Despite levee failures and bridge collapses, Congress continues to divert public works spending to pork barrel projects. The latest example is the $23 billion water resources bill passed overwhelmingly by the Senate yesterday. Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle praise the measure. Senator Feingold was one of the few to call a pig a pig:
“After a decade of government and independent reports calling for reforming the corps and pointing out stunning flaws in corps projects and project studies, and after the tragic failures of New Orleans levees during Hurricane Katrina, the American people deserve meaningful reform,” Mr. Feingold said in a speech on the Senate floor. “How many more flawed projects or wasted dollars will it take before we say enough is enough?” . . . .
More dire warnings came from watchdog groups and some engineering experts, who said that the bill did not ensure that the most crucially needed work in Louisiana or elsewhere would get the highest priority, and instead would allow lawmakers with the most political muscle to push their favored projects.
“We are diverting our spending for the high priority projects to the political priority projects,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit group that monitors Congressional spending.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer praised the bill, explaining it addressed national priorities for water infrastructure, including flood control, navigability, ecological restoration, and “making sure our people have recreational opportunities around these projects.”
The White House, for its part, said President Bush will veto the bill, but supporters appear to have enough votes for an override.