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President Bush Accuses Congress of ‘Wasteful Spending’ in Earmarks

President Bush criticized Congress on Thursday for including thousands of earmarks -- small projects for which lawmakers target funds -- in its spending bills. Fiscal experts explain how Congress intends to use those earmarks and how they affect the overall budget.

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    Next, those things Congress uses to spend special money. They're called earmarks. And Jeffrey Brown has our story.


    The massive $515 billion spending bill Congress approved this week includes more than $7 billion for so-called earmarks or targeted spending projects, nearly 10,000 of them in all that members inserted to benefit their home states and districts.

    REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), Arizona: … $1.6 million for the city of Bastrop, Louisiana. According to the Bastrop Daily Enterprise, quote, "The money is officially earmarked for the purchase of bulletproof vests and body armor. Bulletproof vests only cost about $700 to $800, however, so $1.6 million would appear to be overkill."

    Police chief Curtis Stephenson agrees, conceding, "There's no way we need that kind of money just to put all our people in vests."


    Some members, House Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona among them, rail against earmarks, claiming they're slipped into spending bills under the cover of darkness. Others, however, trumpet their ability to bring home the bacon.

    When Democrats took control of Congress last January, they promised greater transparency of the earmark process. And this week, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin reported progress.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), Illinois: The total dollar amount of the earmarks contained in those appropriations equals 43 percent of the earmarks contained in the Republican appropriations bills of two years ago, a 57 percent reduction in the dollar value of earmarks, total transparency, total disclosure.


    Not good enough, said the president today.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Together with the previously passed defense spending bill, that means Congress has approved about 11,900 earmarks this year. And so I'm instructing Budget Director Jim Nussle to review options for dealing with the wasteful spending in the omnibus bill.


    But according to one watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the White House plays the earmark game, too. It claims the administration managed to insert more than 1,600 earmarks into the spending bill.