The Desert Beacon is one of Nevada's finest bloggers and will be among several future contributors to Helluva Heller. Here's an example of the Desert Beacon's great work, a take on Heller's position on the Iraq war supplemental bill:
No Surprise Department: The compromise version of the Iraq occupation supplemental funding bill will be supported by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV1). Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV3), Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV2), and Senator John Ensign (R-NV) will oppose the bill. [LVRJ]
Senator Ensign repeats the standard Bush Administration line that the call for troop redeployment is "based on the judgment of politicians in Washington with no regard for our commanders on the ground." Rep. Heller says, "I think the language restricts our soldiers, and there is still pork." Rep. Porter stated, "I encourage them to maintain their confidence and permit him (General Petraeus) to finish the job he was sent to execute."
Representative Heller's comment is perhaps more ideology than thoughtful reflection, and may illustrate his lack of experience in the Congress. He tags along holding the President's line that the decisions in regard to the occupation of Iraq should be left to Generals (soldiers?) who agree with the President's policy, and offers the "No Pork" argument as if supplemental funding bills don't usually carry a variety of funding requests. The 2006 supplemental funding bill included $20 billion for Gulf Coast recovery, $2.3 billion for bird flu preparations, and $2 billion to send National Guard units to the Mexican border. Senate Republicans tried, and ultimately failed, to put another $4 billion in the bill for agricultural subsidies, $1.1 billion for Gulf Coast fishing industries, and $700 million for rerouting a rail line in Mississippi. The 2003 and 2005 supplemental appropriations acts also carried their fair share of items unrelated to the occupation of Iraq: $70 million in aid for the Ukraine and former Soviet states, $12.3 million for the Architect of the Capitol, $24 million for the Forest Service, and $104 million for watershed protection, $500 million for California fire relief, $245 million for peacekeeping operations in Liberia, and $100 million for international famine and disaster assistance. [dem.gov]
It's perfectly acceptable to rail against "pork" in general, but what Representative Heller is objecting to in H.R. 1591 includes appropriations to the Department of Agriculture related to anti-terrorism activities, emergency appropriations to the Department of Justice, anti-drug operation in Afghanistan, funding for the Commander's Emergency Response program in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for Iraqi provincial reconstruction teams, funding for soldiers' physical evaluation boards, appropriations to the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Defense Department's Nuclear non-proliferation program. [LOC]
If these occupation and anti-terrorism provisions aren't what Representative Heller found objectionable, perhaps he's disturbed by the appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security incorporated in the bill in Chapter 5? Supplemental appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Chapter 7 for medical facilities, prosthetic research, and general operating expenses? Or, is the newly minted Representative objecting to the provisions in Chapter 8 calling for funding the United States Agency for International Development? For non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, de-mining, and peacekeeping operations?
If the "pork" isn't in Title I of the bill, perhaps Rep. Heller is looking to Title II? It's hard to imagine that the Representative of a district in which agriculture plays a significant role in local economies would object to the resumption of the Livestock Indemnity Program first enacted to compensate livestock producers in the Gulf Coast region for their losses. Could it be that the 2nd District congressman doesn't believe that this program might ultimately benefit ranchers after a severe fire season?
Representative Heller has been loath to support funding relief programs for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, therefore he may find appropriations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for Small Business Administration disaster loan programs, housing, education, and FEMA operations (Chapters 2-7) objectionable? If so, then Mr. Heller joins an administration has shown itself to be long on promises of aid to the Gulf Coast, and relatively short on performance. [NYT] [WaPo]
If the first two titles (Iraq and Hurricane relief assistance) don't form the crux of Rep. Heller's objections, then one might assume he has problems with Title III for agricultural assistance? Surely, the representative of an agrarian district isn't objecting to crop loss assistance programs (sec 3101) or livestock disaster loss compensation (section 3102)? In the wake of the FDA's admission that food safety inspection of our produce and meat products is woefully inadequate, [MSNBC] does the 2nd District Representative object to assisting spinach farmers in California and other western states who were devastated by the recent recall? Does he really object to funding (section 3109) programs to prohibit the importation of some fish because of outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic septicemia? [USGS]
Does Heller object to funding the Office of Women's Health (section 4104)? Extending the deadline for states to ensure punch card voting systems be replaced? Improving the contracting systems for the Coast Guard? Funding Department of the Interior programs to detect Avian Flu? Or funding Avian Flu vaccine research? Federal contracting reform? Or eliminating the SCHIP shortfall? [AAFP] Applying the Federal minimum wage laws to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and American Samoa? Extending the work opportunity tax credit through 2008, and other provisions of the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007? [LOC]
It's inconceivable that a Representative who speaks often and forcefully about ending waste, fraud and abuse in Federal spending would have objections to the Supplemental bill's inclusions requiring federal agencies to develop and implement plans to minimize the use of wasteful sole-source and cost-reimbursement contracts, or requiring agencies to provide Congress with documentation justifying the award of non-competitive contracts. [AppHouse] However, in opposing H.R. 1591 that is exactly what Representative Heller is doing.
The bottom line seems to be that the Republican members of the Nevada Congressional delegations are telling us that we have to support the Bush Administration's policy in regard to the occupation of Iraq, no matter if that is a direct reversal of GOP positions during the operations in Bosnia, no matter that the current policy calls for an extended and expensive occupation with no end in sight, and no matter if the supplemental appropriations bill incorporates matters of national interest and benefit.
So, why would the Democratic party leadership send such a bill to the President knowing he will veto it? The question can just as easily be reversed: Why would the president threaten to veto a bill he knew he was going to get?