House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) engaged in a shoving match on the House floor early Thursday evening that ended with Obey raising his voice and bellowing, Im not going to approve that earmark!
Waters has been seeking $1 million for an employment center in her district that bears her name, but Obey has decided to ban any monuments to me when it comes to funding project requests this year.
The confrontation began with the two talking in each others faces and gesturing animatedly with their hands. Obey then attempted to walk away, but Waters kept following him. Obey then put his hand on Waters arm and shoulder, and Waters became irate.
Obey again turned away, dismissing Waters by throwing up his hands, but Waters continued to stalk him, talking to his back and making a shoving motion.
Waters followed Obey down to the well of the House, and as the confrontation and shoves continued, Obey turned and told her: You are out of line.
To which Waters retorted: You are out of line.
I am not going to approve that earmark! Obey exclaimed, then hustled away from Waters.
Waters then retreated to a group of fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but her conversation could be heard from the press gallery.
He touched me first, he pushed me first! she said. She then left the House floor, while Obey sat down to talk with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
After Obey's initial refusal to provide the earmark, Waters has continued to seek other ways to get it approved, and her latest plan included giving the earmark to the school district, which would then fund the employment center named for Waters.
"Waters accosted Chairman Obey on the floor and demanded he fund an earmark for a school district as a conduit for a center named after her," said Ellis Brachman, spokesman for Obey. "He refused, and unfortunately she chose to make a scene."
Obey and Waters had a fight over the earmark in a whip meeting two weeks ago.
He told Waters in that meeting that he was no longer allowing earmarks named after Members and would only make exceptions for people who are dying.
Waters complained that the employment center had been named after her before she came to Congress in 1991. And she argued that its in a poor part of her district that needs the money more than another earmark she requested, for Loyola Marymount University.
But Obey has been pre-emptively and quietly enforcing a ban on earmarks named after sitting Members, hoping to avoid a floor fight with Republicans intent on banning the practice.
Republicans have complained that their amendments banning the practice have not been made in order by the House Rules Committee, which has ditched open rules this year.
An amendment by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) banning monuments to me passed on the Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill last month with just two Members voting in opposition, and a similar McCaul amendment passed on the military construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill last year.
Republicans have made the issue the cornerstone of their call for additional earmark reforms, targeting funding for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York and the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., among others.
According to Waters Web site, the employment center is part of the Los Angeles school system and the money will be used to buy materials, tools and equipment. Waters also lists the employment center among her achievements on her Congressional biographical page.
Waters had refused to discuss the earmark in an interview with Roll Call two weeks ago.
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