Robert Bluey

When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week, a group of House Republicans known as the FIT Force will unveil an effort to expose Washington waste. Led by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), this newly formed Fiscal Integrity Task Force wants to hold congressional spendthrifts accountable for their excesses.

McCotter’s goal is admirable—and one that all Americans, regardless of ideology, should support. Unfortunately, the group’s timing couldn’t be worse. That’s because McCotter and half of the FIT Force members themselves abandoned fiscal integrity less than two weeks ago. That’s when they voted to override President Bush’s veto of the farm bill, a $307 billion monstrosity that will cost the average U.S. family about $5,650.

Farm income has doubled since the 2002 farm bill. Commodity prices are the highest ever. Yet Congress couldn’t bring itself to not increase subsidies for millionaire farmers.

A majority of House Republicans joined nearly all Democrats to hop on this gravy train, despite opposition from Bush and the party’s putative standard bearer, Sen. John McCain, a longtime critic of farm subsidies.

Despite the FIT Force defections on the farm bill, McCotter intends to plow ahead with his “comprehensive assault on Washington waste.”

“Excessive spending has rightfully raised doubts about the fiscal integrity of the federal budget and, most importantly, concern by taxpayers for their family budgets,” McCotter said in a press release less than 24 hours after voting to override Bush’s veto.

The co-chairman of the FIT Force, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), was also among those supporting parochial interests. In fact, nine other FIT Force members voted to override the veto, as did Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.). Even with a scorecard, the farm vote made it hard to tell the difference between self-proclaimed fiscal watchdogs and the traditional tax-and-spenders of the left.

Republican Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), who opposed the farm bill and voted to uphold Bush’s veto, sounded beleaguered after his Republican colleagues dug themselves a deeper grave. “The vote on the farm bill has definitely been a challenge, if you look at it as regaining our fiscal brand,” Cantor told the Washington Post.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at