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Inside Politics
How It Works

Highway bill loaded with pork

Democrats, Republicans love money for local projects



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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Consider these items: construction of a $7 million ''Renaissance Square'' performing arts center in Rochester, New York; a $1.5 million improvement for the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan; and the $1 million renovation of a historic bus station in Jessup, Georgia.

There's money for all three -- and much more -- in the new highway construction bill.

Many people may not understand what such projects have to do with highways. But that's "How It Works."

Lawmakers of both parties use the massive bill to earmark funds for local projects that appeal to the folks back home. That's especially important in election years. Because there's something for everyone in the bill, it routinely sails through Congress.

The $275 billion dollar transportation bill that the House approved last week contains at least $11 billion worth of local pet projects.

Rep. William Lipinski, D-Illinois, who pushed through a $4 million parking garage, wanted an even bigger bill. Last year, he introduced a $375 billion highway bill -- a full $100 million more than the one passed last week.

Lipinski may be a Democrat, but pork is bipartisan. Kingston, the sponsor of the historic bus station renovation, is a conservative Republican.

Democrats and Republicans defended the spending. "If you don't keep good highways, you can't keep and grow good jobs," Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Missouri, said on the Senate floor.

Others see the spending as fiscally irresponsible. "How far and disgraceful a path we have tread in this pork-barrel laden piece of over-spending at a time when we have all-time deficits," declared Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

The White House agrees and is threatening a veto -- which both houses of Congress have enough votes to override. In the end, that means President Bush will be able to take a stand against pork-barrel spending, but House and Senate members will still get the pork they so desire.

CNN's Claire Brinberg and Mark Rodeffer contributed to this report.


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