Friday, September 23, 2005

Priorities or Pork?

Courtesy of The Progress Report published by The American Progress Action Fund
Contributing editors: by Judd Legum, Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Payson Schwin and Christy Harvey

All around the country, Americans are debating how best to pay for reconstruction efforts in the Gulf Coast. We've taken a sample of opinions -- from members of Congress, Bush administration officials, and Americans around the country -- to help you figure out who's more interested in clinging onto pork and tax cuts than in responsible fiscal policy and shared sacrifice.

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX): House Majority Leader Tom DeLay "scoffed at the suggestion he give up his earmarks," which are thought to total $114.4 million over five years. "My earmarks are pretty important to building an economy in that region," DeLay said. Not a surprising sentiment, considering DeLay once claimed that calling "our transportation system pork barrel would be like calling our own blood vessels and aortas pork."

THUMBS UP -- BOZEMAN, MONTANA: A citizens' group there "petitioned its congressional delegation to rescind the $4 million the city obtained for a parking garage and redirect the money to Katrina victims."

THUMBS DOWN -- SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R-NM): Domenici, the Energy Committee chair, was asked whether any of the latest energy bill's $8.5 billion in hand-outs to the fossil fuel industries should be cut back. No, he said, there "should have been more, not fewer, industry incentives."

THUMBS UP -- REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): House Minority Leader Pelosi was the first member of Congress to announce that she would give up virtually all of her $130 million in earmarks (she's keeping an earthquake retrofitting project for the Golden Gate Bridge). "I would give them up to help Katrina victims," she said. "The people of San Francisco would be very proud of that.''

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL): House Speaker Hastert could follow Pelosi's lead and "defer his prized Prairie Parkway, a $200-million-plus project dismissed as a behemoth Sprawlway by hometown critics." But he has "avoided answering whether he would make the same pledge as Pelosi."

THUMBS UP -- REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Pence is following Pelosi's lead, saying "he would give up his $16 million in highway-bill earmarks to help pay Katrina's costs."

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Pence is also one of the leading figures behind "Operation Offset," a set of broad spending cuts proposed this week by House conservatives. The Navy Times reported yesterday that those cuts "include trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care." Soldiers will be asked to "accept reduced health care benefits for their families," while "the stateside system of elementary and secondary schools for military family members could be closed."

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK): Rep. Young is a self-proclaimed "little oinker" who aspires to be the "chief porker." As chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he packed this year's transportation bill with $721 million in projects for Alaska, including more than $400 million for two "bridges to nowhere." Young’s response to those asking that his state give up some of that earmarked money? "They can kiss my ear! ... That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard."

THUMBS UP -- MICHIGAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: The bulk of the state's congressional delegation said last week that Congress "should consider eliminating some of President Bush's tax cuts to help pay for the massive post-Katrina reconstruction of the Gulf Coast and the ongoing war in Iraq." Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-MI): "We have to look at the wherewithal to get the job done, and you can't do it with smoke and mirrors. It may require some adjustment of the tax structure -- that's just being honest."

THUMBS UP -- SEN. JUDD GREGG (R-NH): Gregg, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, "refused to rule out" rolling back the Bush tax cuts on Wednesday as a way to offset Gulf Coast relief spending. "We've got two sides to the ledger," Gregg said. "I'm willing to look at a revenue solution ... as part of a package."

THUMBS DOWN -- SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE: When Gregg recommended a "balanced package" of spending cuts and tax cut rollbacks, "he was met with stony silence."

THUMBS DOWN -- SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): Santorum says he won't consider giving up his earmarks, claiming it would endanger the homeland. His spokesman told reporters, "Bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure needs are vital to Pennsylvania's economy and homeland security."

THUMBS DOWN -- SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D-NJ): Lautenberg supports repealing tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans to offset Katrina costs, but even if that doesn't happen, he "doesn't believe that taking away transportation funds for New Jersey is the way to help fund relief on the Gulf Coast."

THUMBS UP -- TREASURY SECRETARY JOHN SNOW: Addressing a group of credit-union officials on Tuesday morning, Treasury Secretary Snow said that post-Katrina spending would "push to the back burner" the president's plans to extend the tax cuts this year.

THUMBS DOWN -- REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX): About 90 minutes after Snow's remarks, the Washington Post reported, DeLay "held a news conference in his office and asserted that 'we're not reexamining' the commitment to extend the tax cuts. 'That's not an option,' DeLay said, then, for emphasis, added: 'Not an option.'"

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