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Defense Bill Larded Up With Earmarks

May 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Republicans took over the House on promises to cut pork spending and eliminate earmarks. But according to Donna Casatta at the Associated Press, some of the Republican House freshmen whose elections were premised on these promises are now pushing additions to the Defense Authorization bill that are designed to direct federal funds to corporations and defense interests in their districts. “The additions look suspiciously like the pet projects that Republicans prohibited when they took over the House and that the new class of lawmakers, many with tea party backing, swore off in a promise to change Washington’s spending habits,” writes Casatta.

For example, Rep. Robert Schilling [R, IL-17] won an amendment directing money to a weapons company in his district ::

A provision added to Obama’s budget request would provide another $2.5 million for weapons and munitions advanced technology, money for the Quad City Manufacturing Lab at the Rock Island Arsenal in freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling’s Illinois district. The lab conducts research and development on titanium, lightweight composites and other advanced materials.

“Through this legislation, we were able to pave the way for more public-private partnerships at RIA that will increase the workload, keep skills sharp and promote jobs,” Schilling, who was born and raised in Rock Island, said in a statement. “These policies will help protect our war fighters abroad and help us prosper economically at home. I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the hard-working men and women at the Rock Island Arsenal,”

…as did Rep. Vicky Hartzler [R, MO-4] ::

Another tea party-backed lawmaker, freshman Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, won an additional $20 million for “mixed conventional load capability for Air Force bombers.” Hartzler’s district is home to Whiteman Air Force Base, keeper of the nation’s B-2 bombers, and Fort Leonard Wood.

“I believe this increase in funding will ensure our air crews have the full capabilities necessary to protect this country,” Hartzler said in a statement.

The congresswoman backed the House GOP moratorium on earmarks last November, but according to published reports in Missouri, she doesn’t think the ban should apply to defense spending.

…and Rep. Steven Palazzo [R, MS-4] ::

After the committee approved the defense bill, Palazzo hailed the $189 million he secured, including $10 million to buy land for training facilities for the Army National Guard and $19.9 million for ship preliminary design and feasibility studies. Palazzo’s district is home to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula.

“I am glad to be able to help ensure the long-term viability of our shipbuilding industry and the thousands of craftsmen that build the ships,” Palazzo said in a statement.

It’s not just freshmen. An item that looks a lot like an earmark for Speaker Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8] was defeated by floor amendment in February but is now back in the bill.

These provisions are able to slip through the House-wide earmark moratorium through careful wording. The recipients are not specified in the legislative language, but they are written in such a way as to virtually guarantee that intended recipient ends up with the money. Representatives have also been known to follow up these provisions with letters and phone calls to the agencies that make the ultimate decisions on where congressional appropriations end up, pressuring them to send it to their districts.

The Defense bill is scheduled for a vote later this week.

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  • fakk2 05/23/2011 6:19pm

    Blah, this is another reason we need a return to state power. People would be able to keep a closer eye on these things if they were at the state level versus the federal level. And money from 1 state wouldn’t take away from other states.

  • Spam Comment

  • epicism 05/23/2011 7:12pm

    Only one problem with this idea: State Legislators.

  • fakk2 05/23/2011 8:59pm

    True, but it’s a lot easier to change State Legislators than Congressional Legislators.

  • helenmicheal 05/24/2011 5:34am

    It is true, only State Legislators is the problem with this idea.

  • eth111 05/24/2011 7:25am

    Proof that this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you live in a district that put supposed fiscal conservatives in office in 2010 only to catch them larding up a bill, find another candidate to back and toss them in 2012. Once these people get the message that they are being held to account, they might actually have actions that match their rhetoric.

    Primary issue here is that the large majority of politicians have an OPM addiction. They are junkies and they have managed to get a significant percentage of their constituency strung out on OPM as well. We need a 12-step program for OPM addicts at all levels of government.

    When you hear people say things like “they have no experience with politics”, it means that they haven’t gotten hooked on OPM yet. This is the best reason to vote for them. See if you can find candidates that haven’t gotten hooked or have kicked the OPM habit.

    Remember, when your representative is an OPM junkie, the monkey is on your back, not theirs.

  • nancym 05/24/2011 7:29am

    State legislators are actually the problem, because most of them eventually end up on the federal level if they manage to stay in their gerrymandered state districts long enough to accumulate power while most of the public isn’t paying attention.

    Vote from the grassroots up, or don’t be surprised about what sneaks into Congress.

  • fakk2 05/24/2011 1:53pm

    Let’s face it, all career politicians are the problem. Why is anyone opposed to term limits? I don’t get it.

    How to fix a state legislatures over 20 years:
    1.) Impose max term limits of 20 years per person (to begin with), which can include any combination of elected positions within the state
    2.) Impose max pay to be equal with the lowest paid military personnel out of bootcamp
    3.) Impose a full personal asset disclosure state constitution amendment for each elected state position for every year a person is in office
    4.) Impose a balanced-budget state constitution amendment
    5.) Lower max term limits to 2 terms per person in the state legislature

    At least these are play-around ideas without research into any of them. I can’t see a career politician being very happy with any of these items though. Maybe it’d weed out the useless candidates.

  • luminous 05/24/2011 2:22pm

    And yet that still wouldn’t solve the problem, more then enough politicians live for the 1 term cash out(example: vast majority of tea party candidates). You need to remove money from political campaigns not impose term limits.

    Make political campaigns work like they do in Britain. Ban political TV ads, robo calling, any form of private donations etc. Implement a public campaign funding system, and require all races candidates to participate in at least 3 televised debates to be on the ballot, and some sort of multi-party reform(I suggest multi winner districts or a distributed vote of some sort).

  • fakk2 05/24/2011 3:13pm

    multi winner districts or a distributed vote of some sort

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Can you elaborate some?

  • luminous 05/24/2011 4:38pm

    It is a wide subject with lots of options.

    Distributed voting, or proportional representation, is a method by which seats are handed out not by districts but by a national vote where each party/individual running gets a number of seats based on the percentage of the vote they obtain. This allows third/forth/fifth parties to actually obtain representation. This system is nice as their are almost no “losing” votes and most everyone gets represented, also eliminates the problems of garrymandering.

    More likely for the US however a multi-winner district model would be better, basically each district would have 3-6 congressional seats and the vote would be proportional within that district. This has the advantage that a party can put up more then 1 candidate and you have the ability to vote against a certain candidate without having to vote for the opposition you disagree with in order to fire him.

  • valleri 05/26/2011 9:52pm

    It is terrible that modern day politics relies so heavily on earmarks instead of common sense. At a time where budgets are bloated beyond sustainability, one would think earmarks would take a backseat to the people’s business. Unfortunately all we see is politics as usual. If politicians don’t address our debt problems, the global economy will. And if that happens, there will be little control in how fast and bad it impacts our country and people.

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