Jon Fleischman

Prolific Pork In U.S. Senate Bill To Aid Victims of Hurricane Sandy Is Shameful

Like many politicos, I was watching the quasi-debate on the floor and subsequent vote by the House of Representatives on the ugly fiscal cliff legislation that both in process as well as content exemplified why so many are cynical about the politicians on Capitol Hill.

It seemed that just after that vote, like a wildfire, another story spread — that Speaker John Boehner was not going to be bringing up the nearly $60 billion spending bill passed by the U.S. Senate that was to provide financial support to those states, cities, communities and residents hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy — primarily in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.  Mostly I heard outrage from pundits, and many in the media declaring this a terrible mis-step by Boehner right on the heels of the fiscal cliff debacle.  Of course rather infamously now, New Jersey’s Republican Governor, Chris Christie, ripped Boehner and the House Leadership a new one in a nationally televised press conference.  Christie is notoriously good gutting those with whom he has issues, and I am quite certain Boehner did not enjoy the experience.

Well…  Guess what?  When you take a closer look at the Hurricane Sandy relief package passed by the Senate, which is nearly twice the size as the bill that came out of of a House Committee, you realize that Boehner was absolutely correct to put on the brakes.  You would not believe how many billions of dollars in pork barrel spending has been stuffed into this legislation by appropriators in the upper chamber.  It is so bad that it actually makes me ill just to write about it.  No doubt somewhere there is a room of old-school Capitol politicians proud of themselves for placing all of this egregious spending of taxpayer dollars into this bill, slapping themselves on the back, saying that “No good natural disaster should be put to waste…”

Let me take a moment to actually list just some of the items in the Senate-passed legislation — the legislation for which the Speaker is taking heat for holding up.  Perhaps after reading through this list, you might actually decide, as I have, that that Boehner did the right thing in holding up a vote, and that you will join me in hoping that all of this pork is stripped from the legislation…

Highlights include:

  • $8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security and Justice departments.
  • $150 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to dole out to fisheries in Alaska
  • $2 million for the Smithsonian Institution to repair museum roofs in DC.
  • $207 million for the VA Manhattan Medical Center
  • $3.3 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center
  • $1.1 million to repair national cemeteries
  • $58.8 million for forest restoration on private land.
  • $10.78 billion for public transportation, most of which is allocated to future construction and improvements, not disaster relief.
  • $17 billion for wasteful Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), a program that has become notorious for its use as a backdoor earmark program.
  • $197 million “to… protect coastal ecosystems and habitat impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”
  • $41 million to fix up eight military bases, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
  • $4 million for repairs at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (because Florida is so close to New Jersey, right?)

Oh yes, for good measure there is an eye-popping $13 billion slated to go to “mitigation” projects to prepare for future storms.

Hurricane Sandy was a tragic natural disaster.  Lives were lost, and much property was destroyed or damaged.  My hearts go out to the victims of this tragedy.  And it galls me that politicians in Washington, D.C., would use this tragedy as an opportunity to dole out pork.  $150 million for Alaska fisheries?  Really?

I posted something about this on my Facebook page yesterday, and I will close this brief commentary with a comment left there by longtime FR friend Tracy Buck-Walsh, who said this:  “Someone needs to slap Chris Christie upside the head for his bitching about the House not bringing this porkathon up, much less refusing to pass it. People hate DC because of bills like this and not those who refuse to pass it unquestioned.”

Amen to that.

(h/t to Freedomworks for providing the details of the legislation that I shared in this column)