Bridge money in limbo with Republicans’ newfound principles on pork

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The budget battle in Congress has left a major portion of the funding for rebuilding the Interstate 35W bridge in limbo. Two of Minnesota’s Republican Congress members, Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline, voted against the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill containing the bridge funding, and President Bush has said he will veto it. While Bush and Kline argue that the bill was “fiscally irresponsible,” “pork barrel” and “excessive,” a little background suggests that neither Bush nor Kline cared much about fiscal responsibility until Democrats came to power.

Opinion: Bridge money in limbo with Republicans’ newfound principles on pork

One way to label a Democratic Congress a “do nothing” Congress is to block its efforts to pass legislation, and Bush and House Republicans have worked together to defeat the major congressional spending bills with the exception of defense spending. “We need to control the runaway government spending,” Kline said in a debate with Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., Friday on TPT’s “Almanac.” “I think we can do that if we continue to hold the line.”

Has Kline always been against “runaway spending”? He hasn’t always. And are the Democrats proposing “runaway spending”? The record says no.

“Over the last several years John and his colleagues voted for spending above and beyond [Bush’s budget] twice as much as what we’re asking to spend,” Walz said on Twin Cities Public Television’s “Almanac.”

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, pork spending was at $12 billion in 1999. That spending increased each year under a Republican president and a Republican Congress to $29 billion in 2006. This year, CAGW reports that the Democratic Congress has requested $12.5 billion in pork, less than half of what Republicans spent last year.

Since Kline was elected in 2002 and until Democrats took control at the end of 2006, he has voted for every single pork-laden appropriations bill except for three. That’s out of more than 70 appropriations bills.

Bush has signed every one of the pork-laden bills that passed his desk under a Republican-controlled Congress, bills that spent twice as much as Democrats are asking for in 2007. In fact, Bush has inserted his own pork into the appropriations bills. He asked for $24 million for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program and another $8.9 million for the Points of Light foundation founded by his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

“What we are seeing here is a pattern of bills that are coming forward that spend to much money that the president says he is going to veto,” Kline said on “Almanac.”

What we also see is a pattern by a Republican who votes against bills for little other reason than Democrats drafted them — that is unless he’s had a sudden change of heart on pork. Kline’s concern for fiscal responsibility could have started in 2002. The record shows that it didn’t

Walz argues that the massive debt and growth in government over the last several years hasn’t gone for domestic projects but for Iraq. “This is the largest growth of the federal government in the history of the nation. Now we’re getting lectured on fiscal responsibility when were trying to shift the spending priorities back to domestic projects that are investments,” he said. “I guess they’d rather build bridges in Iraq than here. That’s what the message is to me.”

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