Barack Obama is amazing. Today he signs a massive $410 billion spending bill containing thousands of earmarks with hundreds of millions for pet projects and President Obama simply sits on the sidelines, dismissing these earmarks as last year’s business. He, of course, swore during the campaign to keep them out of budgets he signed. This one contains 7,991 earmarks totaling $5.5 billion, about 40 percent of them requested by Republicans.
This 1,132-page document — which of, course, everybody who’s voting has read – gives generous boosts to programs popular with Democrats. The Agriculture Department, for example, gets a 13 percent increase in spending while the money-losing Amtrak passenger rail system gets 10 percent more. Congress gave itself a 10 percent increase, as well. Congress now costs us $4.4 billion, more than 20 percent of what it costs to run Georgia.
“With the stock market plunging, unemployment at a 25-year high, and millions struggling just to pay their mortgages, the bill sent over from the House included an across-the-board 8 percent increase in spending over last year — twice the rate of inflation,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell, who had $76 million in earmarks in the bill, worked with Democrats to develop the budget, but wound up voting against it.
An amendment by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas to reduce spending on 122 programs that had already been funded in the $787 billion stimulus bill was rejected, as indeed were all amendments proposed by Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened to put the spending bill aside without action by the House if a single Republican amendment was accepted by the Senate. Bipartisanship reigns.
The spending bill also contains major policy changes, including the likely end of the D.C. voucher program that gives an option to the parents of 1,700 poor children. It also shuts down a program opposed by Big Labor that allowed Mexican trucking companies to operate beyond U.S.-Mexico border zones.
State and local governments and families tighten their belts — but not Congress and not federal agencies. Obama will sign this bill, his pledge on earmarks notwithstanding. It should be vetoed.