...such spending has been part of Iraq funding bills since the war began, sometimes inserted by the president himself, sometimes added by lawmakers with bipartisan aplomb. A few of the items may have weighed on the votes for spending bills that have now topped half a trillion dollars, but, in almost all cases over the past four years, special-interest funding provisions have been the fruits of congressional opportunism by well-placed senators or House members grabbing what they could for their constituents on the one bill that had to be passed quickly.In fact, Republicans loaded the 2006 bill with $176 million to rebuild an Armed Forces retirement home in Mississippi that critics called "absurdly overpriced," $500 million for agriculture relief, an extra $1 billion for community-development block grants, and $118 million for reviving the Gulf Coast fishing industry. Wait, there's more:
"Frankly, I don't see a lot of vote-buying here. And if that was what they were after in some cases, it didn't seem to work," said Scott Lilly, who was a longtime senior House Appropriations Committee aide and is now at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.
The president's own request last year for emergency war spending included $20 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery, $2.3 billion for bird flu preparations, and $2 billion to fortify the border with Mexico and pay for his effort to send National Guardsmen to the southern frontier.
The 2005 emergency war-spending bill included $70 million for aid to Ukraine and other former Soviet states; $12.3 million for the Architect of the Capitol, in part to build an off-site delivery facility for the Capitol police; $24 million for the Forest Service to repair flood and landslide damage; and $104 million for watershed protection -- the lion's share meant for repairing the damage to waterways in Washington County, Utah, at the request of the state's Republican senators.Honestly, I wish that no unrelated appropriations were included in the latest bill, but it's entirely hypocritical for Republicans to deride Democrats over money for "peanut storage" when they did the same thing when they were in charge. And it's not as if President Bush would veto the bill solely over domestic spending anyway. If the bill didn't include a provision for withdrawal, would he really be talking about how much unrelated funding is in it? Of course not, as the article points out, he's even asked himself for such funding to be included in the past.
Furthermore, there's no evidence that these provisions were included in any attempt to "buy votes." As the article notes, the $3.4 billion in agriculture spending in the House bill had been worked out by farm-state lawmakers long before Democratic leaders settled on the Iraq troop-pullout language. So while it might be fair to criticize Democrats for "business as usual," it is not fair to accuse them of vote-buying - especially when you did the very same thing just last year.