Donald Lambro

House Democratic leaders want to add $24.6 billion to President Bush's $95 billion request for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it's not for more weaponry or life-saving armor.

Most of the added money stuffed into the emergency supplemental bill, which was expected to come up for a vote this Thursday, is for the kind of costly, pork-barrel, special-interest, vote-buying handouts that Democrats promised they would end if they won control of Congress.

But less than three months after taking over the House leadership, the Democrats returned to the old logrolling practice of buying votes for a bill whose micromanaging war provisions to ultimately defund our troops has raised deeply troubling doubts in the minds of many of their members.

The bill contains $25 million in subsidies for spinach growers hurt by last year's E. coli outbreak to persuade Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., to hold his nose and vote for it. There's another $75 million "to ensure proper storage for peanuts" to convince three conservative Democrats from Georgia to do likewise.

Other doubting Democrats were offered $1.48 billion for livestock ranchers, plus $20 million to reclaim damaged farmlands, $500 million for "urgent wildland fire suppression" and $120 million for shrimp and Atlantic fishing interests.

With so much at stake in the latest attempt to reduce the violence in Iraq and give the Iraqi government time to regain some semblance of control over the country, the spectacle of Democrats using a war-funding bill for pure political vote-buying pork was sickening.

"The war supplemental legislation voted out of the Appropriations Committee last week was an exercise in arrogance that demonstrated the utter contempt the majority has for the American people and their hard-earned tax dollars," said Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz.

"We are at war with a ruthless global terrorist network, yet the appropriators allocated hundreds of millions in funds to gratuitous pork projects," he said.

The opening paragraph on page two of the bill begins this way: "Title I -- Supplemental Appropriations for the Global War on Terror Chapter 1, Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service."

"Forget the Marines; send in the meat inspectors," the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial titled "'Peanuts' for (David) Petraeus,'" the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The political rationale behind the Democrats' pork-barrel gambit was the difficulty of coming up with a 218-vote majority in the House where many in their party were squirming over the prospect of imposing a complicated obstacle course of "benchmarks" that could force a U.S. pullout to begin within 180 days.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.