Earmarks are special-interest spending projects that Congressmen and Senators stick into 2,000-page bills. These pork projects are often unrelated to the official purpose of the bill.
These days, earmarks in general have a bad reputation. Of course, specific earmarks are as popular as ever with the folks back home. Voters love pork when it’s on their plates.
You need to know that nothing changes in Washington. Voters forget anything that is over six months old. So, let’s go back in the Web’s time machine to 2010.
A report in 2010 on the popularity of earmarks said that 25 Senators who voted against earmarks larded bills with pork their states. It turns out that most of these Senators are Republicans. Most of them are still in office. This was the $1.3 trillion deficit spending bill totaling $3.8 trillion in spending.
Republicans are calling the 1,924-page bill a pork-filled mess and accusing Democrats of trying to jam it through Congress with minimal debate and little if any opportunity to make changes. Some GOP senators voiced outrage but made no effort to dump their own earmarks from the legislation, which has been in the works for months.
The earmark-free approach promised by 39 Republicans and Democrats was adopted well after work got under way on the bill that’s coming to the Senate floor Thursday and has been endorsed by President Barack Obama. But with just a few exceptions, senators have not paired their opposition with requests to strip their earmarks from the bill.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he is opposed to the bill, but it still has $85 million of his earmarks, including $18 million for a railhead upgrade at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
How many earmarks are there in the bill? 6,714 costing $8.3 billion. “Twenty-one Republicans and four Democrats who voted for the immediate ban on earmarks claimed them in the bill.”
In a $3.8 trillion spending bill, $8.3 billion was chump change. But the earmarks were examples of how the game is played in Washington.
At a news conference Wednesday, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, assaulted the bill – but in turn came under attack from reporters questioning why they have earmarks in the measure.
Thune backed 17 earmarks for $23 million, including $500,000 for a terminal expansion at the Rapid City airport and $1 million for improvements to state route 73 in Jackson County.
“I support those projects, but I don’t support this bill,” Thune said.
Cornyn obtained numerous earmarks as well, including $110,000 for the Texas State Technical College and $500,000 for a wastewater plant in Edinburg, Texas.
“I’m going to vote against this bill and refuse all those earmarks,” Cornyn said. So long as they remain in the bill, however, Cornyn’s earmarks are going ahead. His requests were made in the spring.
It’s all kabuki theater. It’s all public posturing for the voters back home.
Congress is spending us blind.