Broad Senate Support for the Return of Earmarks | Citizens Against Government Waste

Broad Senate Support for the Return of Earmarks

The WasteWatcher

The return of earmarks continues to prove bipartisanship is alive in Washington, D.C.; at least when it comes to requesting expensive and wasteful projects. 

In the Senate, Democrats lead the way with 48 legislators participating, while 16 Republican Senators have submitted earmark requests.  The only issue left to settle is how the earmarks should be distributed, with Republicans pushing for a 50-50 split of the money.  Thus far, 64 Senators have submitted approximately 5,000 earmark requests. 

Amongst this number are a few noteworthy requests, including $212 million by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to improve water infrastructure in Hempstead, New York.  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) submitted a few dubious requests, including $2 million for enhancements to a bicycle and walking trail, and $125,000 for a new elevator in a public library.  Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) requested $1.7 million to renovate and purchase new equipment for a hockey arena.  Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) requested funding for two small projects at colleges in his state, including $160,000 to for the cultivation of vegetables at Lincoln University and $70,000 to construct a solar system model at Montgomery County Community College.

As noted, many Republicans also joined the fray.  Unsurprisingly, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee enthusiastically joined the process; nine of the 16 Republicans to have submitted earmark requests thus far serve on that committee.  These include Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Senate Appropriations Committee member Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) who each requested $60 million for new construction on the campuses of University of South Alabama College of Medicine and Missouri State University, respectively.  Sen. Blunt also asked for $11.5 million to refigure and repurpose the grounds of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.  In addition, Sen John Thune (R-S.D.) asked for $30 million to build a highway interchange in Sioux Falls, and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) requested $650,000 to fight off feral hogs.

The lessons of the earmark moratorium have been quickly forgotten by members of Congress.  It was instituted following a decade of scandals that resulted in jail terms for Reps. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  As long as this easily abused system remains in place, it is all but guaranteed that more wasteful and unnecessary requests will be funded.  The likelihood of additional legislators one day ending up in prison has also been increased.

-Christopher Pellegrino

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