House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) insisted the fiscal 2004 budget resolution include instructions for each committee chairman to find at least 1 percent of savings in mandatory spending within their jurisdictions.
Three committees - Armed Service, Resources, and Science - failed to provide reports. (Their penance is pending.)
However, the remaining committees that followed directions identified $85 billion to $100 billion over 10 years in waste, fraud, and abuse - some of the biggest savings coming from Medicare.
Tom Schatz, with Citizens Against Government Waste, calls Nussle's initiative an excellent first step, although more needs to be done to chip away at the $480 billion deficit.
Medicare-reform legislation now in conference assumes that, if given the green light, insurers will eagerly offer policies that cover seniors' prescription-drug costs only.
But at this week's Heritage Foundation briefing on Medicare reform, Robert Laszewski, a leading expert on health policy, told Hill staffers that he's yet to find one insurer that has any intention of offering drugs-only coverage for seniors.
HOLD THE ANCHOVIES
A General Accounting Office study of challenges facing the Department of Agriculture has caught the eye of Washington Waste Watchers, in particular the finding that 12 different federal agencies have authority over 35 food-safety laws.
For instance, the study found, the Agriculture Department inspects pizzas with meat, while the Food and Drug Administration inspects pizzas without. (There is no truth to the rumor that pizzas with anchovies are inspected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.)
A stray-animals advocacy group in Washington was surprised to be victimized this week by one of their own.
"Dear Caring Friend," said a posting on the group's Web site. "Retired General Wesley Clark, a brand-new presidential candidate ... called for an independent review of the (Bush) administration's 'possible manipulation of intelligence,' including information used to justify war with Iraq and the possible leak of the name of a covert CIA agent."
The animal advocate went on to post that war in Iraq "put Americans in danger and may be criminal."
The group's reaction?
"People on the list get very politically involved on local animal topics, but not nationally," says one member, who assures us "the writer has been banned from the list for violating list rules against off-topic posting."
Still, the posting remains in the site's archives.
RIDE THE READING
John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .
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