Friday, September 24, 2010
After Voting No, Republicans Tout Funds - WSJ.com
WASHINGTON -- Republicans railed against the Democrats' massive economic-stimulus and spending bills as fiscally irresponsible, but some GOP lawmakers are taking credit for projects in their own districts funded by the measures.
"Washington needs to stop spending money that it doesn't have," Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra said in attacking the $410 billion omnibus-spending bill, which funds the government through September. But once it passed, he touted its benefits for his district, which stretches along Lake Michigan.
"Safe and navigable harbors are economic engines that drive the communities that surround them," Mr. Hoekstra declared, announcing $3 million for harbor improvements.
Stimulus Spending by State
How some major areas of the stimulus will be shared among the states.
Facing difficult economic times and looking ahead to 2010 elections, lawmakers are under pressure to show they are helping constituents. That is leading some Republicans, and even a handful of Democrats, to highlight funds in bills they voted against.
"There is a political game going on here," said Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group. "On the national stage, you want to look like a good-government guy or gal. But at home, you want to get patted on the back and get a photo op."
A number of lawmakers disputed this, saying it isn't surprising that a bad bill would contain some good elements. Even if a spending bill is wasteful, they said, that doesn't mean items for their district can't be worthwhile.
"Not to be rude, but it's one of the dumbest things," Mr. Hoekstra said of the notion that there is a contradiction. "The only people who are supposed to get money in an omnibus bill are the ones that vote for it?...I don't see any inconsistency at all."
Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza of California, who brands himself a "fiscally responsible legislator who delivers results for the Central Valley," opposed the spending bill. But when President Barack Obama signed it, Mr. Cardoza said he was "pleased to have been able to secure" nearly $25 million worth of projects.
A staffer for Mr. Cardoza said the lawmaker voted against the bill not because of the spending, but because it gave the administration authority to overturn a rule that relaxed the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
GOP leaders took great pride in the fact that every House Republican voted against the $787 billion economic-stimulus bill and that all but 16 opposed the spending bill. They battered Mr. Obama and other Democrats, saying the spending bill increased outlays by 8% over the 2008 fiscal year. They also criticized its numerous earmarks, the special items inserted by lawmakers for their districts.
Now many of the Republicans who opposed the bills are highlighting earmarks they inserted or other benefits the bills bring to their states.
Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R., Calif.), who denounced the stimulus bill as wasteful, soon announced that it provided a $4.2 million grant for her district to prevent families from becoming homeless. "This funding will provide much-needed assistance," she said.
Spokeswoman Jennifer May said the congresswoman considered the bill "misguided" and "bloated," but that Ms. Bono Mack's district was especially hard-hit by the housing crisis and the funding was crucial to keep families in their homes.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.) voted against the spending bill. When it passed, he announced that he had "secured" $1.7 million in the legislation for a citrus-research project and a mental-health program.
Questioned about this, Mr. Stearns issued a statement saying he opposed the bill because of its cost but would be shortchanging his constituents if he didn't seek money for them. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) also opposed the omnibus bill. After it passed, he announced that it included $570,000 for hybrid-fuel trolleys in Miami Lakes. "I am proud to have secured these federal funds to ensure that all residents of Miami Lakes can have easy access to parks, schools, shops and businesses," Mr. Diaz-Balart said.
In an interview, Mr. Diaz-Balart said, "The omnibus was too much money, too much spending, too much borrowing, too much debt, and no accountability. Now, I have stuff in that bill, but I still voted against it. But what I have in there, I am very proud of."
Rep. Howard Coble (R., N.C.) issued a news release on March 11 boasting that "six Coble earmarks" were in the omnibus bill, including $855,000 to extend an airport runway.
Mr. Coble acknowledged he had opposed the spending bill. "I would be in favor of earmark reform," he said in the statement. "But as long as earmarks remain part of the legislative funding process, I would be doing a disservice to the people of the 6th District by not seeking funding for worthwhile projects."