As U.S. lawmakers went home for the holidays, they left behind a bevy of completed spending bills that offer -- in political terms -- both pork and lumps of coal for Utah residents.
Among the legislation signed into law by President Barrack Obama last week was the $636 billion defense appropriations bill, a military spending plan for 2010 that was loaded with both disappointment and delight for Utah.
Disappointed by the bill is Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who pointed out that Hill Air Force Base and others connected to the local defense industry lost out in part of the bill's final configuration.
"The version of the defense spending bill that was voted on by the House cut programs such as the F-22, missile defense and future workload at ATK, all of which are essential components of Utah's economy and our national security capabilities both foreign and domestic," Bishop wrote after the plan passed out of the House.
Bishop voted against the bill he had supported in an earlier version. He argued the finished legislation misallocated funds and included numerous unrelated provisions added by the Senate that "have no business being thrown onto" a defense appropriations bill.
"Americans deserve better and this Congress is overdue to make changes to the way it approaches policy making. I am hoping for improved leadership within the Democrat-led congress next year, but that may be asking too much," Bishop added.
Both Utah senators voted for the Pentagon spending bill.
GOP senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett reported the legislation contains more than $75 million for Utah defense installations and industries.
"I am pleased that the Congress recognized the great programs in Utah that not only support our national defense, but bolster the defense industry's capability to research, develop, and deliver needed products," Bennett wrote in a press statement after voting for the bill.
The defense bill includes money for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a 3.4 percent pay raise for all uniformed personnel, funding for the Defense Health Program to provide medical care for military and their families, and funds in the billions of dollars for the readiness and training of troops.
"When our nation is at war, it is vitally important to honor the sacrifices American soldiers are making to protect our freedom by ensuring they have the support and resources they need. This bill does that, while also ensuring that the defense installations and companies in Utah that do such an excellent job of supporting that mission can continue to do so," wrote Hatch.
Several other Utah projects are funded in the appropriations bill, including money for the University of Utah to provide prosthetics research for victims of limb loss.
"It also guarantees continued employment for scores of Utahns who rely on this work to feed their families." Hatch added, regarding the bill's overall impact on the state.
The defense spending plan also provides the finances for additional "Mine Resistant Ambush Protect Vehicles," which protects troops against roadside bombs, and $80 million for Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, a resource that helps reduce the level of risk and exposure of pilots in war zones.