The Senate on Thursday passed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package and averted a government shutdown, and in doing so, earmarked $3.6 million for the “Michelle Obama Trail” in Georgia and sparked a furor from Republicans uninterested in using taxpayer dollars to bring the former first lady back into the limelight in this way, as Newsweek reports.
Unveiled by the DeKalb County Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs back in 2018, the trail itself is described as a “6.5-mile out-and-back trail near Conley, Georgia” that is well-suited to running, walking, and road biking.
Despite the fact that the amount set aside for the trail was comparatively quite small, given the massive size of the overall spending measure, many Republicans blasted its inclusion just the same.
North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop, for instance, took to social media and included it in a list of omnibus earmarks he said were “some of the most egregious provisions of the bill.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) joined Bishop in condemning the expenditure, declaring on Twitter, “The Democrats' reckless omnibus bill spends YOUR money on a 'Michelle Obama Trail,' a 'Ukraine Independence Park' in DC, and a 'Speaker Pelosi Federal Building' in San Francisco” and asking his followers, “Are you ok with all of this?”
Pledging that he would vote to remove this and similar boondoggles from the final bill, Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said, “Would you spend $2 million on a wax museum? How about $3.6 million on the “Michelle Obama Trail?' Well, you're about to.”
Money for the Michelle Obama Trail was not the only omnibus earmark that drew significant pushback from Republican legislators, however, as Fox News reports that the bill also included funding for a Los-Angeles transgender Latina organization aiming to “dismantle” the American system of criminal justice and put an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiatives.
The organization that goes by the name TransLatin@ Coalition also has as part of its stated mission the injection of “transgender history and discourse” into schools serving the youngest of the nation's children, as Fox News further noted.
Funding for the group was sought by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), a member of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, and according to the organization's declared policy agenda, its work is directed towards goals that include ending the construction of migrant detention centers, the closing of prisons, and the decriminalization of sex work, panhandling, and the like.
In an op-ed for Newsweek, political commentator Brad Polumbo took aim at the current state of the congressional budgeting process, noting that “when both parties' establishments come together on something, most of the time it means everyday Americans are about to get royally screwed.”
Polumbo noted the numerous “corrupt and wasteful” financial earmarks baked into bills such as the one passed on Thursday, referencing the Michelle Obama Trail, but also mentioning a $200 million set aside for “gender equity” in Pakistan and $410 million for “border security in Lebanon.”
“This kind of budgeting makes a sucker out of you and me,” Polumbo asserted. “It's a national disgrace and a dereliction of Congress's constitutional duties.” Leaders on both sides of the aisle, he added, are to blame, in that they have “compromised away their last shreds of integrity in exchange for a few of their pet ambitions or projects.”
Though in the end, the Senate went ahead and approved the gargantuan spending measure loaded with outrageous pet projects and spurious priorities, many on the GOP side voiced frustration over the fact that they were forced to vote on a mass of bills lumped into one package without having much time to review its provisions, as The Hill further noted.
Summing things up succinctly and accurately was Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who declared, “The process is a complete disaster,” and it really is long past time for lawmakers – and the American electorate – to demand better.