Earmarks Still Alive for GOP

Posted March 24, 2010 at 6:14pm

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has been known to say “no” to party leadership frequently during the libertarian icon’s 11 terms in the House. But his recent decision to reject the House GOP’s earmark ban by requesting 41 projects totaling more than $100 million for his Congressional district may not be excused.

Paul is one of a handful of Members to publicly challenge the House GOP leadership by going forward with earmark requests just two weeks after the Republican Conference adopted a one-year moratorium on the spending practice.

One House Republican leadership aide said their defiance would not be taken lightly.

“There will be situations where we have some confusion on how these rules are implemented, but if Members are deliberately breaking the rules, it will be a serious matter and one that the Steering Committee will consider,” the leadership aide said.

The Republican Steering Committee determines committee assignments and committee leadership positions.

Paul, ranking member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, defended his decision to request projects, saying he needed to make sure his constituents benefited from their federal tax dollars.

He added that he doubted leadership would punish him.

“I don’t think they’d do that to me,” Paul said. “I think that they will recognize that they have to be fair.”

Paul said leaders were well aware of his opposition to the ban and his belief that earmarks increase transparency because the public can see where their federal dollars are being allocated.

“They asked me whether I would sign on to the moratorium, and I said no, it doesn’t fit my philosophy because I think we should designate every penny that we spend,” he said.

Paul is not alone in his decision to reject the ban.

Several House Republicans’ projects are included on a list of 2011 earmark requests released by the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Republican Reps. Henry Brown (S.C.), Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.), Bill Posey (Fla.) and Don Young (Alaska) are among the lawmakers requesting funding for specific projects on the Appropriations Committee list.

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) was included on the Appropriations Committee list Wednesday morning, but his name was removed because he wrote letters in support of programs but did not request any specific funding, thus the requests do not count as earmarks.

Clayton Hall, Cao’s chief of staff, said House Republican leadership knew of Cao’s objection to the new rule and should not be surprised by his requests.

“Congressman Cao disagrees with their decision, and he refuses to stop fighting for projects that will help his district recover from the storms,” Hall said. “We submitted earmark requests and will work with Members on both sides of the aisle to secure money for local education initiatives, storm protection projects, economic development, and to fight crime (among others).”

Cao’s Web site said he is accepting earmark requests, but no specific projects are listed.

Don Young told an Alaska newspaper shortly after the ban was imposed that he would not adhere to it.

“I am elected to serve my constituents, and as long as they continue to request federal funding for their projects of interest, then I will continue to do my best to accommodate them,” Young said in a statement.

Other Members on the list suggested that the issue comes down to the definition of earmark.

Posey’s office said he submitted a single request in support of the president’s budget request for an Air Force base, which doesn’t count as an earmark. Late Wednesday, Posey’s spokesman said the office withdrew the request after confirming that it would be considered an earmark.

Brown said in a statement to Roll Call that he decided to request funding only for “immediately necessary Army Corps of Engineer projects” out of respect for the Republican Conference’s decision.

Brown’s four earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers totaled $24.7 million.

“While my requests do not guarantee funding for these projects, it is guaranteed that these projects will not be funded without Congressional action,” he said.

“If Charleston Harbor is not maintained and expanded to accommodate larger container ships, 260,800 South Carolina jobs will become endangered. Similarly, failure to perform emergency dredging of the Georgetown Harbor will prevent four new companies from using the harbor and creating 128 new jobs in my Congressional District.”

He said, “I understand that our country faces a fiscal crisis; and for this reason, I have requested that other portions of the Federal Budget be decreased by at least an amount equivalent to the cost of the requested projects.”

Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) initially requested a construction project for a military base in Tampa, Fla. But Bill Young’s office pulled the project on Wednesday after receiving word that the guidelines for requests had been changed.

Bill Young’s office said he made the request in accordance with earmark guidelines given to Members by Armed Services ranking member Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).

In a March 17 memo, McKeon noted that military construction projects would not be covered under the ban if they were already part of the military’s “future years defense plan.”

Republicans on the Armed Services Committee revised the guidelines on Monday to prohibit military construction projects even if they are already part of the Pentagon’s plans.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who publicly pushed for the earmark moratorium, said he expected Members to chafe under the ban and praised leadership’s determination to keep the Conference united on the issue.

“I’ve been pleased with the way that leadership has realized there is a bright line here and has taken the right position so far,” he said.