Against all odds, the lame-duck session marking the post-election end to the 111th Congress proved surprisingly productive with just enough bipartisanship to mark the passage of numerous high-profile bills for President Obama to sign into law.
Yet, attempts by some in Congress to push a wasteful $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill have thankfully been turned back by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). These two principled New Englanders understand that rushing a bad bill with more than 6,600 earmarks and a cost of $8.6 billion was far worse than simply passing the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House finally did with just hours to spare.
Chief among the waste that needs to be cut in 2011 is nearly half a billion dollars for the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 extra engine, which is years behind Pratt & Whitney’s proven F135 now in production. Moreover, the F136 continues to suffer numerous developmental setbacks, adds no additional capability, complicates future military logistics, creates no net jobs since the number of F-35 aircraft will not change, and diverts vital funds that could support the warfighter in countless other ways. No wonder this engine has been opposed vigorously by Presidents Bush and Obama, their defense secretaries and military service chiefs, along with a coalition of third parties that spans the political spectrum from organized labor to fiscal conservatives.
As our recent ads in the Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Maine daily newspapers note, we appreciate Sen. Lieberman and Snowe’s “vigilance and astute stewardship of the American taxpayer’s money.” Clearly, government agencies need a predictable and transparent funding stream; this is especially true for the Defense Department as they continue to wage war in southwest Asia. But in an age of unprecedented belt-tightening and voter discontent with politics as usual, a bloated omnibus bill infected with thousands of earmarks totaling billions of dollars was simply irresponsible, as would continuation of the F136 through the NDAA or other means.
As the holiday break ends and the new 112th Congress take their seats, they should seriously consider what “gifts” they bestow on themselves, our warfighters and the American taxpayers. Wasteful earmarks like half a billion dollars for the F136 extra engine aren’t just woefully out of style or even a souring lump of coal. They are the dreaded leftover fruitcake no one can swallow.