On Tuesday, March 10, the United States Senate passed a spending bill that had been drafted by the previous Congress during the Bush administration.
The measure had already been passed in the House of Representatives the previous week. The bill called for a total of $410 billion to cover all government spending, both state and federal, for the rest of the 2009 budget year, which will end in September. The bill passed 62-35, with a Democratic majority.
$8 billion of the appropriated funds will constitute a total of 8,000 earmarks to go to various Congressional representatives and their contingencies. Opponents of the bill, led by Senator John McCain, contend that this is an overwhelming amount of “pork-barrel” spending. They argue that President Barack Obama could have vetoed this bill and cut back on wasteful spending.
McCain offered an amendment to the bill that would cut back on earmark spending, but this was defeated in Congress.
Controversial appropriations of the bill include:
• $1.7 million for pig odor research (Iowa)
• $819,000 for study of catfish genetics (Alabama)
• $190,000 to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Wyoming)
• $238,000 for deep-sea fishing programs for youth (Hawaii)
• $209,000 for production of blueberries (Georgia)
For many Republican Congressional representatives, Obama’s approval of the bill denotes a lack of the promised change in DC. They argue that Obama’s support of such rampant spending stands in stark contrast to his promise to element such earmarks. Additionally, since opinion of the bill has divided largely across party lines, such measures seem to refute the idea of bi-partisan politics.
Democrats stand by the necessity of these funds, arguing that they are much-needed and will result in economic growth. Although President Obama did approve of this spending bill, he voiced plans last week to begin stripping bills of their earmarks in the future. Spending bills that do not compliment his implemented policies could be vetoed.