Tag Archives: earmark

Clean air equals tropically stormy weather; Immigration bill includes stuff that looks and smells like earmarks

Once again I’m going to refer you to two of today’s stories from the Washington Post. Pretty soon you’re going to need a subscription.

The first story details how the Clean Air Act, which has been effective at actually doing what the title suggests, has also probably led to an increase of tropical storms in the North Atlantic.

The second story is about how the Senate immigration bill has language in it calling for spending on specific products, such as Northrop Grumman radar systems and Sikorsky helicopters. This, in case you thought earmarking went away.

Federal spending will not go down

The State of the Union speech to be delivered this (Tuesday) evening by President Obama is likely to call for a couple of things aimed at the budget.

First, he’ll join Republicans in calling for an end to earmarks.

Second, he’ll call for a five-year spending freeze on non-security discretionary spending.

On the second point, “The problem there is you’re talking about 13 percent of the federal budget,” said George Behan, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

Dicks’ position of leadership even though he is again in the minority party is spelled out pretty well in a (Tacoma) News Tribune story by McClatchy Washington Bureau reporter Rob Hotakainen.

The story also references the call for no earmarks and the problems locally (think Port Orchard) that presents.

“I (Dicks) may have done it,” he said in an interview in his office on Capitol Hill last week. “I’ve been here 34 years. I may have done the best I can.”

Behan said Dicks takes issue with the president’s apparent willingness to leave defense out of the spending cut picture. Dicks gave a speech on the House floor Tuesday (The video appears below.) referencing $78 billion in defense cuts recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Behan said that in times like these, Dicks believes cuts need to be made everywhere. “He’s as strong as anybody on defense but he doesn’t believe you should exempt the Pentagon,” Behan said.

Incidentally, Dicks still doesn’t have a copy of the president’s speech, late by Washington standards. An excerpt of the Republican response to the speech has been posted on Facebook.

Non-discretionary spending is far and away the big chunk of the federal budget, items in defense, Medicare and Social Security. An overall freeze of spending would cap all spending at whatever it is this year, but the federal government would have a tough time doing that, because spending on defense, Medicare and Social Security go up every year just by maintaining the same level of service. That’s why a freeze is essentially a cut. Cutting non-discretionary spending is harder to do, Behan said.

Also part of the president’s speech tonight is . U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, spoke to that this morning on the floor of the House.

“As we’re coming out of this very deep recession, many of us believe that one of the brightest spots on our economic horizon is our ability to develop hundreds of thousands of new jobs in this country, so that America can fulfill its detiny of leading the world in clean energy development.”

The entire speech follows, as does the one from Dicks.

Continue reading

Port Tenant Grant Provides Discussion Point on Earmarks

I found this image here.

When the discussion of earmarks comes up in this and future elections, it won’t be over the kind of money that was given to SAFE Boats International this past week. It also won’t fit the narrow parameters of the term “pork,” as defined here.

The broadest definition of pork is money for a constituent of a single politician in exchange for contributions or votes. Since 2003, two employees of SAFE Boats have given $10,350 to Dicks, according to opensecrets.org. Does that mean the $579,000 SAFE Boats received is because of the $10,350 its officials donated to Dicks’ campaigns?

On the surface, no. SAFE Boats, a Port of Bremerton tenant, will receive $579,000 as one of 19 recipients of the new Assistance to Small Shipyards program, which was established as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006. The money is to be used for capital improvements and can’t be more than 75 percent of the total needed.

It does not meet the earmark definition because the allocation required an application and a competitive process. Earmarks are delivered by members of the different Appropriations committees and don’t involve a set process.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Dicks ranks 10th out of 435 members of Congress in securing earmarks in the House’s FY’08 budget when he’s joining with other members and sixth at going solo. When the president is involved in the earmark, Dicks is 39th. All of the money, $124.3 million, attributed to Dicks was allocated without going through the process SAFE Boats went through with this particular grant.

But now we have presidential candidate John McCain, who vows to veto bills that contain earmarks, and Norm Dicks, one of the most successful at funneling earmarks into his district. So does someone who votes for both McCain and Dicks vote at cross purposes?

Not necessarily.

In the news story about the grant, the company credited Dicks and Sen. Patty Murray with helping secure the grant. When the port received its $3 million from the Dept. of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, Dicks was given much of the credit for getting the funding. So even if there is a process and application involved, it would appear the Sixth District congressman has quite a bit of sway.

Newsweek (via factcheck.org), by the way, has a story examining the impact of earmarks that suggests they have little impact on the overall federal budget.

The $124.3 million attributed to Dicks wouldn’t go back to taxpayers, because what an earmark does much of the time is direct different agencies how to spend they money they already have. What earmarks do take away is some of the discretion those agencies have in deciding where the money goes. In essence, Congress is making that decision for them.

Where you can all argue, though, aside from all the technical definitions, is when it is appropriate for the federal government to spend taxpayer money to help a private business retool. To you that may be pork, even if it isn’t an earmark.

UPDATE: This entry was changed since its original publication to correct a misspelled word in the headline.