By Adam Andrzejewski
Pork is back on the table in Congress and it’s being served red – thanks to 23 Republican freshman.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) just green-lit $368.6 million in earmarks proposed by 23 Republican congressional freshman. The Speaker graciously included these earmarks in the Democratic infrastructure bill that passed out of committee (June 10th).
Last March, Republicans blasted Pelosi when she first propositioned them with earmarks – the practice of including member pet projects in legislation to secure votes. Many of these critics echoed the late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn, who called earmarks “the currency of corruption in Congress.”
But, within weeks, House Republicans took a secret vote and 102 endorsed Pelosi’s “member-directed spending” (the new euphemism for earmarks). Banned since 2011, earmarks were toxic in Congress and led to infamously wasteful projects like the “bridge to nowhere.”
Last November, Republican freshmen talked a big game on the campaign trail, but it took Pelosi less than four months to convert 23 newly elected members from outsiders into bona fide Washington insiders.
These freshmen were instrumental in helping tip the Republican caucus in favor of earmarks, and their support cemented Pelosi’s power as Speaker.
For example, former Kansas State Treasurer and new congressional representative Jake LaTurner (KS-2) touts his commitment to “… and bringing fiscal responsibility to Washington.” But LaTurner requested 11 earmarks in Pelosi’s legislation, which cost taxpayers $19.6 million, including a $3 million earmark to replace city buses in Topeka.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com matched each of the 1,476 earmarks written into the transportation/infrastructure bill to the member proposing it. (All earmarks must be disclosed on sponsoring member websites.)
Here’s the list of the 23 Republican freshmen who proposed earmarks and, separately, the earmark amounts Pelosi “approved” in the Democratic infrastructure bill:
1. Jay Obernolte (CA-8) $17 million, including $7 million for the First Avenue bridge replacement over Mojave River and overflows
2. Young Kim (CA-39) $18 million, all for the California State Route 57/60 traffic relief program
3. Scott Franklin (FL-15) $20 million, all for reconstruction of State Road 33/Interstate 4 Interchange (Exit 38). Rep. Franklin was the only freshman member to defend his earmarks by responding to our request for comment, here.
4. Carlos Gimenez (FL-26) $4.2 million, all for the Card Sound bridge replacement planning and design project
5. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-2) $14 million, including almost $10 million for a local road project on Dodge Street in Iowa City
6. Jake LaTurner (KS-2) $19.6 million, including $3 million for the Topeka Metropolitan Bus Replacement project.
7. Peter Meijer (MI-3) $16.3 million, including $7.3 million for the Wealthy Street Fuller Ave to east city limits
8. Lisa McClain (MI-10) $19.7 million, including $11 million for the Mound Road industrial corridor technology and innovation project
9. Andrew Garbarino (NY-2) $2 million, including $1 million each for local highway improvements to roads in Farmingdale and roads in Massapequa
10. Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) $2.5 million, all for safe routes to transit 86th Street
11. Madison Cawthorn (NC-11) $11.1 million, including $8 million to replace bridge no. 628 over Lake Lure 5250 dam and Broad River
12. Stephanie Bice (OK-5) $20 million, including $10 million each for bridges on Interstate 35 at Interchanges between Memorial and 2nd Street and the I35/I240 Interchange
13. Nancy Mace (SC-1) $20 million, all for I-26/526 interchange – Mace requested $1 billion. Not included in Pelosi’s bill was Mace’s request for $35 million for the local airport expansion at wealthy Hilton Head
14. Diana Harshbarger (TN-1) $20 million, split up between improvements to State Routes SR-126, SR-36, SR-34, SR-35 and others
15. August Pfluger (TX-11) $9 million, including $6.5 million for the local intersection at State Highway 191 and Yukon Road
16. Troy Nehls (TX-22) $20 million, all for the Texas State Highway 36 expansion
17. Anthony Gonzales (TX-23) $20 million, including $5.6 million for the local Arlington Road corridor
18. Blake Moore (UT-1) $20 million, including $6.5 million for bus rapid transit from Kimball Junction to Park City (State Route 224)
19. Maria Salazar (FL-27) $19.5 million, including $8.8 million for the local Marlin Road roadway improvements project
20. Burgess Owens (UT-4) $18.3 million, including $5.5 million for the local Midvalley connector
21. David Valadao (CA-21) $20 million, all for State Route 41 excelsior corridor project
22. Pete Sessions (TX-17) $17.4 million, including $8.4 million for a Speegleville Road bridge at Middle Bosque River
23. Darrell Issa (CA-50) $20 million, all for Interstate 15 (I-15)/State Route 78 (SR-78) managed lanes project
Freshmen Republicans aren’t the only ones to blame, of course. Republican leaders were instrumental in giving Pelosi her earmark powers. Now, she’s rewarding them too.
Our auditors found $20 million in earmarks in the infrastructure bill for each of the following Republicans caucus leaders:
- Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21), the chair of the House Republican Conference;
- Rep. Don Young (AK-at large), the dean of the House;
- Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4), ranking member of the House Rules Committee, deputy minority whip and former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
In addition, Sam Graves, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, requestedfive earmarks for $30.2 million. Pelosi wrote into the legislation all five earmarks for $19.6 million, including $9.4 million for “safe streets and sidewalks” in Excelsior, MO.
Among the many Republicans whose earmarks Pelosi approved and appear in the infrastructure bill are Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13), the ranking member of the House Administration Committee ($23.5 million); and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and former chair and vice chair of the House Republican Conference ($20 million).
In total, 116 Republicans authored earmarks in the Pelosi infrastructure bill. Even staunch fiscal conservatives couldn’t resist the earmark temptation.
For example, Thomas Massie (KY-4) requested nearly $60 million in earmarks, and even argues that it’s constitutional. Massie received $19.3 million in Pelosi’s infrastructure bill – mostly for state highways in his district. However, in a turn of events, Massie intends to vote against the bill on the floor, according to his spokesperson.
Stephen Moore, an economist and co-founder of The Committee To Unleash Prosperity, said the bipartisan infrastructure bill resembles “a white-flagged surrender.” “There’s a reason Republicans are called the ‘stupid party,’ and it is because they keep falling into Democratic traps,” he said.
Republicans bill themselves as fiscal conservatives who want to cut the fat from federal spending.
But if the latest freshman class is any indication, the GOP is more pork producer than budget cutter.
Note: Reps Issa, Sessions, and Valadao all served in the House previously, before returning as newly elected freshman in this session.
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