Buying votes to win elections is a long-established tradition for the Democrat Party going back to the days when poor blacks in the South would sell their votes for a couple of dollars and continuing today with the efforts of ACORN to buy votes in dozens of states nationwide. Now it turns out that the techniques which work so well with voters work equally well on Capitol Hill, as demonstrated this week with the passage of the new Supplemental Spending bill.
There weren't quite enough votes in either of the houses of Congress pass the latest bill to appropriate supplemental funds for the Iraq War - once the Democrats had loaded it up with special conditions and an accelerated and unrealistic timetable for withdrawal. Some opposed it out of party loyalty and some opposed it on principle and some opposed it because it was obviously politically motivated and a bad idea. The margins were close, but as it turned out, there were a few in both the House and Senate whose opposition to the bill was weaker than their greed.
So, unable to pass the bill on its merits, Democrats desperate to make absolutely clear that they are pro-defeat and want to leave Iraq in chaos, remaining true to the traditions of their party, decided to bribe the more vulnerable opponents of the bill with lavish allocations of pork. And just to make sure that the bill passed both the House and Senate it got a double helping of pork, some for Congressmen and some for Senators.
The end result is the addition of about $20 billion in pure, refined pork to the bill, most of it specifically targeted to the interests of specific representatives or powerful individuals or groups in Congress. This despite a moratorium on earmarks declared last year, which helped cut the deficit in half three years earlier than the President's budget plan. Congressional leaders have called off the moratorium and declared full speed ahead on pork spending. They clearly see it as an opportunity to sneak in the pork they've been denied for several years.
As I've discussed before, the root of the problem is Representative David Obey (D-WI) who is now chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He's like the fox in the henhouse, and he made sure that the prime cut of pork went to his supporters in the dairy industry who get $283 million in subsidies - almost 10 times what Obey was able to get them in the last Republican controlled budget. Don't worry, plenty of others get their cut too. There's $425 million for educational grants to rural areas to win votes in the farm belt. There's $165.9 million for fisheries in Oregon, $10 million for the Florida citrus industry, $25 million for spinach growers, $20 million to catch crickets in Harry Reid's home state of Nevada and lots of other little prizes to make sure that pro-war Democrats and moderate Republicans in the right states played along. Nonetheless, the bill only passed the House by 6 votes because 14 Democrats voted against it. In the Senate, rather than making anyone take responsibility for their actions, all of the Republicans voted for the bill, leaving it up to the President to deal with it with his promised veto.