McMorris Rodgers Defends Earmarks
House Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) defended her $20 million earmark haul in the $446.8 billion omnibus spending conference report Thursday, saying her local projects “deserve taxpayer support— while touting the transparency of the earmarking process.McMorris Rodgers had headed up a GOP earmark reform task force that produced little, and she is the highest-ranking Member of House Republican leadership to accept earmarks. Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) are among the three dozen House Republicans and four Democrats who have forgone the opportunity for local lucre, according to a list maintained by the conservative Club for Growth.In addition to the $20 million she helped secure for her home state in the omnibus, she locked in more than $10 million in earmarks in other spending bills already signed by President Barack Obama and could net as much as $10 million more in the forthcoming Defense bill. Her earmarks include funding for local transportation projects and funding for research into legumes and positrons.“I am very concerned about the out-of-control spending in Washington, D.C.,— she said in a statement, but that doesn’t extend to her projects. “As to my earmark requests, I stand behind them. We have stringent evaluation and disclosure requirements in our office. All requests to be considered must meet both an immediate federal need and be crucial to Eastern Washington.—McMorris Rodgers last year was one of a number of Members who imposed a personal moratorium on earmarks, but she said she is resuming seeking the home-district cash now that the process is more transparent.“Now, we make sure the entity receiving the money is actually spending the money in the manner directed and we require requests be posted on [the] Member’s official website and a justification be placed in th Congressional Record,— she said.She said she goes beyond the requirements and requires “demonstrable local support, other funding sources for the project, a site visit from me or a member of my staff and disclosure of requester’s tax code status on my website.—McMorris Rodgers also set up a Web site, sunshine.gop.gov, to track earmarks and other federal spending.Some other House Republicans who are forgoing earmarks themselves have harshly criticized the practice and have been urging their party to adopt a conference-wide moratorium, but that effort has long since fallen by the wayside.Boehner and other GOP leaders, meanwhile, slammed the more than 5,000 earmarks in the bill as well as the large increase in spending in a press conference Thursday and urged Obama to veto the bill.“Now, I’ll guarantee you that some of these earmarks in this bill probably shouldn’t be there at a time when we have record deficits,— Boehner said. “The American people are concerned about the deficits and the increasing debt, and yet I’ll guarantee you we found a million here and a million there to fund somebody’s little pork project in some state in America.—A spokesman for Boehner declined to comment about McMorris Rodgers’ earmarks.Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, said nearly $4 billion in earmarks were disclosed in the bill. Republicans were responsible for about 40 percent of the total.