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Friday, October 28, 2005

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: People Dying of AIDS, Senate Buys Japanese Garden for CDC Instead

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, engaged in a dialogue on the Senate floor earlier this week regarding the former's amendment to transfer $60 million previously appropriated for construction upgrades that include a Japanese garden at an Atlanta federal building to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Their exchange provides a vivid demonstration of the warped priorities encouraged by pork barrel culture in Congress.

President Bush had previously asked Congress to appropriate $30 million for construction upgrades at the Center for Disease Control facilities in Atlanta, including the Japanese gardens. There was already $240 million in previously authorized but not yet spent funds for the construction program.

The House approved the $30 million sought by Bush but when the bill came to the Senate floor, Coburn noted that appropriation had been increased to $225 million, which meant there would be half a billion dollars available if the Senate version of the bill became law.

Coburn, who is a physician, offered the amendment to move $60 million from the CDC construction program to the AIDS effort. Doing so would mean "we will have enough funding to make sure everybody with HIV in this country has the medicine they need to stay alive," Coburn told the Senate, according to the Congressional Record for Oct. 26, 2005.

Coburn also told the Senate that the transfer was needed because "while people are dying from HIV, they cannot get medicines under the ADAP program because we cannot fund it significantly. We have multiple states with people on waiting lists. We have multiple states that cap the available benefits. It is a death sentence to those people with HIV today."

Coburn then noted that "the CDC has just completed a $62 million visitors center. I am asking for $60 million for people who have HIV, who are never going to get to the visitors center. I do not how we spent $62 million on a visitors center for the CDC but I believe that priority is wrong when people are dying from HIV and do not have the available medicines."

Sen. Specter then responded to Coburn by first claiming there was not Japanese garden spending at the CDC facility in Atlanta, but then upon being corrected by a staffer acknowledged that "maybe there could be a less expensive exotic garden than a Japanese garden."

The Senate then defeated the Coburn amendment on a 85-14 vote, with Specter among the Nays. See who voted how below.

Japanese gardens for the CDC bureaucrats in Atlanta. Slow, painful, unnecessary death for people with HIV. That's what we get with pork.

UPDATE: 11:00 a.m.

Ever wonder how federal buildings are named? The naming process often gets tied up in the pork barrel culture, too. Tim Chapman at Townhall.com's Capitol Report has the details on how Sen. Arlen Specter and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, got a couple of Atlanta CDC buildings named after them.

UPDATE: 11:20 a.m.

Here's the Senate vote on the Coburn amendment to transfer funds to ADAP.

UPDATE: 1:18 p.m.

Please note that the Japanese garden is part of a $60 million package of construction upgrades. The garden is NOT a $60 million garden. My apologies for the awkward wording when this post initially appeared earlier today. Being an editor, I should have caught that earlier.

YEAs - 14
Burr (R-NC)Chafee (R-RI)Coburn (R-OK)Cornyn (R-TX)Dayton (D-MN)
DeWine (R-OH)Ensign (R-NV)Feingold (D-WI)Grassley (R-IA)Lugar (R-IN)
McCain (R-AZ)Smith (R-OR)Stabenow (D-MI)Wyden (D-OR)

NAYs - 85
Akaka (D-HI)Alexander (R-TN)Allard (R-CO)Allen (R-VA)Baucus (D-MT)Bayh (D-IN)Bennett (R-UT)Biden (D-DE)Bingaman (D-NM)Bond (R-MO)Boxer (D-CA)Brownback (R-KS)Bunning (R-KY)Burns (R-MT)Byrd (D-WV)Cantwell (D-WA)Carper (D-DE)Chambliss (R-GA)Clinton (D-NY)Cochran (R-MS)Coleman (R-MN)Collins (R-ME)Conrad (D-ND)Craig (R-ID)Crapo (R-ID)DeMint (R-SC)Dodd (D-CT)Dole (R-NC)Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)Durbin (D-IL)Enzi (R-WY)Feinstein (D-CA)Frist (R-TN)Graham (R-SC)Gregg (R-NH)Hagel (R-NE)Harkin (D-IA)Hatch (R-UT)Hutchison (R-TX)Inhofe (R-OK)Inouye (D-HI)Isakson (R-GA)Jeffords (I-VT)Johnson (D-SD)Kennedy (D-MA)Kerry (D-MA)Kohl (D-WI)Kyl (R-AZ)Landrieu (D-LA)Lautenberg (D-NJ)Leahy (D-VT)Levin (D-MI)Lieberman (D-CT)Lincoln (D-AR)Lott (R-MS)Martinez (R-FL)McConnell (R-KY)
Mikulski (D-MD)Murkowski (R-AK)Murray (D-WA)Nelson (D-FL)Nelson (D-NE)Obama (D-IL)Pryor (D-AR)Reed (D-RI)Reid (D-NV)Roberts (R-KS)Rockefeller (D-WV)Salazar (D-CO)Santorum (R-PA)Sarbanes (D-MD)Schumer (D-NY)Sessions (R-AL)Shelby (R-AL)Snowe (R-ME)Specter (R-PA)Stevens (R-AK)Sununu (R-NH)Talent (R-MO)Thomas (R-WY)Thune (R-SD)Vitter (R-LA)Voinovich (R-OH)Warner (R-VA)

Not Voting - 1
Corzine (D-NJ)