Partisan Pork-Slaughter


Sure, major-party politicians bicker like four-year-olds, but when it comes time to tucking in the last bits of pork on spending bills, "By tradition, the projects have been divided fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats," regardless of whether they voted for the measure, according to a fascinating Washington Post article today. Well, no more: The House approved a $138 billion spending bill on July 10, despite all 198 Democrats in the room voting against it, and now Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chair of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on education, health and jobs programs, says the Democrats' contribution to the bill's whopping 1,859 "local projects" (costing $896 million), will be rejected. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calls it an "abuse of power," and the Post seems to find Regula's behavior untoward:

Now those local projects, along with hundreds of others in districts represented by House Democrats, are jeopardized by an unusually nasty political battle that threatens to upset the traditional bipartisan comity of the House Appropriations Committee. [?]

The fight threatens to polarize a committee that has been an "oasis of decency and sanity," said Allen Schick, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Thanks to reader Ray Eckhart for the pointer.


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  1. “The fight threatens to polarize a committee that has been an “oasis of decency and sanity,”


  2. I’m not at all upset to see that Democrats’ pet projects won’t be funded.

    But I am upset to see that Republicans’ pet projects will be funded.

    I guess the GOP is now brazenly the party of spoils. (They always were the party of spoils, just like the Dems, but now it’s even more brazen.)

    Remind me again why libertarians are supposed to like the GOP?

  3. LOL. It was an “oasis of decency and sanity” because basically Repubs allowed Dems to get their pork and vise versa. I don’t know if I’d called that decent, or even sane. I’d call it “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” Also, the Post calls the status quo “traditional bipartisan comity.” I wonder if a better phrase might be “traditional bipartisan comedy.”

  4. Damn, Warren, you beat me to expressing my own amusement at the same notion.

    I’m inclined to think that business as usual in Congress is not a surprising turn of events, Regula’s individual history of compromise notwithstanding. Read the first paragraph of the article and you can smell the spin stuck to the bottom of your shoes. By the end you’d better have a shovel.

    The “oasis of decency and sanity,” also happens to be “a big-spending body that frustrates all efforts to control the federal budget,” and the panel most “closely identified with liberal Democratic priorities of the past 40 years.”

    Hm. An oasis of…sand. Call Saudi Arabia, we can plug their shortage.

  5. henry david, let me explain, it’s because….umm…because….umm…because….umm…because….umm…Oh shit, I don’t know either.

  6. With the final bill, trimmed of Dem pork, submitted, the Republicans will have to choose between supporting their pork thus accepting the *polarizing abuse of power*, or voting against local interests in the name of keeping the club friendly.

    Can we hope that this is a step toward the end of porky amendments, and toward each appropriation considered separately?

  7. Warren,


  8. Arjay-

    Ooh! I know! It’s because….um, well, the GOP only votes for pork so they can get re-elected and continue the fight for smaller government.

    As long as the GOP is handing out the pork, we can all sleep easy knowing that liberals who love big government won’t be able to regain power and hand out even more pork.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  9. Gee, you folks sound a little cynical… I must be mistaken. There’s never ANY cynicism expressed here — or sarcasm, either.

  10. It ain’t pork, it’s freeways.

  11. Well, if the democrats were not going to vote for the bill, why did the bill have their pet projects in it? The minority party can put in their pork, then vote against the bill, lose, and claim “I never voted for that” all the while bringing home the bacon.

    The republicans will be the big spenders, and the democrats will go home empty handed. It will be interesting to see which the voters reward.

  12. I’m not sure how you draw the conclusion that the Republicans are pro-pork from the linked article. It says nothing about how much of the spending bill actually approved was pork projects, merely that all the Democrat pork projects were canned.

    Yes, the Republicans pile on plenty of goodies for the voters, but we already knew that. This is not an affirmation that they have suddenly become worse about it. I don’t know how an event which may turn every Gazebo in Peoria funded by the Feds into an acrimonious political battle is bad news.

    Also, the kinds of projects which most people agree are pork, are a very small part of the problem. Things like Social Security, Medicare, treating government as a giant jobs program, etc. dwarf the absurd pork barrel stuff.

  13. Sounds like the party that was out of power for almost 1/2 of a century is beginning to understand how to wield power. Filibuster this!

    Rep. to Dem.: “You stop borking every judicial nomination, and maybe, just maybe we can talk about that new highway.”

    Democratic bipartisanship has always been a one way street. So the Republicans have finally gotten the balls to block the street and turn traffic around. Bully for them!

