House Democratic leaders are offering billions in federal funds for lawmakers’ pet projects large and small to secure enough votes this week to pass an Iraq funding bill that would end the war next year.
So far, the projects — which range from the reconstruction of New Orleans levees to the building of peanut storehouses in Georgia — have had little impact on the tally. For a funding bill that establishes tough new readiness standards for deploying combat forces and sets an Aug. 31, 2008, deadline to bring the troops home, votes do not come cheap.
But at least a few Republicans and conservative Democrats who otherwise would vote “no” remain undecided, as they ponder whether they can leave on the table millions of dollars for constituents by opposing the $124 billion war funding bill due for a vote on Thursday.
[T]here is $25 million for spinach growers hurt by last year’s E. coli scare. For three conservative Democrats in Georgia, there is $75 million for peanut storage. For lawmakers from the bone-dry West, there is $500 million for wildfire suppression. An additional $120 million is earmarked for shrimp and Atlantic menhaden fishermen.
I don’t think Rep. Steve Pearce is going to vote for an end to the war, but that vote will be a vote against wildfire suppression. Wildfires were a huge deal in his district last year: more than 83,000 acres were burned on the Gila National Forest alone, and suppression costs of those fires was $17.8 million. Even with the wet winter we’re already starting to see them flare up again. There is a huge amount of fuel on the ground, and things are looking bad across the West: