WASHINGTON -- Pork-barrel spending doesn't come up much in the presidential debates, but Hillary Clinton's $1 million bill for the Woodstock Museum got a lot more attention than she wanted in the GOP's candidate forum Sunday in Orlando, Fla.
In the larger scheme of things, Clinton's $1 million earmark isn't even the tip of the iceberg in squandering on Capitol Hill. It is a merely a snowflake in what has become a blizzard of wasteful spending for favored political interests back home in this 9-month-old Congress.
Clinton's taxpayer-funded tribute to the Woodstock concert that became a symbol of the drug-crazed, antiwar, free-love era on an upstate New York farm was raised by Sen. John McCain, the fierce, anti-pork crusader who has been fighting such spending throughout his Senate career.
"In case you missed it, a few days ago, Sen. Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock-concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time," McCain said in a mocking tone that led to in a standing ovation for the former Vietnam POW.
In a minor victory last week for the small army of conservatives who have been attacking waste-ridden earmarks, the Senate voted 52-42 to delete the $1 million grant from the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2008.
Tragically, the bill is loaded with more than 800 other earmarks that will cost beleaguered taxpayers more than $400 million. Each one was inserted by lawmakers who use these bills as their personal political checkbooks, without any oversight evaluation or approval by the committees that send them to the floor for enactment.
The departments and agencies in the bill have requested none of these earmarks. "Many have little to do with the missions and priorities at the departments funded in this appropriations bill," said Citizens Against Government Waste.
Lawmakers continue to abuse -- stealing is a more appropriate word -- these funding bills for their own purely parochial self-interest. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., added $11 million to the Labor-HHS bill's health-care building projects for the University of Alabama, from which he graduated. There is $42 million for other senatorial alma maters stuffed into the bill as well.
The Democrats took control of Congress in January promising to crack down on abusive earmarking. In fact, they have watered down their so-called reforms and are adding election-year pork projects with reckless abandonment. Despite promises to cut them in half, they are now on track to easily break that pledge.
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