  14. JDM-

    I agree that the bulk of government spending comes under large expenditures like social security, defense, education, not to mention salaries and health benefits for gov’t workers (medical inflation affects every major employer, public and private). Sadly, most of those may be untouchable (for now). (Insert caveat that some portion of our defense spending should be untouchable, that portion varying from a small fraction to 99% depending on your views of US foreign policy and how much of the current spending you think actually goes to good use rather than waste.)

    I like to put gov’t spending in 3 categories:

    1) The big ticket items: Mostly stuff that government does “for” you.
    2) The small-ticket pork: Mostly stuff that government does “for” you.
    3) The intermediate sum spent on regulation: Mostly stuff that gov’t forces you to do.

    If we drastically downsized the regulatory spending as well as the pork, we could probably balance the budget without huge cuts in the politically volatile big-ticket stuff. I’m not saying the big ticket stuff should remain, I’m just saying that the easier targets would make a good step 1. That would already eliminate what is arguably the most obscene aspect of gov’t spending: That it forces one generation to pay for the previous generation’s bad judgement.

    Also, by drastically slashing regulatory spending we would probably get significant economic growth. The result would be that the average taxpayer would have more income, so a smaller portion of his income would be needed to finance the big-ticket stuff. Hence we could cut the rate of taxation.

    Finally, if we could stimulate economic growth by drastically slashing regulatory activity we could probably remove the “need” for a lot of the various social welfare programs out there, hence it would be easier (from a political standpoint) to slash the total amount of taxation.

    Of course, anything could go wrong in this scenario. But I still think that pork and regulation are the best places to start in downsizing government. They’re softer targets, and as people see “Hey, the government was down-sized without the sky falling!” it would pave the way for going after some of the larger expenditures.

  15. “Obey said Democrats were being punished for voting their consciences in July.”

    Oh, that’s what they vote with. I thought it was self-interest, special interest, corruption, and malice. (most politicians, not just dems)

  16. One man’s pork is another man’s bacon, and vice versa.

    In San Antonio, Kelly AFB was kept going way past its timely demise because civilian employment there was seen as a chance for Hispanics to move into the middle class (in the late 80s there were three generations of one Hispanic family working at Kelly at the same time). It was a generous federal jobs program masking itself as a vital national defense installation. And boy, did the locals fuss when it was closed.

    Humans being essentially selfish shits, of course we will rather vote for the folks who promise us goodies. Why is anyone surprised? “I offer you nothing but blood, sweat, toil and tears” will not win elections.

  17. I’ve got to agree woth Scott Harris on this. It’s high time the Republican’s got the balls to slap down the Dems.

  18. Let’s hope the Republicans completely dismantle the Democratic pork projects. Then in a few years, the Democrats will retake congress and retaliate by wiping out the Republican pork projects. I think a lot of pork won’t be able to survive without consistent funding.

  19. Anything that disrupts hte gracy train is fine by me. We can only hope that bipartisan amity never returns.

    The Founders created a system that was supposed to be gridlocked most of the time. That was the genius of their bicameral, tri-partite division of government.

    Gridlock is good!

  20. The problem with Xavier’s argument (at least in my experience) “I think a lot of pork won’t be able to survive without consistent funding” is that most pork represents ONE TIME funding. If he is saying “the existence of pork” won’t be able to survive without consistent funding, that might be a fair argument. It also might exacerbate the current process.

    Pork barrell funding is a back-door mechanism of campaign financing. It is heavily weighted toward incumbents, and no doubt is also apportioned heavily toward “important” (election) districts.

    One thing we all can do, when your local paper is touting your local rep (or at least giving free PR) for bringing home the bacon, write a letter to the editor (and your various reps) stating your views on the matter.

  21. ‘Rep. to Dem.: “You stop borking every judicial nomination, and maybe, just maybe we can talk about that new highway.” ‘ There have been about 130 judges nominated, and about half a dozen that have hit serious trouble. Do you ever actually question the “facts” Faux Nooz tells you, or just copy them down directly?

    ‘Democratic bipartisanship has always been a one way street’ Is that why “By tradition” (meaning, under Democratic leadership), “the projects have been divided fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats?”

    From denying Democratic members the use of meeting rooms, to refusing to meet with lobbyists of the wrong political registration, to legislative bullshit like this, the Republicans have demonstrated a level of respect for opposition parties that’s closer to Cuba than the United States.

  22. BTW, these are the idiots who can’t figure out why it’s a bad idea to start assassinating foreign heads of state.

  23. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/26/2004 06:07:16
    Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.

  24. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/20/2004 07:02:05
    ‘May you live all the days of your life.’ – Swift

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