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Merida Initiative update: White House sneaks it into war spending bill

By Michelle Malkin  •  May 9, 2008 09:59 AM

Back in February, I reported on the White House/State Department’s $1.4 billion “Merida Initiative,” a stimulus/national security package for Mexico.

There’s been little congressional oversight since then–let alone awareness-of the plan. Mexico has been arrogantly clamoring for the money, even as it continues to trash America as racist and meddles with our sovereignty.

So, what’s happening now? The White House is trying to stuff major portions of the Merida Initiative into the war spending bill–while our fences go unbuilt and immigration chaos reigns on our soil:

President Bush on Wednesday showcased his request for $500 million in U.S. military assistance to help Mexico combat murderous drug cartels in a bid to build congressional support for the more contentious part of his spending package — the latest multibillion dollar request for emergency war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush crafted plans for the U.S. military assistance to Mexico at a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon 14 months ago and sketched details last October, including money for military equipment such as helicopters, training and assistance in combating corruption in the criminal justice system.

Bush pitched his financing plan to the Council of the Americas, an organization of international businesses that backs free trade and democracy. The U.S. military assistance — $500 for Mexico and $50 million for Central American nations — will help them “deal with the scourge of these unbelievably wealthy and unbelievably violent drug kingpins,” Bush told the organization’s conference at the State Department.

Administration officials have said the remaining $900 million originally proposed in the Merida Initiative will be requested later…

…Bush pivoted off the remarks at the Council of the Americas to appeal for favorable congressional action on his entire emergency spending request, not just the tiny share set aside for U.S. military assistance to Mexico and Central American nations.

The total for the supplemental spending package was in flux. The Bush administration sought at least $108 billion to finance operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30. The House Democratic leadership fashioned a spending package of nearly $195 billion that included domestic spending that Bush has threatened to veto.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill may get a more detailed look at the program’s spending blueprint today when the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s panel on Latin America hears testimony from the State Department’s top Latin America specialist, Thomas Shannon.

Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy, a non-profit think tank that opposes the Merida Initiative, said the administration included financing for the program within the emergency war supplemental bill because it would be ”hard to strip out any part of that spending package.”

Details of the spending proposal were not made available by the White House.

At least one GOP congressman knows what’s going on:

Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, said he opposed providing the assistance to Mexico. “These resources should go to our own law enforcement officers rather than Mexico’s,” Culberson said.

And at least one GOP senator has called the White House for cramming the plan into the war spending bill and circumventing the regular deliberative process:

But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, opposed including the funds in the war supplemental. A spokesman said Cornyn “believes additional funding requests should be reviewed on their merits through the normal appropriations process.”

Republicans have rightly lambasted the Dem leadership for larding up the war supplemental with unrelated spending. Their position is weakened when the White House is guilty of the very same thing.

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