BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR PORK in Congress. The Roll Call article is subscription only, but here’s an excerpt:
EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), at a markup March 29, said the only way to guarantee the WRDA bill moves speedily to the floor is to â€œoppose all amendmentsâ€ and keep the bill â€œat the same level of funding as last year.â€ The Senate passed a $13 billion WRDA bill last year but was unable to reach agreement with the House on a final bill.
But keeping the bottom line the same has not meant that last yearâ€™s legislation is inviolable. Boxerâ€™s markup vehicle had a new, $140 million project inserted at Baucusâ€™ request to repair an 85-year-old system that delivers water to towns along Montanaâ€™s northern border.
Republicans objected, but Boxer explained that she had made an agreement with Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the ranking members of the committee and subcommittee respectively, to allow Baucusâ€™ measure and provide a way for Republican project to be â€œtreated equally.â€
According to Isakson, the deal essentially means that Republicans on the committee now have $140 million to divide among the projects of their choosing.
â€œThe agreement was that if they were going to put that treatment in [for Baucus], there had to be equitable treatment for our side,â€ Isakson told Roll Call last week. â€œI did not feel that it was appropriate for me to say where the money would go without all the members of our committee participating.â€ So Isakson said Democrats agreed to â€œlet our side get together and determine what they ended up going to.â€ . . .
The Senate has approved legislation that would require Members to declare their earmarks and declare that they have no direct financial interest in the earmarks. But the House has not acted on similar legislation, so the new rules are not in effect in the Senate. Environment and Public Works Committee staff said at this point there is not any plan to require disclosure of the earmark request in the WRDA bill.
Isakson said he thinks the sponsors ought to be disclosed.
â€œI think thatâ€™s what we have voted on the floor of the Senate,â€ he said. â€œMy intent is to follow the spirit of what happened on the floor. I think that would certainly be the thing to do.â€
But staff said that the two sides have agreed not to disclose earmarks on this bill because the new rules are not yet in place.
Enthusiasm for pork crosses party lines, and Senate rules . . . . Or perhaps we should say that they’re pretty much all members of the Pork Party.