Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Democrats Lied. Earmark Reform Died.

Democrats squeaked into the majority in 2006 based -- in great part -- upon a vow to clean up Congress. Their winning sound-bites included promises to "drain the swamp" and eradicate "the culture of corruption."

Instead, the 2007 Water Projects Bill demonstrates just how thoroughly corrupt the Democratic-led Congress has become.

...When Congress got around to authorizing the $4.9 billion in [spending that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested], here is what happened: The Senate passed a bill that cost roughly $14 billion, and the House a different bill at $15 billion. Then they got together in conference and compromised -- at $23.2 billion.

Congress's core mission was apparently not only to leave no pork-barrel project on the cutting-room floor, but to destroy the idea of a cutting room. Just about every Member gets his earmark(s). Thus the Water Resources Development Act contains more than 900 special-interest boondoggles like:

• At least $1.8 billion to build seven unnecessary navigation locks on the Upper Mississippi River, a project embroiled for years by corruption and budget overruns.

• Billions for cross-country "environmental infrastructure," which usually means building a marina or waterfront shopping center.

• $105 million to Louisiana's Port of Iberia, which the Corps estimated to generate 30 cents for every $1 spent before Senator Mary Landrieu demanded a highly dubious recount.

• A multimillion-dollar subsidyfest for wastewater treatment facilities, sewer projects, mine reclamation, beach maintenance and surface transport, none of which fall under the Corps' jurisdiction.

Even all that wasn't enough. The conference committee "airdropped" 19 earmarks that were not in the original House or Senate bills. Their appearance added $750 million to the tab, with $685 million of the new pork going to the Santa Ana River Mainstem (total cost: $1.8 billion and counting) in Southern California. The last-minute request was made by California Senator Barbara Boxer, who as chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee was responsible for crafting the legislation in the first place.

This airdropping clearly violates the transparency provisions of the Democrats' recent ethics "reform." Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, ruled that an "and/or" clause meant that the rules applied only to appropriations, not "authorizations," so Ms. Boxer got her wish... The Corps has a $38 billion project backlog, so those backed by the most politically powerful Members bob to the top. Congress twice rejected amendments to prioritize the most urgent works...

When the next bridge collapse or levy failure occurs, voters would do well to recall that Democrats lied... and earmark reform died. One hopes that innocent lives aren't also lost, precipitated by the greed of Boxer, Reid, and the rest of the real culture of corruption.

This simply reinforces the fact that we do need a fairness doctrine... for the American taxpayer.

Wall Street Journal: Water Carriers

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