Dems Sweeten War-Funding Bill With Pet Projects

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Republicans complain that members of their own party didn't do enough to curb pork barrel spending when they controlled Congress, and now Democrats are doing the same thing.

One Republican lawmaker is blasting House Democrats for trying to load an Iraq war funding bill with billions of dollars in pork-barrel spending.

The bill is controversial. In addition to funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it sets a date for the U.S. to start withdrawing its troops from Iraq (no war funding as of September 2008, the bill says). And in another anti-war provision, the bill would require the president to certify that all troops to be deployed to Iraq be fully trained and equipped.

Even some Democrats are reluctant to tie the hands of the commander in chief, however.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) says that's why Democrat leaders have added more than $20 billion in non-emergency spending - they're trying to win the votes necessary to pass the bill.

"This bill is intended to meet the urgent needs of our troops serving in harm's way. Instead, the Democrats are using it to pander to their left-wing base," Pitts said.

"The money they want to spend on spinach subsidies and peanut storage would be better spent on body armor and Humvees," Pitts added. "This bill fails both our troops serving overseas and the taxpayer here at home."

Pitts listed some of the wasteful spending items contained in the bill:

-- Spinach: Provides $25 million for payments to spinach producers that were unable to market spinach crops as a result of the FDA Public Health Advisory issued on September 14, 2006.

-- Shrimp: Provides $120 million to the shrimp industry for expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Katrina.

-- Peanut Storage Subsidies: Provides $74 million to extend peanut storage payments through 2007. The Peanut Subsidy Storage program, which is set to expire this year, pays farmers for the storage, handling, and other costs for peanuts voluntarily placed in the marketing loan program.

-- Aquaculture Operations: Provides $5 million for payments to "aquaculture operations and other persons in the U.S. engaged in the business of breeding, rearing, or transporting live fish" (such as shellfish, oysters and clams) to cover economic losses incurred as a result of an emergency order issued by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on October 24, 2006.

-- NASA: Provides $35 million to NASA, under the "exploration capabilities" account, for "expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Katrina."

-- HUD Indian Housing: Provides $80 million in tenant-based rental assistance for public and Indian housing under HUD.

The House is expected to start debating the war funding bill on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats insist they swept into power last November partly because of strong anti-war sentiment from the American public.

She said the bill to be debated on Thursday presents a clear choice: "Either we continue with an open-ended war or we have tough accountability leading to the responsible redeployment of our troops."

According to the Associated Press, as many as a dozen Democrats might vote against the bill - some of them, because it doesn't end the war soon enough.

The vote is seen by some as a test of Pelosi's leadership on a key issue for Democrats, who have a 233-201 majority in the House.

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