President Obama's economic stimulus bill includes tens of millions of dollars that critics claim will do little or nothing to generate or preserve jobs, including money to clear away obstacles for fish, monitor earthquakes and volcanoes, write a report to Congress and reward academic achievement.
Obama's push for the massive economic stimulus package now moves to the Senate, where its spending provisions will face another round of challenges as well as fresh efforts to add to the spending total.
The House approved the $819 billion tax cut and public works bill Wednesday without a single Republican vote and even the president suggested it could be improved.
"I hope that we can continue to strengthen this plan before it gets to my desk," Obama said Wednesday.
The president hopes to be able to sign a stimulus bill into law by mid-February as grim economic headlines continue to worry economists. Today's bad news included Ford Motor Co.'s announcement that it lost $5.9 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, and news that the number of people receiving jobless benefits hit 4.78 million, the highest on records dating back to 1967.
The stimulus bill is certain to be altered in the Senate where Republicans will renew their efforts to remove what they have termed political "pork," or spending they claim is not intended to stimulate the creation or the preservation of jobs.
"This is about spending money we don't have for things we don't need," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said today in a first round of attacks by GOP senators.
"A trillion dollars is a terrible thing to waste," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss, rounding up the numbers a bit.
The Democrats tried to ease Republican concerns before the House vote by eliminating provisions that would have expanded family planning programs for poor families and killing $200 million meant to refurbish the National Mall in Washington.
But Republicans said those cuts were only a start. Many provisions in Obama's bill, they argue, do not comply with their guidelines that stimulus spending be temporary, targeted and timely.
"Not only the devil is going to be in the details, Satan himself is going to be in the details if you start looking at where this money is going to be spent," Leslie Paige of the Citizens Against Government Waste told "Good Morning America" today.
Items in the House bill that have a Republican bull's-eye on them include:
$335 million for education related to sexually transmitted diseases
"We have yet to hear any reasonable rationale for how this creates any jobs in the private sector," Paige tod "GMA."
$650 million for coupons to help people make the switch to digital TV
$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
$150 million for the Smithsonian Institution
$50 million for the National Cemetery Administration's monument and memorial repairs
$800 million for Amtrak, the country's railroad system
$2 billion for child-care subsidies
$400 million for global warming research
$100 million for reducing the danger of lead paint in homes
$2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects
$50 million for NASA facilities that may have been harmed by natural disaster
$200 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor earthquakes and volcanoes
$650 million for the U.S. Forest Service to remove fish passage barriers, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects