Oberstar Asks Republicans to Clarify Intentions on Earmarks
Updated: 9:21 p.m.
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar sent letters to 116 Republicans on Thursday asking whether they intend to be bound by the House GOP moratorium on earmarks and want him to disregard their requests for projects in the Water Resources Development Act.
In preparation for a new WRDA bill, 354 House Members — including 120 Republicans — submitted project requests to the committee last summer. The WRDA bill includes projects such as dam and levee replacements, beach replenishment, drainage upgrades and water treatment facilities. Committee staff said this spring that there were about 5,000 Democratic project requests and about 1,500 Republican project requests submitted overall.
In March, House Republicans declared a one-year moratorium on all earmarks, including authorization requests. Republican leaders issued guidance directing Members to withdraw any earmark requests they had already submitted.
But Oberstar wrote Thursday that he has heard from only four Republicans asking that their requests be withdrawn, and “several Republican Members have told me that they do not intend to comply with the House Republican Conference earmark moratorium and will not withdraw their project requests.”
The Minnesota Democrat said he plans to move ahead with a WRDA markup in the near future, and he is proceeding under the assumption that any request that has not been withdrawn is still live.
“It is my preference to give full consideration to your request for a water resources development project or study in WRDA 2010; however, in light of the recent House Republican Conference moratorium policy, I need your guidance on how to proceed with consideration of the projects and studies that you have previously requested be included in the bill,” Oberstar wrote. “In the absence of my receiving a signed, original letter from you by May 25, 2010, specifically requesting that your projects or studies be withdrawn from consideration, I will assume that you continue to support the projects and studies that you submitted.”
The letter says that Oberstar is working with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and intends to “have a bill ready for the President this fall.”
A Republican staffer said late Thursday that all but a handful of GOP Members have already filed letters with Transportation ranking member John Mica (R-Fla.) seeking the withdrawal of their WRDA projects.
Oberstar’s office said the chairman will be sending a similar letter next week asking Republicans what he should do with their existing requests for earmarks in a new highway bill.