In late June and early July, Arizona Republican Jeff Flake made several attempts in the House to strip appropriations bills of earmarks inserted as special favors.
Flake’s attempts were more symbolic than practical, as each item represents only a tiny portion of the gargantuan federal budget. But they did have one practical effect: getting a recorded vote. Thanks to the Club for Growth, which posted the results, we are now able to measure how willing our local Republican representatives are to make even a meager attempt to stop the bloated spending that has characterized the GOP’s recent stewardship of the House.
The results are not pretty.
On Jeff Flake’s motions to eliminate certain earmarks, I’m sorry to report, only two Dallas-area Republicans voted to cut the spending. Jeb Hensarling voted to cut every item. Pete Sessions voted to cut 74 percent of the items.
Sam Johnson, who has been in Congress 15 years and has apparently gotten a little too comfortable with life on Capitol Hill, voted to cut 47 percent of the items. This from a man whose biography claims that he “has consistently advocated smarter government, lower taxes, cutting wasteful spending, and pushing for a simpler, fairer tax system.” Ralph Hall of Rockwall and Joe Barton of Arlington, who have been there longer at 26 and 22 years respectively, did even worse. Barton voted to eliminate only three of the earmarks, and Hall only two.
Maybe you’re thinking that what we’re seeing here is an argument for term limits. You’d be sadly mistaken. Our newest local representative, Kenny Marchant of Coppell, only found two of these pork-barrel projects not worth funding. As a result, his constituents are now paying for, among other things, tourism promotion in Kentucky.
Michael Burgess of Lewisville, now in his third year, replaced former majority leader Dick Armey, who was able to lead the House over several years to achieving a balanced budget and a surplus. Burgess, to say the least, is not cut from the same cloth. He bought the whole shebang, voting against every single attempt to curtail earmarks. He wasn’t alone. Kay Granger of Fort Worth is a member of the Appropriations Committee, now the subject of intense scrutiny by the Justice Department, the national media, and even fellow House members for how its chairman, Jerry Lewis, has parceled out earmarks to favored lobbyists. She voted to keep every one.
In September, after a backlash started rolling through the halls of Congress, the House voted 245-171 to approve a tame change to the House rules to require disclosure of earmarks in appropriations bills only—and only as long as this session continues, that is, until the end of the year. (By next January, they figure, the furor will have died down.) The entire Dallas Republican delegation voted for it, except for Sam Johnson, who was absent, and Kay Granger, who apparently couldn’t stomach even the slightest challenge to how the House dishes out easy federal money.
Here are the items Jeff Flake tried to cut from your federal budget:
›› House Vote 190: Dairy education in Iowa ($229,000)
›› House Vote 191: Hydroponic tomato production in Ohio ($180,000)
›› House Vote 192: National Grape and Wine Initiative ($100,000)
›› House Vote 204: Virginia Science Museum ($250,000). When a Virginia congressman said the earmark was for research, Flake responded, “I would note that the museum will soon open a traveling exhibit on candy, sponsored by the Jelly Belly Candy Co.”
›› House Vote 205: Juniata Locomotive Demonstration ($1,000,000)
›› House Vote 277: Swimming pool in Banning, CA ($500,000)
›› House Vote 278: Facilities in Weirton, West Virginia ($100,000)
›› House Vote 279: Multipurpose facility in Yucaipa, California ($500,000)
›› House Vote 280: Strand Theater Arts Center in Plattsburgh, New York ($250,000)
›› House Vote 298: Mystic Aquarium in New London, Conn. ($1,000,000)
›› House Vote 299: The Jason Foundation in Ashburn, VA ($1,000,000)
›› House Vote 302: Northwest Manufacturing Initiative ($2,500,000)
›› House Vote 303: Lewis Center for Education Research ($4,000,000)
›› House Vote 304: Leonard Wood Research Institute ($20,000,000)
›› House Vote 334: Arthur Avenue Retail Market ($150,000)
›› House Vote 335: Bronx Council for the Arts in Bronx, N.Y. ($300,000)
›› House Vote 336: Johnstown Area Regional Industries ($800,000)
›› House Vote 337: Fairmont State University ($900,000)
›› House Vote 338: Tourism Development Association in Kentucky ($1,000,000)
The House voted to retain every item.