The language seemed innocuous enough, just a little clarification for the bureaucrats. But the way it came out was, "Three cheers for sugar and let's hear it for chocolate milk."
At the behest of the cereal and sugar industries, congressional conferees have authorized the inclusion of high-sugar cereals in the $1 billion WIC (women, infants and children) nutrition program for poor women and children.
The issue became controversial this year when the Department of Agriculture infuriated nutrition groups and some members of Congress by moving to allow high-sugar cereals in the WIC food package.
Not only would it add unnecessary costs, the critics said. It also would defeat the nutritional aims of WIC, which is meant to supplement the diets of young children, pregnant women and recent mothers.
With that, USDA backed off, but the sugar and cereal people didn't. They got Sen. Mark Andrews (R-N.D.), whose state grows sugar beets and grain, and Rep. Bob Traxler (D-Mich.), whose state makes cereal and grows beets, to take care of them.
As lobbyists watched gleefully from the sidelines, Andrews and Traxler got House-Senate conferees on the 1983 agriculture appropriations bill to adopt an industry-orchestrated directive to USDA, in effect making the high-sugar cereals and chocolate milk eligible for WIC distribution.
Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.), who argued against it in conference, and Rep. William F. Goodling (R-Pa.) have vowed to carry on the fight against the WIC changes.
Here, from the appropriations process, is another variation on an old theme--it's who you know that counts.
As a favor to Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.), a Senate subcommittee has voted to relieve Meharry Medical College in Nashville of a $29 million debt to the federal government.
Meharry, the oldest black medical school in the country, had defaulted on a $29 million loan used to build a clinical research hospital some years ago. Uncle Sam stepped in and covered the school.
But the debt threatened Meharry's accreditation and its borrowing power for school improvements. The relief bill, Baker aides said, will get the school back on an even keel. Another part of the package calls for upgrading a Veterans Administration hospital not far from Nashville to provide Meharry students a place to practice their skills.
Every time Congress passes a major tax bill, small errors and ambiguities emerge in the aftermath and, in a normally non-controversial procedure, these mistakes are corrected in remedial legislation.
This year, the legislation is called the Technical Corrections Act of 1982, and the Senate has added some language that not only corrects the law, but also helps out some specific companies, including one called Crystal Oil.
The bill contains language changing the definition of independent oil producer, allowing companies to retain the favorable tax status of an independent even while selling in excess of $5 million of oil or gas as long as the retail sale is to the Department of Defense.
That language, which congressional aides say was added by Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), is reportedly designed to allow the Crystal Oil Co. of Louisiana to bid for the oil contract at Barksdale Air Force Base, also in Long's state.
The highway bill just passed by the House that would raise the gasoline tax 5 cents a gallon also would authorize expenditures for various road and mass transit programs. A number of those turn out to be in the districts of House Public Works and Transportation Committee members.
The Transportation Department is told to "assign priority in the use of discretionary program funds," for example, to such projects as the Father Baker Bridge in Lackawanna, N.Y., and the Bainbridge Street Bridge in Sunbury, Pa.
In addition, the report declares that the Public Works Committee "intends and expects that the bikeway project in Bedford, Pennsylvania . . . should qualify to receive (95 percent) federal funding." These projects are in the districts of Reps. Henry J. Novak (D-N.Y.), Allen E. Ertel (D-Pa.) and Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), all members of the panel.
There are many other examples, but the committee did not focus exclusively on projects within the districts of its members. Section 311 of the bill excuses the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from repaying the federal government for the balance of transit funds that were borrowed to acquire rail properties. Among the districts served by the MBTA is the one represented by House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.).