area declared a disaster related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
    NASA: Provides $35 million to NASA, under the “exploration capabilities” account, for “expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Katrina.”
  • Corps of Engineers: Provides $1.3 billion to Corps of Engineers for continued repairs on the levee system in New Orleans.
  • FEMA: Provides $4.3 billion for disaster relief at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The bill would eliminate the state and local matching requirements for certain FEMA assistance (in connection with Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Dennis) in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida, and provides that the federal portion of these costs will be 100%.
  • HUD Indian Housing: Provides $80 million in tenant-based rental assistance for public and Indian housing under HUD.
  • Crop Disaster Assistance: Provides roughly $3 billion in agriculture assistance to crop producers and livestock owners experiencing losses in 2005, 2006, or 2007 due to bad weather.
  • Spinach: Provides $25 million for payments to spinach producers that were unable to market spinach crops as a result of the FDA Public Health Advisory issued on September 14, 2006.
  • Shrimp: Provides $120 million to the shrimp industry for expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Frozen Farmland: Provides $20 million for the cleanup and restoration of farmland damaged by freezing temperatures during a time period beginning on January 1, 2007 through the date of enactment.
  • Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program: Provides $283 million for payments under the MILC program, to extend the life of the program for one year, through September 30, 2008. MILC provides payments to dairy farmers when milk prices fall below a certain rate.
  • Peanut Storage Subsidies: Provides $74 million to extend peanut storage payments through 2007. The Peanut Subsidy Storage program, which is set to expire this year, pays farmers for the storage, handling, and other costs for peanuts voluntarily placed in the marketing loan program.
  • Aquaculture Operations: Provides $5 million for payments to “aquaculture operations and other persons in the U.S. engaged in the business of breeding, rearing, or transporting live fish” (such as shellfish, oysters and clams) to cover economic losses incurred as a result of an emergency order issued by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on October 24, 2006.
  • FDA Office of Women’s Health: Provides $4 million for the Office of Women’s Health at the Food and Drug Administration.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Provides $60.4 million for fishing communities, Indian tribes, individuals, small businesses, including fishermen, fish processors, and related businesses for assistance related to “the commercial fishery failure.” According to the Committee Report, this funding is to be used to provide disaster relief for those along the California and Oregon coast affected by the “2006 salmon fishery disaster in the Klamath River.”
  • Avian Flu: Provides $969 million for the Department of HHS to continue to prepare and respond to an avian flu pandemic. Of this funding, $870 million is to be used for the development of vaccines.
  • Secure Rural Schools Act (Forest County Payments): Provides $400 million to be used for one-time payments to be allocated to states under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. This program provides a funding stream (known as forest county payments) to counties with large amounts of Bureau of Land Management land, in order to compensate for the loss of receipt-sharing payments on this land caused by decreased revenue from timber sales due to environmental protections for endangered species. The authorization for these forest county payments expired at the end of FY 2006, and counties received their last payment under the Act in December 2006.
  • LIHEAP: Provides $400 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • Vaccine Compensation: Provides $50 million to compensate individuals for injuries caused by the H5N1 vaccine, which is a flu vaccine.
  • Payment to Widow of Rep. Norwood: Provides $165,200 to Gloria W. Norwood, the widow of former Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA), an RSC Member, who passed away last month. In the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2005 (H.R. 1268), Congress provided $162,100 to Doris Matsui, the widow of former Rep. Robert Matsui.
  • Capitol Power Plant: Provides $50 million to the Capitol Power Plant for asbestos abatement and safety improvements.
  • Liberia: Provides that money appropriated for FY 2007 for the Bilateral Economic Assistance program at the Department of Treasury may be used to assist Liberia in retiring its debt arrearages to the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the African Development Bank.
  • SCHIP: Provides $750 million to the Secretary of HHS to provide assistance to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) “shortfall states,”, in the form of an amount “as the Secretary determines will eliminate the estimated shortfall.” This provision is direct spending that is essentially capped at $750 million and designated as an emergency to avoid PAYGO constraints.
  • Minimum Wage Increase: Increases the federal minimum wage from $5.15-per-hour to $7.25-per-hour over two-plus years—a 41% increase. Yields $16.5 billion in private-sector costs over five years.
  • Tax Increases and Shifts: Implements several tax increases and shifts, including: denying the lowest maximum capital gains tax rate for certain minors and adults, extending the suspension of interest payments due to the IRS, and adjusting the deadlines for corporate estimated tax payments. Costs taxpayers $1.380 billion over the FY2007-FY2017 period.

