WASHINGTON — From helping the University of Idaho put its jazz history archive on the Internet to creating a regional agency to spur the Mississippi Delta’s economy, members of Congress have a lot to brag about to their constituents this holiday season.
The massive spending bill Congress sent President Clinton last week before adjourning, which allowed final approval of more than $450 billion in spending, was best known for its money for hiring teachers, biomedical research and other high-profile programs.
But sprinkled liberally throughout are funds for hundreds of projects for the folks back home, plus entire bills that failed to make it through Congress on their own for lack of support or time.
That includes $750,000 to refurbish the Turner Joy, the destroyer that reported being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. The incident helped persuade Congress to grant President Johnson broad authority to wage war against North Vietnam. The ship now serves as a museum in Bremerton.
Also included is $213,000 for Marin County, Calif., to study high breast cancer rates in the San Francisco Bay area; language that will let the Colorado Ute Indian tribes divert water from the Animas and La Plata rivers, a smaller version of a project that has provoked objections from environmentalists; and the early release of $353 million to some contractors so they can start building parts for the F-22, the Air Force’s new stealth bomber.
There are so many projects, in fact, that it is hard to imagine that many members of Congress didn’t get something for somebody back in the district.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., opposed the measure in part because he says he counted at least $1.9 billion in "pork" that was not properly weighed against competing needs.
"We paved our way home by spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars on budget items that never went through a merit-based review process," he said in a written statement.
Of course, that’s not how the projects’ sponsors see them.
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