Friday, September 23, 2005

Budget politics then and now

From Fox News of all the unlikely places:

The Washington Post reports that in 1987, President Ronald Reagan vetoed a transportation bill passed by Congress because it had 157 "earmarks"— money set aside for Congress members' pet projects that would ostensibly be considered too wasteful to pass as laws on their own merit.

Reagan made a show of his veto. It was a symbolic stroke against government waste, against the Democrats’ tradition of, for example, diverting every federal highway through West Virginia, then naming it after Sen. Robert Byrd.

Fast-forward to 2005. Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress. Early on a Saturday morning in August — the day of the week, and the month of the year, least likely to attract media attention — President Bush signed into law a highway bill passed by his own party with more than 6,000 earmarked projects.

Bush signed the bill after sternly telling his party he'd veto any highway bill that spent more than $256 billion. He promptly "adjusted" that figure to $284 billion after complaints from party leaders. The bill Bush ultimately signed came at a price of $286 billion, $295 billion if you count a few provisions disguised to make the bill look cheaper than it actually is. Not exactly holding the line.

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