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<p><b>This Week:</b> After a one-week respite, Congress starts up again this week. The Senate is expected to begin consideration of the supplemental spending bill. If the supplemental is not ready for consideration, then the Senate will begin debating S. 625. Broadly defined as <a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c107:2:./temp/~c107K5eCte::"target... crimes legislation</a>, S 625 would expand current hate crime laws to allow federal prosecution of crimes that target victims based on gender, sexual orientation or disability. </p>
<p> The House this week began work on Tuesday. They will be considering several tax initiatives throughout the week. On Tuesday they considered a bill to make permanent an expansion of the adoption tax credit and on Thursday they will consider a bill to make permanent a repeal of the Death Tax. Other possible legislation includes the a bill authorizing intelligence agencies, and the conference report on the Export-Import Bank. </p>
<p><b>I am shocked – shocked I tell you!!</b>
It appears that even after a stern warning from President Bush and the immense pressure of looming deficits, that lawmakers STILL can’t keep their fingers out of the cookie jar. I guess they just can’t help themselves!!</p>
<p>Monday’s <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002/06/02/securitybill-usat.htm"tar... Today</a> details all of the new pork barrel spending incorporated in the Senate version of the emergency supplemental spending bill. Yes, this is the spending bill that was supposed to be for homeland security and defense. And, yes, this is the same bill that is desperately needed by the administration so they can begin to fill in some of the spending gaps caused by 9/11. The administration’s initial request at $27.1 billion appeared excessive but the Senate has literally porked out with the current legislation weighing in at over $31 Billion. They claim to stick to the general theme of funding for defense and homeland security, however, it appears that the Senate has a much different idea of what constitutes an ‘emergency’ or homeland security. Included in this bill are such ”necessities” as:</p>
<li>$2 million to help the Smithsonian Institution house its jars of biological specimens
<li>$5 million to subsidize farmers' markets and roadside produce stands including a
<li>$16 million for fishermen and communities in New England hurt by federal fishing limits, and another $5 million for loans to commercial fishing operations there and elsewhere.
<li>$7.2 million to buy a second supercomputer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to forecast the weather. Lawmakers say the agency needs a backup in case of terrorism.
<p>To make matters worse, there are already several amendments planned for Senate floor consideration that would increase this monstrosity even further. One by Senator Conrad Burns (R-MO) would bail out farmers even MORE to a tune of $2.4 billion (this is on top of the $180 billion Farm Bill that was recently signed into law). Another would further increase HIV/AIDS funding overseas by $600 million. What is even more maddening about this profligate spending is the fact that we are only days away from starting the annual appropriations process, which becomes an annual pork fest in its own right.</p>
<p>Why can’t lawmakers simply pass the necessary spending and leave well enough alone? Why do they constantly have to add in their little pet programs thereby grabbing money right out of our pockets? I am sure that a lot of the guilty parties would claim that these programs are for ‘national’ good. However, I think we have done enough for our nation’s farmers for this year – if not for the next 10 years!! And if NOAA really needs that new supercomputer can’t it wait until the regular appropriations process – or can’t the money be found in current budgeting. Why do we keep adding new spending onto already bloated bills? </p>
<p>The real problem is that there are no negative consequences. By porking up these individual bills they only risk embarrassment. What we need is a groundswell of opposition to this type of taxpayer abuse. Any Congressional representative that resorts to this type of funding should hear from the public as to why this funding subverts the legislative process and why it only exacerbates the increasing cynicism among the American public. They need to hear this from their own constituents who technically should benefit from this largesse. And they need to be told that this money does not just fall out of the sky. It comes from working men and women across the country that strived for this money and only reluctantly gave it to the government in the hopes that it would be used for the national good. Only then can we begin to take back our government funding.