There is one item that is somewhat important, and that is the Secure Rural Schools Act. This is to replace money lost by rural counties when federal land was shut down to logging. In some counties, these payments were up to 65% of the counties' annual budget. Here's the irony; why were they shut down? Lawsuites by liberal whackos who care more about animals than people. The irony here is so thick...

Here's some good perspective from USA Today:

With the House poised to vote as early as today on a $124.1 billion budget bill that would end U.S. involvement in Iraq next year, you'd think House leaders would let such a critical decision ride strictly on its merits.

But Democrats are having trouble rounding up votes for the measure. So the leaders are trying to buy votes the old-fashioned way — by luring wavering members with billions of dollars for parochial projects.

These range from providing "risk mitigation" at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center to storage fees for peanut farmers in Georgia.

It's hard to say which is worse: leaders offering peanuts for a vote of this magnitude, or members allowing their votes to be bought for peanuts. These provisions demean a bill that, if enacted, would affect the lives of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the balance of power in the Middle East and America's long-term security.

The provisions also violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the new majority's promise to cut back on "earmarks" — provisions slipped into bills that direct your tax dollars to a specific locale or politically favored project.

Last January, as soon as Democrats took control of Congress, the House passed new rules designed to curb earmarks, which had exploded under years of Republican rule. Yet here they go again, just 10 weeks later, including an assortment of dubious expenditures in "emergency" legislation to finance the war in Iraq and the wider war on terror:

*$25 million for spinach growers to recoup losses suffered when contaminated spinach sickened nearly 200 people and resulted in three deaths last year. (Instead of rewarding growers, the government would do better to direct money at safety measures to prevent future contamination.)

*$252 million for a government milk program beneficial to dairy farmers, inserted in the bill by Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which wrote the bill.

*$1.5 billion in livestock assistance for producers affected by wildfires or blizzards.

*$500 million to fight wildfires in drought-stricken states if current funds run out.

Top Democrats, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in the space below, argue that the measure includes no earmarks and that provisions unrelated to the war are aimed at emergencies.

A spinach emergency? A peanut storage emergency?

Please.

Such arguments ignore what voters, fed up with corruption and ethical lapses, wanted when they threw Republicans out in November and helped Democrats take control of Congress.

Voters wanted a break with the old ways that rewarded special interests at the expense of taxpayers. They wanted to get rid of lawmakers who sought loopholes and twisted definitions to pretend that questionable practices weren't really questionable at all. And the public wanted serious votes on serious issues, most prominently the war in Iraq.

Some projects in the spending bill, notably $6 billion for post-Katrina disaster relief on the battered Gulf Coast, have considerable merit. And we are not naive about the kind of horse-trading needed to grease the legislative process.

Even so, an emergency war funding bill — especially one that would set a hard exit date of Aug. 31, 2008, for U.S. troops in Iraq and impose strict readiness standards for deploying combat forces — is no place for extraneous issues. And certainly no place for bribes.

Even the liberal Washington Post gets in on the action:

TODAY THE House of Representatives is due to vote on a bill that would grant $25 million to spinach farmers in California. The legislation would also appropriate $75 million for peanut storage in Georgia and $15 million to protect Louisiana rice fields from saltwater. More substantially, there is $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fishermen, $250 million for milk subsidies, $500 million for wildfire suppression and $1.3 billion to build levees in New Orleans.

