Bush stuffs budget with pork
Susan Ferrechio
November 15, 2007

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Since January, President Bush has been publicly condemning Congress for what he describes as wasteful spending on "earmarks," money for projects back home that lawmakers insert into spending bills.

But presidents, including Bush, play the earmark game, too. Bush stuffs his budget with billions for pet projects very much like the ones he attacks when they originate on Capitol Hill, according to taxpayer groups and members of Congress.

"The president directs 20 times as much spending to special projects than the congress does," House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., told The Examiner this week.

Democratic House and Senate appropriators point to page after page of specific projects requested by the president in the 2008 spending bills. The actual number, according to watchdog groups, is nearly impossible to tally, but Senate Democrats recently pointed to hundreds, including 580 worth $15.6 billion that Bush included in his appropriation request for military construction and veterans affairs.

The $31.6 billion energy and water spending bill also contains billions in direct spending on projects selected by the Bush administration.

Jim Nussle, director of the Office of Management and budget, called congressional earmarking "wasteful" and "out of control." He did not deny Bush inserts earmarks, but said they were "transparent throughout the process" and not inserted into bills at the last minute, with little review, as is frequently the case in Congress.

Some presidential earmarks have obvious roots, such as $24 million for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. The president earmarked a billion dollars for the Reading First program, which was criticized by government auditors for steering contracts to favored companies. He also sought $8.9 million for the Points of Light foundation, a pet project started by his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

Congress slashed $676 million from Bush's request for Reading First and eliminated the Points of Light funding.

Bush retaliated by vetoing the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill, which contained the three earmarks and which had ballooned from his request of $141 billion to $153 billion on Capitol Hill. Bush said he is opposed to the cost.

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he believes Bush "deserves every bit of criticism" for earmarks like the first lady's librarian program, but said most presidential earmarks have been kicking around for years and do not serve Bush's personal interests.

In any event, Flake said, Congress can strip out any earmarks it doesn't like. "The blame comes right back to Congress," he said.


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