Even in an era of budget cuts, some programs won’t die

Even as Congress slices $38 billion from the current year’s budget and gears up to slash hundreds of billions more from the next, some programs seem impervious to cuts, David A. Fahrenthold says at the Washington Post.

He cites four: One spends federal money to store cotton bales. Another offers scholars a chance to study Asian-American relations. Two others pay to market U.S. agriculture products oversees and to clean up abandoned coal mines.

They have three things in common: They’re relatively inexpensive (by federal budget standards); they serve narrow constituencies; and they have backers powerful enough to withstand assaults from top Congressional leaders–even presidents in some cases.

“This is why Ronald Reagan said that a government program is the closest thing to eternal life that we’ve ever seen on Earth,” said Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Three programs backed by longtime Congressional powerbrokers did get hit, Fahrenthold notes. Congress eliminated $42 million for the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program, named for the senator from West Virginia. It cut $10 million from the National Drug Intelligence Center, a facility promoted by Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania. And it took more than half the federal funds from the Denali Commission, an agency created by Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.

All three programs share one trait: Their champions in Congress all recently died.