In a town where a pile of new laws and programs is considered progress, grousing is often heard about the "do nothing" Republican Congress. If only it were so.
The GOP has mastered the art of legislating in at least one area: pork-barrel spending. In fiscal year 1995, the last year the Democrats controlled congressional spending, members reached into the public purse for $6.9 billion in highly dubious spending programs specifically earmarked for the districts and states of influential legislators. In fiscal year 2000, the last year for which there is finalized data, legislators doled out a record amount of such pork, with a total just under $18 billion.
Congress has almost certainly broken that mark in fiscal year 2001, whose budget was decided late last year, by funding such projects as a documentary titled The Appalachians, and a monument to Dr. Seuss in Springfield, Massachusetts. "We're at $16 billion with five appropriations bills left to analyze," says Sean Rushton, spokesman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a D.C.-based group that tallies up federal spending. "We expect it to come in at roughly $20 billion."
GRAPH : Pork Barrel Spending by Congress, FY 1994—FY 2000