Democrats in the House have added a new facet to the debate over the Iraq emergency spending bill being debated in Congress by attaching $3.7 billion in farm spending to the bill.
Although some Democrats have said they would back off spending on "pet projects" tacked onto legislation, many Democrats have been supporting farm disaster aid since the previous Congress.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., defends Democrats' desire to add farm disaster aid - which makes up the majority of the agricultural spending tacked on to the Iraq bill. "Every time there is a disaster on the farming front, the federal government provides assistance," Obey says in USA Today. "This is no different than what's been done for the last 50 years."
Obey added $252 million for milk subsides and Sam Farr, representing California's Salinas Valley, put in $25 million to help spinach growers offset losses due to the E. coli concerns of 2006. But the vast majority of the money - $3.3 billion - goes to help farmers who suffered losses due to natural disasters.
A USA Today article Thursday morning paints the farm spending as Democrats paying back farm interests that contribute to their campaigns. For instance, Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., helped to add $74 million to help peanut growers with storage fees, saying he would have done the same whether or not peanut interests had made big contributions to his last race.
Meanwhile, House Republicans, who already opposed the spending bill because of language aimed at getting U.S. troops out of the Iraq, say the farm aid is aimed at attracting support from moderate Democrats who hadn't yet committed to the bill. Bishop and Farr, for their part, say they support the Iraq language with or without the added farm funding.