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Bait and Switch? Not Quite

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A month ago, Senator Ted Stevens rose indignantly on the Senate floor and promised, "I will put the Senate on notice -- and I don't kid people -- if the Senate decides to discriminate against our state, to take money only from our state, I'll resign from this body." He was referring, of course, to the two infamous Bridges to Nowhere, for which the Alaska delegation had earmarked almost half a billion dollars of federal money.

Well, after PARADE magazine put a schematic of one of the bridges on its cover, and Reader's Digest scheduled a feature, the game was up. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee stripped the earmarks for the bridges citing the controversy. Stevens said, "It's unfortunate that Alaska has been unfairly maligned in the press, and by some members of Congress, forcing the Appropriations Committee to take this drastic measure." But Alaska's senior Senator did not keep his promise to resign.

Bait and switch? Sadly, Stevens is probably right to hang in there -- because while the two bridges are no longer "earmarked," the money that Alaska was originally going to get for the bridges will still flow to the state. Indeed, Alaska is being rewarded for having pushed forward two projects so unworthy that they could not withstand the very low bar of Congressional scrutiny for such projects -- the rankest pork in the barrel. Alaska keeps the money and can now use it for whatever transportation projects it decides.

As the Houston Chronicle put it:

"If Congress is serious about cutting spending in order to pay for disaster relief, this is hardly the way to go about it. To expunge the pork barrel stink emanating from the $286.4 billion transportation bill passed earlier this year, members will have to do more than repackage the most egregious examples of wasteful allocations while slashing education, health care and other social service programs to pay for storm repairs."