Lott Says He's "Damn Tired" of Porkbusters, Defends His Railroad to Nowhere
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the Republican from Mississippi, has had it to here with Porkbusters and other critics of pork barrel spending like Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who think the federal government has better things to do with $700 million of the taxpayers money than tear up a just-repaired coastal rail line and replace it with a new highway. Apparently the plan is that a new rail line would be built just north of the existing one.
Said Lott when asked by an AP reporter about criticism of the project he has long championed and which was just funded in a Senate Appropriations Committee bill to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as additional Hurricane Katrina relief:
"I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble ever since Katrina. We in Mississippi have not asked for more than we deserve. We've been very reasonable."
Nearly $300 million worth of repairs to the line were just completed in January, financed by CSX Railroad and its insurance company. No word yet on how CSX or its insurance company feel about the plan favored by Lott and his fellow Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran to tear up the tracks and replace them with a highway to serve the heavily populated coastal region.
Cochran is the Appropriations Committee Chairman.
Coburn thinks the project is a perfect example of the sort of wasteful spending that has poisoned the national political process. He told AP:
"It is ludicrous for the Senate to spend $700 million to destroy and relocate a rail line that is in perfect working order, particularly when it recently underwent a ... repair."
Citizens Against Government Waste's Tom Schatz is no more impressed than Coburn, telling AP:
"For $700 million, the Congress could certainly do a lot more to help people that are still without homes. It's certainly unclear what this has to do with an emergency. It sounds like a wish list from the senators from Mississippi."
CAGW just released the latest version of its annual Pig Book.
It was Lott who last week used a legislative technicality to kill a Coburn amendment to another spending bill that would have required the Office of Management and Budget in the White House to establish a comprehensive public database of all government grants, including extensive information about the recipients and the purposes of each grant.
Go here for the full AP story.
UPDATE: A Lott-Less Congress?
Be sure to check out the poll - Is it Time for Less Lott in Congress? - in the right-hand column. You get three options. This is a great opportunity to send an important Porkbusters message to a powerful Member of Congress.
UPDATE II: Is Lott's $700 Million Just a Downpayment?
Turns out Sen. Lott's efforts to move the CSX railroad in coastal Mississippi has been generating some serious discussion and study for months now. In fact, according to this blog post from last year, an analysis done for the Mississippi government estimated the cost of Lott's project could be as high as $2.9 billion:
"The cost of moving the railroad, as estimated by the consulting firm of DMJM Harris of New Orleans, hired by Wayne Brown and MDOT, would be between $1.9 Billion and $2.9 Billion. That amount of money could rebuild every school, every bridge and most of the infrastructure on the entire Coast," reported Sandra Alawine at MS Gulf Coast.
Go here for the full MS Gulf Coast post.
UPDATE III: Lotsa CSX dough to Lott
I'm sure it's mere coincidence but Andy Roth at Club for Growth did some preliminary digging around in federal campaign contributions and found $25,000 worth of CSX-related contributions to Lott.
"There’s a lot of dirt under this rock. More to come ... " Andy concludes in what looks like his first post in this vein.