Responding to the world financial crisis that began with the Oct. 19 stock market collapse, the House yesterday approved legislation designed to help reduce the federal budget deficit -- and help pay for a right-hand turn lane in San Diego.
The new traffic lane on Tierrasanta Boulevard, which will allow easier access into the Murphy Canyon Heights Housing Complex, was the handiwork of Rep. William D. Lowery (R-Calif.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee that wrote the $587 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 1988.
As with most massive spending bills in Congress, this year's "continuing resolution" was a grab bag of special favors for members of the Appropriations panel, despite its lofty goal of implementing the deficit-reduction accord reached by President Reagan and congressional leaders on Nov. 20.
Tucked away in the fine print was a wealth of goodies for members to take home as they approach the 1988 election: highway and water projects, post offices, rail lines, government offices and the like.
The net result is a legislative version of "All Creatures Great and Small," a bill designed to reduce the deficit but which also sets policy on everything from clean air standards to the House telephone system.
The public works trough this time reaches inside the Beltway. Courtesy of Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) were provisions directing the D.C. government to develop plans for construction of an additional traffic lane on the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and demanding that federal highway planners study the need for more lanes on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Among the other Christmas presents in the continuing resolution:A directive that the Postal Service continue full service to the good people of Holly Springs, Miss., and upgrade the post office there. Surprise: Holly Springs is in the legislative district of Rep. Jamie L. Whitten, chairman of the Appropriations panel.
$1 million for the Bicentennial Commission to provide grants to offset costs incurred by the We the People 200 Committee, courtesy of Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.).
Language enabling seven cooperative banks in Massachusetts to leave -- without penalty -- the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. and join the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., a provision put in by Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.), the ranking Republican on the committee.
$8.5 million for the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California for a proton beam demonstration cancer treatment center, a favor to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.).
Authorization of $28 million for a highway project in Petoskey, Mich., sponsored by Rep. Bob Carr (D-Mich.).
A directive to the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that air service to the Westfield, Mass., airport is not diminished when an FAA facility moves to Bradley International in Connecticut. Courtesy of Conte.
A prohibition on the closing of a National Labor Relations Board office in El Paso, Tex., thanks to Rep. Ronald D. Coleman (D-Tex.).
A requirement that all paper used in printing U.S. currency and passports be manufactured in this country. Conte again.
Perhaps the most important of all, a threat to cancel the House's contract with AT&T unless members' phone service is improved.
Among the ironies of the legislation is that a number of Republicans whose districts stood to benefit were actively considering opposing the bill, which many GOP members felt did not go far enough in reducing the deficit.
That brought a warning from Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), a member of Appropriations who will serve on the conference committee with the Senate that will determine the final shape of the legislation.
"We're going to take some hits on people who didn't vote with us," promised Fazio.
Told of Fazio's remarks, Lowery -- who had two other trinkets in the bill in addition to the traffic lane in San Diego -- joked that he hopes "raw partisanship doesn't stand in the way of good government."
Not everyone in the House was so cavalier about Congress doing business as usual on a bill of such great import, however.
Rep. Lawrence Coughlin (R-Pa.) took to the floor yesterday to denounce the bill as a "hog's breakfast" that contains "all sorts of nefarious provisions that don't belong" in a continuing resolution.
What Coughlin failed to mention was that the menu included a suggestion that the Housing and Urban Development Department provide $13.5 million to Philadelphia to cope with a ground collapse in that city. Coughlin sponsored that one.