Emergency Audit

We're spending $80 billion, but it's not all for war.


Americans, still trembling and dizzy from Tax Day, yesterday learned that President Bush had signed off on nearly $80 billion in emergency spending to pay for the war on Iraq. Well, mostly to pay for the war on Iraq. With that much money in flux, Congress couldn't help but throw in a few extra goodies.

In looking over the public print of the bill, my favorite bonus expenditure is the $93 million marked under three separate expenditures for counter-narcotics initiatives led by the Defense and State Departments. Of that, $34 million is appropriated specifically for the "Andean Counterdrug Initiative," but remarks made by U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) during floor debate March 27 suggested that the majority is in fact destined for Colombia.

"What is Colombia doing in a supplemental for the war in Iraq?," McGovern asked members of the House while arguing to have Colombian funding decreased by $61 million. They answered him by voting down his amendment, 209-216.

Other non-Iraq related expenses in the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act include (but aren't limited to):

*$2.9 billion to bail out failing airlines (just in time)

*$117 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build a National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System. (Strangely, the appropriation provides for $2,460,000 to be peeled off for the International Fisheries Commissions for such projects as sea lamprey control in Lake Champlain.)

*$2 million to increase funding for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's State and Tribal Wildlife Grants

*$1 million for Training and Employment Services at the Department of Labor

*$23.3 million for commission, salaries, and expenses for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

*$9 billion in loan guarantees to Israel

*$23.6 million in Operating Expenses of the United States Agency for International Development

*$300 million in grants, $2 billion in loan guarantees for economic support to Egypt

*$1 billion in grants, $8.5 billion in loan guarantees for economic support to Turkey

*$700 million-plus for assistance for Jordan

*$50 million to the Philippines to " further prospects for peace in Mindanao"

*$16 million to study severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS

And that's just what made it into the act, which was held up in debate for days due to last minute add-ons by the Senate. For example, $98 million earmarked for agriculture research labs in Ames, Iowa, was inserted by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), but stripped from the final version of the bill.

Sure, the extra-Iraq spending is just a fraction of the $80 billion. But if congressional members are willing to be so cavalier about the funding that's transparent (well, roughly so: try reading through the entire act), how careful can we expect appropriators to be further down the line, when no one's looking?