Obey Wins Round One of Earmark Wars
The Democrat-on-Democrat earmark smackdown between House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (Wis.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) came in with a bang. It’s apparently going out with a whisper.
An Appropriations subcommittee on Friday marked up the Education spending bill that would have included the Waters’ funding request that sparked the fight. But, after Obey pledged not to fund the project, bill writers left it out.
The Obey-Waters spat — which prompted a shouting match that turned physical on the House floor last month between the two 70-year-old lawmakers — centered on Waters’ funding request for an downtown Los Angeles employment center that bears her name. Obey denied Waters’ request because it violates his new prohibition on federal dollars for “monuments to me,— since those projects have come under fire from anti-earmark critics.
Waters’ options for getting the project funded are now limited. Unless she can get it added at the full-committee markup — an unlikely scenario — she would have to pursue an amendment on the House floor, likewise a steep climb. Waters’ only other recourse would appear to be to secure funding by pursuing it directly with the Obama administration. Waters declined to comment Friday.
The California Democrat originally sought to steer $1 million directly to the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center, a job-training facility in the impoverished Watts neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles.
When Obey objected, citing the new standard, Waters confronted him in a Caucus meeting last month. She argued that the center was named for her before she joined Congress and should not be penalized as a result, especially since it needs the funding far more than other earmark beneficiaries in wealthy areas.
But Obey held his ground, prompting Waters to try another tack: routing the money through the local school district. Again Obey resisted, leading to the eruption on the House floor on June 25.
In their confrontation, the lawmakers appeared to shove each other and were shouting loud enough to be heard from the galleries. “You’re out of line,— Obey said, to which Waters retorted, “You’re out of line.—
“I am not going to approve that earmark!— Obey shouted, then hustled away from Waters.
Waters initially tried to rally her colleagues to her defense. The day after the confrontation, she circulated a lengthy defense of her request and her version of the events from the night before. But lawmakers have been wary of backing her. The five black appropriators all declined to comment on the matter.
Waters is not walking away empty-handed from the education spending measure, officially the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. Committee records show she is listed as a co-sponsor of two national projects: $24.8 million for a reading program and $15 million for Teach for America.
And she secured funding for two local initiatives: $400,000 for a “crisis intervention demonstration project— at Beyond Shelter and $300,000 for “health professions training— at Los Angeles Southwest College.