It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like-A Lot of Money

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Christmas came early to Capital Hill this year. In one of the most prolific spending sprees ever engaged in by the United States Congress, leaders in both the House and Senate were busily stuffing pork and pet projects into major bills last week to help induce passage just before leaving town for the year.

The bill to reform Medicare, for example, included proposals that congressional leaders suggested would cost $400 billion, but independent observers were estimating would cost as much as three times that.

A massive defense bill passed the week before will increase spending by 20% to a record $401 billion next year. A separate bill to finance veterans and housing programs, still being debated last week, would add $22 billion in new spending.

About the only thing that didn't pass was an energy bill that would have handed out $31 billion in goodies to energy interests. The bill died, mostly because of a controversial provision that would have prevented states from suing producers of gasoline alternative MTBE.

And all this was going on while this year's record $450 billion federal budget deficit is expected to soar to over $500 billion next year!

The spending orgy did have some light moments. Like the debate over whether Congress should appropriate $1.5 million for NCUA's community development revolving loan fund or just $1 million. That extra $500,000 must have been a tough call.

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