The 2022 government funding bill passed last week marked the first budget since the return of pork-barrel politics, and the $1.5 trillion spending bill was loaded up with more than $9.7 billion dedicated to 5,000 pet projects across the country.
Earmarks have been a part of the federal budget for centuries but became more popular in the 1990s when a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the appropriations committees simplified the process to obtain them. They became a hotly contested campaign issue after horror stories of waste and corruption from lawmakers of both parties. Some were thrown in jail for taking bribes in exchange for earmarks. Republicans banned the practice in the House in 2011 at the height of the Tea Party movement and Democrats did the same in the Senate under President Obama shortly after.
The 2,700 page omnibus spending bill passed 68-31 in the Senate last week, hours ahead of a deadline that would have triggered a government shutdown. Lawmakers who didn’t vote for it, all of them Republicans, complained about the ‘bloated’ bill and ‘jammed-through’ process, where only a handful of Republicans had any say. Some noted that it could drive four-decade-high inflation even higher.
Leaders in both parties painted the legislation as a win due to both defense and non-defense spending increases. Democrats boasted of the 7 percent, $730 billion increase in spending for non-defense agencies, while GOP leadership touted the $782 billion marked for national defense, a 6 percent, $42 billion increase over current spending.
From $3 million for a Ghandi museum in Texas to $1.6 million for ‘equitable’ shellfish growth in Rhode Island, here is a sampling of some of the pork that made its way into the budget now headed to President Biden’s desk:
Museums and entertainment
A Ghandi museum in Houston will get a $3 million upgrade, thanks to Rep. Al Green, D.
Rep. Peter Welch, D, secured $2.5 million for an annex to the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, while Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo cinched $3 million for the Palo Alto History Museum in her California district.
‘The city is highly affluent and home to nine Forbes 400 billionaires,’ Americans for Tax Reform asked. ‘Why can’t this be paid for with local or private dollars?’
Florida Rep. Federica Wilson, D, earmarked $2.2 million to build a Bahamian Arts, History and Cultural Center in Coconut Grove, a part of Miami that Bahamians have lived in since the 1800s. Fellow Floridian GOP Rep. Maria Salazar is bringing home $1.15 million for the National Center for Education and Conservation of Florida’s Coral Reef.
Massachusetts Democrat Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren raked in $750,000 for improvements to the Springfield Science Museum while Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran secured $1 million for the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is bringing home half a million for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Unsurprisingly, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appears to be one of the big winners of the spending bill, having his name attached to 142 projects, including $3 million for the Brooklyn Museum, $1.1 million for Sullivan County’s ‘rail trail,’ and $1.5 million for capital improvements at St. George Theatre.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appears to be one of the big winners of the spending bill, having his name attached to 142 projects
Fremont, Ohio will get $1.6 million to build an amphitheatre thanks to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D.
Remember 30-50 feral hogs? Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is bringing home $650,000 for feral swine management, which pails in comparison to the $4.2 million Rep. Mike Simpson is bringing home for sheep experimentation.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Connecticut Democrats, are bringing home a whopping $5 million for a soil survey of the Long Island Sound Coastal Zone. At the same time, Roger Williams University will get $1.6 million for a project entitled ‘Development for Equitable Growth of Shellfish Aquaculture Industry in Rhode Island,’ thanks to Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Meanwhile, Schumer secured $600,000 for a greenhouse at The Center for Discovery in Harris, N.Y.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal set aside $321,000 to reinvigorate Chinook salmon for the Ballard Locks Initiative, while Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy are bringing home $570,000 to remove ‘derelict’ lobster pots in Connecticut. Rep. Todd Young of Alaska now has $750,000 for salmon in the Cook Inlet.
Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy are bringing home $570,000 to remove ‘derelict’ lobster pots in Connecticut
Congress has taken on the responsibility of housing ‘artists.’ Rep. Norma Torres secured $800,000 for ‘artist lofts’ in Pomona, Calif., while $209,000 will be allocated to a ‘Creative Village Affordable Housing and Studio Complex for Artists’ in Decatur, Ga., courtesy of Rep. Hank Johnson, D.
Thanks to Rep. Ron Kind and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, both Democrats, a fire station in a town of 12,000 people, Platteville, Wisc., will now have $7 million to make upgrades. A community college that serves Native Americans will have $5 million to build student housing.
A YMCA situated in a town of 7,000 people, Iron Mountain, Mich., will have $1.75 million for improvements, thanks to Rep. Jack Bergman, R.. Meanwhile, the Jim Thorpe Facility in Jim Thorpe, Pa., population 4,600, will get $2.5 million to improve its facilities thanks to Rep. Dan Meuser, R.
The fire station for Kodiak, Alaska, population 6,00, will get a $7 million upgrade, while the Kiana Fire Response team will get $3.35 million to institute upgrades, despite the town itself having about 285 residents.
New Hampshire will get half a million dollars to build a ski jump thanks to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D.
Johnston, R.I. will get $1.1 million to build a soccer field thanks to Rep. Jim Langevin, D, while Anaheim, Calif., will get $2 million for new fields, due to Rep. Lou Correa, D.