WASHINGTON — It took up just three lines in Congress’s last big appropriations bill, on page 123 out of 487. But it is a legend, a wonk’s campfire story. The government spending nobody could kill.
“For payment to the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation … $450,000, to remain available until expended.”
This is the great survivor in the vast ecosystem of federal funding: a 20-year-old program that gives out cash prizes for science. President Barack Obama has called it inefficient and redundant. Both Obama and the House GOP — people who agree on almost nothing — have tried to eliminate it.
Each time, however, it has been saved by a powerful friend in the Senate.
Now, Washington is bracing for another crisis over spending: It will begin in earnest next week, as Republicans press Obama for spending cuts in exchange for raising the national debt limit.