Thousands of Earmarks in Omnibus Bill

President Barack Obama pledged to keep his so-called stimulus plan free of earmarks. Unfortunately, no such pledge has been made about the omnibus spending measure consisting of the nine uncompleted appropriations bill from last year’s appropriations process. The $410 billion omnibus is loaded with an estimated 9,287 earmarks.

Last week, the House passed the bill by a margin of 245-178; a debate is expected in the Senate this week. It’s loaded with identical projects from the President’s government spending plan and contains many wasteful earmarks. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told Congressional Quarterly that “our nation currently faces record deficit numbers and the Democrat leadership’s only plan is to pass another bloated bill and dig us in a deeper hole of debt .” If President Obama wants to cut spending, he should order Congress to strip all earmarks before the bill is presented for his signature.

Lobster Earmarks

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) explained to CNN’s John King on Feb. 1 that she worked with Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to cut a bipartisan deal to pass the President’s government spending plan because the bill avoided “a bloated, overly expensive bill that wastes money and targets funding for programs that aren’t going to make a difference.” Evidently Sens. Collins and Snow wanted to save the bloat and waste for the omnibus.

Collins and Snowe have inserted a $150,000 earmark in the omnibus for the Maine Department of Marine Resources to conduct “lobster research.” Tax dollars to research lobsters hardly seems an essential function of government, especially in times of economic distress. According to the State of Maine, the “Lobster Program” has collected statistics on the commercial and natural population of lobsters along the Maine coast for 30 years.

You should know that your hard-earned tax dollars are going to be used for not one, but two lobster research earmarks. The second lobster earmark from Collins and Snowe provides monies for a lobster boat ride, along with a program for another $100,000. “The objective is to ride aboard individual lobster boats, at different locations along the coast, and record information as the lobsterman hauls his/her traps.” You don’t mind funding that, do you?

If you’re worried that Maine’s seal population is being neglected, fear not. Collins and Snow have secured a $100,000 earmark for Maine’s Marine Environmental Research Institute for the “Seals as Sentinel” program. It’s worthwhile, according to Susan Shaw, the institute’s executive director, because "marine mammals like seals are important in their own right and also as significant sentinels for ocean health and the effects of pollutants in humans.”

Not to be outdone, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) inserted language to make Nevada eligible for the “Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery fund. If you check a map, you’ll see that Nevada has no Pacific coastline, yet Reid saw fit to use the omnibus to make Nevada eligible for Salmon Recovery funds from the Department of Commerce.
Double Dipping

Last month’s spending spree cost Americans $787 billion, or about $1.1 trillion when you factor in interest. Interestingly, many programs favored by liberals have received double funding by both the President’s stimulus and the omnibus. Since most Americans aren’t receiving double-funding and generous raises, it’s worth examining what programs liberals believe are “worthy” of such treatment.

•    Census Bureau: Funding nearly tripled over last year, including $1 billion in stimulus funding and another $3.9 billion in the omnibus.
•    Diesel Emission Grants and Loans: Six-fold funding increase over last year, including $300 million in the stimulus and another $60 million in the omnibus.
•    National Endowment for the Arts: 57% funding increase over last year, including $50 million in the stimulus and another $138 million in the omnibus.
•    Comparative Effectiveness (i.e., the framework for nationalized healthcare): 3,733% funding increase over last year, including $1.1 billion in the stimulus and an extra $50 million in the omnibus.
•    Legislative Branch: A relatively modest 12% increase over last year, including $25 million in the stimulus and $4.4 billion in the omnibus.
•    Amtrak: Doubling of funding over last year, including $850 million in the stimulus and another $940 million in the omnibus.

Conservative Cheers

Cheers to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, and his staff for highlighting the egregious double-dipping in the omnibus. In a time when American homes are losing value and families are cutting down on necessary spending, the government should follow suit.