Reid Opposes Move to Strip Earmarks

Posted March 3, 2009 at 2:03pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed back Tuesday against Republican attempts to eliminate spending in the omnibus appropriations bill for clients of PMA Group, a lobbying firm under investigation by the FBI.

Asked whether he had a problem approving earmarks for PMA clients, Reid told reporters, “Nice try. There is no lobbying organization that I know of that’s earmarked. Every earmark — every Congressionally directed spending [item], which makes up 1 percent of this bill — has the name of a Member of Congress— attached to it.

Reid added that the earmarks in question are “requests by Members of Congress.—

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that he hopes to have a vote this week on an amendment that would eliminate 14 PMA-related earmarks that were included in the $410 billion omnibus spending bill currently being debated on the Senate floor. He said he was pushing for votes not just on his PMA amendment, but also on three other earmark-related amendments.

The PMA-related projects include $950,000 requested by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) for a company called Alpha Micron for advanced window technology; a $950,000 earmark requested by Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) for a company called NuVant Systems to do research on methanol fuel cells; and several projects requested by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

PMA’s offices were raided by the FBI in November.

Reid said the bill cannot be changed because the current continuing resolution that has kept the government funded since this fall expires on Friday. Any changes would require the concurrence of the House or a potentially time-consuming House-Senate conference.

“This is not an effort to improve this bill,— Reid said of Coburn’s amendments to strike earmarks. “This is an effort to bring down this bill.—

Republicans have been pushing for another continuing resolution that would keep government agencies funded at current levels — a savings of about $19 billion from the omnibus. Democrats have argued, however, that agencies need the bill in order to implement new projects in the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. A continuing resolution would not necessarily allow new projects to begin.