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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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