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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Heritage's Utt, Riedl Say Senate Should Kill "Railroad to Nowhere" and the "Emergency" Bill It Rode Into Town

It is highly doubtful that there is anybody else in Washington who knows as much about how Congress wastes money through earmarks and other forms of pork barrel spending as do Dr. Ron Utt and Brian Riedl of The Heritage Foundation.

In the duo's latest study of a congressional porkfest, Utt and Riedl take a look at the emergency appropriation bill being considered this week by the Senate and conclude that senators and President Bush should just say no to the whole mess. It would be the first veto of his presidency should the second Bush Chief Executive were to summon the political wisdom and guts to do it.

About the $700 million "Railroad to Nowhere" earmark secured by Mississippi's two GOP senators - Trent Lott and Thad Cochran - Utt and Riedl offer this observation:

"Under the circumstances, it is not clear what purpose the $700 million sought from federal taxpayers would serve. Would it compensate CSX for its valuable right of way, the property it will be giving up, and the nearly $300 million that it spent to repair the line following Hurricane Katrina?

"Would part of the proposed funding go to construct the new light rail system, or would that be part of a future federal earmark? Whatever they intend, Mississippi’s senators owe their colleagues and American taxpayers a detailed explanation of how this extraordinary sum of money - it would be the largest earmark in American history, according to a report by the Christian Science Monitor - would be spent."

Overall, senators have added as much as $25 billion to the emergency appropriation bill that is supposed to provide only funding for the military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and hurricane recovery on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Go here for the full report from Utt and Riedl.

UPDATE: Bush Gets on bandwagon

President Bush announced his opposition yesterday to the Lott "Railroad to Nowhere," but notably did not explicitly vow to veto the bill containing the controversial earmark:

"The Administration strongly objects to the $700 million included in the Senate bill to relocate the privately owned rail line that runs along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The CSX Corporation, using its own resources, has already repaired damage to the line, and trains are now running. Relocating the tracks would represent a substantial investment beyond pre-disaster conditions and would improperly require U.S. taxpayers to pay for private sector infrastructure."

It's good to see the White House weigh in on the right side, but it ought not be forgotten that this is nothing more than words unless Bush is willing to veto the measure.