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Bipartisan Coalition Defeats Boehner's Defense Earmark

February 17, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

On Monday I wrote about a provision in the Republicans’ continuing resolution that would spend $450 million on a redundant DoD project that is and opposed by the Pentagon, but is included because, as it appears, it benefits defense contractors in House Speaker John Boehner’s [R, OH-8] district. As long-time Appropriations Committee staffer Scott Lilly concluded, the provision “looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark.” Remember, the Republicans claim to have banned earmarking this session. Thanks to Rep. Tom Rooney [R, FL-16], the provision has been removed from the bill, saving $450 this year from a bloated military budget that rarely scrutinized by members of Congress from either party.

The Palm Beach Post reports:

With an odd alliance between tea party Republicans and the Obama administration, the U.S. House today defied Speaker John Boehner and voted for an amendment by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, to cancel a $3 billion alternate fighter jet engine program.

The 233-198 vote to save $450 million this year and an estimated $3 billion over the next few years is another sign that many members of the GOP’s large freshman class are willing to push for deeper spending cuts than House leaders.

The engine program faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.

Second-term House member Rooney called today’s vote the biggest victory of his congressional career. He credited many GOP rookies with making the difference on a project the Bush and Obama administrations have unsuccessfully tried to eliminate for years. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen also have testified against the alternative engine.

“That alternate engine issue was kind of like part of the paint in this building. It just was always here,” Rooney said. “The fact that we bucked the trend and got the freshmen to go along with us was really a big deal…The going-along-to-get-along times in Washington hopefully are over.”

The amendment passed with the support of 123 Democrats and 110 Republicans voting in favor. The full roll call is here.

This is a good example of how open debate rules can improve legislation. Rooney and the 223 members who voted for this amendment should be commended for standing up to leadership and the corporations that have been pushing this.

Rooney is pictured speaking at a press conference about his amendment. 

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