Last week, House members said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for voting yes on CAFTA would be tucked into the huge highways bill that Congress was simultaneously debating. Even House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MS) admitted “‘it didn’t hurt’ that Congress was putting the finishing touches on a federal highway bill at the same time that the House was voting on CAFTA. ‘It’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility’ that lawmakers would tie their votes on CAFTA to getting certain projects in the highway bill, Blunt said.”
Now the AP reports that an “estimated $24 billion in the [highway] bill [is] set aside for highways, bus stops, parking lots and bike trails requested by lawmakers.” In fact, with over 6, 000 special projects, the bill sets a new record for pork barrel politics. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “one of only four senators to oppose the bill,” described it as “egregious and remarkable.” Here are some of the “favors” that found their way in:
- $200,000 for a deer avoidance system in Weedsport, N.Y.
- $330 million for a highway in Bakersfield., Calif.
- $480,000 to rehabilitate a historic warehouse on the Erie Canal
- $3 million for dust control mitigation on Arkansas rural roads.
- $2.3 million for landscaping on the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California (Truly ironic is the fact that Pres. Reagan once vetoed a highway bill because of its exorbitant spending expenses)
The vice president of policy for Taxpayers for Common Sense concluded, “This bill will be known as the most earmarked transportation bill in the history of our nation.” It also could be known as the bill that shows quite how vain lawmakers can be:
- Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK) set aside $231 million for a bridge near Anchorage to be named “Don Young’s Way”
- Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) “used his seniority” to “secure $16 million for the eponymous Nick J. Rahall II Appalachian Transportation Institute at Marshall University”