On April 1, by a vote of 60 to 367, the House soundly rejected an amendment to the Surface Transportation bill (HR 3350) sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.) that was designed to control highway spending by setting a limit on earmarks.
The bill would authorize spending $275 billion for federal highways, highway safety and research programs, mass transit programs, and numerous unrelated projects.
President Bush had previously threatened to veto any bill over $256 billion, but with an election looming, many members doubt he will actually make good on this threat. In addition, the Senate appears poised to pass an even more costly $318-billion bill.
Only a handful of congressmen even made an attempt to cut back on the amount of “pork” being brought back to constituents.
Flake, rated No.1 in fiscal discipline by the National Taxpayers’ Union, did not request any earmarked highway projects for his district. His amendment would have changed the current formula for dividing highway funds among the states to discourage earmarks. Currently, earmarks are secured by each member apart from the minimum guarantee formula applied to each state. The Flake amendment would have subtracted the dollar amount of earmarks from the state formula totals, furthering equity among all states.
“What [the amendment] does essentially is say that if you want an earmark, that is fine, but that earmark should come out of your own state’s formula [amount], not everyone else’s,” said Flake.
Flake said that in 1982, there were a total of 10 earmarks in the highway authorization bill. In 1987, President Reagan vetoed the bill because there were 152 earmarks, something he thought was unacceptable. Six years later, there were 500 earmarks in the bill. This most recent bill contains 3,000 earmarks–just for the House.
Conservative Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) pointed out that a significant amount of money that should be allotted for highway funding is used instead for non-highway projects. “We cannot allow some of our states to experience a reduction in core programs, he said. “The great highway infrastructure of each state serves more than just the citizens in that state.”
“Transportation” earmarks included $4 million for graffiti removal in Queens and Brooklyn, $3.5 million for horse trails in Virginia, and $1.5 million for the improvement of the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.
After Flake’s amendment failed, the House easily passed its $283 billion version of the six-year highway bill by a vote of 357 to 65.
A “yes” vote was a vote in favor of the Flake amendment, to rein in highway spending to a reasonable level. A “no” vote was a vote against the bill.
|For the Amendment: 60||Against the Amendment: 367|
|REPUBLICANS FOR: 55
DEMOCRATS FOR: 5
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST: 169
Davis, Jo Ann
DEMOCRATS AGAINST: 197
INDEPENDENT AGAINST: 1
Not Voting: 6
|REPUBLICANS (3):||DEMOCRATS (3):||INDEPENDENTS (0)|