Altogether the House Democratic leadership has come up with more than $20 billion in new spending, much of it wasteful subsidies to agriculture or pork barrel projects aimed at individual members of Congress. At the tail of all of this logrolling and political bribery lies this stinger: Representatives who support the bill -- for whatever reason -- will be voting to require that all U.S. combat troops leave Iraq by August 2008, regardless of what happens during the next 17 months or whether U.S. commanders believe a pullout at that moment protects or endangers U.S. national security, not to mention the thousands of American trainers and Special Forces troops who would remain behind.

The Democrats claim to have a mandate from voters to reverse the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. Yet the leadership is ready to piece together the votes necessary to force a fateful turn in the war by using tactics usually dedicated to highway bills or the Army Corps of Engineers budget. The legislation pays more heed to a handful of peanut farmers than to the 24 million Iraqis who are living through a maelstrom initiated by the United States, the outcome of which could shape the future of the Middle East for decades.

Congress can and should play a major role in determining how and when the war ends. Political benchmarks for the Iraqi government are important, provided they are not unrealistic or inflexible. Even dates for troop withdrawals might be helpful, if they are cast as goals rather than requirements -- and if the timing derives from the needs of Iraq, not the U.S. election cycle. The Senate's version of the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan contains nonbinding benchmarks and a withdrawal date that is a goal; that approach is more likely to win broad support and avoid a White House veto.

As it is, House Democrats are pressing a bill that has the endorsement of MoveOn.org but excludes the judgment of the U.S. commanders who would have to execute the retreat the bill mandates. It would heap money on unneedy dairy farmers while provoking a constitutional fight with the White House that could block the funding to equip troops in the field. Democrats who want to force a withdrawal should vote against war appropriations. They should not seek to use pork to buy a majority for an unconditional retreat that the majority does not support.

And what were these same freshmen Congressmen saying when they first came in?:

  • Nancy Boyda (KS-2): Nancy Boyda recently came out in support of the pork-stuffed Iraq supplemental bill, but her campaign website told a different story. Running against Republican Jim Ryun, she wrote “Congress must never waste a single taxpayer dime on needless spending...Wasteful spending has increased exponentially in recent years.” Does Nancy Boyda think $75 million for peanut storage is not a waste of taxpayer dollars?
  • Heath Schuler (NC-11): In his race to unseat Republican Representative Charles Taylor, the former football player attacked the incumbent Republican for his “irresponsible” earmarks (Wall Street Journal, 10/11/06) and said that “the people of North Carolina deserve better” (US Fed News Service, 10/11/06). We hope he remembers those words when it comes time to vote on the Iraq spending bill.
  • Nick Lampson (TX-22): Nick Lampson campaigned on fiscal responsibility and took a harsh stand against congressional pork on his campaign website: “We have terrible waste in our government that can be addressed right now. We shouldn't be spending on pork projects like bridges to nowhere in Alaska and a tea pot museum in North Carolina. We must set priorities and stick to them.” By that standard, Rep. Lampson should cast a “no” vote on the Iraq war spending bill.
  • Tim Mahoney (FL-22): According to his campaign website, Rep. Tim Mahoney campaigned on wide-sweeping ethics reform that included a platform to “Cut the Pork.” Interestingly, the supplemental bill includes money for citrus growers in Rep. Mahoney’s district. Could that possibly have something to do with Tim Mahoney’s support for the Iraq supplemental bill?
  • Harry Mitchell (AZ-5): Rep. Mitchell beat the fiscal responsibility drum on his campaign website: “Unfortunately, fiscal irresponsibility and pork-barrel spending has Washington swimming in red ink . . . In Congress, I will promote fiscal policy that is both responsible and accountable, just as I did at the local level.” Now that his own Democratic leadership is the one doing the drowning, will Rep. Mitchell have the courage to just say no?

So let's recap. In addition to the House Democrats trying to take powers that the Constitution doesn't grant them, and doing it in a cowardly way that is typical for them, they also show their absolute hypocrisy by stuffing the bill with tons of pork, which is exactly what they ripped the Republicans for. And what do the Fish Wrapper editors do? Claim that this bill sends a clear message. It does send a message, but not what the editors are thinking; the message is that the Dems are hypocrites of the worst kind, because they let their greed and hypcrisy get in the way of what our troops need.

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