WASHINGTON – A number of lawmakers who voted earlier this month against the omnibus appropriations bill are now back in their home districts bragging about how they brought home the bacon for their constituents.
Critics call it the height of chutzpah, but lawmakers say that's not the case at all.
"I fight as hard as I can to keep the pie as small as possible," said Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (search), R-Md. "Once they decide how large the pie is, then I want to get as big a piece of that for my district."
The House of Representatives approved the $328 billion omnibus spending bill Dec. 8 on a 242-176 vote. Dozens of lawmakers denounced it as a budget buster.
The fiscally-conservative Bartlett was so against the bill that he wrote a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., complaining about its cost. He voted against the final package.
But when Bartlett returned home for the winter recess, he eagerly touted the rush of federal dollars that would reach his 6th Congressional District.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (search), one of Washington's top budget watchdogs, said that it all comes down to rationalizing deficit spending.
"It's certainly the height of hypocrisy to claim that you are helping your constituents at the same time you are voting against the bill," Schatz told Fox News.
"No, no, no. You fight, first of all, to keep the pie very small, and once it's decided how big the pie will be, then you fight for your big slice," he said.
Plenty of lawmakers attacked the pie, but fought for their slice.
"Christmas has come early for President Bush and his high-dollar friends, but for millions of American families, it looks like the Grinch will be stealing Christmas," Rep. Louise Slaughter (search), D-N.Y., said during House debate of the bill.
Slaughter voted against the package, but then touted $1 million in the bill for a heart center in Niagara Falls (search), inside her 28th Congressional District.
Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer (search), the House minority whip, said he could not in good conscience vote for the bill, but later saluted $10 million for a new weather center in Camp Springs, Md., located in his 5th Congressional District.
Others who voted "no" on the bill in Washington, but emphasized "yes" on the pork at home, include Republican Reps. Jim Ryun of Kansas, Sue Myrick of North Carolina and Steve King of Iowa. Prominent California Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic House Campaign Chairman Bob Matsui also played up the gains in their communities.
"Certainly, what's in there so far indicates that this could be another record year for pork," Schatz said.
The Senate has yet to vote on the bill, scheduling it as a first priority when lawmakers return on Jan. 20. That gives legislators in the world's greatest deliberative body time to join in on this latest budget charade.