Following last week's devastating hurricane and flooding in the Gulf region, Congress acted quickly to pass an initial $10.5 billion relief package. On Tuesday, President Bush asked for an additional $40 billion, bringing the total to more than $50 billion. This amount could double to $100 billion.
History has shown Congress' propensity to take advantage of emergency supplemental spending bills by inserting funds for their member's own pet projects. Even though funds are desperately needed by Hurricane Katrina's victims, members of Congress will undoubtedly still attempt to insert some self-serving pork. Already, there are calls for aid for drought relief in the mid-West, even though such funding could be provided through the regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2006, which Congress has yet to approve.
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has challenged members of Congress to block funding for unrelated pork projects in its aid for hurricane recovery and to help offset the costs by returning the $24 billion for the 6,400 earmarks in the recently enacted highway bill. Please write to your legislators today (http://www.cagw.org/site/R?i=cAy3qmMdFsDC3dBGW4FSgg.. ). Urge them to sign CCAGW's "Hurricane Katrina No Pork Pledge," through which they can vow to oppose any project or provision that is not directly related to the impact of Hurricane Katrina in any supplemental appropriations bill that provides funds for hurricane relief.
Emergency supplemental bills have become a magnet for pork because they do not count against House and Senate budget caps and such bills are always signed by the President. Past examples include:
· In April 2005, the $80 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (H.R. 1268) included $25 million for the Fort Peck Fish Hatchery in Montana.
· In October 2003, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) grabbed $1.4 million for three projects in Pennsylvania, including $1 million to establish centers of excellence for the treatment of autism, in the fiscal 2003 Emergency Supplemental portion of the fiscal 2004 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act.
· In April 2003, the $78.5 billion War Supplemental Appropriations bill included 29 unrelated projects, which cost more than $348 million, including: $110 million for the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa; $22.7 million for a Capitol power plant; and $200,000 for Light of Life Ministries in Allegheny County, Pa.
Congress' propensity for pork has already impacted the government's ability to protect New Orleans residents by wasting funds on parochial pork-barrel projects that could have gone toward improvements on the city's breeched levees. This is just one example of taxpayer dollars serving member's home state interests and not solving infrastructure problems of national significance. This week, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released its annual Prime Cuts report, listing the worst $2
trillion in government spending and detailing a plan to stop Congress's skyrocketing spending and redirecting funds to important national priorities. The savings from Prime Cuts could be used to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
If there has ever been a time for Congress to reject pork and cut the waste, that time is now. The widespread devastation and loss of life resulting from this disaster should shame members of Congress into forgoing egregious spending that will hinder recovery efforts and add to the deficit. Please write to your Representative and Senators today and urge them to sign CCAGW's "Hurricane Katrina No Pork Pledge" and not waste precious tax dollars needed by struggling disaster victims: http://www.cagw.org/site/R?i=XC3rVrNbSql6yylhZaJxMQ..
Sincerely, Thomas A. Schatz, President, CCAGW