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Boehner Gets His Earmark

February 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Amid all the cuts in the Republicans’ continuing resolution is a provision that would spend millions on a program that nobody besides the defense contractors who benefit from it seems to want. Reuters:

House Republicans will not eliminate the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a $515 billion Pentagon budget for the current fiscal year that is due to be unveiled later Friday, a lawmaker who oversees Pentagon funding said.

“The bill that we’re going to deal with next week has the money in it,” Republican Representative C.W. Bill Young, who chairs the HouseAppropriations defense subcommittee, said of the engine being developed by General Electric and Britain’s Rolls-Royce.

The Pentagon has tried for five years to cancel the alternate engine, but lawmakers have refused to kill the program.

Indeed, it’s in the bill that the House is taking up later this week. According to USA Today it will add $456 million to the budget. 

So, why, when the Republicans are doing everything else they can to out-cut Obama, would they include this extra money in their budget? Scott Lilly at CAP took a look and concluded that it’s about House Speaker Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8] securing a favor for corporations and workers in his district. Lilly spent decades working for Congress, including years as a staff director for the Appropriations Committee, so he knows the inside game of how this stuff works:

The item is a down payment that would obligate the federal government to future payments that could well be three or four times the increased spending added to this particular piece of legislation, with a big portion of the funds flowing to two cities in Ohio—Cincinnati, where Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) grew up, and Dayton, the largest city in his congressional district.

The money will go to pay the costs to General Electric Co.’s General Electric Aviation unit and the British-owned Rolls Royce Group for their development of an engine for the new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft—money that looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark.

Now that both chambers of Congress have banned the old type of earmark — the ones that used to be disclosed in reports that accompanied appropriations bills — they’re going to be looking for new ways to direct favors to their constituents and funders. Unfortunately, we have no idea what these new earmarks are going to look like or where they will pop up. In the case of the Boehner earmark, we’re lucky that a former Appropriations Committee staffer though to look at it and figure it out. But you can be sure that there’s a lot more just like this that is slipping by completely under the radar, probably even in this 419-page continuing resolution.

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  • fizzlesquirt 02/14/2011 8:42am

    This is not why we voted for you guys in the last election. You simply don’t get it. Quit spending money before you end up making the dollar completely worthless.

    How about some earmark reform. Line item vote so we’re not saddled with a bunch of earmarks that aren’t related to a bill.

    -Frustrated with our government.

  • Kss 02/14/2011 10:50pm

    Yeah, defense spending ONLY benefits defense contractors. Mmmm, that sounds like a well reasoned logical thought to me…
    Snark Attack! ;-/

  • DeborahJBrown 02/15/2011 2:47am

    This guy is such a snake… I’m not surprised by this at all. There’s probably more hidden “favors” in his budget. He does not represent the people, he represents his own special interests.

  • milton6994 02/15/2011 4:14am

    OK. Come on, Donny. By the way you are defining “earmark” every expenditure would be considered one, since the spending goes to SOMEONE’S district.

    The earmarks we want to eliminate are things like the John Murtha Airport, etc.

    Earmarks are those expenditures that “apply to a very limited number of individuals or entities” [Wiki]. While a particular defense contractor in a particular district is certainly “limited,” the benefit applies nationally.

  • Anon987 02/21/2011 10:42am

    @milton: Every such expenditure IS an earmark. Congress should set budgets for the agency and leave it to the agency to decide how best to spend their budget. Congress SHOULD NOT dictate to the agency how to spend the money, ie. you get 600 million, 500 million of which you must spend on this engine (example for illustrative purposes only).
    Earmarks need to go away – they drive corruption, inflate the budget, and generally work against the common good by benefiting small subsets of the population at the expense of everyone else. Note that the Pentagon did not want the engine.

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