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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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