Republicans Introduce “Pork” List
Last week, not a single Republican voted for President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, taking a lot of heat for not wanting to help the country with its financial problems. The Senate Republicans are facing the same sort of thing, as they debate with the Democrats on the stimulus bill that was passed by the House anyway, and they’ve decided to try to get some good press by releasing what I’m calling a “pork list”, but what they’re calling “wasteful provisions.” You can see the list here on the CNN site.
Now, I’ll say this; with many of these, I can see the Republicans side of things. Many of the items in this bill could hardly be considered as stimulating anything except someone’s comfort level. I mean, $246 million so movie producers can buy film; $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees; $150 million for renovation of the Smithsonian museum. Those may be good ideas, along with some of the other stuff in the bill, but I’d have to say that I would have some problems with many of the things here also.
There are, of course, many side stories to add to this conversation. One, this list comes to just over $19 billion dollars; the entire stimulus bill is around $800 billion or so. In other words, we’re talking about griping over 2.3% of the entire bill. True, it’s still pork, but it’s really not all that much to be squabbling about on either side.
Two, releasing a list like this is somewhat unprecedented. I don’t remember seeing anything like this in the eight years President Bush was in office; makes me wonder if the list is a little bit mean spirited. After all, what happened to the money delivered in the first half of this package?
Three, some would have us believing that this type of thing is uncommon in Congress, when, in fact, this is the most common thing that Congress does. I play online poker, albeit for free (I just can’t give my money to something I can’t see in front of me), but back in 2006, when Congress passed the Port Security bill to protect the ports from terrorism, the Republicans threw this little rider into the bill making it illegal to pay for online poker through U.S. banks. Not only was it added to the bill, but it was added at the last minute by then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, such that there ended up being no discussion about the rider. And, lest anyone accuse me of being politically biased, this was written in an article from Fox News itself, easily known as a conservative news source. Here’s the full Fox News story; it’s not supportive of the move either.
So, in essence, this is politics as usual. And, before anyone starts wondering why President Obama would approve things like this, you should know that he hasn’t seen the entire bill yet. This is how Congress works. The president has certain things he wants to see in a bill and lets Congress know that. One house or the other introduces the bill, debates on it, comes up with something they hope the majority can approve, then put it out there. If it’s approved, it goes to the other side to debate and cajole some more. If they pass it then committee members of both houses tasked with the overall bill get together to make sure that everything in the bill is what it’s supposed to be, whether they approve or not, and then it goes to the president to review and sign. President Obama is going to task that to the position he’s creating called Chief Performance Officer, which I introduced when I was talking about my plan for turning the economy around, but now that Nancy Killefer has taken her name off the list for consideration, I’m wondering who he’ll be looking at next for that position. It’s quite possible that the person in that position would have recommended eliminating many of those items in the first place; we may soon find out.
I have no idea if the stimulus package will work or not. I still haven’t seen a list of the good things this bill may provide. What I do know is that I’d hate for this bill not to pass because of a 2.3% difference of opinion.