WASHINGTON -- Despite the Democrats' pledge to get control of their addiction to wasteful spending, their mountain of pork-barrel provisions has prevented Congress from passing its appropriations bills for fiscal year 2008. Exhibit A is a Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill taken up by the Senate last week that was filled to the brim with pork (also known as earmarks). This "minibus" bill was engineered by Democrats attempting to draw just enough votes to make it veto-proof.
Last week, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., one of the stellar anti-pork warriors in Congress, said this about the bill: "The Democrats have made a joke of the ethics bill as they packed this 'minibus' with thousands of pet projects. They have shown their (so-called anti-pork) rules to be laughable and ineffective, as they continue to spend millions on secret earmarks and hide their pork from public scrutiny."
All told, this spending package contained at least 2,200 earmarks worth more than $1 billion. Among them, a $1 million earmark for the Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy at South Dakota State University, named for the former Senate Democratic leader.
Democrats often go to great lengths to disguise what their earmarks are actually for, making their intentions sound far more important than they are. A $300,000 item that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., inserted into the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for a museum called Exploratorium, which promotes "teacher recruitment, retention, and improvement initiative" (http://www.exploratorium.edu/).
But the Exploratorium's Web site describes the museum as "a collage of hundreds of interactive exhibits in the areas of science, art, and human perception" Its mission is "to create a culture of learning through innovative environments, programs and tools that help people nurture their curiosity about the world around them."
Pelosi's pet project has been given more than $33 million in federal-funding earmarks and grants over the past six years. "Should federal taxpayers be subsidizing a wealthy city's museum during a time of deficit spending?" asked the Senate Republican Conference's Pork Report?
In addition to bogus descriptions of what your tax dollars are paying for, lawmakers are fond of sticking their earmarked projects into bills that have nothing to do with the bill's purposes. Here's a sampling of the kind of pork found in the Defense Appropriations Act that was uncovered by Citizens Against Government Waste:
-- $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) added by Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa. It has received more than half a billion dollars since 1992, but the Justice Department, which administers the program, wants to shut it down, calling its work "duplicative."
-- $4.8 million for the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area sought by Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., described as "a wealth of history, nature and recreation."
-- $3 million for "The First Tee," added by House Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. The program's Web site says its mission is to "promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf." -- $1.6 million for the Allen Telescope Array, inserted by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., whose work is "dedicated to astronomical and simultaneous search for extra-terrestrial intelligence observations."
So far the Democrats' fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills would dish out a total of $24.7 billion for more than 12,000 earmarked expenditures like these.
"Democrats can't let go of their pork and keep inventing new ways to stop new earmark disclosure rules and bypass the old ones," DeMint said last week. "These shameful backroom deals are exactly why Congress continues to earn its lowest approval rating in history," he said. When will it stop? When the voters decide they have had enough.