To dwell on the past for a brief moment (but segue-ing, we promise, into today), we do wonder whether the White House realized the president would face such enormous pressure during his travels yesterday to reaffirm with a blood oath his commitment to find $20 billion for rebuilding New York.
First came the headlines in the New York newspapers slamming White House budget director Daniels for his ill-timed "money-grubbing comment" — though only his most uncharitable critics compared it to Pat Buchanan's references to "Bob Rubin and the New York bankers."
Then there was Daniels' walkback one day later, and a White House commitment to expend $20 billion on top of victim's compensation.
The president was quite clear yesterday: "I told the people of New York that we will work to provide at least $20 billion to help New York rebuild herself. And that includes money apart from the Victims Compensation Fund. And when I say $20 billion, I mean $20 billion."
So far, about $11 billion has been earmarked for the city. The New York Times ' Nagourney gets Senators Schumer and Clinton to tentatively offer "they might once and for all end concern that New York would end up not getting the money." ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/07/politics/07BU.S.H.html )
The New York Post praised "Dubya's Pledge." ( http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/40912.htm )
And the Daily News offered this one-sided give-and-take between the president and his budget director: "While the president declined to say whether Daniels was mistaken or if the White House made a sudden about-face, he assured New Yorkers that he and his budget director were on the same page. 'Mitch understands my pledge,' Bush said. 'He understands what I said.'" ( http://www.nydailynews.com/today/News_and_Views/City_Beat/a-140617.asp )
It may well be to Daniels' endless frustration that his institutional, and probably personal instinct to restrain spending is countermanded by the significant political benefits of, well, spending.
Which leads us, as promised, to today. Consider the barbed letter Rep. Bill Young (R-Appropriations Party) sent to Daniels yesterday, in which he reminded the OMB chief that appropriating is Congress' prerogative — Congress' constitutional prerogative. "Unless the Constitution is amended, Congress will continue to exercise its discretion over federal funds and will earmark those funds for purposes we deem appropriate." Which means: more shipbuilding in Mississippi, more statues, more highway construction funds, more museums, more earmarks, more pork.
Roll Call adds, in a story about how the move to repeal earmarks ticked off members: ""I don't feel that we're going to repeal any earmarks," said Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. 'There's no way we're going to do that.' Regula said he had received a number of calls from fellow Republicans who were worried that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already begun to use the issue to stir up trouble in their districts." ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/02/news0207f.html )
Pork, of course, is bad in the abstract but politically necessary in the particular, particularly if you're a vulnerable member of Congress up for re-election. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37487-2002Feb7.html )